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‘The Confederacy of California’: life in the valley where Robert Fuller was found hanged

Damn you scary ass muthfucks back on this pussy ass bullshit. Well  you want to bring the noize this way come wit it cause i am  that big Black muthfucker that your parents warned you about. So make damn sure when you step to me make sure you got your big boy pants on and you better be ridin 10 deep cause truth be told 2 or 3 weak bitch made girlie men can’t hang.

In a corner of desert country at the northernmost edge of Los  Angeles county, Black boys have grown up watching their fathers handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies during routine traffic stops. Black girls have had racial slurs shouted at them from passing cars and been warned not to go out by themselves at night.

They have stood in line at the grocery store alongside white men with swastika tattoos. They have organized to protect themselves when they felt no one else would. They have learned which streets to not drive down to avoid law enforcement traffic stops. Some have stopped driving at night al together.

“The Confederacy of southern California is the Antelope Valley,” said Ayinde Love, a longtime Lancaster resident and organizer.

When the body of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old Black man, was discovered hanging from a tree near Palmdale city hall earlier this month, it plucked at a trauma that had been etched into the Black community for generations. Just over a week before, the body of Malcolm Harsch, a 38-year-old Black man, had been found hanging from a tree just 50 miles east. Together, Fuller and Harsch’s deaths ignited a firestorm of fear in the region, of white supremacist hate group violence and police conspiracy, during a time of racial reckoning nationwide.

Coroners with the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department preliminarily declared Fuller’s death a suicide. But following widespread outcry, the Los Angeles sheriff, Alex Villanueva, backtracked on the finding and announced that the FBI and the state attorney general’s office would monitor the department’s investigation.

Two days later, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Fuller’s brother. It was the department’s sixth fatal shooting since the killing of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests and heightened scrutiny of police violence.

Two mysterious deaths of Black men, a thin investigation from a sheriff’s department with a documented history of misconduct, another police killing, all within a dry desert landscape rife with historic anti-black hate. To many in Antelope Valley’s Black community, it came to represent the years of racism, bigotry and violence that has gone overlooked in what is considered one of the most left-leaning counties in America.

<span>Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

“People are arguing whether it was homicide or whether it was suicide, but that’s not the position that I’m taking,” Love said. “It’s a lynching regardless, because it is an act of violence when the people that are supposed to serve your community send a message through their lack of concern.”

‘Black men’s fear? The police’

Fewer than 500,000 people live in this sunbaked valley, where the gnarled branches of the Joshua trees splay under miles of open sky. About 70 miles from the city of Los Angeles, hardscrabble brown mountains loom far in the distance on clear days – the Tehachapi mountains to the north and the San Gabriel mountains to the south.

Of those living in Antelope Valley, about 15% are black, compared with 9% in all of Los Angeles county, and 6.5% statewide. The community has grown rapidly, and recently: from 1990 to 2010, the Black population in Lancaster, one of the main cities, grew from just 7% to 21%, while the white population shrank from nearly 80% to less than 50%.

As that population shifted, in the years leading up to 2010, the region saw the highest rate of hate crimes in Los Angeles county.

A 2013 US justice department investigation documented a series of white supremacist-related crimes that had haunted Antelope Valley in the 1990s and early 2000s. The First African Methodist Episcopal church in Palmdale was firebombed in 2010. Three white youths allegedly killed a Black man in 1997 to earn a white supremacist tattoo. Two Black men were stabbed by a white mayoral candidate’s son who had been reciting “white power” slogans, and homes were vandalized with racial slurs and a swastika.

But when asked about what they feared more in Antelope Valley, Black men overwhelmingly responded: the police.

“I don’t care about the KKK because I’m allowed to defend myself against the KKK,” said Arthur Calloway II, 39, a Lancaster resident and president of the Democratic Club of the High Desert. “But every day I have to leave the house, not knowing if I’m going to get pulled over that day and if that could end up in an escalated situation with me actually not coming home.”

At the tree where Robert Fuller’s body was found in the early hours of 10 June, supporters had placed a bright green sign, splattered with red paint, among the flowers and the candles: “Cops and Klan go hand in hand”. Just 30 years ago, a group of deputies described by a federal judge as a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang” had been rooted out through a lawsuit that cost the county $9m. Authorities are investigating whether similar other gang-like cliques of deputies, stationed primarily in black and Latino neighborhoods, persist today.

Combined with the stories of the Black community, the Los Angeles sheriff’s department’s reputation of racism has solid footing in the valley. While working for a car rental agency, Love, the community organizer, was pulled over so many times that he had to ask his manager to call the sheriff’s station.

“One time, I was driving into a community and deputies were coming out and passing me and immediately, they turned their lights on and turned around and pulled me over,” said T, a black Lancaster man who asked to only be identified by his first initial out of fear of retaliation. “They said there was a break-in in the neighborhood I was going into. If there was a break-in, why would I be going back into the neighborhood where I just broke into a home?”

