The following series is dedicated to all the unsung heroes, freedom fighters, and political prisoners of the Ferguson Rebellion. To those individuals who stood on the front lines, risking life and limb, may your sacrifice never be forgotten. To the residents of the Canfield Green Apartments, and the wider St. Louis community, who courageously resisted the brutal repression of the police state, the whole of the Black world is indebted to you. To the Bloods & Crips that formed an alliance (The Urban Taliban) to protect the women, children, and elders of Ferguson, we salute you. And lastly, to the parents of Mike Brown Jr., Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., may the ancestors comfort you, and may their vengeance be visited upon all those who have denied you the justice we so desperately sought.
Through #RemakingFerguson, it is my hope to start a discussion that empowers the grassroots community, by reclaiming the narrative of the Ferguson movement, from colonial academics and bourgeois activists, and giving it back to the people of Ferguson. This will be done by approaching these writings with three objectives:
- Provide a comparative analysis of the Ferguson Movement and the Black Power movement, along with the colonial tactics used to subvert them.
- Question the imposition of neocolonial leadership in Black movement spaces, and examine the impact of hyper identity politics/intersectionality on grassroots organizing.
- Challenge the prevailing corporate media narrative that three Queer Black Women are responsible for the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was clearly born out of the Ferguson Rebellion.
Black Rebellions in Post-Racial America — Hands up! Don’t Shoot!
“I’m a mother of five. I’m a grandmother of five. That mother [Mike Brown’s Mother] lost her child. If we don’t come together now, WHEN? And for the ones who have their feet on peoples neck, when do you feel like enough is enough? ‘cause you gotta know — when you keep pushing somebody up in a corner — they gonna come out swinging. Well, I’m swinging!”
~ Mama Cat; Canfield Green Resident (Whose Streets Documentary)
“Some people grow up in what we would call a “Real War”, with like planes, and bombs, and guns & stuff. This is like an unseen war where they wage war on the people, without anybody else knowing.”
~ Aurellia; Canfield Green Resident (Whose Streets Documentary)
The 2014 Ferguson rebellion will forever be remembered as the defining moment of our generation. The events that transpired following the public lynching of 18-year old Mike Brown marked a return to the “Long, Hot Summer of 1967.” For those unfamiliar with this period of history, the rebellions of ‘67 reached a fever pitch after local residents of the Newark community organized a peaceful protest in response to the merciless beating of John Smith, by Newark police.
In the wake of the protest, the United States government unleashed one of the most severe domestic assaults recorded throughout the history of the “decisive decade”. The goal of this military campaign was simple: crush the Black rebellion by any means necessary. When the smoke finally cleared in the streets of Newark, there were a total of 1,465 arrests, more than 700 injuries, and 26 residents were killed. While the Ferguson rebellion was not as deadly, many of the techniques used to co-opt and repress the movement were identical.
Given the explosive nature of rebellions, the fighters that are closest to the flames are often too consumed by their brightness to take note of the long shadows they cast. Lurking within the shadows of the Ferguson rebellion was a cast of actors plotting a takeover, that was executed with Mayweather-like precision. Before the local organizers knew what hit them, the energy from the local grassroots movement had been funneled into a, professionalized, national movement supported by corporate media, private foundations, and colonial academics.
It is important to understand that the Ferguson ruse was not without precedent. In what is perhaps the most important speech given by our late ancestor, Malcolm X, Message to the Grassroots, he goes into great detail to explain the method and tactics that were used to co-opt previous movements.
I would like to mention just one other thing quickly, and that is the method that the white man uses — how the white man uses these “big guns,” or Negro leaders, against the black revolution. They are not a part of the black revolution. They’re used against the black revolution.
Full speech can be found here: Audio MUST LISTEN!
Malcolm was clear beyond any doubt that with the assistance of the “Big 6,” the March on Washington had been infiltrated, taken over, and sold out. What started as a grassroots movement in the Northern ghettos was quickly transformed into a multicultural picnic and outdoor music festival.
It was a circus, a performance that beat anything Hollywood could ever do, the performance of the year… And the six Negro leaders should get an award too, for the best supporting cast.
Much like the Civil Rights movement, Black Lives Matter is a movement that was woven together by lies, false narratives, and deceit. Remaking Ferguson is an attempt to unpack these lies, and recenter the grassroots in the intergenerational discussion. In the words of the late professor, Dr. Derrick Bell, Remaking Ferguson “is not intended to be militant, or radical, it’s simply an intention to try to tell the truth.”
The Physicians Warning: Urban Rebellions from 1964–1968
“Where you find oppressed people, sooner or later they rise up against the oppressor. When the Jews were being brutalized in Poland, there came a time where they couldn’t take it anymore, and they fought back. They didn’t have too much to fight with, but the fought back. I think every oppressed people, no matter how meek and humble they are, after you drive them so far, they’re going to strike back.”
