Omali Yeshitela discusses his work in ‘the ongoing struggle’
By Dwight Hobbes
The only thing more dangerous than the truth is someone committed to telling it with the courage of his or her convictions and without regard to politically correct protocol. That characteristic has distinguished such iconic individuals as Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Dick Gregory and Martin Luther King. While his isn’t a household name, Omali Yeshitela nonetheless is to be reckoned with as a statesman of integrity and as a voice that refuses to compromise.
When Yeshitela, chair of the African People’s Socialist Party, relates to revolution, it’s not from an armchair. He was there, sleeves rolled up, holding the front line in the 1960s Civil Rights Era throughout the thick of it all, as the U.S. saw its most momentous upheaval since the Civil War.
It isn’t lost on him that both of these landmarks confronted the subjugation of African America. This country bit off more than it could chew by enslaving Black people and has spent hundreds of years choking on it ever since. So, it couldn’t be more fitting that Yeshitela addressed the First Annual Twin Cities Malcolm X Conference this past Saturday in North Minneapolis.
There is, of course, no Malcolm X Day, despite the fact that he and Martin Luther King, Jr. fought, lived and died for the same principle of equality. White liberals look on King as a sort of kindly, non-threatening figure.
Malcolm, on the other hand, scared them witless. His memory still casts a disquieting pall, lest a successor emerge. Someone like Omali Yeshitela.
The day before the conference, Chairman Yeshitela visited the MSR to discuss a number of things, including the importance of Black media itself. After all, when Malcolm was, during his day, demonized by the mainstream, there were precious few alternative sources to say different.
“There was the Pittsburgh Courier,” Yeshitela pointed out. “And he created Muhammad Speaks for the Nation of Islam, [which] became model for the Black Panther Party newspaper and our newspaper, The Burning Spear.” He added, “It’s extremely important that [the MSR] has been in existence 80 years. That it investigates our condition and represents our community so our community can see itself. [As] a form of validation. It is testimony to have existed this long.”
Where the spirt of the Civil Rights Movement was captured in the words, “We shall overcome,” increasingly the outlook today is one of “I have overcome.” Yeshitela acknowledged, “If you put yourself first, the system will let you succeed. It’s not going to help us [as a whole]. But if you’re a good Negro, you don’t even have to be smart. You just have to be willing to place your needs ahead of the community.”
In the historic recording Message to the Grassroots, Malcolm X said, “Back during slavery, there was two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. In those days he was called a house ni**er. And that’s what we call him today, because we’ve still got some house ni**ers running around here.”
There increasingly is the perception that one of them, in fact, resides in the big house on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. Omali Yeshitela shares that perception in his assessment of Barack Obama.
“Obama is doing what he was put there to do. You don’t think when he ran [for office] White people gave [him] $700 million to do something for us, do you? Have you heard him say anything about Black people at all that’s positive?
“When he ran his first campaign and the first presidential debate happened in Harlem, N.Y., and someone in the audience stood up and asked what his position was on reparation, Obama was opposed to reparation. That gave White people in general permission to be opposed to [it]. Reparation was building movement at that time.
“Obama went to Chicago on Father’s Day and condemned Black fathers. What in the hell has he ever said positive about Black people? Nothing. And he calls himself a mutt. In so doing, he’s [describing] the rest of us. A mutt and a mongrel is something the most rabid racists have characterized us as historically.
“Obama is no friend of Black people. He’s just shoveled money, trillions of dollars, to the banksters. At the same time, we’ve got this growing gap in the resources and wealth between Black people and White people. Just like Bush, Obama works for White power.”
Is there any hope for true Black leadership in this country? “Hell, yeah. But it’s going to come from…the communities. Poor people, working-class people who are catching hell. Not from Black people that White people have created in their own image.”
With regard to his own significance in the ongoing struggle to make true change that can be believed in, he commented, “My job is to become unnecessary. To build an organization so that when I am gone the work does not stop.”
Toward that end, unity of purpose is vital to not have splinter groups but to spread his organization’s presence in branches. “For instance, we have revolutionary organizations in Egypt, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Germany, France, England, Sweden. Under one leadership. [There is] the African People’s Socialist Party—Sweden, the African People’s Socialist Party—France. Etcetera. The Swedish front of the African revolution. The French front.
“We institutionalize our presence and build revolutionary consciousness. The only way we’re going to have our freedom is to unite the African world.” Literally speaking — all around the world. Indeed, Omali Yeshitela poses a dangerous threat to the status quo.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.