In 2015, the US justice department settled a lawsuit against Lancaster, Palmdale and the Los Angeles sheriff’s department for targeting black people with discriminatory enforcement of the federal housing choice voucher program. The investigation that preceded the settlement found that deputies in Antelope Valley engaged in a pattern of misconduct that included pedestrian and vehicle stops in violation of the fourth amendment, “stops that appear motivated by racial bias”, unreasonable use of force and discrimination against residents on the basis of race. A review of use-of-force cases from 2010 to 2011 in which the only charge was obstruction-related – resisting arrest – found that 81% involved black or Latino subjects.

‘If this had been a white man’

Jamon Hicks reacted the same way many others in the black community did when he learned about Robert Fuller’s death. His initial thought was that it felt odd, that he had never heard of a Black man committing suicide in such a public way, and from a tree. When he learned of the other hangings, not just Malcolm Harsch’s in San Bernardino county but around the country, he got scared.

<span class="element-image__caption">The poppy fields of Antelope Valley, California.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images</span>
The poppy fields of Antelope Valley, California. Photograph: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

A few days later, he was retained as the attorney for Fuller’s family. Sitting at his home about an hour south of Palmdale on Juneteenth, he took a more reasoned approach. He was preparing the family for the findings to come back as a suicide, or even undetermined, he said. What mattered, he argued, was that the findings came back at all, and followed a thorough investigation.

“What I look at is: if this had been a white man hanging from a tree, if this had been a white woman hanging from a tree, would you have so easily just said, ‘Well, we think it’s a suicide?’” Hicks said. “I’m saying the investigation seemed very haphazard from the beginning. And I wonder, was it that way because this was just a 24-year-old black man?”

The family needed answers, he said. Instead, they were left with more questions.

Seven days after Robert Fuller’s body was discovered in Palmdale, Fuller’s brother, Terron Boone, was fatally shot by Los Angeles county deputies. According to the sheriff’s department, when they tried to stop his car, Boone opened the door and started shooting. The sheriffs were reportedly in plainclothes and an unmarked car, trailing Boone, a suspect in a domestic violence case.

“My question,” Hicks said slowly, “is did they know beforehand that it was his brother, before they attempted surveillance and before they followed the car?”

He wondered about the fears and conspiracy theories floating around the community, and whether they had reached Boone, who had been deep in grief. “If he’s thinking, ‘I’m being followed, something happened to my brother, now it’s me’ – if he’s in that mindset and he doesn’t know that they’re police, he’s in defense mode,” Hicks said. “He’s paranoid. He’s scared.”

‘You have to constantly think about your safety’

That sense of fear blanketed a Juneteenth rally in Lancaster, where hundreds came to demand justice for Robert Fuller, Malcolm Harsch, Michael Thomas, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor. Amid the high energy and rousing speeches, a tension thrummed through the crowd.

<span class="element-image__caption">Protesters demonstrate in front of the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station after Fuller’s death.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Protesters demonstrate in front of the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station after Fuller’s death. Photograph: Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

There had been rumors that the local Ku Klux Klan chapter would be hosting a meeting at the same park where the march would end. The Los Angeles sheriff’s department said it had been unable to confirm whether the meeting was to take place. Still, organizers put out warnings for everyone to travel in groups. They had a check-in system – when people got home, they had to text someone, and if that person did not receive a text message, then everyone had to mobilize as if it were an emergency. At the rally, people were on alert, watching to see if people got too close to the speakers.

Giovanni Pope, 17, had been scheduled to speak at a press conference a few days earlier. His parents have been incredibly supportive of his efforts as a young Black and gay activist – but they told him he couldn’t speak at this one, not with the rumors of hate groups.

At a recent protest, he left his face uncovered because he had been a main organizer and wanted to make sure he was recognizable. Near the end of it, a white man whom nobody could identify kept following him and taking his picture.

“In other parts of Los Angeles county, people don’t have to think about this at all,” said Pope, a Lancaster resident. “I go to Pasadena regularly and every young person there seems so carefree in that sense. It’s really easy to be an activist for things you believe in in those areas. Out here, you have to constantly think about your safety.”

Homicide by society

On Juneteenth, the family of Malcolm Harsch, the 38-year-old man found hanging from a tree 50 miles from where Robert Fuller was found dead, posted on Facebook that after reviewing surveillance video, they had accepted that Harsch’s death was a suicide. “We urge you all to continue your efforts concerning the hanging deaths of African Americans,” they wrote.

The next day, a small crowd gathered for a vigil at the tree where Harsch died near the Victorville public library. Harsch had been living in a nearby homeless encampment at the time of his death. Organizers of the vigil brought food and water for the encampment residents, stepping around the debris and garbage under the unforgiving sun.

“Even if it wasn’t murder, it was still homicide by society,” said Kareema Abdul-Khabir, an organizer, pointing out that city hall spent more of its budget on policing than on care for vulnerable people of color.

That’s why Love, the Antelope Valley community organizer, has characterized these hangings as lynchings. Racism comes in many forms in the high desert. There’s the specter of the hate groups. There’s police violence and overcriminalization. And there’s the damage of the passive slights and the allowance of racism. It’s Pope sitting in on a meeting with the mayor of Lancaster, listening to him talk about the need to differentiate “between the hip-hop kids and the good African American students”. It’s 24-year-old Isabel Flax, learning that when her family moved to Palmdale in 2000, her white mother was informed at two homes she had tried to rent that it was “a problem” that she had a Black husband. “It was always the little things, the things that happened when I was seven and I didn’t understand until I got older,” Flax said.

