Saturday, 10 December 2011
BROTHER MUMIA ON OCCUPY wALL ST MOVEMENT, BLACK LEADERSHIP AND BLACK LOVE
L+T: What do you think of this uprising of the progressive left, Occupy Wall Street? There’s been talk of the absence of people of color.
MAJ: I’m frankly quite impressed with Occupy Wall Street, for it did in three months more than the movement of the ’60s did in seven years. The growth and sheer span of their work can only be termed impressive. Over 100 cities? Damn. I think it’s too white, and too college-centric, but at least they’re doing something. For that, if nothing else, they are to be lauded. As for Afros and Latinos and Afro Latinos, I think it’s our job to enter those movements, and give ‘em input., issues and support. I think, if-if- all goes according to plan, this could very well be a turning point for this country, and by extension, the world (for what happens here radiates around the world, because it’s the center of empire). We should remember that every great rebellion in U.S. history led to change, albeit negative or positive. The great Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts, led to changes in the structure of the government, from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. The (Jacob) Coxey ‘Army’ of the 1890's, while initially unsuccessful, was a direct cause of social security years later, for example.
L+T: There’s so much talk about lack when it comes to Black leadership. Your generation broke from traditional church leadership. But it’s re-emerged (or perhaps, remained) a central organizing community space.
MAJ: Most of us have early, perhaps childhood memories of church. In many ways, it’s formative of not only our personalities, but also our sense of community, of some sense of self-worth, and even, Blackness. It therefore set the limits of what was communally acceptable, for they are inherently conservative (at least socially), and they have that stamp on communal consciousness. But, what I learned during the ’60s is that radical actions in the streets moves right through the walls of the sanctuary, and we remember the emergence of radical Black preachers (and imams, etc.), who, in turn, gave radical spiritual blessings to struggles outside of the church. For example, Malcolm X, Nat Turner, James Cone, Jesse Jackson, Ishakamuse Barashango, etc. In fact, in his later years, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was deepening in his radicalism, as shown by his Riverside Church speech, which decried racism, militarism and capitalism. His life and example, in turn radicalized many, many other religious people.
L+T: Tell me about writing The Classroom and the Cell. About its conception and the process…
MAJ: When Professor Marc Lamont Hill suggested the project, I was intrigued. Technically, it was the easiest I’ve ever done, but substantively, it wasn’t. For it was constructed from out series of phone calls, perhaps three, or four, per chapter. Marc would tape, send out texts after two or three week (whenever a chapter’s worth was done), and we would clean up, expand, and/or augment pieces. We mailed each other constantly. I must say, it was intellectually invigorating; but it also was challenging, for we talked about things that Black men rarely discuss, like love, Black love, pain and such. Most Black men avoid such subjects like the plague, but I think we both addressed it openly and honestly.
L+T: The chapter on love was powerful, radical even. In the book you call Black love “revolutionary.”
MAJ: Black love itself, in a profoundly Negrophobic nation such as ours, is a radical thing, for it opposes the mainstream trajectory of U.S. life, policy and culture. We need to deepen and expand that ethos, so that it becomes a social force that has the power to attract, and with it, build. As in the discussion on church, social movements – especially radical and revolutionary movements – changes social reality in other spheres of life. It changes consciousness. Deep, caring, holistic love among our People can therefore make us more whole in all our relationships in our community. That’s because love is inclusive; while hatred is exclusive. There is power in love, which knows no limitations. That, I’m convinced, is our greatest treasure.