Paraphrasing some comments made to me today by Jonathan Stith, veteran organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (and elsewhere), specifically about the following letter* from political prisoner/POW Jalil A. Muntaqim, he suggested that a point be made about the popularity among many younger activists in the #BlackLivesMatter movement of sweats and tees that say “Assata [Shakur] Taught Me” and the truly infrequent opportunities to actually hear from or engage such teachings directly from the source. Muntaqim is a comrade of Shakur, a former a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army and one well situated to offer insight and suggestions to those now engaged in activism. Importantly, these are not the words of an uninformed old man trying to quell or stifle the energy shown by many younger activists. Muntaqim’s are words of encouragement and the attempt of a movement veteran and prisoner of war (POW) to perform the task laid out and inherent to the statement in the clothing, to radically teach and prepare a new generation for revolutionary and “fierce” struggle.
Muntaqim can be reached by mail at:
Mr. Anthony Bottom DIN# 77A4283 Attica Correctional Facility Box 149 Attica, NY, 14011-0149
*The following transcript is of the included pictures of Muntaqim’s letter to assure that any inadvertent discrepancies or mistakes can be clarified and properly attributed to me, the transcriber.
Future Focus by Jalil A. Muntaqim
In seven years, by 2023, the U.S. will be 40 percent minority, and 50 percent of the entire population will be under 40 years old. These are the demographics that can not be ignored as progressives move forward building opposition to institutional racism and plutocratic governing.
In my thinking it is incumbent of today’s activist[s] to take in account what America will look like in ten years, so we will be better positioned to ensure the future will not be governed by [deniers] of change. In this regards, I am raising dialogue toward building a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA) comprising social, economic and political activist[s] who are prepared to build a future focused America based on equitable distribution of wealth. It is imperative that progressives [seek] the means to organizer greater unity and uniformity in ideological and political objectives toward the construction of a mass and popular movement. It is well established the most pressing issues confronting poor and oppressed peoples’ are wage inequalities, housing displacement, dysfunctional public schools and student debt, climate change, the criminalization of the poor – mass incarceration, and the militarization of the police. In each are negative racial and economic implication[s] creating social conflicts and confrontations.
However, the most pervasive and devastating cause for all these issues is the unequal distribution of wealth. It is well researched and recorded [that] the wealth disparity, income gap between whites and blacks is 40% greater today than in 1967, with the average black household net worth [that] is $6,314 and the average white household is $110,500 (NYT “When Whites Don’t Get It” by Nicholas Kristof”). When we account for how economic disparity impacts educational opportunities or criminal behavior in the black community, we are better able to identify the overall pernicious problem. The Brooking[s] Institute reported last July that: “As poverty increased and spread during the 2000s, the number of distressed neighborhoods in the United States – defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 40 percent or more climbed by nearly three-quarters.” The report continued: “The population living in such neighborhoods grew by similar margins (76 percent, or a million people) to 11.6 million by 2008-2012.” (NYT “Crime and Punishment,” by Charles M. Blow).
Obviously, America is in increasing economic crisis, especially when considering… “According to a recent paper by the economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, almost all of the increases in American inequality over the last 30 years is attributable to the “rise of the share of wealth owned by the 0.1 percent richest families.” And much of that rise is driven by the top 0.01 percent. “The wealth of the top 1 percent grew an average of 3.9 percent a year from 1986 to 2012, though the top one-hundredth of that 1 percent saw its wealth grow about twice as fast. The 16,000 families in the tiptop category – those with fortune[s] at least $111 million – have seen their share of national wealth nearly double since 2002, to 11.2 percent.” (NYT “Another Widening Gap: The Haves v The Have-Mores,” by Robert Frank).
Can there be any serious disputing the reality this so-called democracy is actually a plutocracy, and the governing plutocrats [have] us all hustling and scraping for the crumbs, demanding a minimum wage increase, when we should be demanding control of the means of production. Hence, it is necessary for progressives to realize the future of our struggle must be in participatory democracy, direct-action engagement. It is important for the more educated and experienced activist to teach the younger activist, and young people in general need to know the future belongs to them, and we are concern[ed] about what that future will look like and bridge the differences between the evolving demographics and growing minority population.
For instance, I am hearten[ed] to see young people taking to the streets challenging the common impunity of police repression and violence. Indeed, Black Lives Matter! However, I am not confident these protests will result in anything substantial in terms of institutional change or build[ing] a sustainable movement. We remember Occupy Wall Street (OWS) had created similar national attention, but void national organization, leadership or agenda (demands), it was a matter of time before OWS would dissipate and disappear after police removed the public nuisance.
In this regard[sic], I am asking activist[s] to post on their Facebook page and other online sites these musings, for open discussion and dialogue. Specifically, I suggest that young people across the country enter open debate about the future of specific issues that [have] captured national attention. Obviously, it is necessary to build a mass and popular movement to effectuate real institutional change in this country. This was a vital lesson from the civil rights movement challenging the institution of Jim Crow. Therefore, I am urging young activist[s] to consider organizing toward a “Million Youth Independence Day March” (MY-ID March) for July 4th, 2016, in Washington, D.C., making the following demands:
1. De-Militarization and De-Centralization of the Police, Demand Community Control of Police;
2. Debt Relief for College Students, Lower Tuition Cost for College Education;
3. Support Manifestation of the Dreamers Act – Stop Deportations and the Splitting of Families
These three issues as they have become part of the national dialogue and challenge to the plutocratic government are able to unite a[sic] universal national determination. A one issue protest/campaign is not sustainable when confronting an oppressive/repressive government policy supported by right-wing corporate interests. However, these interwoven issues reach[sic] three demographics of young people, each directly challenging institutions of government. Again, it is important to use the current unrest to forge a unified and uniform national movement.
Secondly, politically, we need to consider how best to ensure these issues become a major factor in the national debate, possibly imposing them into the national election of 2016. In this way, inspiring and encouraging a mass and popular youth movement, organized during the election year of 2016, we empower the youth in being future focused. It is well established it was the youth who were instrumental in getting Obama elected as President. Despite our collective disappointment with his presidency, the lesson learned is the power of the youth when united and determined to accomplish a task. Again, recognizing in 7 years the electoral demographics will be drastically changed, it is time to prepare for that eventuality, even if some do not believe in electoral politics. Therefore, during the election year of 2016, not a single candidate will be permitted to conduct a public forum without being challenged by these issues. These would be acts of participatory democracy and direct-action engagement. Needless to say, to hold a national rally and march in Washington, D.C. during the July 4th, 2016, weekend tells the entire country young people will divorce themselves from the statues quo, becoming independent of the Republican/Democratic party politics.
In closing, it is anticipated this proposal will raise questions concerning the potential for the development of a National Coalition for a Changed America (NCCA). Permit me to say that this proposed organization is only a suggestion. I firmly believe that building a national coalition is necessary to establish a mass and popular movement capable of forcing institutional changes, including the ultimate goal of redistribution of America’s wealth. I request this paper be widely distributed and discussed. I am prepared to enter discussion with anyone interested in the potential development of a National Coalition for a Changed America. Lastly, I humbly request activist[s] to review what I wrote in “Toward a New American Revolution.”
“Our First Line of Defense IS Power of the People!”
Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!
in fierce struggle –
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Attica, February 2015