On June 19-21, the founding convention of the Black Radical Congress (B.R.C.) was held in Chicago. Nearly 2000 people came together to exchange experience, and to discuss strategy on how to build the Black Liberation Movement.
By all accounts, the event was a success. Many who came were new activists, from the frontlines of the battles against police brutality, in defense of affirmative action, and the right to housing. Others were veteran activists and leaders who had, and are making real contributions to the freedom struggle.
The call for the B.R.C stated, "Now is the time to build a strong, uncompromising movement for human rights, full employment, and self-determination. Now is the time for a new Black Radicalism."
Among the participants were activists from Minnesota's low income community. The following interview was conducted with members of the Twin Cities based Welfare Rights Committee and Low Income People Organizing for Power (Duluth).
Fight Back!: What were some of the highlights of the founding convention of the BRC?
Deb Howze: For me, seeing people of all walks of life, folks on welfare, doctors, lawyers, activists, all there for a common cause, how to assert our basic human rights. More than 1500 people were there through Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Some worked on welfare rights, others in the fight against police brutality, some were taking on health care and AIDS issues...
I admired the youth that were there, they were glad to be part of the BRC, they were not afraid to challenge old leaders.
There was a lot of information exchanged, which helps to build the Black Liberation Movement, to unite and fight back against the government.
Derrick Parker: It was very exciting, a very good idea. The plenary really broke it down. One of the speakers that interested me talked about the fight for land in the South. Black people, Black farmers are having their land ripped off and they are discriminated against by banks, and the struggle for land is tied up with the struggle for power. Corporations are turning African American communities into toxic waste dumps, so the demand is being raised to remove these poisons.
When I came back I was really on fire from what I heard. When you hear and see that things being talked about are real, there's the benefit right there.
FB!: Who was there?
DP: Anywhere from socialists, welfare rights activists, feminists, to lawyers. The main goal was to do something together. A strong arm - everybody coming together for the cause. The organizers took a strong stand against homophobia. There was no fear. No matter who you are and what you're doing, our goal is the same.
FB!: Deb, you spoke on the workshop dealing with attacks on welfare. What went on there?
DH: We gave out information about what the Welfare Rights Committee does. We tried to promote the example of what is happening in Minnesota, where we have been bringing together the low income community to fight the cuts.
I posed the question, why not fight back against the government. They're not afraid to fight you, to give you a ticket or to put you in jail. If you are going to jail for anything, it might as well be for doing the right thing. We have to confront the politicians and demand our rights.
What we are fighting around is our basic human rights. With the new Minnesota welfare program, M.F.I.P. our safety net has been ripped. We need to fight to have that safety net in place. Some people afterwards came up to me and said they enjoyed what I said - we gave them our information, and encouraged them to build the fight for welfare rights in their own states.
Jeanette Bobo: All poor people have to work together - all colors, all people around the country are talking the same way, about this welfare stuff.
FB!: Derrick, you went to the workshop on human rights?
DP: We have to raise this thing, of international human rights all over the world. Because it makes the way for equal enjoyment of rights. Everyone has the right to get what the next person gets.
We'll be going to the UN and charging the U.S. government with genocide. The 5 year lifetime limit on welfare will be taken up. So will the 3 strikes you're out - the focus is putting Black people in prison.
By raising these abuses internationally, we have a better chance of winning victory.
FB!: What's going on in this country that made the founding of the Black Radical Congress a necessity?
DP: Because of racism and discrimination. There is more white privilege, whites have a better chance of getting more than a person of color. Persons of color get stopped by police more often. Even cashing a check is harder. So you have to organize something - from the streets, to the banks, to jobs. Some people say it's [racism] not here, racism never went away. We need to unite to deal with this.
FB!: What's about the need to be radical?
DH: To be radical means to go out and educate people on what the real deal is in this country. To stand up, fight back for our basic human rights. For our right to survive. If we don't do that, we are doomed. We need to challenge the rich who run this country.
DP: We need to get to the root of the problem - to pull it up from the roots, so to speak. Radical means to get to the root.
FB!: Overall, was the founding convention a success?
DH: We need to unite and say the BRC was true success. People came out of it with goals, determined to build the struggle back in their own communities. More meetings are being scheduled. We need to come together to study, struggle and strategize.
People came to share views and ideas... there was debates, even angry debates on how should we go forward... in the end there was unity that we needed to build the Black Liberation Movement, to challenge this system, and to get our basic human rights.