Kali Akuno was the Coordinator of Special Projects and External Funding for the late mayor Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, MS. He is the author of the organizing handbook Let Your Motto Be Resistance and wrote the preface to the report Operation Ghetto Storm. He is an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) (http://www.mxgm.org), former co-director of the US Human Rights Network, and served as executive director of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund based in New Orleans, LA. Kali currently resides in Jackson, MS.
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