Brooklyn, N.Y., rally: Resistance and reparations!

Omowale Clay, Viola Plummer, Pam Africa, Zayid Muhammad, and members of the December 12th Movement after the rally at Restoration Plaza, Aug. 17. SLL photo: Bill Dores

“When will we be paid for the work we’ve done?” That great song by the Staples Sisters roared out in Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn, New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant community on Aug. 17.

“Resistance and Reparations” were the watchwords of the rally organized there by the December 12th Movement.

It was the 20th anniversary of the first U.S. National Reparations Rally in 2002 held in Washington, D.C. And the 135th anniversary of the birth of the Honorable Marcus Garvey.

D12 Chairperson Viola Plummer chaired the event that drew 150 people. D12 is demanding President Biden make a $50 billion downpayment on reparations to meet the emergency medical crisis in the Black community.

For example, in New York City’s zip code 11369―the Black and Latinx neighborhood in East Elmhurst, Queens, where Malcolm X lived with his family ― one out of 114 residents has died of COVID-19. That’s almost triple the U.S. average.

A series of militant speakers supported these demands. New York City Councilperson Charles Barron attacked capitalism and called for a socialist revolution.

Barron described how New York City was a center of slavery. In 1741, 34 people were executed for an alleged conspiracy of enslaved Africans. Thirteen of them were burned at the stake.

Last year, when he was a New York State assemblyperson, Barron sponsored a law establishing the New York State Community Commission on Reparations Remedies. It passed in the assembly by a vote of 107 to 43.

What’s unique about this bill is that the commission will have more representation from the Black community than from government-appointed officials.

But this necessary legislation is being held up in the state senate.

Fighting to get it passed is State Senator Jabari Brisport, who spoke and declared himself to be a socialist.

City Councilperson Chi Ossé and Assemblyperson Phara Souffrant Forrest demanded reparations and justice.

Chi Ossé is a Black Lives Matter activist who is the youngest member of the city council. Phara Souffrant Forrest is a nurse and tenant activist fighting to get more funds for health care and mental health in the state budget. 

Free political prisoners!

Besides recorded music from the Staples Singers and Peter Tosh, an ensemble played with musicians from South Africa, Burkina Faso and Haiti.

Professor Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University in Baltimore, reminded listeners that it was an enslaved African who brought smallpox vaccination to the colonial United States. Yet life expectancy for Black people in the U.S. dropped by almost three years between 2019 and 2020. 

Fyc from the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement denounced the FBI raids against the African People’s Socialist Party.

Zayid Muhammad of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee saluted Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in a fiery speech. Speaking of the need to free political prisoners, Muhammad demanded that Dr. Mutulu Shakur be set free.

Shakur was trained in acupuncture in the People’s Republic of China and used his skills to fight drug addiction. He is dying of cancer in a federal prison and must be given compassionate release.

Marcus Garvey was both a political prisoner and an immigrant. The Black leader was framed, imprisoned and deported to Jamaica. 

Pam Africa came from Philadelphia to demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. She pointed out that Abu-Jamal was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 17, 1995 – Marcus Garvey’s birthday.

It was the power of the people that stopped this murder. And it was people’s power that won hepatitis treatment for prisoners in Pennsylvania, including Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement helped close out the rally with the chant, “They stole us, they sold us, they owe us!” This great and true slogan was originated by D12.

Reparations now!

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