“Lynching was a tactic to instill fear and control the slaves. It had to be something perpetual,” Love said. “When all Black people have to experience the unacceptance of society to the point that life in itself can seem harder than death, it’s a lynching. It’s a lynching via the white supremacist systems that have been set up in place to oppress us.”

‘We’re not going anywhere’

Black people across the US are exhausted, and those in Antelope Valley appear to feel no different. With each passing day come more Black lives lost, and in making sure all Black lives matter, they find themselves forced to wear the mantle of slain names, loudly and publicly, even as their legs buckle under the fatigue.

One day after Robert Fuller’s body was found, sheriff’s deputies fatally shot 62-year-old Michael Thomas in his home in Lancaster. Deputies had been responding to a domestic violence call and said Thomas had reached for their gun. His family and his fiancee, who was at the scene, disputed that account.

Pastor Jacob Johnson, vice-president of the Antelope Valley chapter of the NAACP, said the deputies appeared to have violated at least several points of the consent decree set by the federal justice department as part of the 2015 settlement of the housing discrimination lawsuit – a section of the settlement covers use of force. Yet it’s unclear whether the officers will face any repercussions. This same drama has played out too often in police departments across the country. Officers violate policy. Black people die. No one is held accountable. “What’s the penalty if they break a consent decree – the oversight committee stays on for two more years?” Johnson said. “To be honest, if I’m the sheriff’s department, I could care less. Right now, there seems to be no repercussions. There seems to be no penalties.”

Related: Oakland moves to bar police from schools as bigger cities reject change

When it comes to police killings, people tend to ask first what the person killed did to deserve it – if he was suspected of a violent crime, if he had resisted arrest, if he had been armed. Always with this question, Black organizers think of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine in a mass shooting of a black church in South Carolina and was taken into custody unharmed. “Obviously there is no need for extra training because white adult males make it out alive all the time,” said Arthur Calloway, the Lancaster community organizer.

Johnson is tired. But in talking about the movement in Antelope Valley – and the Los Angeles sheriff’s department – he is reminded of another valley mentioned in the Bible, the Valley of Elah. “When David comes to fight Goliath, Goliath had been taunting the children of Israel for a while now, standing in the middle of this valley,” Johnson said. “By the time David shows up, his brothers say, ‘What are you doing, David? You can’t really do anything.’ And David says, ‘Is there not a cause?’

“That’s what keeps bringing people back,” he continued. “We’re tired, but we’re not going anywhere because there is a cause.”

Police will be held accountable

After years of living with racism, the black organizers in Antelope Valley are working to make sure this moment of protest is more than just that. Calloway has co-founded Vote Your Power Back not just to encourage people to vote, but to shape the next generation to run for leadership roles as well. “Once you get a mom on the city council who can feel the pain of Robert Fuller hanging from that tree, who can put that emotion and passion and empathy into legislation, police will have to be held accountable,” Calloway said.

Giovanni Pope, the 17-year-old activist, had planned on leaving for Syracuse University in the fall. But he too recognized that a shift was happening in his home, and he chose to take college courses from Antelope Valley for at least his first year so that he could also continue his work on some local campaigns. “I decided that having that localized attention on our valley was very, very important,” he said.

<span class="element-image__caption">Ayinde Love leads a crowd of protesters during a Juneteenth demonstration.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Ayinde Love leads a crowd of protesters during a Juneteenth demonstration. Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

At the Juneteenth rally, Isabel Flax spoke about her five-year-old son, and how she wanted him to grow up in a different world than she did. In a later interview, she said that after watching the video of George Floyd, she couldn’t sit by the sidelines any more. She organized the first protest in Lancaster, and, together with the other organizers, has a strong future planned for the movement.

As Flax spoke, supporters were still on high alert for hate groups, watching the stage and pacing through the crowd. Armed sheriff’s deputies stood at a distance. “You almost fear the sheriffs, if they’re here to protect us and make sure nothing happens or if they’re here just to say they were here and to look the other way if something happens,” one protester wondered.

But for just one moment after Flax passed on the microphone, in a brief musical interlude, Frank Beverly and Maze’s Before I Let Go blasted out over the speakers. A wide smile broke out over Flax’s face and she allowed the beat to take her. Soon, she was leading an entire group of Black women and children in the Electric Slide, the BLM tattoo she got after her first protest still bold and fresh on her left calf.

Beyonce’s Formation came on next to loud cheers and the handful of dancers grew. Pope jumped into the middle of the circle to groove, as everyone sang along. And for one brief moment, there was celebration.




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Puerto Ricans for Black Lives Matter — In New York City!
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I Am Not Your Negro: James Baldwin

I Am Not Your Negro: James Baldwin

Master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, Remember This House. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material. I Am Not Your Negro is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.

Film Participants Include:

  • James Baldwin
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Dick Cavett
  • Marlon Brando
  • Robert F. Kennedy
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Medgar Evers
  • Malcolm X and many more.

