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What to the Black Muslim is Your Fourth of July?

Fed up with being subjected to taxation without representation, American settlers revolted against the British Empire.  In commemoration, this July 4th, Americans will be lighting fireworks and celebrating individuals such as George Washington, Patrick Henry,  and Thomas Jefferson as great patriotic revolutionaries instrumental in freeing American citizens from the subjugation of the British Empire.  As a Black Muslim,  I will not be celebrating. Why?

In a comparative analysis of the social political conditions facing Black folks relative to English settlers, Malcolm X taught in his Ballot or the Bullet speech that, “Black people today [are] catching more hell than Patrick Henry ever saw.”  Continuing, Malcolm  X stated very emphatically, “Most of the white Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence were slave owners themselves.” Indeed, it is George Washington who once sold a Black slave for a mere bottle of rum, liquor and molasses. Thomas Jefferson was known to have abused an enslaved Black woman by the name of Sally Hemmings and  even wrote a document endorsing genocide against Native-Americans. Similarly, Benjamin Franklin in his article, “Remarks concerning the Savages of North America” describes indigenous Americans as barbarians.

Of course, when racism and the “founding fathers” are mentioned, a pass is often given that they were, “products of their time,” and we should seek to take from the good  and “move on.” The problem is, Black folks endured oppression far more horrific than the “founding fathers.”  However, unlike the founding fathers who took necessary actions to fight for their independence and were rewarded; when Black people did similar actions for their freedom, they were persecuted.   Many remain incarcerated as political prisoners and demonized as felons.

In Defense of Black Muslim Political Prisoners

The great Black freedom fighter, Assata Shakur, once said, “Because of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, the Muslim influence over our [Black]  struggle has been very strong.”  This is the legacy of Islam among the descendants of enslaved Africans.  Islam has existed as a momentous force that motivated Black folk  to seek freedom for themselves outside the confines of liberalism

Describing a fellow Black Panther Party member, Kamau Sadiki, Assata writes,  “He had been a Muslim for some time and was deep into it.”  As Assata describes her struggle to grapple with the theological problem of evil, as to how an all-Knowing, All Powerful God could permit Black suffering, she explains, “Kamau argued that Islam was a just religion, opposed to oppression[…]A true Muslim is a true revolutionary.” In the tradition of Malcolm X, in Kamau Sadiki’s analysis, to be a Muslim entailed a commitment to revolution to alleviate the suffering of Black people.  Kamau Sadiki is currently serving a life sentence for his refusal to assist the U.S government’s attempt to recapture Assata Shakur.

Similarly, former political prisoner Safiya Bukhari wrote that,“I became a Muslim(one who submits to the will of Allah) while in the Black Panther Party.””   As a member of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense she struggled against structural racism and would be unjustly incarcerated for doing so. ” Assata Shakur said of Safiya Bukhari,  She was a warrior-woman who did everything she could to free her people and to free political prisoners.” It would even be a Muslim,  Sekou Mgobogi Abdullah Odinga, who would be charged for orchestrating Assata Shakur’s escape from prison.  Odinga writes, “They called the liberation of Assata Shakur kidnapping because jail-breaking was not a federal charge.”  

After serving 30 long years in prison, a paroled Sekou Odinga, still strong in his Islamic faith said, “I believe that al-Islam as taught by the Koran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad(A.S) is the best  organized system to free new Afrikan people and build the New Afrikan Nation.”  The Islamic agenda of Black liberation of Odinga traces its origins to Malcolm X. Odinga writes, “The teachings of Malcolm X, who was then with the Nation of Islam, became a big influence on me at that time. “

Black Muslims, should not be shy about honoring and openly celebrating  their revolutionaries and  freedom fighters who continued the Islamic legacy of Malcolm X because these Black Muslims actually fought for a  noble cause.  Malcolm X taught us,”“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” In fact, it is these Muslims, from Kamau, Safiya, to Sekou, who are the true heirs of Malcolm X’s Islamic struggle for Black freedom. We should not believe media propaganda seeking to demonize them and should work to free them. 

There are many more Black Muslim  current and past political prisoners whose only “crime” was that they struggled for the freedom of Black people in a white supremacist world.  

European-Americans constantly laud individuals such as George Washington, Patrick Henry,  and Thomas Jefferson who declared independence under conditions that pale compared to the oppressive environments Black people continue to face, on land which they usurped from indigenous Natives.   They even have the audacity to have holidays in honor of individuals who have no redeeming qualities such Christopher Columbus who  actually killed native Americans  and even used  their carcasses  as dog food.

