- excerpt from an Interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal by Rafael Rodríguez-Cruz, counterpunch.org
What are your thoughts about the recent mass mobilizations of millions of undocumented immigrant workers in the United States? Are they natural allies of other oppressed minorities, particularly Blacks?
The massive, spirited demonstrations were a joy to see; I think they marked the emergence of an oppressed people, from the shadows into the light. It brought back memories. I think it also demonstrated 'the browning of America', and thereby activated a reservoir of fear in white America, which looks down their nose at people south of the border. Given the power of media to shape ideas, we shouldn't be surprised that some Black Americans echoed the xenophobia of whites, and looked at Brown America's emergence with concern. What it reminded me of was our little-known, but shared history. In the 1830s, the US was at war with Seminoles, because they were one of the few Indian tribes who refused to return Blacks to slavery in Georgia and Carolina. The Seminoles fought at least 2 wars with the U.S. on precisely this principle. After years of war, the Red and Black Seminoles found freedom in fleeing Florida, and finding new homes in Mexico. The Seminoles, led by a warrior named Coacoochee (called Wild Cat), and assisted by a Black warrior named John Horse, took their soldiers and tribesmen, across the Rio Grande. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829.They offered not only land, but posts in the Mexican Army. Thousands of Black men, women, and children found freedom in Mexico years before a war brought legal (but false) freedom in the lands of their birth. From such intertwined histories, alliances can be made. For Black folks, and Red folks, fought, not for the US Empire, but for Mexican independence, and for freedom (literally!). So, the 'browning' of America doesn't fill me with alarm; for I know that "brownness" comes from Aztec, Seminoles, African, and others.
Can you talk also a little bit about the experience of the Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican communities in places like New York City?
The Black Panther Party had the most impact on Puerto Rican communities, I think, in NYC, and in Chicago. Both cities had chapters of the Young Lords Party, a socialist, independence group which had its origins in a youth gang in Chi-town. There, at the urging of Fred Hampton the Lords became increasing politicized, and in many ways, were inspired by the BPP. (Among Mexican-American brothers and sisters, the Brown Berets grew in Chicago, as well as in California). In New York, former YLP people joined the BPP, in part, because they were Afro-Puerto Ricans. We had a number of such members of the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn chapters. Offhand, I remember Denise Oliver, who came from Harlem, and Sol Fernandez, who was in the Bronx. Their membership was important, not just symbolically, but because of their ability to speak to communities that usually couldn't hear, or read, our works.
What are the obstacles to building a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-racial revolutionary movement in the United States in the year 2006?
There are not enough substantial opportunities for us to work together, and by so doing, to learn the worth of such a project. We argue over crumbs. For example, on black radio and in black conversations in response to the mass immigration demos, people could be heard saying, "They want our jobs." What, pray tell, is so good about many of the jobs Black folks have in the US? As it stands, we probably have the highest unemployment already! Rather than fighting each other, we need to find ways to work together, to deepen, broaden, and give new, real meaning to democracy. The obstacles are false consciousness, white supremacy, and linguistic barriers. But, I really believe that all of these can be surmounted.
Is the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico still meaningful for revolutionary politics in the United States?
Once again, I look at it from the perspective of a learner, not a teacher. I say that because the PR independence movement has demonstrated, on the ground, the power of its political mobilization, when it freed many (not all) of its political prisoners. There is no movement in the US that has duplicated this--even among the white so-called 'left'. That is impressive. So, puertorriqueños have more to teach us about community mobilization, principled struggle, and broad unity over revolutionary goals, than we think we have to teach them. Plus, given the increasing levels of aggression shown by the Empire, the independence movement can only heat up. How many young Puerto Rican men and women will join the imperial army, to fight wars, when Puerto Ricans on the island can't even vote for President (Emperor)? When they sense their colonial position costs them far more than it benefits, the independence movement can only be fueled.
Power to the People !!!
All Power to the Peaceful !!!