Subject: [BRC-ALL] Ron (Maulana) Karenga
Ron (Maulana) Karenga
Dialog from the Black Radical Congress list, October 1999
[Moderator: is this the Karenga that Black Leftists love to hate?!]
Note: This is a draft of a document written for the organization CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) to explain the ethical grounding for the struggle for a living wage for workers. Our Organization US works in this coalition which has been able to get the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the Los Angles Airport (LAX) to adopt a living wage policy. The struggle continues to make the living wage a fundamental policy in both public and private work sites. The statement is a model in that it reaffirms the Kawaida position that in drawing from the best of the world's ethical traditions, we can create common ground for collective action in creating the communities, societies and world we want and deserve to live in.
Seminar in Social Theory and Practice XXII
ETHICS OF A LIVING WAGE
One of the most important struggles for social and economic justice of our times is the expanding and ongoing struggle for a living wage. The struggle is essentially directed towards securing for low-income workers a wage which provides for them with adequate means to support themselves and their families, rise above the poverty level which entraps them and live a life of dignity and decency due every human being. But the implications of this struggle for us as moral and religious persons and for society are profound and far-reaching, for it speaks to some of the most cherished moral concepts and concerns in all our faith traditions.
RESPECT FOR THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON
The struggle for a living wage speaks first to the central moral principle of respect for the dignity of the human person. We take seriously the sacredness of the human person and reaffirm the fundamental moral conviction that humans are in the image of God and thus are possessors of a dignity, an inherent worthiness which is inalienable and inviolable. Within this moral understanding we, of necessity, link the right to a life of dignity with the right to a life of decency, a life in which persons have for themselves and their families adequate food, clothing, housing, education, health care and physical and economic security and thus are able to live a good and meaningful life. And the living wage is an indispensable way to achieve these social and human goods.
RESPECT FOR THE DIGNITY OF WORK
Secondly, the struggle for a living wage speaks to the fundamental moral principle of the dignity of work. In our ethical traditions, the worthiness of work is grounded in its being both a reflection of the Divine act of creation and a process by which we engage in co-creation, practice responsible stewardship and realize the essential meaning and mission of human life to constantly bring good into the world. Thus, we reaffirm the right and responsibility to engage in purposeful and productive work as far as one is able, as essential to a person's dignity, self-respect and sense of purpose and worthiness in the world. And we maintain that workers have a right to just treatment on the job and in separation and this includes a just wage, adequate benefits, satisfactory working conditions, economic security and the right to organize, engage in collective action and participate in all decisions that affect them.
CARE AND SUPPORT FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE
Thirdly, the struggle for a living wage highlights and upholds the essential principle of moral obligation to care for and support the poor and most vulnerable among us in their struggle to empower themselves and live full and meaningful lives. In fact, the heart of the living wage struggle is to improve the lives and life-chances of the poor and low-income workers and to contribute meaningfully, not only to the easing of their poverty, but also to the ultimate elimination of it. Moreover, this struggle reminds us of a fundamental teaching in our faith traditions that a key moral measurement of any society or economy is the quality of life and treatment of the vulnerable and poor. Thus, in a larger sense, this struggle speaks to our conception of and commitment to a truly just and good society.
IN PURSUIT OF JUSTICE
Fourthly, the struggle for a living wage calls for our reaffirmation of the foundational moral principle of justice in and for the world. For just as dignity is the central moral pillar in our conception of the human person's worthiness in the world, justice is an indispensable way in which we demonstrate due respect for this inherent and inalienable worthiness. Whether we talk of economic justice or the larger more inclusive concept and practice of social justice, the principle speaks to the moral obligation to give a person what is due, deserved, fair and rightful, whether in the general sphere of life or in the specific context of work.
In conclusion, the struggle for a living wage has become a mirror and measure of our commitment to some of our most cherished moral principles which undergird and make possible our conception and realization of the just and good society. We are thus morally compelled to commit ourselves as religious and moral persons to active and ongoing support of workers and the labor movement and to engage fellow members of our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and others in doing likewise. This means making common cause with working people and the unions which represent them, lending added moral authority to their just claims, standing and walking with them and collaborating with them in joint activities to secure economic justice at the work site, and in legislative, administrative and management venues. It also means that we constantly join together with working people and the labor movement on common ground in other struggles to build the moral communities, just society and better world we all deserve and want to live in.