 Why then, should we be shy or even remotely apprehensive about honoring and publically revering truly heroic and noble  individuals who became political prisoners?   Malcolm X taught that Black Americans were facing more oppression in the United States than Patrick Henry and the”Founding Father”s ever endured when they declared independence from Britain. We must honor, respect, and continue to fight for the freedom of all of our political prisoners.

fredrickdouglasPointing out the hypocrisy between the enslavement of Black people and July, 4th, Frederick Douglass once asked, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. “ I similarly ask: Oh America:  What to the Black Muslim, is your fourth of July? Without utter hypocrisy, what makes George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson “freedom-fighters” for the extra-judicial action they took against the British Empire  in the American revolution but   Black folks such as Sekou Odinga, Safiya Bukhari, and  Assata Shakur, Albert “Nuh” Washington, Kamau Sadiki, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, and Jalil Abdul Muntaqin,  considered “Criminals” for the extra-judicial actions they allegedly took  for the freedom of Black people?

With political prisoners still behind bars,  former political prisoners not receiving a dime in reparations for their unjust incarceration, and with these aforementioned Black Muslims lambasted as  “criminals” instead of being honored as great  revolutionaries, the 4th of July celebrations are just as fraudulent and, hypocritical as when Frederick Douglas gave his historical address in 1852.

Ghetto Prisoners Rise!

In the slept-on track “Ghetto Prisoners,” the organic intellectual Nas asks a profound question: “Who’s to be praised? The mighty dollar — or almighty Allah?” This line from Nas provides an interesting ethnography into the structural system which creates the ghetto, an indict of the secular capitalistic system. Nas describes the “ghetto prisoners” as people who are “trapped in slums” and “headed for nothing but the state pen, where they cousin be waiting.” “The ghetto” is the uninhabitable zone in American society. It is the place that white mainstream society seeks to avoid at all cost, but when they do make this journey, it is seen as an exotic venture; to maintain safety, whites need a so-called “ghetto pass.”

 

Nas’ invocation of the ghetto prisoners echoes a similar line of thought from Malcolm X who stated, ”If your nasprojecctwidowsblack you’re born in jail. In the north as well as the south. Quit telling me about the south. As long as you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re south.”  Food deserts, police brutality, gang conflicts, and shootouts are some of the unique social situations within the ghetto that characterize the hood as a separate entity from mainstream, white-dominated American society. The reality is “the ghetto” replaced “plantation slavery” as the system by which blacks would be oppressed with their bodies turned into commodities; blacks were soon forced into labor via the prison industrial complex. According to Michelle Alexander in her book “The New Jim Crow,” she indicates:

“History reveals that the seeds of the new system of control were planted well before the end of the Civil Rights Movement. A new race-neutral language was developed for appealing to old racist sentiments, a language accompanied by a political movement that succeeded in putting the vast majority of blacks back in their place. Proponents of racial hierarchy found they could install a new racial caste system without violating law or the new limits of acceptable political discourse, by demanding ‘law and order’ rather than ‘segregation forever.’”

The political structures influenced by capitalism are all dedicated to the worship of money. The pursuit of money howcapitalismunderdevelopedblaamericais placed over and above ethics; brother Malcolm X once argued, ”If you show me a capitalist, I’ll show you a blood sucker.” Indeed, Manning Marable in his book titled ”How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America” continues Walter Rodney’s analysis, concluding that racism is an integral part of the capitalist system. Within this system, materialism reigns in the black community and constant black-on-black violence is commonplace, as described in the classic Nas and AZ collaboration:

You wanna stick me, then put ya best to it

I’ll die black, we see you in Allah Kingdom you try that

In this song, Nas describes that because he is living in the hood, he must adopt a violent and aggressive posture for survival. He calls upon rivals to “stick him,” and Nas states he will die with his blackness. In another song, Nas describes pursuing various criminal pursuits until he has a vision of the Prophet Muhammad who inspires him to change his course of actions, stating, ”Little Nasir was at war. Crew deep with a few heat, now it’s time we settle the score…but in the projects, I vision Muhammad, in linen garments. Preaching man, woman, and child, the living Prophet.” The 18th century Islamic scholar and caliph Usman Dan Fodio, who lived in modern day Nigeria, had a similar experience, stating, “we are completely dissolved from devotion to Prophet Muhammad. How many straying in darkness have been guided by him?” Within these ghettos, hip-hop emerged as a counter-hegemonic art form to challenge power structures. Nas argues, ”Rap became a version of Malcolm and Martin.”  Dabashi writes:

