Black Power, then and now

How political struggles and concepts from the '60s are animating a new generation

Angela Davis has drawn connections between the Black Power and Occupy Wall Street movements.

"We're not ever to be caught up in the intellectual masturbation of the question of Black Power. That's a function of people who are advertisers that call themselves reporters."

That's how the radical student and civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael opened a speech about Black Power — a term he helped popularize — at UC Berkeley in 1966. But the ideas and concepts behind Black Power proved to be an enduring ones that are enjoying a resurgence today.

Angela Davis epitomized the Black Power movement to many observers. The author, scholar, and professor was a Black Panther Party member who then joined the Communist Party USA and brought a class analysis to issues of race, building on the movement that began in the '60s for decades to come.

In recent months, as the Occupy Wall Street movement began to focus the country's attention on economic and social inequities, Davis has spoken out regularly in support of the movement and drawn connections back to her early activism. She has embraced the "99 percent" paradigm, and the connections between various issues that Occupy activists have sought to highlight.

"Our demands for justice lead us toward demands for prison abolition. And our demands for prison abolition lead us to demands for free, quality education. And our demands for free quality healthcare, and housing, and an end to racism, an end to sexism, an end to homophobia," Davis said March 1 in Oakland at a benefit for Occupy 4 Prisoners, a coalition of Occupy protesters and prison justice advocates.

Consciousness surrounding those connections can be largely attributed to efforts from Black Power organizers.

"When I listen to the way young people so easily talk about the connectedness of race, gender, and sexual issues, and I remember how we groped our way towards an understanding of those connections, it makes me really proud," Davis said in a January interview with Independent Lens.

And as Davis said at the March 1 event: "One of the most exciting accomplishments of the Occupy movement has been to force us to engage in conversation, explicit conversation about capitalism, for the first time since the 1930s."

The movement's economic message also seemed useful to Kiilu Nyasha, a San Francisco-based journalist and former member of the New Haven Black Panther Party.

"Globalization has already happened. It's not happening, it's happened. One percent, internationally, owns and controls 80 percent of the world's resources. People are dying all over the world of every complexion which you can think of" Nyahsa said March 14 at a panel discussion called Reboot the Rainbow.

The original Rainbow Coalition- the topic of the March 14 panel- included the Black Panther Party, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, and the poor white Young Patriots organization, and was committed to a Black Power concept: organize your own, fight together. Building coalition is more important now than ever.

"It's not Black Power right now," says Terry Collins, president of KPOO radio, a black-owned station long focused on community empowerment. "It's people power. It's power unto the people who are in need: all the people out there who are out of their homes, students who owe so much that they're like indentured servants."

Occupy the Hood is a national effort to encourage participation of people of color in Occupy Wall Street. In its mission statement the group writes, "It is imperative that the voice of people of color is heard at this moment!"

The focus of San Francisco's Occupy the Hood chapter is "three-fold," according to organizer Mesha Irizarry: "The cop-watching in neighborhoods that are criminalized, especially poor neighborhood of color. It's freedom fighters against foreclosures. It's also bank transfers."


actually view themselves as being equal Americans which they have been for several decades now, except that it doesn't suit them to acknowlddge that.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

because he (I'll assume male since most of these "race card" trolls are white guys) can't deal with the fact that a teenage boy was stalked and shot by a wannabe cop for no reason other than being Black. George Zimmerman obviously didn't see Trayvon Martin as an "Equal American," or else he wouldn't have followed him and shot him to death. Oscar Grant (killed in 2009), Amadou Diallo (killed in 1999), and Yusef Hawkins (killed in 1989) weren't "Equal Americans" either---or else police and racist thugs wouldn't have killed them in cold blood.

But why am I bothering to argue with a troll? A troll who has the chutzpah to make a racist generalization about Black folks while lecturing Black folk about being "Equal Americans." Rich. Hypocrisy much?

