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