Credits & Thanks to:

  • Raoul Peck , Master Filmmaker
  • Magnolia Pictures
  • Amazon Studios

Making Contact Staff:

  • Executive Director:Lisa Rudman
  • Staff Producers:Anita Johnson, Monica Lopez, Salima Hamirani
  • Host: Anita Johnson
  • Associate Producer:Aysha Choudhary
  • Engagement and Web Manager:Kathryn Styer


Mumia: Even Angela Davis Shocked by US Mass Incarceration

Mumia Abu Jamal, the nation’s best known political prisoner, notes that even trailblazing prison abolition scholar Angela Davis, herself a former political prisoner, underestimated Americans’ willingness to incarcerate millions of their fellows. Abu Jamal quoted Davis, who wrote that, back in the late Sixties she could not fathom that the US prison population would increase ten-fold in the next few decades. “No, this will never happen,” she wrote. “Not unless this country plunges into fascism.”

source:   Mumia: Even Angela Davis Shocked by US Mass Incarceration

How Cuban Art Fed Afrika’s Liberation Struggles

An exhibition of Cuban propaganda posters and magazines in London shows the support Fidel Castro gave to African liberation movements during the Cold War. The works were produced by 33 designers, many of them women.
Lázaro Abreu Padrón, Images courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection // BBC News

The art works were produced for Castro’s Organisation of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (Ospaaal), which was born out of the Tricontinental Conference, hosted in Havana in 1966, to combat US imperialism.

“A lot of African countries were represented as part of the delegation there, including liberation movements. And Castro connected with a few leaders, particularly Amílcar Cabral from Guinea-Bissau,” Olivia Ahmad, the curator of the exhibition at the House of Illustration, told the BBC.


Amílcar Cabral on the poster Day of solidarity with people of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands, 1974
Olivio Martínez Viera
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Cabral led the fight against Portuguese colonial rule in Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde islands, but was assassinated in 1973, a year before Guinea-Bissau became independent.

Ms Ahmad says more Tricontinental Conferences were planned, but never happened so Ospaaal’s publishing arm became an important way to keep in contact and share information – and posters were folded up and put inside its publications.

Latin America’s most recognisable revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was “probably the most depicted across the whole output of Ospaaal”, she says.

“But there are recurring ones of these African leaders being celebrated in the same way and commemorated as well.”

Che Guevara depicted in a poster from 1969
Alfredo G Rostgaard
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Guevara infamously went to what is now Democratic Republic of Congo in 1965 on a failed mission to foment revolt against the pro-Western regime four years after the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba.

Lumumba’s killing, four months after he had being elected the country’s first democratic prime minister, was widely blamed on US and UK intelligence agencies.


Patrice Lumumba featured on the poster Day of Solidarity with the Congo, 1972
Alfredo G Rostgaard
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

“The portraits are particularly interesting because they have all these pop art influences that you might not expect to see, so they are kind of celebrating people but in a genuinely celebratory way – rather than having a sort of like lumpen socialist-realist aesthetic,” says Ms Ahmad.

The works showcased in Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics exhibition were produced by 33 designers, many of them women – who made some of those most enduring images.

A poster about Guinea-Bissau showing a woman holding a machine gun is by Berta Abelenda Fernandez, “one of the women who made some of the most iconic designs for Ospaaal”, says Ms Ahmad.


Day of Solidarity with the People of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, 1968
Berta Abelénda Fernández
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

It is one of the recurring motifs – women with guns – showing them taking an active role and the Tricontinental magazine had “quite a lot of contributions from women and articles about women as well on guerrilla fronts”, Ms Ahmad says.


A cover of the Tricontinental magazine in 1995
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Castro played a major role in Angola, unlike Cuba’s secret operations in Africa in the 1960s, where he saw an opportunity to exert his brand of international solidarity to make a difference on a global scale.

Ahead of Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975, Castro sent elite special forces and 35,000 soldiers to support the Marxist MPLA movement to stop apartheid South African troops installing pro-US movements to power.


Day of Solidarity with Angola, 1972
José Lucio Martínez Pedro
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

According to Alex Vines of the think tank Chatham House, at least 4,300 Cubans are thought to have died in conflicts in Africa, half of them in Angola alone where the civil war did not end until 2002.

The posters carrying messages of solidarity to liberation fighters usually did so “using bold visual metaphors or quite simple visual propositions”, says Ms Ahmad.

They tended to have captions at the bottom, usually in four languages – English, Spanish, French and Arabic – “to help them be more universal because they were intended for circulation rather than to be seen in Cuba”, she says.


International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, 1970
Gladys Acosta Ávila
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Ospaaal oversaw a huge publishing operation, which involved a lot of paper and ink. Olivio Martínez Viera, a designer who was at Ospaaal from almost the beginning, said there were often material shortages that meant they had to be quite creative.


Day of World Solidarity with the Struggle of the People of Mozambique, 1973
Olivio Martínez Viera
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Viera “talks really fondly about that time, about Ospaaal being a real nurturing space for experimentation and having the freedom to create these really direct visual metaphors like the Mozambique” design of a dagger plunging through a hand, says Ms Ahmad.

Much of Ospaaal’s output was directed towards the fight against white-minority rule in South Africa, which did not end until 1994 when anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was elected president.