“Islam for Malcolm X was an equally combative occasion, but as an infinitely more liberating, progressive, alive, tupacmalcolmxand living organism. In more than 200 years of encounter with colonial modernity, and literary hundreds of radical Muslim thinkers, no Muslim revolutionary comes even close to Malcolm X in the liberating, global, and visionary grasp of his faith and its place in facing the barefaced barbarity of economic and military world domination… If Islam does not have anything to say or to offer to these disenfranchised communities…   without asking them to convert to Islam, then it is nothing but the fatuous  faith of the Khaliji, Kuwaiti, and Saudi sheikhs having difficulty bending their overfed bellies when pretending to prostrate to pray, or else the rambling gibberish of Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar when replicating the American neocons in their advocacy of terror. There is another Islam unknown to those crooked bodies… the Islam of Malcolm X.”

Nas states, ”If we don’t get it controlled fast, might as well be, laughin’ with Malcolm X’s assassin as we die slow.” Malcolm X was at the forefront of black people’s fight for freedom and independence, yet he was violently assassinated; complacency and not struggling against these social situations is the equivalent of laughing and hanging out with the murderer of Malcolm X. With the prevalence of blacks dying from preventable diseases, the break-down of the black family, and increased poverty,-it is time to get control of this social situation. In one song, Nas does a psychoanalysis of the impact of white supremacy upon black people who are ”walking, talking, dead though we think we’re living.”  He continues:

“My niggaz is chillin, gettin high, relaxin
Envisionin, ownin shit, yo it can happen
What do we own? Not enough land, not enough homes
Not enough banks, to give a brother a loan
What do we own? The skin on our backs“

We need to revive the spirit of Malcolm X and begin to confront the social situation which leads to these ghetto prisoners.===

—————————–Islamic Liberation Theology: Resisting the Empire: Hamid Dabashi

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness [Paperback]

Fred Hampton & The Colonies In America

In the nineties, the inner-cities of America were seeking to recover from the devastating crack epidemic and the ever-tumultuous “War on Drugs” waged by the Reagan Administration. There were no realistic efforts for education, employment or opportunities for social mobility; instead, drugs would be ushered into the already impoverished communities that were suffering from sky-rocketing unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Due to the nature of the capitalist system, many manufacturing jobs in the inner-city would be shipped overseas, eliminating the only source of employment for many hard-working African-American families. John M. Hagedorn writes: “The conditions in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods came to resemble impoverished Third World countries, and police harassment was ever-present.” In 1996, Nas released his sophomore album ‘It Was Written.’ In it, he vividly describes a common occurrence in the ghettos; he spits, ”Niggas shoot in broad day light. With the broke mac-10 that don’t spray right. Niggas don’t give a fuc* who they hit, as long as the drama’s lit.”

When the drug economy took over, many youth hustled to make a living, going in and out of jail. The nineties in Chicago was a period in which Yummy Sandifier, a child born into this very lifestyle, was making his moves; while most kids during this time period were trading Pokemon cards, Yummy was trading drugs for profit, committing burglaries and breaking into houses. When Yummy sought to shoot down a rival gangbanger, he shot into a crowd missing his target entirely, and unfortunately he ended up killing a school girl instead. This prompted a widespread police insurgency for young Yummy. Fearful that if Yummy was captured he would tell gang secrets, the child was subsequently executed by fellow gang members at the age of only eleven years old.    The same violence and poverty was the dominant lifestyle in many other inner-cities, including New Orleans, Baltimore, Compton, L.A., Queensbridge, Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis as well as others. The ghettoes of America are not impoverished due to a lack of morals, work ethic, or ‘business’ savvy among the population; rather, they are internal colonies which are deliberately and intentionally kept in miserable social conditions by its mother country, America. The U.S. maintains neo-colonies in the Middle East and domestic internal colonies within its borders for access to cheap labor via the prison-industrial complex.

