Sunday, February 28, 2021

Three Speeches in Detroit (1963-1965): Malcolm X from the Grassroots to the African Revolution

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Three Speeches in Detroit (1963-1965): Malcolm X from the Grassroots to the African Revolution | News Ghana

Feb 24, 2021

Lessons delivered then have implications for the 21st century

Note: These remarks were delivered at an African American History Month virtual webinar hosted by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition on Monday February 22, 2021. The event was held in honor of Malcolm X, El Hajj Malik Shabazz, on the 56th anniversary of his martyrdom. Other speakers and performers at the meeting included Detroit educator and poet, Wanda Olugbala; Sara Torres, musician and member of Moratorium NOW! Coalition; Julie Hurwitz, Vice President of the Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; Sammie Lewis, a leading organizer for Detroit Will Breathe; Derek Grigsby, an organizer for Moratorium NOW! Coalition; Kenya Fentress, organizer for Racial Profiling Across 8 Mile; Anthony Ali of Detroit Will Breathe served as moderator; and David Sole of Moratorium NOW! Coalition delivered a proclamation honoring organizational member Walter Knall for his years of service to the African American struggle and the peoples’ movement as a whole. The program concluded with a video by Detroit musician Ben Will on the significance of Black history and the struggle for freedom.


February 21 marked the 56th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, also known as El Hajj Malik Shabazz.

With this annual commemoration coinciding with African American History Month, it provides opportunities to continue the study of the significance of his life and the times in which he lived.

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, during a period of awakening and renewal among the African American people. The Harlem Renaissance was well underway while the Universal Negro Improvement Association, African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) was struggling against the United States government over the fate of its founder the Hon. Marcus Garvey.

Garvey had been indicted and convicted on federal mail fraud charges and began to serve a sentence in 1925. He would spend two years in prison before being deported to the Caribbean island-nation of Jamaica where he was born in 1887.

Both of the parents of Malcolm X, Earl and Louise Little, were members of the UNIA. The couple had met at a UNIA convention in 1919 held in Montreal, Quebec (Canada). Earl Little was a Baptist preacher and Louise was a writer for the Negro World newspaper published by the UNIA.

This was a pan-African marriage with Earl being from the southern state of Georgia and Louise was born in the Caribbean island-nation of Grenada. The ideology of Garveyism brought them together in the cause of the emancipation of African people worldwide.

Malcolm was born in Omaha, Nebraska and would leave the city with his family after their home was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. They later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then to Lansing and Mason, Michigan. Racist violence would follow the family due to the character of national oppression in the U.S. and the militancy of the family.

In 1931, during the Great Depression, Earl Little was killed by a racist vigilante organization in Michigan. Malcolm X in later years said the group responsible was the Black Legion, a violent right-wing organization which was funded heavily by industrialists to suppress labor organizers, African Americans and other peoples.

Eventually, after the death of Earl Little, Louise was committed to a mental hospital while the family was broken up, young Malcolm was sent to foster care. He excelled in school in Michigan and later went to live with an older sister Ella Collins in Boston in 1941. Malcolm had already left school after the eighth grade due to racism and in Boston he worked menial jobs. Later he became involved in petty criminality and was sentenced to prison in 1946.

By 1952, Malcolm had joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) prior to him being paroled from prison in Massachusetts. Immediately after leaving prison he came to live in the Detroit metropolitan area. He was appointed as Assistant Minister of the Detroit Temple of Islam and began to work in retail and in automobile factories.

Malcolm rapidly accelerated in the NOI and was assigned to several temples on the east coast before landing in New York City to head the NOI’s operations in Harlem. The Hon. Elijah Muhammad eventually designated Malcolm X and the national representative of the organization. He appeared regularly on radio and television along with being written about in print media, speaking on behalf of the NOI.

By 1959, the NOI had gained national exposure through a number television reports and newspaper articles. The organization was often portrayed negatively in the press as a hate group at odds with the views of “mainstream” African Americans. Yet, the NOI continued to gain grassroots support while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local police agencies monitored their activities through infiltration, wire taps and attempted intimidation of members.

Three Speeches in Detroit (1963-1965)

Number One: Message to the Grassroots, November 10, 1963

The life of Malcolm X, his wife Betty Shabazz, who was from Detroit, and their six children, cannot be fully covered in the time frame allotted for this presentation. Since this meeting is being held in Detroit, I want to focus on three major addresses within the public career of Malcolm X which were delivered in the city between November 1963 and February 1965.

Just weeks prior to his suspension and later departure from the NOI, Malcolm X visited Detroit to participate in a Northern Negro Grassroots Leadership Conference held at King Solomon Baptist Church on the westside. Malcolm would deliver an historic speech at the gathering, dubbed “Message to the Grassroots.” The speech was recorded by the Afro American Broadcasting Corporation owned by Attorney Milton Henry. Malcolm would also speak at Wayne State University (WSU) during this trip.

