It’s Nation Time… Again
STATE OF THE BLACK WORLD CONFERENCE IV
November 16-20, 2016, Newark, NJ
Dedicated to the Memory of Amiri Baraka
The First Call
In 2012 the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) convened State of the Black World Conference III (SOBWC III) at Howard University in Washington, D.C., focused on the Theme – State of Emergency in Black America: Time to Heal Black Families and Communities. SOBWC III was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Ronald Walters, Black America’s leading Political Scientist. November 16–20, 2016, after the U.S. presidential elections, IBW will convene State of the Black World Conference IV in Newark, N.J., dedicated to the memory of the brilliant poet, playwright and political activist Amiri Baraka. This time the Theme of this major domestic and global gathering of people of African descent will be – It’s Nation Time… Again. The State of Emergency still persists in Black America and indeed in the Pan African world, but there have also been dramatic changes over the past four years which will serve as the context for what will be one of the great gatherings of Black people in the 21st century.
For years IBW has been crying out that there is a State of Emergency in Black America characterized by persistent joblessness, poverty, economic underdevelopment, inferior education, health disparities, crime, violence, murders/fratricide, police occupation and repression, racially-biased criminal justice policies, mass incarceration of Black people and gentrification. These crises are most severe in America’s “dark ghettos,” marginalized urban and suburban communities where Black working class and poor people struggle to subsist and strive against great odds to achieve a glimpse of the “the American dream.”
The root causes of the State of Emergency in America’s dark ghettos are not hard to discern. The “White backlash” against the “progress” of the civil rights and social justice movements of the 60s, decades of blatant neglect,calculated defunding of social programs, massive disinvestment in urban America and deindustrialization have wreaked havoc on Black poor and working people confined to communities that have been marginalized. Rather than fulfill the vision of the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. King was articulating at the end of his life, the “promissory note” he spoke of at the March on Washington has continued to come back marked “insufficient funds.”
Rather than finish the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda, demagogic, right wing politicians fueled and played on White fears and resentment of “Black progress” to eliminate or drastically cut social programs perceived to be of benefit to Blacks. President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” that was waged almost exclusively in Black communities. President Reagan went even further by launching a not so subtle assault on policies and programs helpful to Black people. He charged that remedies for racial injustice like affirmative action constituted“reverse discrimination” or “Back racism” and shamelessly branded Black people as “welfare queens” and “food stamp cheats.” Reagan also associated crime with Black people and used this imagery to dramatically escalate the “War on Drugs.” This while continuing to dismantle social programs he claimed were a “burden on the backs of taxpayers.” Democrats were not immune from riding a racist conservative tide primarily aimed at rolling back Black progress to appease disgruntled Whites. Hence, William Jefferson Clinton, lauded by some Black people as “America’s first Black President,” pushed for an “end of welfare as we know it” and sponsored one of the most draconian crime bills ever; a bill which contributed significantly to the mass incarceration of Black people and the explosive growth of the prison-jail industrial complex.
Rather than finish the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda, demagogic politicians abandoned urban policy, ramped up the War on Drugs with all of its intrusive, oppressive, demeaning and damaging racially biased policing and criminal justice policies and practices. In a real sense, Ferguson and Baltimore, cities that have recently erupted in rebellion, epitomize the myriad crises that afflict America’s “dark ghettos.” The State of Emergency in Black America is a direct consequence of the calculated neglect and overt assault on Black people by actors functioning within a Capitalist system infected with white supremacy; a system in which Black lives do not matter!
Though resistance to this system has been ever present throughout our history on these hostile shores, in recent years IBW has lamented what we perceive as a State of Emergency without a sense of urgency in Black America. For far too long it appeared as if Africans in America were suffering from what Malcolm might have called the “Novocain syndrome;”enduring the afflictions of the State of Emergency but so traumatized or anesthetized to the pain that for the most part we have been suffering peacefully. This is not to say that there has an absence of resistance. There have been numerous protests, marches and movements around specific incidents of injustice, but they have largely been episodic, fragmented and insufficient to match the magnitude of the crises marginalizing and decimating Black families and communities.