There is a natural law that governs all social interaction, and it cannot be overwritten: Where there is oppression, there will be resistance (Quote by Assata Shakur). In the course of 100 years, since the abolition of chattel slavery, Africans in America went from burning plantations, to burning entire cities. According to the famed social historian, Lerone Bennett Jr, the Black Rebellion in America had gone through several stages before it arrived at its 4th stage, Nationalist Revolt, in the Summer ’64. It was during this phase of the Rebellion that Black men began asking some “dangerous questions”, and pushing the conversation to its logical end:
Can the white problem be solved?
Is America hopeless?
How many more Detroits will it take? Will it be necessary to bring Chicago, New York, and Washington to a simultaneous standstill?
By 1964, Black male frustration and discontent had reached a tipping point. In an interview with Mike Wallace of CBS News, Malcolm X warned that Black America was primed for explosion. He warned that if the system of Black oppression is not dissolved in America there would be an inevitable clash between the state, and the victims of the system. Shortly after the interview aired, Malcolm departed for his second tour of Africa. Within two weeks of his departure, Harlem exploded.
The sparks from the Harlem explosion were enough to ignite the fuses of St. Louis, Rochester, New Jersey, and Philly. Within a few weeks of each other, each of these cities were up in flames. Attempts were made to contain the rebellion by bringing in the national civil rights leadership, but Both James Farmer and Bayard Rustin were rebuffed by the Harlem community, and run off in embarrassment.
You May find interesting: Video of Jesse Jackson being run out of Ferguson
The system of Black oppression was not restored until Governor Nelson Rockefeller mobilized the National Guard on July 26, at which point, Dr. Martin Luther King was brought in to lead negotiations between Harlem residents and the state. As expected, Dr. King was not welcome in Harlem, as the community had already spoken when they heckled Bayard Rustin with “Boos” and “Uncle Toms”, and chanted instead for Malcolm X.
Conditions preceding the blast
In September of 1964, Sidney M. Willhelm, and Edwin H. Powell published an essay in the Journal of Society titled, “Who Needs the Negro?”:
With the onset of automation the Negro is moving out of his historical state of oppression into uselessness. Increasingly, he is not so much economically exploited as he is irrelevant… The tremendous historical change for the Negro is taking place in these terms: he is not needed. He is not so much oppressed as unwanted; not so much abused as ignored… If he disappeared tomorrow he would hardly be missed. As automation proceeds, it is easier and easier to disregard him… Basically, 20,000,000 Negroes are unwanted. Our values inhibit genocide — so we discard them by establishing new forms of “Indian Reservations” called “Negro ghettos.”
The conditions in Black America were so dire, that the urban ghetto became a breeding ground for “radical Black militancy,” a severe threat to social order of White supremacy. The grassroots Black Liberation movement, which was often suppressed in favor of the, white-controlled, Civil Rights movement, began to flourish as more and more Black Americans realized that the dream of integrating with their former masters would never be achieved. At the same time that these developments were happening in the Black Community, a counter movement of professionalized white-nationalism was developing in white society. This movement reached its highest expression with the presidential run of Republican Candidate, Barry Goldwater. In a strange twist of fate, these two movements would collide on July 16, 1964 — The date of Goldwater’s acceptance speech, and also the first day of the Harlem rebellion.
Although Goldwater wasn’t elected, his posture towards the black community, during the “Goldwater Campaign,” set the tone for the aggressive state repression carried out by Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon.
“The growing menace in our country tonight, to personal safety, to life, to limb and property, in homes, in churches, on the playgrounds and places of business, particularly in our great cities is the mounting concern — or should be — of every thoughtful citizen in the United States.”
1965 to 1968: America is Burning
In the three years between the assassinations of Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, the Black Ghetto was turned into a battlefield, all across America. Increasingly, Black youth began to refer to these liberatory exchanges, with law enforcement, as Black battles:
“Who does he [Lerone Bennett, Jr.,] think fought the Battles of Watts, Harlem, Detroit, Newark? Just Le Roi Jones [Amiri Baraka] and Huey Newton?”
While the uprisings following the King Assassination brought the greatest wave of social unrest since the Civil War, it was the rebellions of ’67 that set in motion a determined effort, on part of the State, to put down the Black rebellion through alternative means.
In the year 1968, there were 3 reports submitted to the United States Congress, that expressly dealt with Rebellions in Black America:
- The National Advisory Commission (Kerner Commission)on Civil Disorders (Feb 29, 1968)
In the 75 disorders studied by a Senate subcommittee, 83 deaths were reported… The overwhelming majority of the persons killed or injured in all the disorders were Negro civilians. The typical rioter was a teenager or young adult, a lifelong resident of the city in which he rioted, a high school dropout; he was, nevertheless, somewhat better educated than his non-rioting Negro neighbor, and was usually underemployed or employed in a menial job. He was proud of his race, extremely hostile to both whites and middle-class Negroes and, although informed about politics, highly distrustful of the political system… Most rioters were young Negro males. Nearly 53 percent of arrestees were between 15 and 24 years of age; nearly 81 percent between 15 and 35.
