Black History forum: Obama, Harriet Tubman & jobs

Brenda Stokely, Larry Holmes, Jaribu Hill, the Rev. CD Witherspoon and Monica Moorehead at Black History forum, Feb. 23.WW photo: Brenda Ryan

Brenda Stokely, Larry Holmes, Jaribu Hill, the Rev. CD Witherspoon and Monica Moorehead
at Black History forum, Feb. 23.
WW photo: Brenda Ryan

A dynamic Black History Month forum took place Feb. 23 in the new office of the New York City branch of Workers World Party. The theme of the forum was “Obama’s second term: Which road to liberation?”

Speakers included Brenda Stokely, a leader of the Million Worker March Movement and an organizer for the International Working Women’s Day 2013 Coalition. She paid tribute to the great African-American liberator Harriet Tubman; March 10 is the centennial of her death. Stokely spoke of the individual heroism of Tubman, overcoming incredible odds to free herself from the bonds of slavery. But her heroism did not stop there. Tubman then joined the Underground Railroad and led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom, with the assistance of other Railroad operatives. Stokely emphasized that Tubman was connected to a much broader movement, a lesson that is just as important today in the struggle against all forms of capitalism.

The Rev. C. D. Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council and a representative of the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, spoke on the contributions that assassinated Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made to the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, D.C., for Jobs and Freedom; its 50th anniversary is this year. In response to the growing crisis of police violence, poverty and racism, the Baltimore PPA is organizing a week-long Poor People’s March from Baltimore to D.C. to bring demands to the White House. Witherspoon stated that the march will be a regional one.

Larry Holmes, WWP’s First Secretary and a Secretariat member, spoke on the relationship between Obama’s re-election as the first African-American president and the mass struggle in the United States. On the one hand, the Obama administration still fundamentally represents the interests of the capitalist class and imperialism. On the other hand, however, this second term represents optimism for the masses in terms of progress in the fight for social justice. Holmes stressed the need for the masses to fully break from the ideological chains of the Democratic Party and to embark on the path of a truly independent, anti-capitalist program for socialism.

Jaribu Hill, executive director of the Mississippi Workers Center and a cultural worker, spoke about the ongoing struggle against racism and performed a song.

Monica Moorehead, a WW managing editor, chaired the forum and spoke on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin. For the forum podcast, go to workers.org.