Related article: Ndaba: ‘A great sitting-down’ (FinalCall.com)
“Southern trees, they bear strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.”
JACKSON, Miss. (FinalCall.com) – In the evening air of Tougaloo College’s Health and Wellness Center, the raspy singing voice of Billie Holiday floated through loud speakers as videotaped images of southern lynchings were rapidly projected across a screen, opening the “Public Town Hall Reparations Mass Meeting” for the NDABA: The Great Sit-Down II, on October 4th.
All of those who thought that Minister Farrakhan has softened his fight, his keynote address definitively dispelled that perception, mirroring the potency of Muhammad Ali springing off the ropes after exhausting his opponents with the “rope-a-dope.”
“We might as well prepare ourselves for the fight of our lives, when we want to talk about reparations. You had to die to go to toilet with White people. You had to die to go in a restaurant. You had to die to sleep in these hotels and pay big money. You had to die for voting rights,” he reminded the audience.
Min. Farrakhan encouraged all those who work within the reparations movement to do what they do best, to the best of their ability. He also stressed the imperative to educate Black people about the demand for justice, saying that once Black people are awakened and enlivened to their self-interest, they would not accept a compromise from a smiling, spineless politician in order to gain a dollar, a trinket or friendship with the enemy.
“We have to keep our mind on the prize. The prize is not a few people getting a few dollars. The prize is not making a corporation recognize that they enslaved our people and got their wealth from that. That’s one aspect of it,” he explained.
“We have to be serious now, because the future of these young people depends on the strength of our ability to mobilize our people on the principle of justice found in the principles for reparations.”
A full and complete freedom
“Can the present system of the U.S. government politically, spiritually, economically give us a full and complete freedom?” Min. Farrakhan asked the audience. “If this present system can’t do it, then this present system can’t give us what God intended for us. So, either we take over the house and make it what it should be, or we’re going to have to build a house of our own.
“Brothers and sisters, you are going to have to come to some reality. We are treading water and marking time, trying to make the White man do for us what’s not in his nature, never was and never will be. You have to come to the realization that it’s not here. We have to seek it from God and from ourselves.”
Reparations was the way, he said, if White people wanted to escape the Judgment of God that is coming upon America, pointing out the steady succession of natural disasters befalling various cities.
A show of solidarity
Attending were the following dignitaries: Rev. Jeff Stallworth; Sister Vallena Greer, co-chair of Jackson N’COBRA; Minister David Muhammad, Jackson NOI; Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes; Attorney Chokwe Lumumba, New Afrikan Peoples Organization; Charles Tisdale, publisher of the Jackson Advocate; Attorney Imhotep Alkebulan, National Conference of Black Lawyers; Ajamu Sankofa, N’COBRA Black Friday Campaign; and Rev. Al Sampson.
The great sit-down
Earlier that day, settled into auditorium seats of the modernized historically Black college Jackson State University, participants of the second great sit-down, or ndaba, received words of wisdom to invigorate them for the work ahead.
Convened by the Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan and Conrad Worrill, the national chairman of the National Black United Front, the summit was sponsored by the Mississippi Reparations Committee; the Jackson chapter of N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America); the university’s PIERIAN Literary Society; and the Pre-Law Society of Tougaloo University.
Members of N’COBRA, NBUF, the Nation of Islam, the Association for the Study of Classical African History, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the New Black Panther Party, the Republic of New Africa, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People participated in the great sitting down. U.S. Congressional Representatives Dorothy Tillman and John Conyers; Bob Brown, Silas Muhammad, Ron Daniels and Cornel West sent words of support in lieu of their physical presence. Due to a missed flight, a contingent from the December 12th Movement was unable to make the session.
The ndaba’s host and an elder in the Black liberation struggle Baba Hannibal Afrik welcomed the audience of nearly 100 participants set to dialogue in six working group sessions focused on youth organizing, legislative initiatives, the Black church, legal strategies, research and scholarship, organizational collaboration, internal healing and education.
“I thank Conrad for his vision and thought for pulling together all of the disparate voices so that we could speak with one voice,” shared Min. Farrakhan in his opening remarks to the group. “Nothing that we have done separate has been a solution. Nothing that we have done separate has answered the critical need of our people. Nothing that we have done separate has provided us with the tool of liberation.”
The leader of the Nation of Islam continued, “As this world is collapsing around us, we now are being called upon to unite, because without our unity, we cannot deliver the promise to our children and our children’s children.”
“The White man cannot repair what he broke. The Caucasian is incapable of ascertaining what went into the making of the Black man. Only the Creator of you can repair you, because He knows what He created you from,” he explained.
Calling reparations a gift from God, Min. Farrakhan acknowledged that the participants may disagree on the form of medicine. However, he stressed that the goal of unity must be placed above all differences, in order to uproot the envy that has kept Black people divided.
“I pray that this ndaba will be the beginning of national agreement on the principle of reparations and I pray that we will understand the role that each of us plays,” Min. Farrakhan shared. “Each of us is gifted. We need not be threatened. God has not cheated any one of us. What God gave you is your reason for existence and if you can discover your gift and use your gift for the principle that unites us, then we are all equal standing before our Creator.”
Getting to work
The collaborative is the second summit in the conveners’ attempt to build a National Reparations United Front. As a follow-up to the first meeting held in August in Chicago, Illinois, the aim of the Jackson meeting was to move the agenda of unity forward. Dr. Worrill instructed the participants during the opening session to draft a general statement of their working group that would define their group’s specific objectives, as well as draft a list of collective actions to follow the summit.
Reparations on the road
Min. Farrakhan shared his idea for a national tour designed around the principle of reparations, similar to the mobilizing efforts for the 1995 Million Man March. That effort would then have the same potential to create an international movement that would put pressure on the enemy.
“Out of the vibrancy of those who are struggling within America, we can send up a light to all of our people who are struggling.”
(The next ndaba is scheduled to take place in March 2004 in Houston, Texas, and will focus on developing a comprehensive demand for reparations.)