2. Guerrilla Warfare Advocates in the United States, Report by the Committee on Un-American Activities (May 6, 1968)
Guerrilla warfare, as envisioned by its proponents at this stage would have to have its base in the ghetto. This being the case, the ghetto would have to be sealed off from the rest of the city. Police, State troopers, and the National Guard could adequately handle this chore and, if they needed the help, the Regular Army would be brought into service.
Once the ghetto is sealed off, and depending upon the violence being perpetrated by the guerrillas, the following actions could be taken by the authorities…
3. A Staff Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (June 10, 1968)
The Report of the Kerner commission, published in March of 1968, concerned itself primarily with the phenomenon of urban rioting and with the appropriate responses of society to that phenomenon. Recent developments in our racially troubled nation make it necessary to consider how our political and social institutions should respond to a different but related phenomenon: the small but increasing number of “radical black militants” who actively espouse and sometimes practice illegal retaliatory violence and even guerrilla warfare tactics against existing social institutions, particularly the police and the schools.
When the commissioners examined each of the these three reports, the underlying causes of radical Black militancy were broken down into 3 separate categories: social; political; and economic.
i. “The commission found that the causes of the rioting were “embedded in a massive tangle of issues and circumstances… which arise out of the historical pattern of the Negro-white relations in America.” The most fundamental strand in that tangle, said the commission, is “the racial attitude and behavior of white Americans toward black Americans.”
ii. “ Radical black militancy, like the urban riots, is ultimately a response to conditions created by racial attitudes and behavior that have widely prevailed among the white majority since the days of slavery.”
i. When the Black Liberation movement (Black Nationalists) displaced the civil rights movement (Integrationists), as the dominant strain among bourgeois Black activists** a new “anti-colonial” ideology was born into the breasts of the Black power movement. Increasingly, black activists in the United States began to see their struggle as a colonial struggle, connected with the global struggle against organized imperialist forces.
“Unique when expressed by Malcolm X in 1964, the anti-colonial perspective now provides many militant blacks with a structured world view — and, in the case of the radicals, with a rationalization for violence.”
i. The radical black militant who attacks a policeman or bombs a college building is not simply a common criminal. He is indeed a criminal, but he is different from the burglar, the robber or the rapist. He is acting out of a profound alienation from society.
This last point, perhaps more than any other, speaks to the profound nature of the threat of the “lower-class” Black male. His alienation from the western world, makes him the most dangerous element in modern society. His very being is criminalized. He exists outside of the protection of the law, within a society designed kill him.
The following quote, from Dr. Tommy Curry, speaks to the nature of the conditions that have prevailed in the urban ghetto, since the early 20th century:
Poverty creates conditions that make young, uneducated, and unemployed Black males into scavengers. They are forced to live or die by chance. It is this peculiar reality where criminality, the denial of work, poverty, and Black maleness push Black men and boys toward the prison and ultimately toward death at the hands of the police or of other Black males forced to scavenge for survival.
~Dr. Tommy Curry (The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood)
It is these very conditions, that strike fear at the heart of this country. The same ingredients that go into the making a “Detroit Red”, can be used to produce a “Malcolm X.”
“I had a jungle mind, I was living in a jungle, and everything I did was done by instinct to survive… because it was all a result of what happens to thousands upon thousands of black men in the white man’s christian world.”
And because I had been a hustler, I knew better than all whites knew, and better than nearly all of the black ‘leaders’ knew, that actually the most dangerous black man in America was the ghetto hustler. Why do I say this? The hustler, out there in the ghetto jungles, has less respect for the white power structure than any other Negro in North America. The ghetto hustler is internally restrained by nothing. He has no religion, no concept of morality, no civic responsibility, no fear — nothing. To survive, he is out there constantly preying upon others, probing for any human weakness like a ferret. The ghetto hustler is forever frustrated, restless, and anxious for some ‘action’. Whatever he undertakes, he commits himself to it fully, absolutely.
The only thing this country fears more than 1 “Malcolm X,” is an army of “Malcolm X’s.” During the Ferguson rebellion, the United States government saw this spirit being reborn, in the person of King D Seals, Edward Crawford, Deandre Joshua, and Josh Williams. Their stories have yet to be told, and it is not my place to tell them. My sole responsibility, as a writer, is to create a space where the voiceless can be heard, and the forgotten can be remembered. With this first entry in the #RemakingFerguson series, I hope I’ve achieved that goal, and I look forward to continuing the discussion.
Rest in Peace to Darren “King D” Seals
Rest in Peace to Edward Crawford
Rest in Peace to Deandre Joshua
Free Josh Williams