Day of Solidarity with the People of South Africa, 1968
Berta Abelénda Fernández
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Teishan Latner’s book Cuba Revolution in America shows a satirical advert for South African Airways included in Tricontinental’s July-August 1968 issue promising “an unforgettable vacation in the land of APARTHEID, where Africans are massacred, where prisons overflow with patriots fighting against white racists, where thousands of Blacks work as slaves in the gold mines, where miles and miles of land are used for concentration camps”.

The images on the Ospaaal posters were just as blunt:


South Africa – Against Apartheid, 1982
Rafael Morante Boyerizo
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

After Mandela was imprisoned by the apartheid authorities in 1964, it was illegal to photograph or republish a photo of him in South Africa. This poster came out in 1989, a year before his release after 27 years in jail.


Nelson Mandela, 1989
Alberto Blanco González
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

The artists producing the posters were mainly based in Havana and were trying to understand the political context for real people often using press photographs, says Ms Ahmad.


Namibia Will Win! 1977
Víctor Manuel Navarrete
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

“They are very graphically interesting… trying to sympathise with all these geopolitical messages. I think most are hits and then some of them are slightly questionable.”

It is not always clear what some of the stylised sculptures were based on. “I think they’re basically just trying to relate contemporary struggle in a long history,” says Ms Ahmad.

Day of Solidarity with Zimbabwe, 1969
Jesús Forjans Boade
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Ospaaal closed this year saying its work was done.

“I think the context for those international movements has really changed, so you can see why,” says Ms Ahmad.

But the curator says Ospaaal’s work and diversity of output has been impressive and its ability to sum up complex messages in an engaging way.

“Also it’s interesting to see what is essentially propaganda executed with humour and often levity,” she says.


Long Live Free Zimbabwe, 1980
Lázaro Abreu Padrón
courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection  //  BBC News

Images courtesy of The House of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Collection 


Interview with Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez on original Rainbow Coalition

Young Lords founder remembers
July 1, 2019
Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez (second left, front) at 1969 press conference.

Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez (second left, front) at 1969 press conference.

There are many 50-year anniversaries being celebrated these days, including the founding of the Young Lords on September 23, 1968, and the Rainbow Coalition in April 1969.

Fight Back! interviewed the founder of the Young Lords, Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez, about the original Rainbow Coalition. The powers ruling Chicago were struck with fear when the Rainbow Coalition came together. The United States government and the FBI repressed the groups of the Rainbow Coalition with the courts and violence in the form of COINTELPRO, the counter-intelligence program. The Rainbow Coalition inspired many activists in the late 1960s and continues to hold lessons for today.

Fight Back!: How did the Rainbow Coalition come together?

Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez: In late 1968, Chairman Fred Hampton and I, the Black Panthers and Young Lords, were already working together on building Black and Brown Unity. We were working on a Black Active and Determined (B.A.D.) conference with Danny Underwood and Marion Stamps, at the Cabrini Green housing projects and the Olivet Church. The Young Lords had recently arrived back from Puerto Rico and from a trip to Denver, Colorado where we had established contact with Corky Gonzalez and other Chicano movement leaders. It was September 1968 and we were working out of the offices of the Concerned Citizens of Lincoln Park at 2512 North Lincoln, a church organization of mostly white pastors assisting the poor and opposed to urban renewal. Reverend Bruce and Eugenia Ransier Johnson, Pat Devine and Reverend James Reed were all part of this Northside Cooperative Ministry.

Around the same time, the Young Lords were also connected with the Latin American Defense Organization (LADO). It was primarily a Puerto Rican group led by Mexican national, Obed Lopez. They were forming a Wicker Park/Humboldt Park welfare rights union. It was well supported and became connected to several West Town groups like SAAC, MIO, PACA, PSP, and the West Town Concerned Citizens Coalition. Today’s Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center was also part of that grouping, centered on the Wicker Park Welfare office at North Ave. and Milwaukee.

In February of 1969 LADO asked me to bring the Young Lords to support their picket line. The Young Lords came in large numbers and we also brought along Chairman Fred Hampton and other members of the Black Panther Party.

We arrived at the picket line and were there no longer than 15 minutes when the police rounded up Chairman Fred Hampton, Obed Lopez, and I. The three of us were placed into the paddy wagon and hauled to the 13th District Police Station. We were charged with mob action. Mary Lou Porrata of the West Town Concerned Citizens Coalition and a few other Latina women were also detained and later released. The same situation occurred a couple of weeks later at the same location with Chairman Fred, Obed, and I. All three of us were arrested once again and charged with mob action in the same month of February 1969. This history is well documented in the LADO, Concerned Citizens and Young Lords newspaper collections at De Paul University and at Grand Valley State University special collections: www.

Two months later in April, at the street corner of Armitage and Dayton, Chairman Fred Hampton and I were talking about police repression of our groups and the then political climate of fascism. He asked me if I or the Young Lords would object to being part of a coalition of forces for all of our protection. He said that the Black Panther Party was working with a new group on the Northside called the Young Patriots whose leader was William “Preacherman” Fesperman.

I made it clear we had no issues and agreed on the spot. Puerto Ricans had lived next to the hillbilly community at the “La Clark” neighborhood in the 1950s. There was also the Oasis Restaurant hangout at Webster and Bissell, and then a hillbilly gang called “The Rebels,” whose leader was a Puerto Rican, at a diner on Lincoln and Sheffield in Lincoln Park.