Prepared by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Seba,
10 March 1999
Note: Submitted MAISHA SULLIVAN
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 10:26:03 -0400
[Moderator: response to an article on BRC-NEWS]
Here is something to think about: If 30 years after WW2, a Nazi came along and tried to convince us that he now works at a Jewish community center with kids, should we now forgive his previous crimes? So now Karenga and US are "champions of the working class with a living wage campaign in Los Angeles?"
There are those in the contemporary Black nationalist movements who will do anything to rehabilitate this guy despite his crimes against the people. Farrakhan had him as a speaker at the Million Man March in 1995, and he has been giving talks on college campuses with his Kawaida cultural nationalist mumbo-jumbo. Like neo-Nazi holocaust revinionsists, there are those who claim there is no "proof" that Karenga or US had anything to do with the shootings and killings of 5 members of the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles and San Diego, that he is not/was never a police informer and provocateur, and that he should now be rehabilitated in this period. He himself says now that the Black Panther members in L.A., Jon Huggins and Bunchy Carter, who were murdered by US thugs on the UCLA campus in 1968 "egged the whole thing on and got what they deserve", and other Black nationalists have said some nonsense like "they were fighting over a woman", rather than that the FBI initiated all this and they were willing tools.
This points to how corrupt the contemporary movement really is, Karenga and the US helped to destroy the Black revolutionary movement of the 1960's, and no good works in this period will erase that, especially since no one ever paid for these murders and counter-revolutionary acts. We can't be weak on things like this for some perceived short term gain. These are my personal opinions, not those of a group.
Lorenzo Komboa Ervin
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 00:58:43 -0400
> This points to how corrupt the contemporary movement really is,
Hotep. We forgive our enemies easily. If we can find it in our hearts and conscience to sit down with those who enslaved our humanity and to particpate in its denigration even today, wy can we not find it in those same hearts and consciences to see change in our brothers and sisters? I believe the errors of the ways must be acknowledged and recompense made, however, I must speak for forgiveness in the wilderness of a misled and shattered people. Few of us have the lofty credentials to meet the test put forth popularly by the one called Jesus who said that the one who was without blemish should render the judgement and punishment.
Imani, Nikitah Okembe-Ra
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 15:35:32 -0400
I am coming in very late on this discussion and do not quite understand the context, but I do wish to raise one thing.
As someone who had serious political differences with Karenga in the 60s I would advise caution in terms of how those differences get handled now. I am reminded of stories from El Salvador of the sort of factional wars which went on among various groups which ultimately had to be put aside in order to build the FMLN.
Don't get me wrong. I am not ignoring differences. But it is also the case that unity of action can be found, including with those with who we have disagreed. We must always keep in mind the way in which the US government via COINTELPRO exploited differences within the Left generally, and the African-American movement in particular.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 17:52:11 -0400
Thanks very much Bill Fletcher for bringing the gravity of history to what can easily become another energy-dissapating and focus-destroying development. Time is simply too important and collective efforts too limited for us to return AGAIN to fratricide, whether oral or otherwise.
To coin a phrase, we have "been there, and done that."
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 01:48:16 -0400
Brothers and Sisters,
My first response to the postings received. I would wish to know how many of you are old enough to remember the allegations against US from the 60's. In addition, I would love to understand how the 60's relate the issues of today?
Brother Karenga explained his position(s) in Detroit, approximately 4 years ago to numerous activists. He was challenged on the same issues that have been raised by the post that I'm responding to. Most here understood and moved to the next level. Does that exonerate the brother? It was never proved that Cointel was not the agent that planted the stories. Yes, in Detroit, the brother was exonerated. His explanations and analysis were accepted, by scholars, historians and activists. We still know that he was a cultural nationalist, and still espouses the same. Continuity is a point we must examine.
A question still remains about recent posts. Why is the brother being attacked about actions during the 60's? Is it because we just learned about certain allegations, or have we obtained facts? I must state that Karenga's analysis on several subjects have been scholarly and right on target. Detroit has enacted a "Living Wage" ordinance, over the objections of a Black mayor! I must state, without the discussion or entailed psuedo-intellectual analysis of a need or intent.
The dialogue continues.
