Charles Barron: Speaking Truth to Power Articles and Essays on Revolution, Black Radical Politics and Leadership, His New Book
This week is the second article from Council member Charles Barron’s book (listed above). In this article, he talks about Black Radical Politics. He mentions the founding of the National Black United Front (NBUF). Our church, the House of the Lord Church, played a key role in the formulation of NBUF. Even before the culmination of the Convention in 1980 from the beginning.
There were five of us that met in the Chapel of our church, Charles Keon, Cairo, IL; Florence Walker, Philadelphia, PA; Alfred ‘Skip’ Robinson, Tupelo, MS; Ron Herman, Portland, OR; Jitu Weusi, Brooklyn, NY in December 1979.
As chairman of the NY Black United Front. During the prior year, we had traveled to many cities to organize local chapters or similar organizations. We had been successful in our organizing in NY and we wanted to duplicate it in other cities.
The very ideas and the first meeting was held at our church. But I'll let Charles Barron's article speak for itself.
Igniting the Flame for Black Radical Politics
“We’re fired up, won't take no more! All fired up,won't take no more!” That was the battle cry of Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry and the National Black United Front (NBUF) in the 1980s, long before Senator Barack Obama said, “Fired up, ready to go” during his 2008 presidential campaign.
It was 1981, when Paul Washington, Kai Crooks, Inez Barron, and I joined Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, National Presiding Minister of the House of the Lord Churches and Chairman of the National Black United Front, and others on a trip to Chicago to meet Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. We were meeting with Minister Farrakhan to discuss fostering a closer working relationship with the Nation of Islam, and to discuss NBUF’s upcoming National Convention. Paul, Kai, Inez, and I were hard-working dedicated members of the National Black United Front.
NBUF, as we affectionately called it, was a broad-based grassroots, Pan-Africanist, activist united front that included membership from the NAACP to nationalist to socialist and communist. NBUF held its national founding convention in 1980 in Brooklyn, NY. Over 1,000 people attended representing 35 states and 5 foreign countries. During the founding convention Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry was elected NBUF’s Founding Chairperson. NBUF had over 40 chapters in cities and states across the nation that organized around a myriad of national and international issues affecting our local Black communities and our countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and other oppressed nations and nationalities. On that trip in 1981 in Chicago with Minister Farrakhan, Paul Washington and I, in a hotel lobby over breakfast, had our first serious discussion on actually getting involved with electoral politics. We had been somewhat supportive of so-called progressive candidates but never had we considered our personal involvement until that day in Chicago. Well, in 2001, I was elected to the New York City Council, and my wife Inez Barron in 2008 was elected to the New York State Assembly. As of this writing, after twelve years I was term-limited out of the New York City Council and Inez has been elected as my successor. I ran for her seat and succeeded her as a New York State Assembly Member.
Inez and I, along with Peggy Washington, Adeline Bunche, and others are founding members of operation P. O. W. E. R (People Organizing and Working for Empowerment and Respect), a political movement in NYC focusing on getting Black Radicals elected to city and state offices. We need more Black radicals in local elected political offices. We don't need a president that happens to be Black; we need a Black president that is committed to Black people. We don't need doctors who happen to be Black; we need Black doctors who are committed to Black people. We don't need lawyers who happen to be Black; we need Black lawyers who are committed to Black people.
We certainly don't need local Black elected officials who happen to be Black. We need local Black radical elected officials who are committed to a Black agenda for Black liberation. Blackness must be defined front-and-center on the agenda of Black leadership. Blackness is not only African features, melanin skin pigmentation, rich coarse African textured hair, etc.; it's a state of mind. If Blackness were African features, the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would be the Blackest man in town. Everyone knows that he is diametrically opposed to anything that would have any semblance of benefiting the Black community. He is one of the most “ non-black,” Black persons in the country.
Let's develop a working definition of what Blackness is political. Dr. Lani Guinier in her book Tyranny of the Majority stated that some Black leaders are “descriptively Black,” they look like us. Others are “ authentically Black,” and they are committed to us. Thus, being Black is being committed to the empowerment, interest, well-being, political, economic, and social progress and liberation of the Black community.
The call for Black Power, Black Liberation, and Black self-determination is still very relevant today. Being Black doesn't exclude one from uniting with other ethnic groups struggling against oppression, nor does it disengage us from struggles against class issues, colonial capitalism, imperialism, globalization, etc. On the contrary, addressing Black issues is synonymous with addressing class issues. While I used the term Black often, I want to remind us that we are African people. We are not a “ race”; we are a nation of African people who have been displaced from my homeland, Africa. Because we were kidnapped as people and remote from my homeland, that does not take away from us being a nation of people. We are an African people! But bear in mind we don't only want to change the complexion of the people in power; we want to change in the direction of the politics of America. We want ideological change. We want a revolutionary change. Therefore, we are calling on Black leaders to embrace Black radical Politics, the politics of Liberation, and revolutionary change.
As I stated, our journey into the electoral arena began shortly after that 1981 meeting in Chicago that began our involvement in the 1984 Jesse Jackson for President Campaign. Harold Washington had just won the mayoral campaign in Chicago in 1983 with a campaign slogan, “It's our turn now!” And now here comes the Jackson for President campaign slogan, “Our time has come!” The word “ our” used in these slogans is clearly talking about us, Black People. However, these were reformist campaigns designed to keep our people trapped in the democratic party that takes us for granted. We decided to use the democratic party to get unbossed and unbought independent Black radicals elected to local seats of power because our people blindly vote democratic. We are totally independent from the democratic party. We are using the electoral arena to secure goods, services, and material benefits to ease the pain of greedy economic capitalist oppression, and to raise the consciousness of our people so that they can see the contradictions in this two-party racist, parasitic, predatory capitalist system and fight for systemic radical transformation and a socialist revolution.
One of the most Radical/ Revolutionary victories in electoral politics was the election of Chokwe Lumumba, a revolutionary nationalist, to the position of Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. He was the first Black revolutionary to be elected mayor in American politics. The Black Liberation movement and his loved ones were shocked and saddened by his untimely death after just months in office. The Jackson plan and Cooperative Jackson became the model for Black political and economic liberation in Black communities around the nation. My commitment is to continue Chokwe Lumumba’s legacy by training and developing young Black Radicals/ Revolutionaries to win local seats of power across this nation.
“Remember, the struggle may be long, but victory is certain.”
Note: In 2017, Chokwe Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, was elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and committed himself to continuing the revolutionary legacy of his father.
To be continued…