KANSAS CITY, Mo. (FinalCall.com) – Gathering nearly 100 of its top organizers for two days of plenaries and workshops during its 26th Annual Convention, the National Black United Front (NBUF) coordinated a highly successful and informative weekend teach-in July 15-16.
Under the theme “Operational Unity and Grassroots Organizing,” NBUF National Chairman Dr. Conrad Worrill convened representatives from Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Washington, Florida, New York and South Carolina. The Kansas City NBUF Chapter and its chairman, Ajamu Webster, diligently hosted the convention, which opened with a spirited mass rally, held at Metropolitan Spiritual Church on July 14 that was keynoted by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and concluded with high political notes delivered in an address by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), during a national banquet on July 17. Rounding out a fulfilling schedule, the convention featured a provocative plenary session and evening concert on July 15, with revolutionary hip hop artists Dead Prez. Members of the group stressed the need for the public to support those artists, like themselves, who are committed to being independent from greedy, controlling industry labels and courageous enough to fill their tracks with lyrics that raise consciousness.
The main thrust of the convention was teaching participants how to organize on the grassroots level. Workshops dealt with reparations, economics, health and wellness, technology, African-centered education, electoral politics, international affairs and campaigns for justice.
“When we say grassroots organizing, we are talking about organizing our people at the lowest common denominator. We are talking about going into the bars, taverns, nightclubs, beauty salons, barber shops, barbeque joints, soul food restaurants, churches and other religious institutions, and on the corners where so mamy of our people congregate, Dr. Worrill said during the kick-off rally, referencing his letter printed in the convention journal. “Grassroots organizing simply means penetrating the soul of the African Community in America in all of its parts. This can only be done if we continue to sharpen our skills as activists and organizers who are armed with the necessary consciousness, techniques and talents to inspire our people to participate in this great Liberation Movement Project.”
NBUF delivered on its chairman’s word. The first plenary session, “Grassroots Organizing,” presented a panel of chapter members offering practical steps on how to set up an NBUF chapter, how to effectively coordinate media and public relations to advance messages and events of the struggle, how to incorporate youth and technology in the organizing process, and specific strategies of organizing youth and the community-at-large.
Malik Aziz, a member of the Florida NBUF chapter, explained methods of building organizations for Black people. He asserted that he has found that within any organization, 20 percent of the people are doing 80 percent of the work. So, rather than expending energy to get the additional 80 percent to work, he focuses on organizing a collective 20 percent of workers from various organizations. Once the organization of the key organizers begins moving and sharing a proper political consciousness, he maintained, the 80 percent will eventually get to work.
“Build a foundation of an organization of people who are willing to do the work,” he explained. “Instead of recreating initiatives, go to the one within the community with that successful initiative and educate them to convince them to join the 20 percent who are organized to work,” he added.
Kofi Taharka, head of the Houston NBUF chapter, outlined some of the strategies that he has used in successfully organizing the youth in his city: going to where the youth are and becoming familiar with the youth culture specific to each city; providing for youth needs with programs that can help guide them into organizations with an invigorated spirit for the struggle; using street-level marketing tactics; putting youth in positions of power; sponsoring youth for national events; and attracting them with strong power moves that demonstrate the struggle is more than talk, it is action.
“How can we make it another 25 years?” he asked. “We must keep telling the stories of the past, because we need to know our history, but we must develop in the youth the same fervor for this great and mighty struggle,” he insisted.
Leon Dixon, a member of the Kansas City NBUF chapter, stressed the value of technology in bridging the gap in the consciousness of the people. He pointed out that at most conventions technical minds are the most consistently under-represented segment of our culture. He jokingly chided that when people with technical skills joined campaigns, they would be found stuffing envelopes in the centers. “It is like putting Satchel Paige on third base because he has a strong arm and he can throw straight,” he said. “We must make better use of our talent.”
Mr. Dixon offered more than rhetoric, he presented the example of the WEB DuBois Learning Center and its technology project. The center, which is owned–not rented, sits on four-and-a-half acres of land and provides reading, writing and math in an African-centered curriculum to youth as its base of functioning. However, that curriculum is available online to 15 sites throughout the city, primarily churches, that are linked to the center by its satellite. This wireless network allows undisturbed access and distribution of information–the potential of which, Mr. Dixon rightfully argues, has yet to be fully explored by leaders and activists to develop a national independent network that supports the aims of the struggle.
This lament was also boldly sounded by Oba T’Shaka, NBUF’s Vice Chairman, during his summation of the opening plenary session. He criticized the tendencies of today’s leaders to romantize the struggle of the sixties, noting that today there are different conditions that face our people, so the qualitative struggle must call for different strategies to be used. He then detailed a list of destructive forces that have hit Black communities nationally, and expressed his belief that the issue that unites Black people on the broadest spectrum is family, which must be restored and upheld.
An elder in the struggle who has organized for over 45 years concluded, “The fate of our people will go where most of our people are. Culture is a political act.” He quoted Amilcar Cabral, “Culture sustains revolution.”
(Click here to read the excerpt by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.)