Date: Sun, 4 Jun 2000 22:04:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <>
Subject: ZNet Commentary / June 4 / Ron Daniels / Militant Mood
Article: 97614
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Militant Mood Moving Black Youth To Fight For Change

By Ron Daniels, The Black World Today, 12 April 2000

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was gunned down as he stood on a hotel balcony in Memphis. He was in Memphis to support a strike by sanitation workers who carried bold signs proclaiming, I AM A MAN. At the time of his death, King was actively planning to launch a Poor People’s Campaign to fight for an Economic Bill of Rights. Faced with a White backlash against the gains of the civil rights movement, King’s goal was to intensify the struggle to translate the vision of his famous I Have a Dream speech into meaningful changes for the masses of Black people and the oppressed in this nation. King was also faced with the growing disaffection of Black youth, particularly from the urban ghettos who were increasingly inclined to heed Kwame Ture’s (aka Stokely Carmichael) call to Black Power and Malcolm’s admonition to struggle for freedom by any means necessary. This militant mood was fueled by the gap between the promise of King’s dream and the reality of the nightmare the masses of Black working people and the poor were forced to endure on a day to day basis in the ghettos of this nation.

Though King never disavowed non-violence and his fervent faith in the efficacy of America’s democratic creed, the Poor People’s Campaign was envisioned as his most militant assault to date on what he increasingly came to see as an oppressive, greed driven economic and political system. King was cut down before he had an opportunity to launch the Campaign. When the life of this apostle of non-violence, was violently snuffed out, virtually every urban area in America erupted in rebellion. At the forefront of many of these insurrections were Black youth who were tired of being told to turn the other cheek in the face of racism and racial violence. The words of Malcolm superceded the dream of King, as Black youth declared that it would be freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody.

As we enter a new millennium, after a period of relative calm, a new mood of militancy seems to be moving Black youth to engage the struggle for social justice and social change. While more Black people enjoy middle and upper class status than at any other time since our arrival on these hostile shores, racism or the colorline as DuBois termed it remains a barrier to the forward progress of large numbers of Africans in America, especially those locked in neglected neighborhoods within the inner-city. It is in these neglected neighborhoods that untold multitudes of Black youth are being victimized by out of control cops whose professed mission is to rid high crime areas of guns and drugs. But as many young people see it, the War on Drugs is a war on us.

In the wake of the epidemic of police brutality in New York, where at least four unarmed Black men have been killed by the NYPD in the last year and widespread police brutality and misconduct across the country, Black youth are taking to the streets to engage in massive marches, demonstrations, civil disobedience and other forms of direct action. Though these actions have basically been non-violent, in New York more and more organizations like the New Black Panther Collective and the Justice 2000 coalition are defying the police by marching and demonstrating without permits and refusing to be confined to the routes outlined by the police when they have permits. And, during the demonstrations which took place during the funeral of Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed Haitian immigrant who was killed by a plain clothes undercover police officer, angry crowds rained rocks, bottles and bricks down on the police after they used force in an effort to confine the crowd to designated areas. In the aftermath of the Dorismond police killing, Black youth in New York initiated a boycott of Easter and there are growing calls for the creation of armed militias to protect Black people from the police.

Another phenomenon which is fueling the anger among Black youth is the proliferation of hate crimes and racial violence against Black people and people of color and an overall atmosphere of racial hostility across the country. At a recent National Youth Summit on Hate Crimes convened by the Atlanta based Center for Democratic Renewal, youth leaders (primarily African, Latino, Asian, Native American) discussed the lynching of James Byrd in Texas, the firebombing of buildings on the campus of Florida A&M University, the rise of racist organizations like the skinheads and the growing influence of racist/white supremacist lyrics/music. The Summit participants also discussed racism in public policy such as attacks on affirmative action, environmental racism and the growth of the prison-jail industrial complex. Not surprisingly, these young people also had a spirited debate about the relative merits of nonviolence versus self-defense and other forms of direct action as means to achieve social justice and social change.

No matter what form the struggle may take, there appears to be growing numbers of Black youth who are sick and tired of being sick and tired—Black youth who are prepared to turn their anger into militant action to promote and defend the interests and aspirations of young people and the entire Black community. When young people decide to act it may well be a sign of a militant mass movement on the horizon.

It’s about time.