A Brother in Struggle Aziz
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 23:09:41 -0400
I think in the case of Ron Karenga, it is a leopard can't change his spots. It is a matter of trust. During a time when the African community was at it's strongest phase for fighting for self-determination, you have folks like Ron Karenga, a government spy, screwing things up. I heard him do an interview on a radio program with Steve Cokely once (got it on tape) and a brother called in to ask him why he got a crowd of people all stirred up and then was whisked away in a police car (not under arrest, I might add), well, the scholarly Ron Karenga you have described here was not the one that replied on the radio. He started talking about this Brotha's mama and everything, never intelligently addressed the allocation. I have no respect for this man.
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 23:09:40 -0400
I would argue that the issuses about Karrenga are well founded, and best defined by the Nazi Soldier parable that was offered. We all know that COINTELPRO had their hand in all events the pertained to the 60's and might have been the true cause behind the friction. I think the question these scholars and activists are asking is "Was he a willing player?" In my view (which I came to having met man at our conference in Chicago and by some of his statments then), it is easy for us to say "Hell yes he was willing." Too say activsts and scholars in Detriot has forgiven him does not mean that other activists and scholars elsewhere has....I honestly believe in my heart that " a leopard does not change his spots" even thirty years later.
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 00:09:28 -0400
I would hope that we would all refrain from rewriting history to suit our rhetoric. I would be the first to agree that Karenga committed crimes against the people. And yes, it was members of the LA arm of US who were involved in the shootings of Black Panther members at UCLA. However, all members of US were not willing dupes of the FBI, nor was US the only organization at the time which was infiltrated by police agents and informants. To say that US singlehandedly is responsible for the demise of the Black Power movement is to give Karenga much more credit than he deserves. Finally, there were people who went to jail, and or, into hiding for many years as a result of the shootings at UCLA. They and there families paid a heavy price. Karenga also spent time in jail though for other offenses.
Are we going to continue to let the FBI and counterintelligence programs drive wedges between us? I do not agree with everything that Ron Karenga says or does, now or in the past. But there are plenty of black folks that I don't agree with. That does not equate them with Nazis. That does not mean that we have to disregard someone's sincere efforts to contribute to meaningful change in our community.
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 06:13:19 -0400
>Don't get me wrong. I am not ignoring differences. But it is also
The directives given by the ancestors speak through us all. The manipulation by the enemy IS and was real. Operational Unity was hampered by many factors, not the least of which was the loss of Malcolm as an advisor; to a lessor degree the loss of King due to his early willingness to make deals with white folks. This is painfully evident as it is captured in the "Eyes on the Prize" series that captures Martin and Kwame Toure arguing over a difference in tactics. Martin was in control, but he was fearful of the effects the tactics urged by Kwame would get out of hand. This incident was shot during the Selma to Montgomery March. It demonstrates the extreme differences that existed within the movemment. Martin had been cultivated by white Powerful people in meetings that Kwame was kept out of or never knew about. In these meetings deals were made where he (Martin) was urged to contain the "radical" element. In exchange for that he was assured money, exposure and projection, and the promise of urging the authorship of statues that would dismantle discriminatory laws and practices. Karenga, is an interesting study because of the things that he is alleged to have done. Despite the whole 'Co In Tel Pro...connection with Karenga...i agree about coming to our own independent conclusion that he was indeed a willing participating lover of the enemy of our people!!!
Karenga's presence has caused many of Los Angeles' conscious people to not have any thing to do with Kwanzaa...were it not for my brother Akile's Kwanzaa Gwaride Festival in Leimert Park I would not want anything to do with Kwanzaa. He has made a pact with the Black Liberation Army....my brother has shown that Karenga was just the vehicle through which a message was supposed to spread amongst our people. It just so happens that the message came through the same time that other messages were being given by many others of our people. Also we have to see beyond the messenger and focus upon the message itself....my brother Akile, quotes Dr. Alfred Ligon of the Aquarian Spiritual Center: April 29th, 1992 Uranus and Neptune were conjoined within one degree. Astrologers of old have known that no one knew the Age of Aquarius would begin but that it would happen when the outer planets in our solar system were conjoined. Kwanzaa has a harbinger of the Age shift from Pisces to Aquarius. Aquarius, or in Yoruba parlance Shango (Sango) is the Champion of Justice; also termed "High John the Conqueror" the great hero for justice during our chattel slave experience/Colors red and white/ number 6. So prevalent was the issue of Justice on that day that my brother refers to the date on his Kwanzaa Kalenda as the "No Justice No Peace Rebellion" the signature event that launched the Age of Shango. Kwnzaa is "Sango'esque" in that it was a clarion call for us to look at our beginnings. Anza, the root of the word Kwanzaa means beginning or start. Utilized in martial classes taught by movement self defense masters as the command to "Begin!" That (Anza) is the beginning of the Kwanzaa Holidays according to my brother because Anza is the name of the Winter Solstice Celebration.
