Viola Plummer, rest in power

Viola Plummer. Photo: Jeffery Antoine

Brooklyn, New York

The historic, activist-oriented House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, New York,  hosted a funeral Jan. 27 for Viola Plummer. A dynamic founder and chairperson of the December 12th (D12) Movement, Plummer was just one month shy of her 87th birthday when she died on Jan. 15. She had been a member of the New York 8, Black activists framed during the mid-1980s on phony federal charges.  They were ultimately acquitted. Some former New York 8 members helped launch D12.  

Plummer was so admired and respected for her social activism within the Black, Caribbean and Pan-Africanist movements that people stood in line outside in the cold waiting to get a seat inside the church, which was standing room only.  

Roger Wareham, a longtime leader of D12, emceed the program. Guest speakers paying tribute to Plummer included Yuri Gala López, Deputy Representative of Cuba to the United Nations, who read a message of condolences from Fernando González Llort, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples. The Cubans thanked D12 for its efforts to oppose the 60-year-long U.S. criminal blockade of Cuba.  

Other solidarity messages were given by a representative from the Zimbabwe mission to the United Nations, legendary radio personality Bob Law, and former New York City Council members Charles Barron and Inez Barron, who are also leaders of the Black radical political movement Operation P.O.W.E.R. (People Organizing and Working for Empowerment and Respect).

Omowale Clay, a founder of D12, stated during the funeral: “Over the past 50 years of my life, I have had the privilege and honor to be tutored and learn and follow the lead of my comrade Sister Viola Plummer in struggling to make fundamental change in the quality of life for the people.  My legacy to her is to continue the struggle.” 

Omowale Clay, Dec. 12 Movement leader, pays tribute to Viola Plummer during the International Assembly against Imperialism in Solidarity with Palestine, Jan. 21, 2024. WW Photo: Joe Piette

Plummer’s political obituary reads in part: “Viola’s activism, beginning at age 17 with the NAACP, defined her life. Politically it developed from civil rights to human rights. From reform under capitalism to revolution under socialism. Geographically, it went from Queens, to New York City and state, across the United States and internationally. It encompassed many issues, including reparations, racism, police brutality, political prisoners, healthcare, education, ethnic cleansing and African liberation. But they were all connected to the drive for Black people to be free. 

“She did not seek fame or wealth, although they were readily available. She simply wanted us to be free … by any means necessary. She was a teacher who understood that fundamental change first required the making of revolutionaries who could show our people how it could be done. She knew that once that happened the ‘masses would make revolution.’

“Viola was a literal force of nature who led by example. She would remind the less-than-resolute or active among us when it came to work that she never asked anyone to do anything she had not already done, was actually doing or was prepared to do. 

”It might be postering in freezing weather at midnight; physical training at 5 a.m. in Prospect Park; staying up all night to finish an assignment; fund-raising; getting petitions signed; working on electoral campaigns; physically confronting police to release comrades snatched at demonstrations; loading trucks to take supplies South after Hurricane Katrina; speaking with Zimbabwean Presidents Robert Mugabe and E.D. Mnangagwa about support for our struggle in the U.S., and President Fidel Castro about Assata Shakur.

“Zimbabwe’s President E.D. Mnangawa sent us a long letter of condolence which outlined Viola’s and the December 12th Movement’s contributions to Zimbabwe’s struggle for self-determination and freedom from sanctions imposed by Western countries for having taken its land back. He ends with this, ‘Together we have a duty to ensure that what Comrade Viola died fighting for does see the light of day. To our Sister Viola, we say, “Go well, you fought a good fight. We will carry on the good work that you selflessly gave your life to.’”

“We can only honor Viola’s legacy by continuing on the path she set out for us. In particular, in the past few months, she urgently pushed us to organize against the motion toward fascism in the U.S. We say to Viola, our Comrade and Friend, ‘We’ll finish the gig.’”

Viola Plummer on the mic.

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