On the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri: Organizations are the lifeblood of social change

Photo: flickr/Jorene Rene

The people of Ferguson, Missouri, have mobilized in a rebellion over the killing of the unarmed Afrikan American teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. In order to sustain the resistance against racial and class domination in Ferguson and elsewhere for the long haul, the people who are currently mobilized need to organize.

Many organizations or people are using vigils, marches, rallies and demonstrations as spaces for emotional release. Emotional responses to material forces of oppression are insufficient for the job at hand. We must employ reason and emotion in a methodical, disciplined and planned manner that is backed by a vision in an organizational or social movement context.

We need to create or join organizations that are committed to fighting the systems of oppression that are materially impacting our lives. It is impossible to fight capitalist exploitation, police violence, the oppression of women, white supremacy, homophobia and other forms of dehumanization outside of collective action and organized structures - organizations and movements.

The exploitative systems of domination are structured and institutionalized. The masters or exploiters are very much aware of the value of organizations in maintaining the status quo. The oppressors' army, police force, state bureaucracy, schools, media, companies, banks and prisons are organizations that are used to keep us in our place as Fanon's "wretched of the earth" or "the damned."

Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) often made the following claim in his public education lectures, "Organization is the weapon of the oppressed. Afrikans are oppressed, because we are disorganized!" Our revolutionary ancestor's assertion ought to be seen as a self-evident truth.

Let’s use this moment of grief and resistance in Ferguson to build radical or revolutionary organizations that will organize with the people around all of the issues raised below by comrade El Jones, a poet, organizer and educator, in a Facebook status:

We will be gathering to show solidarity for Mike Brown's family and the citizens of Ferguson, and to stand against state violence against our communities and people. Stay tuned for details, date and time. We must come together to support each other and our communities against the dehumanization of Black people and the devaluing of our lives. We must stand against the criminalization of our youth, and for our right to exist, to walk on the street, to have futures, to live freely. We must stand against the occupying of our communities, the loss of opportunity, the marginalization and poverty and lack of access that condemn so many to prison, and the suffering of families and communities in a system that does not value Black life. We must organize ourselves in strength, love and solidarity, fight to build strong communities and futures, to support parents, and to protect our children.

If we are not ready to be in organizations, we are just playing with ourselves. However, in the situation of the quest for freedom and self-determination, self-interested pleasure, acts of petty bourgeois self-indulgence, and splendid isolation are liabilities.

The message within this Ethiopian proverb is timeless and accurate, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” Let our action speaks louder than words in the call of the disenfranchised for unity, cooperation, and self-determination.  Our solidarity in action will emerge from us getting together in groups with a program of liberation.

Young people tend to be at the forefront of rebellions or uprisings. as we are witnessing in Ferguson, or we have observed in the recent mass protest in Egypt that brought down the Hosni Mubarak-led government. However, young people tend to be marginalized in the strategic leadership in organizations and social movements. It is critically important to systemically prepare younger comrades for the role of agents of revolutionary transformation in society. 

Afrikan young people will need to become more than the spark and driving force behind spontaneous and short-lived rebellions. They ought to become permanent organizers among the working-class, women and the racially oppressed so as to advance the social revolution. If the youth and the other alienated people of Ferguson and other cities and towns are committed to changing the status quo, they will need to form or join radical organizations and fully adopt the organizing model of resistance. 

Afrikan youth in the United States can draw on the legacy of young people-led organizations such as SNCC and the Black Panther Party, if they believe it is best to create their own autonomous revolutionary organizations. The widespread existence of sellout or compromised leadership among the older established leaders might make independent youth-led organizations a compelling option. The youth-led rebellion in Ferguson is not taking direction from the traditional civic leaders who are not seen as legitimate.  

It is high time for the resistance to build effective and efficient organizations that are rooted in the needs and aspirations of the oppressed. Organizers ought to learn from the organizational or movement successes and mistakes of the past and the present in doing the monumental work of movement-building and creating the embryonic economic, political and social structures of the free, good, and just society (classless, stateless and self-managed). A prefigurative politics or building the road as we travel needs to be at the centre of social movement organizing in the 21st century.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Ph.D., is an educator and a journalistic activist. He is an organizer with the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence and the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity.

Photo: flickr/Jorene Rene

 

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