The House of the Lord Church where Black political power was born and nurtured
The Anti-violence and Anti-war Mass Movements
As I was digging through my speeches, articles, sermons etc. I came across this speech which I did in 1981 regarding two motions or movements or two major issues of that time. They were Anti-war and Anti-violence. I was fascinated by the striking similarity of that time and the present. I thought it would be of interest particularly for those persons who are students of history, the Peace and Civil Rights Movements. Hence, I’d like to share the following speech with you:
Date: April 4th, 1981
What we see today are two major mass motions: Anti-Violence and Anti-war. Of course there are other issues: urban renewal, unemployment, police brutality, etc., but anti-violence and anti-war are the main issues. As we approach the summer, the mass motion is expanding and gathering a full head of speed. Liken it to a volcano, there is an awful lot of rumbling going on, which can be felt for miles around. Whether or not the volcano will explode is anybody's guess. Some wish for calm, some predict that it is not serious. Others misname it — they say it is not a volcano rumbling, but rather the roar of the ocean that we hear. But ever so often, the volcano spews hot lava from its belly, and the rumbling and shaking increases. There are still others who wish the volcano would blow, and that the eruption would shake the foundation of the nation and blow society off its hinges.
It calls to mind Malcom's teaching on the house Negro and the field Negro. If a fire starts, the house Negro will try to put it out; he would even die with his master trying to save the house. But the field Negro, would pray that the wind would blow stronger to fan the consuming fire.
The motion that we see conjures up the days of the Peace Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. As we recall, the Civil Rights Movement was largely black, although whites were also very much involved. Their influence behind the scenes was pervasive and indeed powerful - too pervasive and too powerful many black leaders thought. Thus ushered in the Black Power Movement in which black people were asserting their independence.“We wish to plead our own cause and lead our own movement”, leaders asserted. Almost simultaneously came the Vietnam war. Whites were the dominant participants and many left the Civil Rights Movement all together and many blacks became involved in the Peace Movement. They attempted to emphasize the connection between racism and poverty in America, and imperialism abroad.
After the war, many whites were left with nothing to do. So they went back to schools, businesses, and homes. In other words, they returned to the system. Blacks, however, were forced to continue the struggle. It is important that we remember those days, and that we learn from them. Remember the quote, "those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its failures."
On April 4th, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous anti-war speech at the Riverside Church in New York. I remember gathering some of the young fellas of our church and going to that historic occasion. Also, I remember going to Washington with a group called Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam in February 1967 to protest the war. I remember meeting with Congressman Emanuel Celler and Congresswoman Edna Kelly. It was before Brooklyn was reorganized to provide black representation, which by the way, paved the way for Shirley Chisolm. I remember saying to Representative Celler, that the MOVEMENT against the war was going to increase. He said "Oh no, clergymen are always into these things, but the agitation will die down." Let us now consider what our position should be in the coming days.
We should merge the two motions: ANTI-VIOLENCE and ANTI-WAR. They are two sick twigs growing out of the same corrupt soil.
Secondly, we should intensify our coalition efforts. We must face the fact, if we are going to have the kind of movement that can turn this country around, that can produce massive rapid change, then we must have allies. We do not have to love them, we do not have to immolate them; but if we have more in mind than dreaming dreams of unreal objectives or constructing a few alternative institutions, if we are thinking about this fundamental change, a radical social reordering of priorities, values, and resources -- then we must have allies. Let us not forget: Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin sat down together not because they loved each other, but because they wanted to win a war. When they had achieved that objective, some other leaders of said countries sat down with other leaders of the very same countries they had warred against. To scheme together, with the leaders who had been their allies in the war. America, Britain, and Russia were really against Germany, Italy, and Japan. Now, it has turned completely around. America, Britain, Germany, and Japan are allies against Russia and China.
We are at war, a war that is sometimes subtle and sometimes flagrant, but always destructive. War means killing and destroying, and that is precisely what is happening to us. It is imperative that we learn and apply certain principles that are deployed during times of war. I am not necessarily talking about violence and weaponry. I am thinking about a more sophisticated war making - identifying allies and real enemies, developing different approaches at different times, knowing when to sound militant, and when to moderate the language, when to threaten and when to talk peace, when to be diplomatic and when to be strident; when to confront and when to compromise, when to brandish a sword and when to bury it. I am referring to "The Art of War." That is what Sun Tzu called it.
Yes, war is an art. How do you think Mao won in China? Nkrumah in Africa, Ali Khamenei in Iran, the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe, Maurice Bishop and The New Jewel Movement in Grenada, Toussaint Louverture beating the French and everybody else in Haiti, Fidel Castro conquered Batista in Cuba; Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam? Because they had the most fire power? No - they won because they learned The Art of War. Remember, all the huge animals are gone: the tyrannosaurus, the dinosaurs - while the small animals are still with us.
We must out-think our enemy, not out-muscle him. It is the best minds and the best thinkers that endow in the end. Mao said, "When the enemy advances, we retreat; when the enemy camps, we harass; when the enemy tires, we attack; when the enemy retreats, we pursue." No war can be won by the adoption of a static attitude or an inflexible strategy.
Vladimir Lenin said, "To tie our hands beforehand, openly to tell the enemy, who is at present better armed then we are, whether we shall fight him and when, is stupidity and not revolutionary. To accept battle at a time when it is obviously advantageous to the enemy and not to us, is criminal. The political leader of the revolutionary class that is unable to tack, maneuver, and compromise in order to avoid an obvious disadvantage that is absolutely worthless."
This flexibility, this Art of War, is not easy to adopt. The stiffest opposition will come from one's own people. They must try to perpetuate an image of a leader, or an organization, which first attracted them. They have grown comfortable with the image, and if they have benefited from, or made some progress, to change now or shift in order to be flexible will be all the more difficult.
There are times when a leader must lead, and it is always true that leadership is risky business. History shows that oftentimes a leader is crucified by his own people. Let me give you an example. Since there have been some discussions in various places, I don't want those who have had those discussions to think that I am using this forum to win my point. The attempted assassination of Ronald Regan required a thoughtful statement from the National Black United Front. To lead the action without an official decision, might lead other members to say something in the name of the organization. What we said essentially, "the chickens have come home to roost." But we opened the statement with an expression of concern for the families of those who had been shot. Nothing was said about President Reagan.
The statement was a page and a half long, four lines were given to the expression of concern. We thought that it was a diplomatic statement. Now some people did not upstand this. They wanted a stronger statement on Reagan's crimes and his "getting what he deserved." At the same time, however, there were some people for whom we manifest great admiration, Maurice Bishop, Brezhnev, Castro, all those leaders set messages of concern much stronger than ours. They didn't do it because they loved the President, nobody did. They did it because it was the diplomatic thing to do. Diplomacy might be defined as an adroitly handling of the truth carelessly without lies. The easiest thing in the world would have been to start issuing wild statements. But what would it have gained? Again, we must learn from history. Remember the storm Malcolm X started up? The media picked up the quote "chickens coming home to roost," and created a whirlwind. We said essentially the same thing, but we said it diplomatically.
To be continued…