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BRC Lessons

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Preface: “…Where is the BRC when we need it?” We have heard this question over the years from Black activists from one side of the USA to another, but it was during the April 26-29, 2012 conference to commemorate the life and work of the late Dr. Manning Marable that it really hit home. Manning had been one of the “original five”, that is, the five individuals who started working in late 1995/early 1996 to gather the forces that would eventually form the Black Radical Congress. Along with Marable were Dr. Leith Mullings, Dr. Barbara Ransby, Dr. Abdul Alkalimat, and Bill Fletcher, Jr.

What was striking during the April 2012 conference were the number of people who spoke favorably about the BRC and about the importance of drawing out the lessons—positive and negative—from the experience of building that organization. People also wanted to better understand the reasons for its decline and ultimate end.

In any historical experience those who have participated, not to mention those who subsequently observed, will draw various conclusions. This is just as true with the experience of the BRC. The purpose of this essay is to advance a discussion rather than to answer all of the questions that emerge from a study of the BRC. It is certainly our hope that someone will ultimately write a book about the BRC, but for now, and particularly in light of the many struggles in which so many younger Black activists (and other progressive activists) are engaged, it is important to identify lessons learned to help us all think through what steps need to be taken to build a cohesive, viable Black Left.

The following are sixteen lessons. They are not necessarily the most important and this list is not aimed at being all-inclusive. These are, however, lessons that have stuck with us and which we are interested in sharing, hopefully in order to encourage deeper examination and reflection. We wish to quickly add that these lessons are not all, necessarily, lessons that we alone drew. Many activists who were associated with the BRC reflected on the experience over the years and there were many informal exchanges about the lessons learned. There have also been a number of articles written on the experience of the BRC. We have identified several lessons, some from various discussions and others that were simply our own, that we believe are worth considering. We realize that those who were involved in the organization had varying roles and interpretations of this experience. We all have different pieces of the elephant even if was the same elephant.

We look forward to your feedback.

– Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Jamala Rogers

To read the entire article, click on here.

The death of Presidente Hugo Chavez

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In 2007, I was part of a U.S. delegation invited by Presidente Chavez to Caracas for the unveiling of the Dr. Martin Luther bust-Busto Martin Luther King Paselos Insignes. The delegation was organized by Joseph Jordan  Director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). I was able to see first hand the efforts of the Bolivarian Revolution, like the land reclamation projects. I was struck by the engagement of  the people in their society, many of them carried their dog-eared Venezuelan Constitution in their pockets every day. And why not? They had helped to create it. They were genuinely excited about building futures. The knowledge of African and African American History as well as the Black Liberation Movement by the Venezuelan people was remarkable.  We were treated like dignitaries while in the country and were given access to the people and to many of the country’s programs like the Comités de Tierra Urbana (Urban Land Committees or CTU).

My comrade, Genevieve Williams Comrie, wrote a great piece for Al-Jazeerah.com about Chavez that I’d like to share because of her unique perspective as an Afro-descendant:

 Presidente Hugo Chavez and race : The shift from avoidance to inclusion

Thousands crowd the streets of Caracas as they mourn their president.
Thousands crowd the streets of Caracas as they mourn their president.

“Racism is very characteristic of imperialism and capitalism. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth and curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it is African.” – Hugo Chavez, September 21, 2005

The death of democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954-2013) has evoked serious thoughts and reflections on the meaning of his life and the process he led from peoples and communities throughout the Americas and the world. Despite much criticism by many right wing governments and people in the West, Hugo Chavez led a process in Venezuela that symbolised the new assertiveness and self-consciousness of nations in Latin America that saw a future for themselves, liberated from the heavy-handed, oppressive and economically draining policies of their powerful neighbour from the North. Read more