Within days all three groups were visiting each other and hanging out. Since the Rainbow Coalition became a response to Mayor Daley and the possible vehicle to stop the rioting, our first task as a coalition was to promote the announcement in a series of press conferences at various media outlets and various parts of the city. That was not a problem, as everybody wanted to be on the TV.

Fight Back!: What were the times like which brought you together?

Jimenez: The year before in 1968 was the Democratic Convention and the Black West Side, South Side and pockets of the North Side of Chicago had erupted into riots over the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Now, in April of 1969, once again there were strong signs that these same neighborhoods were going to again erupt. The Uptown neighborhood was turning into a decaying area and the new skid row. Puerto Ricans in Chicago had also rioted several times, and they now were the predominant force in the North Side’s Lincoln Park and Lakeview neighborhoods. Reporters had also been bloodied while they covered the hippies being beaten, and now a militant wing of the SDS, the Weather Underground was preparing to wear plastic helmets and use baseball bats to duel it out with the Chicago Police in the Days of Rage.

Still what Mayor Daley feared most was the united front led by Chairman Fred Hampton and the Rainbow Coalition. In fact, Hampton publicly referred to the proposed dueling of the Days of Rage as suicidal and “Custeristic” naming it after General Custer’s last stand. Hampton added that it would lead to unnecessary mass arrests. Our few attorneys would be diverted from the many Young Lords and Black Panther repressive court cases, and this would set the movement back years. Fred Hampton proposed working instead for a disciplined armed revolution and a classless society.

There was democratic discussion taking place among the New Left, which was healthy, but a clear division took place in October 1969 between the downtown Days of Rage event and the already planned Young Lords demonstration to be held within the Puerto Rican Community to honor Don Pedro Albizu Campos and the movement for self-determination of Puerto Rico.

Chairman Fred Hampton asked me if the Young Lords could accommodate the SDS revolutionary marchers from out of town as part of our Puerto Rico demonstration. Of course, I agreed since a contingent of our East Coast Young Lords were also coming and would be among them. This would also expand the march, having greater impact in the neighborhood. It became a counter event to the Days of Rage downtown, but the press focused more on the dueling between the police and the SDS and Weather Underground. During this same period, was when Chairman Fred Hampton took to the airways and expounded on the need to organize the people for a people’s revolution. Eventually we all were reunited but it showed the power of the FBI’s COINTELPRO infiltration and the U.S. government’s re-direction of the movement’s goals, along with “divide and conquer” tactics. It was not just COINTELPRO that helped to destroy the movement, it was members of our movement themselves, those who spread rumors, and put their personal opportunist interests above the people’s interests.

Fight Back!: What were the demands?

Jimenez: One of the questions, which Chairman Fred Hampton repeated and demanded that mother country radicals ask themselves, was, “How can you go all the way to Vietnam without first going through the West Side of Chicago?” Mother country radicals sought to become internationalists without doing the day-to-day work needed to win victory in our local ghettos and barrios. It is impossible to make revolutionary change without the people. Yet the New Left wanted instant gratification instead of canvassing door to door, or a step-by-step process. The New Left wanted to make change for the people, when self-determination meant making change together, with them.

Chairman Fred Hampton also said that our work was not like a theater. White activists must not just be entertained, by Black, Puerto Rican and other oppressed nationalities, but must also organize within their own communities to fight against racism. They must attack white chauvinism and stop promoting patronizing individualism. Black people should organize within the African American communities. Red, Yellow and Brown people should also organize in their own respective communities. It is not just about being inclusive and respecting each other’s diversity, but it is about making revolutionary change. This is also because each struggle is in its own point or process of development. There is no even template. We must take a look first at, “Time, place and conditions within each community” to determine how we can come together. That is why we tolerated the Young Patriots using the symbol of the Confederate flag.

Fight Back!: How did the Rainbow Coalition view Mayor Daley of Chicago? How about the U.S. President, Johnson?

Jimenez: He was the enemy. A revolution has friends and enemies, and Chairman Fred clarified this. How else can you battle and either lose or win if there are not two clear opposing sides: the red and the blue; the people and the enemy. The Rainbow Coalition officially began in April of 1969 and within 30 days, in May of 1969 Mayor Richard J. Daley, alongside his protégé States Attorney Edward Hanrahan, organized the Mayor’s political cabinet into a special committee to declare a “War on Gangs.”

President Johnson, the FBI’s COINTELPRO and Mayor Richard J. Daley were all clear on, “Who were their friends and who were their enemies?” Who were their opposing targets. To make it appear authentic, Mayor Richard J. Daley and Edward Hanrahan immediately attacked the street youth leaders of the Disciples, Black Stone Rangers and Vice Lords; arresting them and racking up multiple charges. Jeff Fort had about 19 pending felony cases. I had 18, Obed Lopez had nine, and Chairman Fred Hampton also had nine. There were others as well. This was an effort to criminalize without legal cause; to bankrupt our finances, harass us and put us away for life.

