By ASI-YAHOLA SOMBURU
On Sept. 4, I had the pleasure of going to Harlem with my father, Kwame Somburu, to attend the rally that Khallid Abdul Muhammad and the New Black Panther Party that he leads named the Million Youth March. Harlem was alive that day!
On television prior to the event there were several interviews with Black people. One was with an elderly unsophisticated Black man who was discouraging the march; nor did he see that there was any good reason for the march. The Black politicians of New York, such as Congressman Charles Rangel, shared this sentiment publicly.
None of these gentlemen saw the necessity or the potential of mass action in the face of exploitation. And the media did their part and portrayed the gathering as an insignificant collection of political extremists, hoodlums, and anti-Semites.
In reality, both this year’s and last year’s march were powerful and beautiful displays of people who realize that something is wrong with the system and not with them
Last year’s Million Youth March and rally filled eight city blocks with a gathering estimated from 20,000 to 30,000.
Mayor Giuliani tried unsuccessfully several times to ban this year’s march and rally. A leading Harlem newspaper, the Amsterdam News, was headlined, “MAYOR LOSES AGAIN.”
U. S. District Judge Denny Chin ruled that no matter how “hateful, violent and frightening” the speech of the march’s coordinators, there are constitutional guarantees that must be observed.” So a permit was granted for a rally from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Initially, there were so many police that a speaker remarked that it seemed like the Million Police March!
By 1 p.m. though, significant numbers of people arrived that eventually grew to over 2000, and almost filled a whole block from side to side and corner to corner and greatly outnumbered the police.
The rally was a success. I measure the success by the enthusiastic presence of positive people of color, and a few white folks who were supporters, standing in solidarity against the system.
There were approximately 20 speakers. Much of what they said was positive: Support for Mumia Abu Jamal; non-violence among Black people; the right of self-defense against our enemies; eliminating drug sales and use among our people; scientific, historical, political, and cultural education; and community organization and unity for our mutual benefit and prosperity.
A representative of the Puerto Rican Community spoke about Puerto Rico’s colonial status. He advocated independence and freedom for Puerto Rican political prisoners, and stated support for the Black community in its struggle for freedom, justice, and self determination.
It was a sight to behold to see all of those people there. All of the different colors and faces showing warmth to each other, and everyone taking a stand together on common issues, with common goals.
The media were there in force. An ignorant young Black man with a megaphone, who was walking around spouting anti-Semitic statements and other proud displays of stupidity, was swamped by the media so they could say that he was the typical person who attended the march.
Afterwards I was ecstatic, excited, and optimistic, and I felt that many good things would come from the march. The next step from here will be the Million Family March. The key is mass action, such as the April 24 Millions for Mumia was able to obtain.
Although some progress has been made, there will always be inequities and injustice as long as there is a system built on crime, racism, and oppression. We are gradually regressing and taking steps backward, with affirmative action being revoked, the increasing segregation of our schools, and harsh police brutality.
Unless we want to continue taking these daily abuses, we need to take action now. Silence and passive attitudes equal complacence and support.
We need to continue building a mass movement to abolish institutionalized racism and one that will be there to combat all that stands in the way of social justice and equality. We must build this movement one member at a time. I encourage all who share these ideals to join Socialist Action and Youth for Socialist Action (YSA).
Asi-Yahola Somburu is a member of the YSA in San Francisco