Intro: The following was issued approximately in 1990 by the New African Voices Alliance, a Philadelphia-based collective of revolutionary organizers and activists. This statement was written by Shafik Abu-Tahir (Asante) who died in 1997. Shafik was a leader and a teacher whose voice is missed in the struggles of today. We have some statements by New African Voices in our files and will be posting them occasionally for historical and political purposes.
JESSE JACKSON AND LOUIS FARAKHAN
There has been a lot of concern in the white owned media (which is almost all of the media) about what they perceive as a growing attraction to Minister Louis Farakhan’s message for North American born Africans (so called Blacks). It has been noted for
instance that when Jesse Jackson goes to various urban settings, he can draw groups of 200 to 300 people. In the same cities, a Farakhan visit brings out 15 to 25,000. News reports often ask attendees (white as well as African) what brought them out to hear Farakhan. In a little while we’d like to partially answer this question.
For people who have attended a Farakhan speech, it’s known that you must be prepared to spend at 1east a 2 hour wait in line (the doors always open late after which each attendee is searched.) Upon getting inside another hour or more is spent fundraising; this is done even though you’ve already paid your $10 – $15 to get in. Then a number of invited speakers are permitted to give short statements and finally Mr. Farakhan, who will speak for at least an hour and a half, appears — normally 2 hours or more after the advertised start time. Noticeable among the thousands gathered are large numbers of youth. Now most people know that the afore described experience is inescapable, but they come anyway. What did they come to see or hear (paying dearly and waiting long hours for)?
Jesse Jackson, who sometimes a few hundred people will come out to see, was told by the white masters of North America, the rich white men who own and rule this country (but they don’t run this country; working people run this country) to renounce Farakhan.
Jesse did so (after all he needs the white vote!) Many Africans were disturbed by this renunciation. At a time when the African community (6,000 Black elected officials later since the start of the civil rights movement) and the African male particularly is under such a vicious onslaught of racist terror aimed at our very existence, how can Jesse allow himself to be dictated to by North America’s vicious white power elite? How can Jesse in the face of all the new attacks coming down on our African youth especially and our beautiful seniors/elders, still want us to follow his magic act around?
To many of us (we don’t all think alike) the beautiful, sincere warrior that was once Jesse Jackson has become a magician. A magician is one who has mastered the art of creating illusions. One of Jesse’s illusions is believing he and the forces he represents (i.e. Black Elected Officials whose career ambitions require that they think this way) can capture control of the Democratic Party. This is a viewpoint which we in New African Voices say is not only ahistorical but also borders on betrayal of the movement for African independence by attempting to place it under Democratic Party control.
Many of us who are African concluded years ago that rich people are quite selfish and simply do not let people play with their toys – and the two parties are their toys. Both parties exist for the pleasure of the rich and to carry out their goals (i.e. capitalist domination). Malcolm X amongst others made this clear over 25 years ago. Does Jesse believe this or not?
A second Jesse illusion is that he is somehow going to capture the hearts and minds of North America’s white voters. People have long abandoned the “vote for me and I’ll set you free” mythology Jesse articulates (50% of eligible voters in the U.S. don’t exercise their right to vote), and despite Jesse’s third illusion of thinking he can downplay racism’s vicious role on America’s streets, white voters have for the most part ignored
Jesse. Jesse is a magician and not a very good one. If Jesse persists in attempting to make us believe what history has time and time again rejected (i.e. that you can use the tools of your oppressors to end your oppression), then his magic act must be called the failure it is and should be cancelled!
So why has Farakhan become such a factor? Will his act cancel Jesse’s? We must begin to acknowledge that the street poets (AKA rappers) such as PUBLIC ENEMY etc. have already rejected the rhythm of the white beat. They have no illusions in the white
supremacist system as Jesse does, nor are they standing on the outside looking in. These African youth don’t want ‘in’ to the U.S. terrordome. They aren’t looking in; they are in fact looking away. And who are they listening to (for now) – Minister Farakhan who doesn’t seek white approval and tells them they shouldn’t either.
What are people coming to get from Farakhan. He tells the African masses he loves them, that even though we (the African male) are only 6% of the U.S. population, yet over 50% of its prison population; that even though the African male is only 16% of public school enrollment but 59% of all suspensions; that even though we are only 3.5% of college enrollment today, we don’t have to play with the rich man’s toys or be approved in his
society to be seen as having worth. So what do the thousands who come to hear Farakhan get? They get a tremendous sense of self worth, an understanding of who we are, who we were, and what we have contributed pre-slavery (remember we were brought here as
captives, not as slaves). From Faraithan, our people, African people, feel loved even though the white media calls him a hate-teacher, even as they did our shining prince, Malcolm X.
In New Africa Voices we are clear that our people particularly, and this dehumanized nation generally, need a new direction. We need leadership, not a leader, but a leadership, a collective, accountable leadership, and when betrayed by any such leadership, a punishable leadership. The progressive movement needs its own progressive leadership council — what we in New African Voices refer to as a CollectiveDialogueCenter. Neither Jesse or Farakhan are team players, and while both are great teachers, in
our view they exhibit serious misleadership (i.e. they both seem unwilling to clearly challenge the right of the capitalists to rule the U.S..) While they have no hesitancy in criticizing capitalist policy (i e poverty, homelessness, racism, unemployment, etc.), they both show a reluctancy to confront capitalist rule. New leadership must in the mode of Lumumba, Nkrumah, Malcolm, etc. challenge capitalist rule.
If this nation is to be led forward, it must be led forward by people who have no illusions about the vicious nature of capitalism, which as Malcom stated, “ is a blood sucking
vulturistic system” which can’t be anything else but. Jesse nor Farakhan will lead the anti-capitalist movement, Jesse because he suffers from ego problems and delusions among other things (but he is not an enemy), and Farakhan because he is a promoter (at
this stage) of Black capitalism – another myth. Moving this society forward towards a more humane path is largely going to be left up to those of us who are promoters of building a new independent (outside of the control and influence of the Democratic and Republican parties) movement While advocates for such a movement may be in the minority today, options away from this view are becoming more and more limited. Charting a new independent direction for our human comfort and social justice is
no easy task, but it is a necessary one. Let’s get busy and see what future we can make for our youth.