However, in the past 24 months there has been an amazing awakening in Black America and the Pan African world. It is as if the eloquent and powerful words of Frederick Douglass have penetrated the consciousness of a slumbering people: “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows or both.” Or perhaps it was the voice of Harriet Tubman urging a semi-conscious Black people to wake-up and recognize our status as 21st century quasi-slaves who urgently need to fight for freedom from an oppressive system. A weary and defiant Fannie Lou Hamer might have been heard again declaring that “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” challenging her people to move from apathy to action. The rhythmic, pulsating, universal exhortations of the lyrics of Bob Marley might have reverberated anew to African people, “stand up for your rights.” Or maybe Malcolm had to remind us that despite the fact that some of us can now hang out in the “big house, “it must be freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody!”
Whatever the impetus for this awakening the Moral Monday Movement, lifting up the legacy of Martin, burst upon the scene galvanizing a broad array of forces to proclaim: Forward Together, Not One Step Back” — demanding an end to voter suppression; discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation; and, advocating for social and economic programs to improve the quality of life for poor and working people. The Movement to End the War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration gained huge momentum as decades of patient multifaceted advocacy and organizing began to yield stunning victories. The decision of Heads of State in the Caribbean via CARICOM to demand reparations from the former European colonialists for Native Genocide and the African enslavement served to fire-up and intensify the Global Reparations Movement, fortifying the conviction that reparatory justice for people of African descent is possible in the 21st Century!
And, then there was the emergence of a new generation of visionary, brilliant and courageous freedom fighters, springing up from the “river” of the African experience in this nation, proudly standing on the shoulders of their forebears, confronting and facing down the death-dealing killers of Black men and women to emphatically, relentlessly and uncompromisingly declare to America and the world that “all Black Lives Matter!” The Black Lives Matter Movement has permeated the consciousness of Africans in America and the Pan African world from every walk of life portending the potential for galvanizing a critical mass to usher in an era of transformational change! The passionate, poetic and revolutionary words of Amiri Baraka are reverberating throughout the land, “It’s Nation Time!”
In the era of the 60s the notion of “nation” conveyed the sentiment and possibilities that Black people could unite to become a formidable force, harnessing our human and material resources to confront white supremacy and to overcome oppression and exploitation. Baraka’s powerful poetic oration It’s Nation Time challenged Black people from all walks of life to get up and get busy to cultivate the consciousness and commitment to come together to build Black institutions, mobilize and organize movements and fight for our liberation “by any means necessary.” It was an “all Black hands on deck” call to action for Black people to join the Black Freedom Struggle and to use whatever we had to achieve victory!
At this remarkable moment in our history, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century declares that It’s Nation Time… Again, time to gather ourselves to create spaces to heal Black families and communities from the past and present traumas of enslavement, cultural aggression, racial violence, economic exploitation, internalized racism, fratricide and self-destruction; time to reaffirm our Africaness/Blackness, to re-embrace the cultural and spiritual values and principles that have enabled our people to resist, survive and thrive in the face of horrendous oppression and genocide; It’s Nation Time… Again, time to redouble our efforts to build and strengthen Black institutions as a foundation to sustain wholesome and healthy families, communities and nations; It’s Nation Time… Again, time to strengthen bonds of principled unity, cooperation and collaboration to utilize righteous Black Power to protect and promote the interests and aspirations of Black people; It’s Nation Time… Again, time for a Pan African Renaissance that will propel Black people to our rightful place at the forefront of transformational change in the U.S. and the World!
It’s Nation Time… Again, time for a convergence of some of the most visionary and powerful movements, scholar-activists, organizers, institution-builders, opinion-makers, a new generation of freedom fighters, conscious and concerned Black people, African people from the U.S. and the Pan African world to network, share information, love and learn from each other to forge a more unified and formidable movement to fight for a new future for our people!
And, so in that spirit and for this purpose, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century calls upon people of African descent/Black people to gather in Newark, New Jersey, November 16-20, 2016 for State of the Black World IV. It’s Nation Time… Again. In the name of our ancestors, let the organizing/mobilizing begin!