Posted by Parkwood1920 on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

When are humans going to shut up about hate? What the hell difference does it really make besides a point to argue. Some "white" people get shot because they're "white" some "gay" people get shot because they are "gay" some "black" people get shot cause they are "black" NO matter who you are some small amount of the population is going to hate you. It is life. It is the world we live in. If humans could see the only differences we have are what we have learned, maybe we could teach each other.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 4:44 am

So, at what point in time were people of the Caucasus region ever enslaved by another race on an equal scale as any other minority in this country, especially on the great scale of people from the region of Africa, that would create a negative energetic response from one race to another over a period of time in evolution, that we are still currently growing out of today, obviously by this not even a quarter close to the mark of humanistic correctness, barely evolved response you just wrote? I'll tell you...never. The Caucasus region peoples decision to enslave an entire planet was the birth of what we are currently experiencing today, which is the out of balance egotistical, male dominated response of, "we are all equal." No, I'm sorry to say, but we are SUPPOSED to be all equal at the source. But in this earth experience, HIStory has shown great imbalance towards the indivudual over the collective. It's the American Way. So we, as the future, have to take a further perspective on how connected everything really is to see why things are the way they are in this particular moment in time, with the majority of some people, in relation to the mess that we have to clean up from our ancestors less evolved mistakes of LEGALIZED SLAVERY. Show me a list of Caucasus region slaves in any part of America, at any point in time, that matches the scale of the African deception of our recent the way...THAT WAS LEGALIZED IN THIS COUNTRY...and still ran today by the same bloodline, that reaches from back to before those horrible laws were written until the particular time in space that I am currently typing the letters of these words. I'll tell you again, it doesn't exist. The global conquest of Caucasus region peoples was harsh and down right evil at times, and we as a collective have to de-condition from that nastiness they left behind while they were (and still are) at the helm of this money driven 3rd dimensional space. The good thing is, we will eventually get to the TRUE equality that you speak of, but it definitely is not there yet amongst the entire collective and especially not around the powers that be, yet..but, coming soon. Love

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

There's a certain woman here named Angela Davis.
I don't know if you are familiar with her in this
country, but in our country, literally for one whole
year, we heard of nothing at all except about Angela
Davis. There was only Angela Davis in the whole
world and she was suffering. We had our ears stuffed
with Angela Davis. Little children in school were


fold to sign petitions in defense of Angela Davis.
Little boys and girls, S and 9 years old in schools,
were asked to do this. Well., they set her free.
Although she didn't have a rough time in this coun-
try, she came to recuperate in Soviet resorts. Some
Soviet dissidents — but more important, a group of
Czech dissidents— addressed an appeal to her: ''Com-
rade Davis, you were in prison. You know how
unpleasant it is to sit in prison, especially when you
consider yourself innocent. You now have such
authority. ^ Could you help our Czech prisoners?
Could you stand up for those persons in Czechoslo-
vakia who are being persecuted by the state?" Angela
Davis answered: "They deserve what they get. Let
them remain in prison.^' That is the face of commu-
nism. Thafs the hcai't of communism for you.

Her history is packed with comical nuggets like this. Progressives don't like being called communists and yet the fawn over this crazy CPUSA retread.

Posted by Pedro Jones on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 1:48 am

It's easy to criticize another country's human rights record, especially when the full power of your own state is behind you. That doesn't take much courage. Much harder is to criticize your own country when your views are unpopular and expose you to punishment from your own state.

Angela Davis did the difficult thing, but it was the right thing, and for that she's a hero.

Solzhenitsyn did the difficult thing too, but there is so much about the man that is truly repugnant that it's difficult to sympathize. He was a religious fanatic, a rabid anti-semite, agitated against the anti-Vietnam war movement, and even collaborated with the NKVD to spy on other prisoners.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

In the correct forum, as Davis has done, that forum like falling off a log, it is considered deep thinking by college communists and the such, when in reality it is that she is a CPUSA hack.

I find US foreign policy horrid, as a CPUSA hack her answer was something far far worse than what the USA could ever dream up.

Solzhenitsyn, I have always found to be a religious nut, but in this case he is correct. Davis gets something that Solzhenitsyn doesn't get, he had to worry about a bullet in the head, she had to worry about her stupidity being paraded through the media.

