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Black history meeting connects today’s struggles

Published Feb 23, 2006 12:01 AM

A broad range of working class and oppressed people from across New England celebrated Black history month in a public meeting sponsored by the Boston chapter of Workers World Party on Feb. 18.

Boston forum. Seated: Mia Campbell and
Yves Alcindor. Wearing 'Wanted' T-shirt:
Clemencia Lee. Back row: Dorotea Manuela,
co-chair of Rosa Parks Day committee;
Robert Traynham, Monica Moorehead and
Tony Van Der Meer.
WW photo: Liz Green

Robert Traynham of the Steelworkers local 8751 bus drivers union, chaired and opened the meeting entitled, “Katrina, Imper ialist War & the Struggle for Black Liberation,” by leading the audience with a rendition of the African-American nation al anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Traynham conveyed one of his many personal experiences of growing up under Jim Crow segregation in the South where, as a teenager, he and his Black friends and family members were bussed past three white high schools to attend an all-Black high school. After the Ku Klux Klan bombed the school, Traynham was forced to attend classes in ramshackle temporary structures for the duration of his high school years.

Clemencia Lee, co-director of the Cultural Café, an independent alternative cultural venue of art and politics and site of the meeting, welcomed participants who packed a gallery room adorned with [email protected] diaspora art.

Tony Van Der Meer, adjunct professor of Africana studies at UMass, co-chair of the Boston Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee and co-founder of the Cultural Café, framed his remarks within the context of Hurricane Katrina, the demand for reparations and the historical treatment of Black people in North America from slavery to the present day.

Denouncing FEMA’s criminal actions of evicting 4,500 survivors from hotel rooms and other shelters nationwide in early February, Van Der Meer called for participants to support nationwide actions on Feb. 28 protesting this and another planned cutoff date on March 1, when 10,000 others could be tossed out on the street. Survivors are now dispersed in 48 states and over 400 cities, he said.

Van Der Meer then conveyed some proposals from his recent trip to Mississippi where independent social justice organizations and progressive individuals met to forge responses to U.S. government atrocities in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi after Katrina.

Demands include the need to organize for the right to return, a guaranteed income, housing, education, healthcare and other social needs as well as access to funds and land, with the basis being the respect of the self-determination of Black and other nationally oppressed peoples in these affected areas.

A “People’s Reconstruction Plan” is currently under discussion, and an international tribunal to hold accountable all those responsible for the wholesale crimes against the mostly Black people in the Gulf Coast is planned for late August, close to the anniversary of the racist Aug. 28, 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till.

Monica Moorehead, WWP secretariat member, managing editor of WW newspaper and an editor of Marxism, Reparations & the Black Freedom Struggle pamphlet, gave an historical overview of the semi-slavery conditions of Black people that led to the founding of Black History Month and provided an analysis of U.S. imperialism’s effects both within the U.S. and abroad. She hailed the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the TWU strike in New York and other advances by the working class and oppressed worldwide and tied the struggle for Black liberation to the necessity to broaden internationalism.

Moorehead raised the need to prioritize the struggle against racism and national oppression, including supporting the most oppressed in leadership roles in the social justice movements, independent from the Republican and Democratic capitalist parties. Moorehead also explained that socialism is the only economic system that can guarantee human needs and workers’ power as opposed to capitalism’s endemic ills that include racism, war, greed, cutbacks and other forms of inequality.

Long time Puerto Rican independentista Alberto Barretto denounced the U.S. government’s assassination of freedom fighter Filiberto Ojeda Rios last year and the recent FBI terrorist raids in his homeland against primarily pro-independence forces, while hailing revolutionary developments in Latin America and the Carib bean. Barretto received rousing applause with his closing remarks “Long live Puerto Rico free and socialist. Inde pendence without socialism is nothing.“

Yves Alcindor, leader of the New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti who recently returned from Haiti, described to the audience his participation in a delegation of independent election observers that oversaw the Haitian masses’ successful presidential election of Rene Preval.

Mia Campbell of the Women’s Fight back Network and Politicin’ With the Sisters, raised the role of women and youth in the revolutionary struggle, and then read a few poems including one that paid tribute to former gang leader Stanley Tookie Williams who was executed on Dec. 13 at San Quentin prison.