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WW interview with Black historian/activist

‘Belafonte told the truth’

Published Jan 30, 2006 8:59 PM

Tony Van Der Meer is an adjunct professor of Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts and an adjunct professor within the Social Science Department at Roxbury Community College in Boston. He is co-chair of the Rosa Parks Human Rights Day Committee in Boston. Van Der Meer is co-editor with Jemadari Kamara of “State of the Race,” an anthology on the Afro-Cuba diaspora. He is also co-founder and program director of Cultural Cafe, an independent alternative cultural venue of art and politics. This interview was conducted by Bryan Pfeifer of the Boston WW bureau over the course of December 2005 and January 2006. More of this interview will appear in upcoming issues.

Tony Van Der Meer
WW photo: Liz Green

WW: What is the role and importance of Black history?

Van Der Meer: The role and importance of Black History is to set the record straight. To differentiate between Black History that was created by white supre macist institutions and Black History created by Black (African) people, especially in the diaspora, who resisted racial and class domination and oppression and struggled to live and create their lives on their own terms. It is to clarify the contra dic tions of the enslavement of African people and a reminder of our continuing struggle to control the cultural, political and economic realities of our lives as human beings, instead of being viewed as Bud weiser’s great kings and queens of Africa, and
having bling bling and a swimming pool in our living room.

Harry Belafonte, while in Venezuela Jan. 8, said, “ No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush, says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution.”

God bless Harry Belafonte, may he live a long life for telling the truth. Essentially Belafonte is saying what Martin Luther King Jr. said about the U.S. government being “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and you can modernize that and place a cap on top of “W’s” head as the greatest leader of tyranny and terrorism of the world. The American people aren’t as dumb as Bush and his corporate/media backers want us to believe. When ordinary American workers get their paychecks (those who still get them), they know they have been had. They know this when they get sick; they know this when their kids go to poor schools. Many of them can see that the revolution occurring in Venezuela is in the greatest interest of ordinary working people.

You often talk about the contributions of women in the civil rights and Black liberation movements.

That’s simple. It’s not a question of what came first, it’s a question of what exists. Black women in the civil rights and Black liberation movements are a very important and significant component of those struggles. Living in a racist and sexist society, it is ever more important to be conscious and keep in the forefront of our work the triple oppression of Black women via race, class and gender. Otherwise, as men we are prone to internalize the “inferiority” of women instead of seeing and working with them as equal partners in our struggle. It is the revolutionary duty of men (and women as well) to struggle against the internalized racist, sexist and class “inferiorities” we have developed living in a male-dominated, white-supremacist capitalist world.