That was the problem with the useful idiots in the USA, they thought the answer is Soviet Communism, a communism that would have them dead or in long term care of the prison state as mental patients.

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

And even when she was the CPUSA's VP candidate she still urged people to vote for the Democratic party.

I really consider her Communism or lack of Communism to be totally irrelevant today. She's a very inspiring speaker and her long-time opposition to the policies which are destroying this country is to be admired.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

led to

1977, she could have turned it down.

As late as 1977 the USSR was imprisoning political prisoners, actual political prisoners not the make believe kind like Tookie Williams. The USSR imprisoned hundreds of political prisoners and said the cases were psychiatric in nature. The same idiocy got Charles Lindbergh nothing but abuse when he accepted awards from the NAZI's.

Taking the Lenin prize while they were warehousing political prisoners, while here in the USA she was complaining about prisons.

Davis a lesbian was an admirer of various communist states while they were putting gays in jail, and persecuting them in many various way. The USA was not the greatest in this area but it was no where near as bad as most workers paradises. Even the national CPUSA sect was well late coming to gay rights, which makes her something of a J E Hoover of the moronic left.

Her idiocy is endless.

Her past horrid judgement around her political affiliations and associations matter, just as it does with right wingers like David Duke who downplay their past and yet still hold the same beliefs.

Just as you ands I judge David Duke by his crazy past I judge Davis, you give Davis a past because why?

This all reminded me of

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

Are you seriously suggesting that the US has never jailed political opponents, never killed its citizens, never conducted medical experiments on political opponents, never unjustly put people in mental institutions, never invented false charges? Seriously? You can say that this happened more frequently in the Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin... but to say that Angela Davis and other activists don't have to fear this in America, is ridiculous. They absolutely had to fear all of these things and more, and many, including Davis, risked everything including their lives to make this a better country.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

I'm a libertarian type so I'm not interested in your authoritarian liberalism or the establishment right wing authoritarianism.

In the USSR a crack pot like Davis would have been digging spuds 16 hours a day and living in a three room flat with 15 people, or in a mental institution. In the USA she is a revolutionary hero to the simple, six digit earner at UCSC and makes five digits speaking to idiots who want to feel radical nationwide. No comparison bro. Nice try though.

But your strange argument, her position is that the USSR was an answer to the idiocy of the American state, while the USSR was far far worse, even with glasnost the Soviet State was a monster to it's own citizens. Toss in the various other communist states and you have some of the worst mass murderers of all time. Again I agree that the USA has fucked up, but no comparison.

On the Eastern front the German SS complained that the Rumanian SS were to murderous to the locals. SO that means that the German SS was OK I suppose?

Posted by Matlock on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

If only everything was as simple as it is in your world. Life in the Soviet Union was worse than in the US in general... it's certainly hard to argue otherwise. But it's also true that in matters of foreign policy, the folks supported by the soviet Union were often better than the folks supported by the US, something conveniently forgotten by the defenders of libertarian capitalism. The lifestyle that you and your ilk enjoy is purchased with the blood of innocents in other countries, and that's something you don't want to acknowledge.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 10:19 am

If someone tried that lame deflection on you, there would be all sorts of hemming and hawing about dishonest right wingers.

Posted by matlock on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

probably never happened.

Solzhenitsin made the allegation, Davis denied it ever happened. It would be a case of he said, she said. Except that no names were ever mentioned, and the said Czech dissidents never materialized, nor did the actual letter, even after the Velvet Revolution. If it were true, you'd think someone would've stepped forward and claimed to be the dissidents referred to.

I think he fabricated the story out of whole cloth. You can probably add "pathological liar" to Solzhenitsin's many failings.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 11:07 am

and of course leftists like Davis, well you worship them like secular gods, so whatever.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

She's one right on sister.

Posted by Troll II on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

we are all so fucked in the head. i don't know how such a non-serious thing as someone's color can cause such serious and violent bull shiezez.

sad commentary on humans. now back to you bob.

Posted by Kitty CarryAll on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

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