Literally Kwanzaa was and IS urging us to look to our own beginnings. The desire to surface could not be suppressed. Even the lighting of the Black or (as my brother says DuDu?double black) Candle is actually a candle lit for Asaru/Osirius who according to the late Dr. Chek' Anta Diop whose date of worship was as late as the5th Century CE was Dec. 26th. According to Ivan Van Sertima "Asaru" was also named the Lord of the Perfect Black. My brother contends that that name is presently spoken of by the Yoruba and the Benin people of Nigeria as their sacred ancester - Odudua which would translate as Perfect Black/Great Black. Odudua was the name adoped by the Nationalist camp as the Ancestral energy of the Black race. Olokun is the Orisha of the Black race. You see Kwanzaa when we look beyond Karenga brings in quite an additional amount of information.
We cannot let our anger for Karenga and the choices he made stop our collective growth. The show will go one....stopping for no one. We will sort out the people and the pieces and move forward. Operational unity will come from us working together. How we handle the issue of our future is beyond Karenga. He was wise enough to see the future to some extent. This is evident by his recent publishing of the book: "Odu Ifa" In reality, again according to my brother, Karenga during the late sixties Black Power Conferences opposed the now Oba of Oyotunji Village (SC) as they competed for the position of Minister of Culture as expressed at the beginning of the Republic of New Africa. The Yoruba prevailed over the Kawaidists. Karenga's recent sojourn into Ifa would indicate that there is something in the Yoruba connection that cannot be overlooked. Just as he wrote something on Kmt posturing a degree of authority over that subject, he expressing authority over Ifa, the ancient book of Tcheuti. The Hemp movement is a perfect example of how we as a people are fearful of expressing our feelings. Many of us utilize hemp in our personal lives yet we don't respect our selves enough to go out and get letters from doctors so that we can bypass these folks hemp prohibition laws....'BACK THAT ASS UP!!'
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 16:40:43 -0400
Hello Bill and everyone:
I am out of the country and frankly started not to revisit this issue, but will just say this: The rationale about unity in action may be a good one if this were just a question of competing ideas alone, (say about Living wages, but I/we support those campaigns wherever they are) or honest differences among political forces, but that is not what I/we have been talking about at all. Ron Karenga is an outright traitor and killer, and US was a tool of the FBI/LAPD, simple as that. Five black Panthers were killed, 2 at UCLA, but three others in San Diego, and he worked along with other traitors to defeat the Black revolution of the 1960's. What does that have to do with now? First, principles among revolutinary organizers and also the distinct possibility that he/US will do the same in this period.
But let's cut to the chase: I frankly believe that many folks who come down in favor of "rehabilitating" Karenga are people who just disagree with the revolutionary legacy of the Black Panther Party and are down with US as both a past and present political movement, or have some weak ideal about Black/class Unity. This is the kind of *soft Leftism* that exists in this period, so liberal that even counter-revolutionaries are given credence and organizational support without in anyway answering for their crimes.
IMHO, such unity is not possible with class or race enemies. I/we will not work with Karenga, Cotton Smith, Butler (the snitch in Geronimo Pratt's case), or any other turncoat Panther/police infiltrator regardless of his current role or campaign he is involved in. In truth, I feel that revolutionary justice should have been served upon him (Karenga) long ago, and then this discussion would be totally moot. That's all I have to say. I appreciate everyone's views, but it does not change my mind at all.
Lorenzo Komboa Ervin
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 17:15:22 -0400
> IMHO, such unity is not possible with class or race
enemies. I/we will not
The best revolutionary justice in such a case is ostracism and vigilance, and especially vigilance that alerts us to the kind of ideology and tactics US and its strategists used to befuddle minds (extremist rap coupled with mystical racist mumbo jumbo, for one thing).
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 17:21:36 -0400
I have become concerned about the tone and tenor of this discussion. I think that it is both irresponsible and outright wrong to engage in a written discussion about meeting out 'revolutionary justice.'
The issue for us is that there are forces with who we have VERY serious political differences. In some cases, those differences have been violent.
We must judge, on the basis of what people are doing now, what their base is, what THEIR summation of their own history is, etc., how, when and where we can work together at all.