Today we know that the clear intended targets were not these street organizations but the political groups whom the political machine feared and whom Daley and Hanrahan labeled terrorist gangs: the Rainbow Coalition. It is true that by September the street youth leaders like Vice Lord Gore was behind bars, but it was also true that on September 29, 1969 UMC Pastor Bruce and Eugenia Ransier Johnson were discovered murdered, each stabbed multiple times at their parsonage home. It is true that two months later, on December 4, 1969, State’s Attorney Hanrahan took a personal police task force to assassinate Chairman Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their home. The patronage machine and Mayor Richard J. Daley was the clear Father of Gentrification in Chicago which displaced thousands of poor from the city. Police brutality became part of the fabric of Chicago and the Rainbow Coalition was organized to build a People’s Army to fight against it.

Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata said that the basis of all revolutions is land. The Young Lords studied the modern-day land question and began to comprehend today’s city hall plan to privatize public housing and to force the poor away from downtown and the lakefront. These were prime real estate areas where all our barrios were built. So, we were not poor by choice. We were robbed.

The Rainbow Coalition was more than just a gang of activists or folks trying to gain one or two small victories. Demands are for battles. What we wanted was revolutionary change. Each of our groups were already small revolutionary armies connected to the people’s struggle and trying to create a People’s Army to win the battle. We were lumpen proletariat, peasants from the countryside, or urban and factory industrial workers. It is why Chairman Fred Hampton’s quote stands out, “I am so proletarian intoxicated that I cannot be astronomically intimidated.” Ours was never a middle class liberal revolution, but a true grassroots people’s revolution.

If you can comprehend this, you can visualize the type of loose yet disciplined alliance that dignified and respected the empowerment of each community and their cultures. Our goals were clear, simple and known to all.

Ho Chi Minh once said that the revolution was just a job like washing dishes. The survival programs were not reformist, but structures created to provide services while constructing the new world. They were not candy to be donated or given away but part of a planned attack to bring awareness and heightened contradictions. We were exposing the city for not providing food, health and other social services. We are never a non-for profit but revolutionaries.

Fight Back!: What are the big lessons from the Rainbow Coalition?

Jimenez: We must start from within and fight racism.

We must be clear on who are our enemies and who are our friends so that we can unite with the many to defeat the few.

Ours is not about individuals but a people’s struggle led by the common folk.

Ours is a protracted struggle that will take years and we must prepare ourselves for the long run via structured community programs specific to the revolution.

We stand for Puerto Rico, all Latin American nations and oppressed nations of the world, against colonialisms and for self-determination and neighborhood empowerment.


source: Interview with Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez on original Rainbow Coalition

Why thousands of Afrikans go on a pilgrimage to Senegal to visit the black Virgin Mary

Photo: NW Catholic

Pilgrimages aren’t so much of a conventional Christian activity as it is for Islam but one thing is common among all these forms of pilgrimages – the numbers are unavoidably huge.In Senegal, on an annual basis, tens of thousands of faith-believing people, mostly Catholics, embark on this unassuming journey to a village in the Cap Vert-Thies region of the country called Popenguine.

Being an annual event that has a rich historical blend of resilience and superstition, the place has become so significant that it has even attracted people from across the borders of Senegal, even so, many Muslims.

Well, it is believed to possess some superficial powers that can heal people of their ailments in a way that is celebrated on a national scale in this West African country.

Called a Shrine, this Popenguine location has suffered many setbacks and threats of death – literally. First built in the 1800s by a Catholic priest, Bishop Mathurin Picarda, following his love of the village of Popenguine after his first visit there, the shrine would go on to experience many closures and setbacks during the next century.

In that period, there has been the building’s collapse, epidemics of yellow fever and sleeping sickness, the Great War, and a shipwreck that took the lives of a bishop and 16 missionaries.

The area remained primarily a Muslim community thereafter but the Catholic faith and devotion to the Our Lady of Deliverance figure persisted.

By 1998, a new church was built and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and proclaimed a minor basilica in 1991 at the request of Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiamdoum, a native of Popenguine. This began a new birth for the church and for the community.

In 1992, the head of the Catholic church at the time, Pope John Paul II visited the shrine and crowned the statue of Our Lady of Deliverance on February 20, 1992.

Things spiraled from there, with tens of thousands of pilgrims, many of them organized groups of young people, and many inspired by rumours of Marian apparitions appearing there, repeatedly go to Popenguine for the annual celebration on Pentecost Monday, the day dedicated to celebrate the feast of the Black Madonna.

The Black Modanna Statue in the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Délivrance in Senegal/Interfaith Mary

During this ceremony, a solemn mass and then a procession from the church to a nearby grotto shrine of Our Lady of Deliverance in a cliff overlooking the sea is held.

Undoubtedly, religion in Africa is as big as the numbers of people the continent boasts of. And with the spread of many different doctrines of the Christian faith across it, the Catholic church still maintains a strong place on the continent.

In fact, statistics from the Vatican show how the future of Catholicism will be in Africa. In 2009, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa, the estimated number of Catholics was at 158 million while it is expected that by 2025, one-sixth (230 million) of the world’s Catholics will be Africans.

And all these are owed to the fact that the numbers of these Bible believing faithfuls keep rising on the continent.

The Black Madonna at Chartres Cathedral in France. Elena Dijour via Shutterstock

In 2018, the BBC carried a feature on the subject, “The Intriguing History of the ‘Black Madonna’” which highlighted the unique interest of a US artist, Theaster Gates, who has done extensive work on the concept of the ‘Black Madonna’ in his latest exhibition celebrating images of powerful black women.

