Message to the Black Movement

[Image description: the cosmos, with blue and red stars abounding. A black box comes to the fore, with a wide full moon filling it up. Over the face of the moon are a pair of pink flowers, with green stems poking out. To the left and right of these flowers are a pair of black panthers, both with their mouths wide open as if they are snarling. At the top, we see in white letters: “Message to the Black Movement – Anarkata Freedom School – Black August Kritical Kickback Series – Thursday August 27th at 9pm EST’

Message to the Black Movement 

  • Started troubleshooting
  • What are kritical kickbacks?

Kritical Kickbacks are chill, accessible, nonhierarchical, chance to get in touch w anarkata principles through political education, mutual aid, or both. Since we push ourselves to an Anarkata frequency here, we want to center the most marginal among us, guard the lane against harm in the space, keep ourselves to that wavelength and not reproduce any transphobia, ableism, religious bias, fatphobia, or any oppression. This also means these spaces don’t demand vocalizing thoughts of everyone but also that the voices of the most marginal among us who want to communicate is prioritized. 

  • What is Black August?

Black August is a time to commemorate Black freedom struggle, to fast, to study, to train, to fight. Almost five decades old now, Black August began in California prisons after the death of George Jackson in the 70s. Focused on revolutionary freedom fighters, the Black August tradition has grown to harness attention to a range of important moments in Black history—such as the Ferguson uprising which happened in August 2014, the birth of Marsha P Johnson on August 24th, and the birth of Oluwatoyin Salau today, to name a few. BlackAugust has spread beyond the prison movement to other political trajectories like the wild thing/Anarkata Turn. We commit to study, solidarity, struggle, and spiritual care in the name of the most marginal. 

  • Introductions
  • Care work and militancy – mapping our legacy

        Anarcha-Pantherism is a political tendency coming from Black queer/trans feminist and disability organizers building off the anarchistic insights pushed by former BPP and BLA soldiers in the prison movement, such as Kuwasi Balagoon, Ashanti Alston, and Lorenzo Komboa Ervin. Anarcha-Pantherism is the mother to recent Anarkata organizing in the social media age, and takes both an appreciative and critical look at the history of the Black Panther Party and larger Black Power era, based on the push for more decentralized, less cisheteromasculine, and more militant organizing that the Black Liberation Army was tending toward. We think about this today because as fascists attack protesters, conversations about armed self-defense are being held, but as Anarkatas we want to elevate lessons and understandings about militancy and underground activity that have been accumulated in our living legacy of Black Anarchic Radical traditions about patriarchy, hierarchical methods, and more. ”Message to the Black Movement” is relevant right now to raising these discussions, and we want to remember that as Anarkatas we will always bridge militancy and care work, and care work with militancy. As we go into this kickback, how do we bring Black feminist and Disability justice concepts to our discussion on underground formations

  • History of the BLA, context for the Message 

“The Black Liberation Army (BLA) was an underground decentralized revolutionary group formed in 1971 largely from disaffected members of the east coast faction of the Black Panther Party. The growing authoritarianism of the Party’s central leadership under Huey P Newton, which blamed the more radically insurgent elements of the Party for COINTELPRO state repression, sought to expel large swaths of members engaging in shootouts with police and other armed activities. Particularly important in the formation of the BLA was the expulsion of the Panther 21 on February 9, 1971. The Panther 21 was a group of New York BPP members who were rounded up and accused of planning a series of attacks against the police in 1969. Among those members in the Panther 21 case were Kwasi Balagoon, Dhoruba bin Wahad, Afeni Shakur, and Sundiata Acoli. The Panther 21 criticized the national leadership of the Black Panther Party for the way they handled the case and their lack of support for those in prison, which famously culminated into an open letter by the 21 defendants later published in Look for Me in the Whirlwind. Huey ejected the 21 from the party immediately after the letter and labeled them “enemies of the people.”   