There is certainly a serious historical discussion which can and should take place about a variety of events which took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I just keep coming back to the manner in which the forces of evil utilized contradictions within our movement to encourage various interpretations of 'revolutionary justice'. This went to obscene lengths, leading to various kinds of purges, physical torture, etc.
As I said earlier, I believe that we are obligated to proceed VERY carefully given the history of disruptions with which we have had to deal.
The principles of unity of the BRC set credible lines of demarcation, despite how broad they are. There are forces we may work with who will NEVER be able to operate within the BRC because they have fundamental disagreements with us and we with them. But that does not stop working together.
I suggest caution with words; rigor in our analysis; principle in values; and flexibility in the united front.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 03:15:39 -0400
In a message dated 99-10-25 17:36:45 EDT, Bill Fletcher wrote:
>The principles of unity of the BRC set credible lines of
In the late 60's and early 70's I was a member of the Black Student Union at Los Angeles City College. In our BSU there were Panthers, US Organization members, Muslims, et al. As I remember, I was the only internationalist communist on the central committee. As such, theoretically, I was closest to the Black Panther Party. My closeness to the party trancended mere ideological similarity. My closest cousin was a member of the party and my upatairs neighbor, Julio Butler (yes, that Julio Butler), recruited me to teach political education to Sec 3-A of the party located on Adams Blvd. A highly placed well known member of the party gave my brother a .38 to protect me in my work at LACC. I say all that to say this:
In the BSU Central Committee, consisting of some 12 or 13 members, I as minister of political affairs, often found myself outvoted (esp. as regards working with 'white folks'.) That was fine with me. That was the temper of the times. Didn't bother me for, when outvoted in committee, I would take my position to the general body and often as not I would find that the overwhelming majority would agree with the position that if we are going to close down the school, fight the police, defy the powers that be, then if there were 'white folks who would take the a*s whippings and kick some too then hey! they are comrades too. Amongst those members who sided with this position were two brothers, Rafiki and Sikivu, who were rocks. These two were members of the US Organization.
Panther or US. Despite the shootings at UCLA, Carver Jr High, wherever. At LACC, we were beyond that. Why, you ask? Because we had a job to do. And we did it. We conducted strikes. Strikes so bold that Nixon went on television talking about our 'arrogance'. Yeah, well f*ck him with his dead a*s. The point is this: Leadership whenever it sets itself up as being that (Yeah, I'm talking about Karenga) is often, most times, nay always corrupt. But the foot soldiers, the workers, the people, the humans are always capable of humanity. As with yesteryear so with tomorrow. There are those who tell me that my friend, my brother and my comrade Mpinduzi of the US Organization is but a stooge of Karenga. That he has to report before he can arrive at a decision. That it is the Maulana who is speaking when he gives voice to his words. If, indeed, that is so then perhaps it is a different Karenga who is speaking. For I hear a voice that is concerned about the state of the wretched of this earth. A voice echoing of a past when Sikivu and Rafiki stood unwavering.
I cannot forget the transgressions of the past but perhaps I understand them better. For the US Organization was not only the attackers but were attacked, villified and demeaned by those who were attacked, villified and demeaned. We made so many mistakes back then. Are we condemned to repeat them?
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 04:45:49 -0400
I have had a series of concerns about this particular debate, i.e., about Karenga. i have been concerned about the tone and some of the language, as well as context.
The question we must ask now, is something like, what is at stake in this debate? As far as i know no one is asking to recruit Karenga, and the last time i checked, he did not put in an application to join. Understanding what happened in the late 60s and early 70s is far more complex than a focus on one person. There was certainly the role of COINTELPRO in many organizations, cultural nationalist, revolutionary nationalist, internationalist, helping to destroy from within. Yet, i would argue that they could not have been as successful as they were had there not been unhealthy conditions in so many of our organizations. i am talking about rampant sexism; dogmatism; hero-worship; reluctance or hostility toward criticism and self-criticism; sectarianism...the list could go on and on. The agents of evil were able to operate in that environment the way that flies nest in manure. i believe that we should be focusing our attention much more on those issues.
As with any movement for liberation, we will have to contend with a variety of political tendencies. Even where the trust level is low or virtually non-existant, we will need to determine whether the social base of a specific political force necessitates that we collaborate, irrespective of our personal feelings or political analysis. This was a point of view rarely understood by many forces on the Left within the African-American movement in the late 60s, and on into the 70s and 80s.
i am hoping that we get it right this go round.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
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