During the Cold War, America was competing ideologically with the Soviet Union over their economic systems of capitalism and communism. As a result of this period, dubbed the “Red Scare,” many corrupt leaders were installed by the United States in countries seeking their independence. Patrice Lumumba was a Pan-Africanist seeking to uplift the colonized people of his country after years of oppression and tyranny from the Belgians. He was dedicated to his people in every way, but fearful that Lumumba might be a communist, he was quickly assassinated by rival forces with full support from the C.I.A. In place, the U.S. selected candidate Mobutu Sese Seko quickly created an authoritarian regime in which he squandered his people’s wealth on personal lavish luxuries while the people of his country continued to starve and had their wealth plundered by American corporations

Similarly, the same situation has regularly occurred for numerous leaders within the black community. Fred Hampton, a Black Panther of Chicago, provided political education classes for youth along with free-breakfast programs. He even worked to forge an alliance between various gangs in Chicago to mitigate the violence. Hampton emerged as a real leader in the black community – and the FBI, CIA and government in general took note of him. A secret government project called COINTELPRO explicitly sought to prevent and quell various radical black movements. In conjunction with the Chicago Police department, the CIA and FBI orchestrated a raid and, during which, assassinated Fred Hampton. FBI, Special Agent Gregg York had this to say:”We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” It was leaders such as Fred Hampton that worked to combat gang violence. One author notes:

“Of course, there’s also the legacy that, without a young leader, I think the West Side of Chicago degenerated a lot into drugs. And without leaders like Fred Hampton, I think the gangs and the drugs became much more prevalent on the West Side. He was an alternative to that. He talked about serving the community, talked about breakfast programs, educating the people, community control of police. So I think that that’s unfortunately another legacy of Fred’s murder.”

Fred Hampton’s murder left a power vacuum and, like in the colonies abroad, the Chicago government would install various corrupt puppet leaders. This relationship between internal colonies and the non-representative government officials is a theme discussed in Nas’ “I Want to Talk to You.”: “As a young black man from the ghetto,” Nas indigently raps, ”Fake black leaders of puppets always talking ‘bout the city budget.” Inner cities are notorious for corrupt and non-representative leadership, one example being Jesse Jackson Jr. who squandered the wealth of the Chicago people (as well as Sandi Jackson). These people are supported by the larger white establishment and should be viewed as puppet leaders within the black community. Nas continues:

“I’m just a black man why y’all made it so hard damn

Niggas gotta go create his own job

Mr. Mayor imagine if this was your backyard

Mr. Governor imagine if it was your kids that starved

Imagine your kids gotta sling crack to survive

Swing a mack to be live cart ack to get high”

  The job that Nas discusses creating is, of course, the lucrative career as a drug pusher. Like impoverished third world countries, ghettos achicagochildsoldiersre essentially a war torn area with starving kids. Like the child soldiers in Uganda, the ghetto has its own child soldiers who swing macks and sell cracks. Like the independence movements of the ‘60s, many nations such as Ghana and the Congo were yearning for their independence to make it out of this exploitative relationship in which it’s population was decimated, impoverished and hungry. In the song “Every Ghetto,” rappers Naz and Blitz further elucidate:“Still I’m sayin’ why do we reside. In the ghetto with a million ways to die. What the fuck will tomorrow bring?”

Like foreign third world countries, the ghettoes in America are without stability. “Jay-Z, who said he “was born the day Fred Hampton died,” comments on the sentiments of wanting to escape his internal colony and the desperation he faces:
“Some how some way I gotta make it up out the hood someday. Some how some way I gotta make it up out this life. Some way I gotta make it up out this hood someday”

 Barack Obama was elected- the masses were disgusted by George W. Bush who presided over the mass extermination of black people under Katrina with lackluster care and numerous wars seeking imperial ambition. Thus, a shift was made to a more benevolent form of imperialism. White power presented through a black face and chants of “change” lured black people in supporting Barack Obama. Far from an real “change”, Obama’s presidency has not changed the colonized/colonizer relationship the ghetto has with its mother country.  The Government orchestrated assassination of Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, Marc Clarke, is apart of the same imperial logic as the government orchestrated assassinations of Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba.   To sustain the U.S Empire, corrupt leadership is need within the internal colonies and abroad in its neo-colonies. Blacks within u.s borders are subject to search and seizure, killed in indiscriminate attacks of police brutality, subjugated from the war on drugs, and made to suffer from the prison-industrial complex. Similarly,  Obama’s presidency has contributed to drone strikes of innocents in the Middle East and imperial wars  for economic benefits.  In blacks in domestic colonies  suffering under repression  looking to “make it out the hood” and those in neo-colonies suffering under drone strikes, the street scriptures serve as a viable way to link social conditions within the internal domestic colonies and foreign neo-colonies of the American Empire and struggle for independence.