As Assata Shakur, one of the most famous BLA members reminds us in her autobiography:

 “The Black Liberation Army was not a centralized, organized group with a common leadership and chain of command. Instead there were various organization and collectives working together and simultaneously independent of each other”        

A number of the original members of the Panther 21 went underground and eventually formed the BLA in New York. A number of other small groups emerged and became a haven for ex-Panther militants expelled from the BPP. These as well as other underground organizations came together to form the Revolutionary Armed Task Force (RATF) which was essentially a network of independent clandestine organizations, partnerships, and guerrilla groups that formed strategic alliance with the BLA. This also included the Weather Underground, which was a white organization that engaged in a number of insurrectional activities. 

The main activities that the BLA were engaging in were bank robberies, attacks on police departments, and prison breaks. They used expropriation of banks and weapons to fund the underground activities of the movement and increase their arronals. They planned coordinated attacks on police departments in order to terrorize the pig and maintain the initiative, ie to keep the position of being one step ahead of the police. Finally, they conducted prison breaks to liberate both incarcerated people generally, and out of the necessity to liberate their comrades, many of whom were jailed numerous times due to their activities. Russell Marron Shoatz reminds us that their small decentralized group formations made them extremely difficult for the FBI to infiltrate and was a big strength that the BLA had in general. However, because their groupings were so small, when they lost comrades to death or imprisonment, it took a much bigger toll on the formation as a whole, and so liberating comrades from prison became one of the most important activities. One of the most famous activities of the BLA, and by far the most lasting and successful, was the liberation of Assata Shakur from Clinton Correctional Institution for Woman on November 2, 1979. During the Brinks expropriation of 1981 much of  the New York group were apprehended and their activities were put to an end.  

The BLA was never explicitly anarchist but its origins contesting BPP centralized leadership and authoritarianism, it’s decentralization, and its insurrectional activities were a big part of why at least three Black anarchists came out of the BLA by the time it became inactive in 1981. Kwasi Balagoon, Ashanti Alston, and Ojore N Lutalo considered themselves anarchist on the basis of what they experienced in the Black Panther Party and how their Black radicalism evolved within the BLA. The BLA remains an important touchstone in thinking about Anarkata and is a part of our living legacy.   

Message to the Black Movement was a statement published by the BLA in 1976, five years before it became inactive. I am Reading a section titled “What is Protracted War in the Black Liberation Struggle”

Why did Huey expel the Panther 21?   

“”The Panther 21 put out an open letter criticizing how the BPP handled their case. The ball was dropped when it came to bail and the central committee’s support. This was part of a general trend where Huey was distancing himself from more insurrectionary and militant members of the party, which is part of why support was lacking regarding their case. When they published their open letter, that is why Huey had them expelled. This was culmination of a building tension between main Party leadership and various factions in the BPP. this is talked about in A soldier’s story by Kuwasi Balagoon.” 

”Balagoon talks about how bail was supported more often by Panthers who were the most popular”

”There were also instances where folk were using the bail for personal things, another thing that the Panther 21 was critiquing in their open letter…”

”Even today, political prisoner as a concept gets oriented around who has clout, who is known, and that is why many Anarkatas do not use that label and push ourselves to understand all prisoners as political, and to move support in a way that doesnt center heroes in the movement. This is to keep the most vulnerable from getting overlooked.”

  • Started reading
  • Pause (after the Nixonian doctrine part)

“Im thinking about the BLM trend and how [things] are framed around ‘this is what our country is doing.’ This reminds me of how people did mobilize around the Vietnam too.”

”I agree. I am unsure if folk during Vietnam were framing their outrage around an appeal to Americanness, but I do know that just like the bLA is identifying that post-Vietnam people went back to investing in Amerikkanness, we see that just two months after the first George Floyd protests. They are just like ‘yay Joe Biden, yay Scamala Harris.”’

”American culture skews people’s perception of time. As an autistic person, I struggle with seeing time in a way that fits industrial culture, but it is interesting how the consumption of media calls people to see time a certain way.”

”People in the mainstream using the word ‘abolition’ have done it in a reactionary way. In the mainstream it is dying down, but there is also alot more people radicalizing in grounded ways. It is protracted.”

”The fold of mainstream BLM organizing has been shit on trans rights and disability rights. In my local region, I have seen alot of transphobia and ableism.”

