Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson reflects on the movement for the Movement for BlackLives after the Dallas shootings. Recorded at the Common Bound conference in Buffalo for The Laura Flanders Show and New Economy Coalition
Real News interview with Kali Akuno, transcript:
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.We are joined again by Kali Akuno, veteran activist of many formations, but who joins us today to talk about a new film he’s working on, An American Nightmare: Black Labor and Liberation. As it is described, this is a documentary series exploring the roots of anti-black racism in the United States and asks the key questions: how can black communities defend themselves against deeply ingrained structures of racism? And how can they build collective resistance and unite with people of all races, nationalities, and ethnicities to root out racism, white supremacy, and dismantle the structures that make them necessary?Kali Akuno, welcome back to the Real News.
KALI AKUNO: Pleasure to be here.
BALL: So in the trailer for your documentary you start with this juxtaposition of sorts between Malcolm X and Barack Obama. And I’m wondering how this in fact sets up the rest of the film.
AKUNO: That’s a good question. Just to give a little background, when we first started conceptualizing this project and started working on it, it was originally entitled The Myth of a Post-Racial America. And it was really focusing on trying to kind of teach a younger generation about how race is being constructed and what role it plays within the United States, within this empire. After Mike Brown, and the movement that has emerged to kind of confront different aspects of white supremacy, namely police terror and police violence being committed against black people and the extrajudicial killings being committed against black people, we started shifting up. Because that quickly exploded that myth, and even the state and the different forces of mainstream capitalist media had to expose the racism still very much alive and well in this society. So we said we needed to go a little bit deeper and get at the different, the underlying structures, that shape white supremacy and this society.And so what we’re really trying to do with this juxtaposition of Malcolm and Obama, there it’s really followup on that clip by [sister Melina] who’s saying that many people thought in 2008 that a particular historic kind of turnabout had occurred, and that black people had arrived at some kind of new pinnacle with Obama’s election. And what she’s really breaking down, I think quite excellently, is that even if Malcolm X had been elected, the U.S. presidency and the U.S. empire is what it is. And there’s not much agency that exists within that office except to kind of do the tactical and some of the strategic operations of managing the empire.And so what we really want to set up is that we have to look at the United States on a much deeper level to understand what this project is about, where it’s going, and where African people in particular fit into it. Continue reading
[A recent (earlier this year) analysis and the related programmatic plans, in an interview of Kali Akuno by editors of New Politics magazine. It is an analysis well worth studying. — Frontlines ed.]
Riad Azar and Saulo Colón, New Politics, Summer 2015
Kali Akuno served as the coordinator of special projects and external funding for Jackson Mississippi’s late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. He is co-founder and director of Cooperation Jackson as well as an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He was interviewed by email by Riad Azar and Saulo Colón, both members of the New Politics editorial board.
New Politics: Kali, part of your work and that of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) has been strategically and organizationally focused on the South. Can you explain the thinking behind this and also how it connects to your understanding of the specificity of the South (especially due to its changing demographics because of the recent migrations of Latino workers) in terms of capitalist power and racism?
Kali Akuno: First and foremost, it is critical to understand that the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is a revolutionary nationalist organization that is part of the New Afrikan Independence Movement. Revolutionary nationalism is a left-wing variant of nationalism, practiced by colonized and oppressed peoples, that seeks to liberate them from the yoke of their colonizers and oppressors and replace the capitalist-imperialist social order imposed upon them with a socialist social system. The New Afrikan Independence Movement is a multi- tendency movement struggling to liberate the southeastern portion of the so-called mainland territories now colonized by the United States government. The New Afrikan Independence Movement recognizes that territories it is claiming for its national territory rightfully belong to the indigenous nations of Turtle Is- land, and makes no claims that supersede their just claims. However, our aim is to unite with indigenous peoples and with other oppressed peoples throughout the United States empire and break the back of white supremacy and the settler-colonial project through a unified anti- colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist struggle. So, it is critical to understand MXGM, and its parent organization, the New Afrikan People’s Organization, and their commitment to the South in this context.