Conventionally, of course, the depictions of the Virgin Mary have usually appeared of a young mother with white skin in paintings and sculptures but sometimes, she appears with a dark or black face and hands.

History of the Madonna Statue

The first notable study of the origin and meaning of the so-called Black Madonnas in English appears to have been presented by Leonard Moss at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Dec. 28, 1952. Amazingly, all the images in Moss’ study had a reputation for miracles.

Each year, millions of European pilgrims ritually humble themselves before the image of Black Mary and her child Jesus at Black Madonna sites throughout France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and other Catholic countries.

In Poland for instance, the Church encourages believers to pray to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa every morning before rising. It is actually reported that Pope John Paul II follows this ritual. Time Magazine (June 11, 1979) reported on Pope Paul II’s visit to Czestochowa’s holiest shrine, which prominently displays “The Lady” known for centuries as the Black Madonna.

Today, there are over 300 documented Black Madonna sites in France alone!


Bettina Love explores race in the classroom in a new book based on abolitionist zeal

UGA professor: We’re teaching black kids survival tactics rather than how to thrive

University of Georgia education professor Bettina L. Love set off a ruckus in a recent education journal with a column declaring that white teachers cannot love their black students if they don’t understand the racism built into our laws, culture and classrooms.

“Let me be clear,” Love wrote in Education Week. “I do not think White teachers enter the profession wanting to harm children of color, but they will hurt a child whose culture is viewed as an afterthought.”

Her essay produced anger. “I find the idea that teachers need to ‘love’ students and their ‘culture’ creepy. Shut up and teach, dammit,” wrote one reader. It provoked denial: “Stop dwelling on race. We have a thriving black middle class, and very successful, wealthy black families. These are evidence that it’s not racism that’s holding back the African Americans who are stuck in poverty….it’s lack of ambition and self-defeating attitudes,” wrote another.

Love’s belief that teachers of black children must be social justice warriors forms the basis of her book, “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom.” Drawing on the creativity, rebellion and determination of the abolitionists, Love argues for a radical change in American education so that black children matter and matter enough that their teachers, schools and communities fight for them.

She disdains the current reverence for grit and defying the odds, writing, “Dark students being gritty, full of excitement and energy, reciting self-improvement statements and displaying social and emotional intelligence will not stop them being killed in the streets or spirit murdered in classrooms.”

In a recent interview, Love said the education system teaches black kids to survive rather than thrive and discounts their resourcefulness, resilience and joyfulness. And a large part of that comes from teachers who do not know these students or their worlds.

A key problem is the lack of teachers of color, according to Love. In her eight years in the UGA College of Education’s department of educational theory and practice, Love can count on one hand, maybe two, the African-American students in her required class on diversity. Despite a rise in teachers of color, about 80 percent of teachers are white. And most are women.

The aspiring teachers in her UGA classes are “incredibly bright but have limited experience with other races, other cultures. I try and disrupt the myths and stereotypes about black and brown children. At the end of the 16 weeks, I ask my students to tell me what is beautiful about black and brown children, what is the joy of teaching them,” she said

Students tell Love they chose teaching because they love kids. “That is not enough. You can’t love something you don’t know anything about,” she said.

As a child, Love grew up a supportive community in Rochester, N.Y. She was not an academically driven student and went to a vocational high school, but, at 6’2’’ with a heck of a jump shot, ended up in college and on the basketball team. She discovered a love of scholarship, eventually earning her doctorate in educational policy studies from Georgia State University.

She tries to help future teachers understand they must speak to injustices that threaten or disparage their students, not an easy task with a generation programmed by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top to bubble in answers and follow rules and rubrics.

(Love said schools need tests, but not a billion dollar testing industry that has standardized cultural bias. She is not impressed with the College Board’s plan to address the zip code advantage in its SAT by assigning kids an additional score for hardships and inequality, saying, “We’d rather measure barriers than remove them. We need to throw these things out. Until it works for everyone, it doesn’t work.”)

How do you create a teaching force of revolutionaries and radicals when many teachers, worn out at the end of a long day of overcrowded classrooms and underfunded mandates, want to go home to Netflix or a nap?

A former classroom teacher, Love said, “What I am asking for is solidarity. One of the things we don’t talk about in the profession is the mistrust between teachers of color and white teachers. What I am asking teachers to do is cut across racial lines to have those difficult conversations around race, gender and citizenship.”

In a school based on abolitionist principles, teachers think deeply about culture and social justice and about healing children. And the children know they are loved and in an environment that believes in them, she said.

Ensuring that environment may force teachers to confront principals, attend marches or strike. “It is not about fighting every day,” said Love, “but it is about how you walk through the world. I am not asking that this be something teachers do; I am asking that this be the way teachers see the world.”

She wants teachers to “Get in your lane and push. I know teachers are stressed. It is difficult to be a teacher and a parent. But when you see injustice, do something about it. That could be to just say, ‘That new policy is trash and I am not going to do it.’  We cannot sit back and know our students are facing inhuman conditions, ideas and circumstances and not act.”


Malcolm X-No Sell Out