”And when folk disrupt it, people get upset.”

”They want us for consuming trauma, but not for leadership and alternatives.”

”Speaking of ableism, when the BLA speaks about protracted war in the form of the violence of the police and the welfare State, I think in our modern context, we should add the medical industrial complex, the increased criminalization of disability, and the reach of the child protective system that is used against Black parents, along with the Nonprofits which do fed work often times… these are part of protracted war against us.” 

”When we talk about American values, I have noticed that many people have been anti-police, but not understanding th[e]… reason why we are mistreated in the hospitals, the police, the unhealthy food we are given, mold in our homes, structural ways we are prevented from protecting ourselves and educating ourselves. This is what I thought about when thinking about their comments on domestic reform.”

”Disabled people are the main people on the front lines of carceral violence but the mainstream BLM movement overlooks this.”

”Communities are also low capacity or dont have the knowledge.”

”If they have no spoons, that is a structural problem that removes care and allows social workers to come in and then demonize everyone’

”When we center the most marginal, we can create capacity for care, and we wont have slippages in our movement building… Revolutionary work is not just to create responses, but change and transform them.”

”In my local area, I have been teaching people about capacity work and systems of support. I had to do that work as a disabled person, because these structures dont serve us. When you center us, it is on the front lines of what it means to divest from things that never served us. This is why the people who are the most marginal has to be centered because we know the violences well”

”The care work is part of the militancy here. Like literally showing up for those who are never served but are most harmed by the State institutions which claim to provide for us means we can then critique those forces as part of the protracted war against our community alongside the cops. And that means then that our view of a protracted response to the US’ war on us is grounded in Disability justice.” 

”The BLA views … resistance as protracted as well. So that means our resistance cannot get anywhere if it does not center disabled folks, consider capacity, care work, the things that breathe life into struggle and allow it to be sustainable.”

”They might not have called it care work at the time, but just like struggle is protracted, the theory in struggle is too. So yeah they didnt call it that, but those of us now, as Anarkatas, learning from Anarcha-Pantherists, from Black queer/trans feminists and disability justice organizers, we can then look back at the BLA and add a dimension to what we learn.”

”That is important. Just because it was not termed a certain way, well the progression to a point is still important. Keeping our own legacy is valid. Part of that means seeing where we fell through, and critique as an act of love.”

”Taking the best, and leaving the rest…”

  • Started reading again

Stopped at the part on ”concrete goal”

”This makes me think about the commonality in where the rebellions have popped off the most both in the first BLM wave and this year’s. In the first one, there wasnt as heavy a weakness in terms of the political bubble of the US, but now that COVID19 and Trump have people questioning the US, it does mean more people are ready to burn shit down. In those particular regions, especially. The cops cannot do much here now, they are getting demoralized, and even when they bring in the national guard the rebellions havent stopped. Now they have to call in the vigilantes to do the work for them. Yeah there is cooption happening, but we also have to consider the weaknesses going on at this point in the US.”

“The same things that happen in certain regions cannot happen in other regions. We have to think about which ones are more vulnerable based on localized structures. Martrydom should not be brought in.”

”This makes me think about how these waves that are happening in the Midwest. [because] the Midwest and South tend to get overlooked. I’m thinking now about sites of struggle. Im thinking now about what it means to organize in community in a way that questions universities [because of infection risk during COVID19}, to decentralize knowledge. Or around childcare, now that kids cannot necessarily go to school [due to infections risk during COVID19]. So many things are opening up, even if people are trying to make business as usual. Stuff can be shifted to do consciousness raising.”

”In my region, they see me as the child whisperer. I am trying to use this moment to reclaim care for our kids outside the school system.”

”I think that is brilliant as a strategic site of struggle. We can point out what the school system exists for: to produce workers of our kids. They cannot have that if everyone is staying home because of coronavirus. We can point those things out and raise conscious around capitalism and the miseducation system when we talk about showing up to protect our kids from risk of infection and other violences in schools.”

