i was asked to reflect on the current times and u.s. election. rather than making space for mainstream electoral politics, i bring in the words of elder and minister of communication for the MOVE Organization, Ramona Africa*. what can we do today to achieve self-determination. how can we live free of the status quo’s influence?
*Ramona Africa consented to me including her words
full comic found here: http://drawingthetimes.com/story/u-s-election-affect-daily-life-october-31-2016/
Every time I witness a Black or Brown person suffer under white supremacy, this deep longing for a better world overwhelms my being.
When I first started seeing videos of police executing Black and Brown people, I had an unusual amount of faith in our
current legal system. I prayed for indictments and thought it’d bring salvation.
Maybe you’ve felt this too?
But now that I know our legal punishment system won’t bring us peace, I find myself looking to our ancestors and elders for guidance. What can we pull from the past to help inform our future?
So when I was asked to draw a comic reflecting on our current times and upcoming U.S. presidential election, that’s exactly what I did.
Ramona Africa is the minister of Communication for the MOVE Organization and former political prisoner. She is one of only two survivors of the May 13, 1985 government bombing of her community in West Philadelphia that claimed the lives of her family. 11 people (6 adults and 5 children) died that day. Although many are unaware of this moment in our history, I must stress that this struggle continues. At 61 years old, Africa is still fighting to free her MOVE family, known as the MOVE 9, who have already spent 38 years incarcerated (two of whom were murdered while inside).
I learned MOVE in college when I was searching for examples of what it looks like when Black + Brown people try to build their own autonomous community free from the status quo. The MOVE bombing reminded me of when the State burned down my hometown community in Tulsa in 1921. But all of this is just our past, right?
But just today I got online and saw First Nation communities fighting for their humanity. I see folks organizing to fight off gentrification in Manhattan’s Chinatown. I see communities of color jeopardized by the legacies of settler colonialism, the results just look differently across communities.
Yet all eyes and attention are on the Presidential election. Our freedom struggle is bigger than this one day.
At a panel on Black Liberation, Africa’s words emphasizing self-determination and collective action really resonated with me, and I’d like to share them with y’all in hopes of making space for alternative strategies and perspectives.
Africa responds to an audience member’s question by
focusing on the power of collective struggle.
And its necessity.
“The more people involved, the less people that can target us.”
She speaks about how Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner some of us may know, was incarcerated
because he was honestly covering issues that other journalists were neglecting, thus making him an easy target of the State.
I’d argue that mainstream media is more dishonest, sensationalist, and corporate than ever. Especially after the Reagan administration deregulated media.
#FREEMUMIA #FREETHEMOVE9 #FREEALLPOLITICALPRISONERS
I can’t help but to think of the people around me, especially the more privileged members of society, and how many will passively support our resistance. What does it mean to understand our humanity is tied up in these struggles, but still choose to sit on the sideline? How do we all suffer when we aren’t coming together to challenge the status quo? Are our liberation struggles simply entertainment? How do we get involved?
“Don’t wanna do the dishes, just wanna eat the fooooood.”* — Solange
*there’s no guarantee that there’ll be food to eat if we don’t all pitch in!
By involved, I mean how do people build community with each other and organize regularly as opposed to just when the election rolls around? European colonizers reconfigured this world to center capitalism, individualism, and we’re even conditioned to distrust and surveil each other.* *(they call it “community policing”)
Africa’s next point is one I have noticed is missing from many organizing spaces: the need to detach ourselves from capital aka our oppressors’ greatest invention and weapon. If you need an example of how money weakens us and
empowers the elite, just look at the U.S. presidential election and the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling back in 2010.
Ramona Africa then reminds the audience that food grows from the land for free. I think about how our society charges us to eat what the universe gives us for free; what we all need to survive.
I’ve mentioned Monsanto before in my comics, and I’m glad Africa called the
audience’s to how companies like Monsanto are privatizing and modifying seeds, so that they have ownership over them, nature itself. They are literally robbing us of the nature we all belong to, so they can acquire imaginary money.
How do we justify this when Black and Brown farmers are struggling to grow organic, healthy food under Western imperialism and global capitalism?
The entire panel had me revisiting questions I’ve been grappling with: How do we break away from the mainstream (the status quo, the name brand) that clearly abuses us? What can we do in our everyday actions to lead
towards long term liberation? Are we making sure everyone in our community has their rent paid? How can we make sure our neighbors don’t have to work excessive hours just to get by? What are local farms that provide healthy food to Black and Brown people we can support (or even start!)? Also, are these farms ran by us, for us?
When asked to reflect on the U.S. presidential election, I choose to reflect on everything BUT the U.S. presidential election. If anything this election has taught us, it’s that electoral politics controlled by the elite won’t free us.
Ramona ends her remarks with the following words (and she repeats them twice):
“Freedom can only exist in the absence of the system as we know it. As long as we hold onto this system, we’ll never be free.”