From Thu Jul 6 10:54:04 2000
Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2000 06:35:35 -0400
From: Herb Boyd <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] BRC a Motown Hit
Precedence: bulk

BRC A Motown Hit!

By Herb Boyd <>, National Editor, The Black World Today, 5 July 2000

DETROIT—The intergenerational dialogues that sparked the Black Radical Congress’ (BRC) first national conference two years ago in Chicago took another productive form (June 23-25) here at Wayne State University. Rather than one-on-one exchanges between veteran and emerging activists, the dialogue grew out of several workshops, including frank and open discussions on the culture of violence that plagues black women, environmental issues that endanger us all, and what organizing techniques to use to empower the BRC.

In the Black feminist caucus, institute, and workshop we discussed the attacks on women at Central Park in New York City, said Barbara Ransby, one of the event’s coordinators and a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A sister from Howard University who was one of the victims spoke to us with great emotion and political clarity about the violence and humiliation she suffered. She blamed sexism, the men involved, the culture of violence that we are all living in, and the police who looked upon the victims with contempt and were wholly unhelpful.

Since its inception in 1998, patriarchy and misogyny have been critical concerns for the BRC, a group composed of progressive activists who have launched a number of initiatives against police brutality, the prison industrial complex, racial profiling, International affairs, social injustice, and it has taken a forthright defense of affirmative action. And each of these topics was germane to the ongoing struggle for self-determination in Detroit.

Activists came from all over the country to help us in our fight against the increasing number of waste sites in our community, said Charles Simmons, co-chair of the BRC Detroit Host Committee and who has been instrumental in leading the fight against environmental injustice. He said that the organization has rallied with various health professionals and environmental and social organizations to fight against illegal dumping for a healthier environment.

Three years ago the city knocked down a building and left the debris there, he said. It is too much for the community to clean up. We need the city’s help.

Like other communities around the nation that are predominantly populated with African Americans and other people of color, the ever-expanding prison industrial complex is a grave concern. We are pushing a ’Prison, No, Education, Yes,’; program, Simmons noted. Our aim is to challenge the whole prison industry and its encroachment in our neighborhoods. Prisons used to be considered a problem. Now they are considered a solution.

The large number of young people in attendance guaranteed a dynamic discussion of hip hop culture and rap music, and who they can be integrated in a political formation. There is currently an explosion of young poets and hip hop artists that are very politically conscious and express it in their art, Mr. Simmons explained. We want to bring them together with political activists so they can learn and inspire each other.

One of the innovations devised for the conference was the inclusion of the Center for Third World Organizing, which effectively conveyed tactics for recruitment and fundraising. Meetings at various homes is okay, an advisor told a crowded room of activists, but five people is too small and 12 people is too large.

He also told them that you can have a large organization to take action, but you should leave the basic strategy to the small committee.

This method of assembly was fundamental to the BRC’s conference, said Bill Fletcher, Jr., a BRC co-founder and special assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO. The conference was a success, Fletcher exclaimed. We set out for a smaller gathering that was aimed at consolidating the BRC, training organizers and strategists, and strengthening our direction. We accomplished that. The organizing institute was packed (they actually ran out of training materials), and the workshops on Saturday were packed as well. There was good energy and there was very constructive participation. It really felt like there was a seriousness of purpose.