It is also critical to understand the economic and political role of the South within the colonial-imperial framework of the United States government. Since the defeat of the Confederacy, the South has largely operated as an internal colony from which cheap natural resources and labor could be readily drawn. This strategic site of super-exploitation provided critical capital accumulation and other developmental competitive advantages to the U.S. settler-colonial project in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that played a critical role in the ascendency of U.S. imperialism on a global scale later in the twentieth century. And given the structural acknowledgement of colonialism and slavery within the U.S. political framework—specifically the creation of the electoral college, the unrepresentative Senate, and the limited number of congressional districts— the South has always played a disproportionate role in determining the overall politics of the empire. The South typically plays a decisive role in deciding the presidency and the makeup of the Congress, bending both toward right-wing settler-colonialism. This historic reality is what gives rise to the phrase, “as the South goes, so goes the nation.” Continue reading
September 4, 2015
Since the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, Black people throughout the United States have been grappling with a number of critical questions such as why are Black people being hunted and killed every 28 hours or more by various operatives of the law? Why don’t Black people seem to matter to this society? And what can and must we do to end these attacks and liberate ourselves? There are concrete answers to these questions. Answers that are firmly grounded in the capitalist dynamics that structure the brutal European settler-colonial project we live in and how Afrikan people have historically been positioned within it.
The Value of Black Life
There was a time in the United States Empire, when Afrikan people, aka, Black people, were deemed to be extremely valuable to the “American project”, when our lives as it is said, “mattered”. This “time” was the era of chattel slavery, when the labor provided by Afrikan people was indispensable to the settler-colonial enterprise, accounting for nearly half of the commodified value produced within its holdings and exchanged in “domestic” and international markets. Our ancestors were held and regarded as prize horses or bulls, something to be treated with a degree of “care” (i.e. enough to ensure that they were able to work and reproduce their labor, and produce value for their enslavers) because of their centrality to the processes of material production.
What mattered was Black labor power and how it could be harnessed and controlled, not Afrikan humanity. Afrikan humanity did not matter – it had to be denied in order create and sustain the social rationale and systemic dynamics that allowed for the commodification of human beings. These “dynamics” included armed militias and slave patrols, iron-clad non-exception social clauses like the “one-drop” rule, the slave codes, vagrancy laws, and a complex mix of laws and social customs all aimed at oppressing, controlling and scientifically exploiting Black life and labor to the maximum degree. This systemic need served the variants of white supremacy, colonial subjugation, and imperialism that capitalism built to govern social relations in the United States. All of the fundamental systems created to control Afrikan life and labor between the 17th and 19th centuries are still in operation today, despite a few surface moderations, and serve the same basic functions. Continue reading
Sources: Critical Insight, Navigating the Storm
An interview with Kali Akuno (Malcolm X Grassroots Movement) on the new report on
the growing extra-judicial killing of black people — every 36 hours — throughout the US in 2012
Oct 15, 2012 by TheRealNews
Kali Akuno: The staggering number of black people killed by police is increasing
by Kali Akuno
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Manning Marable’s, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”, must be seen for what it is, an ideological polemic. The general focus of this polemic is Black Nationalism, and Black revolutionary nationalism in particular. Manning’s critical focus and fixation on Malcolm X as the quintessential point of reference for Black Nationalists since his cold blooded assassination in 1965, is a means to socially advance a line of reasoning against this broad political philosophy and social movement by turning its iconic figurehead on his head. The objective of this inversion is to prove, in 594 pages no less, that those who adhere to and seek to advance some variant of a Black nationalist program not only have it all wrong, but in fact are distorting what Malcolm himself stood for at the end of his days.
As Manning would have it, at the time of his assassination, Malcolm X had all but abandoned Black nationalism, and had instead become a pragmatic, liberal humanist, with social democratic political leanings. As several critics have already pointed out, this character bears a striking resemblance to Manning himself. Paraphrasing Patrick Moyniham, although Manning is unquestionably entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. And the fact stands that the document that most clearly reflects Malcolm’s political philosophy and programmatic orientation at the time of his death was the Program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. This program is without question a revolutionary nationalist program. The OAAU’s program is modeled on the anti-imperialist program of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) advanced by the Casablanca block of the Union in the early 1960’s. Continue reading
July 15, 2010
By Kali Akuno
National Organizer – Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Director of Education, Training, and Field Operations – US Human Rights Network
The righteous anger and indignation on graphic display in Oakland, California Thursday, July 8th at the mockery of justice rewarded to Johannes Mehserle for murdering Oscar Grant and the open collaboration of several non-profit organizations with the government to contain and delegitimatize the people’s resistance is a clarion call. It’s a call not just for justice for Oscar Grant and the countless victims of police terror, but for radical, systemic change. The anger, and its focus, indicates a heightened awareness on behalf of a new generation of working class Black, Latino and Asian youth of the intractable contradictions between the imperialist state and oppressed peoples and the willingness to challenge them.
A new phase of development and a new set of challenges now confront the movement to win justice for Oscar Grant. Continue reading