  • Picked up reading to the end of the particular section in question

”Reminds me of a video from earlier, where multiple battles were being fought: one against the State, another around resources from the masses. In order for it to be dialectical, when situations or conflicts arise, information by the people and for the people had to be put out for consciousness raising. The connection between the masses and their revolutionary struggles. There is that but also the internal contradictions of homophobia…”

”I’m happy you mentioned that because I wanted to talk about was errors the BLA made. This particular relationship to the masses that you mentioned is what the BLA wanted, but ebcause they were underground they could not engage with the masses. This was an error. Russell Maroon Shoatz points out that that was because of repression by COINTELPRO, but also because of their beef with BPP, the BLA did not have a way to replenish its forces and develop popular support enough to make their activity sustainable and protracted. You see how they are gesturing toward rooting something in the masses but on the ground they were very disconnected. Alot of them were doing activities in isolation. The reason why is because of the extreme repression, but also how they timed things (like robbing banks months after their creation.” 

”This is something that is being brought up in the Mapping Our Legacy zine. It is why Anarkatas echo lessons from other aspects of Black radical traditions, so like it is necessary for underground formations to coordinate their activities with above ground, front-facing ones. But like Assata reminds us, we should not mix the two in one place, they should be coordinated though.’

”I want to make a better infrastructure for those dynamics, to make sure there is not a compromise of vulnerabilities. This makes so much sense.”

”I think there is an awareness on part of our enemies that Black queer/trans and disabled struggles is super ripe for all of this stuff. We have every reason to not ignore the totality of the institutions that uphold the protracted war against us, because we see the failures of these systems in a unique way. We are less likely to get coopted and invested because of the nature of our struggles. So I think bridging care work and militancy, and finding an above ground political education and underground people’s army interrelation is particularly pertinent to us. And the enemy knows this that is why there seems to be heightened attacks on us, and I foresee increased violence against us that makes this super important to move on for us.”

”These school systems are so carceral to disabled kids, because they are considered disruptive. This makes me think about how when you are so ready to see the flaws in social constructs, you are much more a target to the State. How can we mobilize on that in our local geographies and local movements?”

Talked about food growing, Black/Indigenous solidarity (and Afro-Brazilian anarchic models for this), ecological diversity and food/environmental justice, mutual aid and divestment from the university system and other mainstream systems, defense from fascist attacks on our alternative community spaces, and internationalist visions of Black/Indigenous struggle, and creation of Pan African and intergenerational organizing spaces, as well as ancestral teachings. 

”The more you learn about the Black radical tradition, the bigger it gets… I’m trying to do my due diligence.”

”As we explore that expanse, let’s be conscious of State surveillance. Let’s think carefully about how to move on this stuff.”

”Security culture.”

”I will say there is a mid-way point too. Semi underground: you are doing above ground work but it is not in the public face. We have very public demonstrations happening, but there are also spaces where it is quieter but it’s still partly above ground. You get in because you know someone who knows someone, it is a touchstone for learning still too. The food justice stuff, for example, it can be practiced in a semi-underground way, where it still tries to be vigilant about not attracting state attention, but also isnt necessarily activities that would attach State attention.”

Talked about accessibility, ASL, conlanging, and making our Freedom School more accessible through making Sign Languages a cultural touchstone in Anarkata

“The project, the initiative, the space, the event is not the work. The project, the initiative, the space, the event is the opportunity to bring the work for fruition. Our Kickbacks are not the work; they are opportunities to test the work, to push ourselves to that Anarkata frequency. We are not there. We will not always be there. But we have to strive at each occasion, by raising consciousness, by laneguarding to protect the most vulnerable, by preparing for struggle, and by bringing accommodations into our culture. Accomodation is about self determination and solidarity with someone’s autonomy. Disability justice is a  strong touchstone for structural and material analysis. The Anarkata Statement tells us that Disability Justice is central to Anarkata.”

Talked about white anarchist violence against Black people at CHOP, about house/ballroom culture and its influences on the wild thing chant, and Black self determination within anarchist movement.

Suggested resources:

  • Message to the Black Movement (pdf)
  • Mlapping our Legacy (pdf)

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