The purpose of the November conference was to extend the African American struggle beyond the acquisition of Civil Rights with a more militant character. 1963 had been a monumental year with the outbreak of mass demonstrations and civil unrest in numerous cities in the South and other regions of the U.S. Birmingham had exploded with mass youth demonstrations and one of the first urban rebellions of the period in April and May.

Medgar Evers, the NAACP Field Secretary in Mississippi, was gunned down outside his home in Jackson. In Detroit, the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of the U.S. was organized on June 23, twenty years after the deadly race riot of 1943. The Detroit Walk to Freedom attracted an estimated 125,000 to 250,000 people. The event had been spearheaded by progressive clergy and community organizations with figures such as Rev. C.L. Franklin of New Bethel Baptist Church, educator and businessman James Del Rio, the Rev. Albert Cleage of Central United Church of Christ, among others.

Nonetheless, the alliance which led the march on June 23 had begun to fracture in the subsequent weeks and months. Differences between Rev. Franklin, who was a leading member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Rev. Cleage gained public attention through the news media. The Northern Negro Grassroots Leadership Conference competed with another gathering at Cobo Hall that same weekend which attracted U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem.

The speech delivered by Malcolm X proved to be a signature ideological statement related to the emerging struggle within African American communities. Detroit, with its extensive history of resistance to African enslavement, labor recognition and Black Nationalism, became a focal point for the radical and revolutionary thinking which was rising in evidence during the period.

In the early minutes of the Message to the Grassroots address, Malcolm X says: “What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences. When we come together, we don’t come together as Baptists or Methodists. You don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Methodist. You don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Methodist or Baptist. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Democrat or a Republican. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk. And you sure don’t catch hell ’cause you’re an American; ’cause if you was an American, you wouldn’t catch no hell. You catch hell ’cause you’re a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason. So we are all black people, so-called Negroes, second-class citizens, ex-slaves. You are nothing but a [sic] ex-slave. You don’t like to be told that. But what else are you? You are ex-slaves. You didn’t come here on the Mayflower. You came here on a slave ship — in chains, like a horse, or a cow, or a chicken. And you were brought here by the people who came here on the Mayflower. You were brought here by the so-called Pilgrims, or Founding Fathers. They were the ones who brought you here.”

Such a public statement in 1963 was a call for unity within the African American community. A broad-based united front would be essential in any revolutionary activism seeking long term solutions.

Later Malcolm would challenge the use of the term Revolution in regard to the tactics being employed by many Civil Rights organizations. The NOI leader believed that the emphasis on nonviolence as a principle within the movement should be rejected. He emphasized self-defense against racist violence being carried out against African Americans whether being perpetuated by the police or vigilantes.

According to Malcolm in the same speech: “I would like to make a few comments concerning the difference between the Black revolution and the Negro revolution. There’s a difference. Are they both the same? And if they’re not, what is the difference? What is the difference between a Black revolution and a Negro revolution? First, what is a revolution? Sometimes I’m inclined to believe that many of our people are using this word ‘revolution’ loosely, without taking careful consideration [of] what this word actually means, and what its historic characteristics are. When you study the historic nature of revolutions, the motive of a revolution, the objective of a revolution, and the result of a revolution, and the methods used in a revolution, you may change words. You may devise another program. You may change your goal and you may change your mind.”

These words are designed to challenge activists to think deeper in regard to the actual meaning of social transformation. Malcolm X had concluded that many people claiming to be leaders of the African American struggle were not genuinely committed to making the adequate sacrifices needed for a real revolution.

He then goes on to cite historical occurrences involving revolutionary change. Of course, as an organizer, Malcolm X knew that in order to win people over to a position they must be convinced of some reasonable certainty of the possibility of achieving the objectives of a movement.

Malcolm goes on to direct the listeners and later readers to: “Look at the American Revolution in 1776. That revolution was for what? For land. Why did they want land? Independence. How was it carried out? Bloodshed. Number one, it was based on land, the basis of independence. And the only way they could get it was bloodshed. The French Revolution — what was it based on? The land-less against the landlord. What was it for? Land. How did they get it? Bloodshed. Was no love lost; was no compromise; was no negotiation. I’m telling you, you don’t know what a revolution is. ’Cause when you find out what it is, you’ll get back in the alley; you’ll get out of the way. The Russian Revolution — what was it based on? Land. The land-less against the landlord. How did they bring it about? Bloodshed. You haven’t got a revolution that doesn’t involve bloodshed. And you’re afraid to bleed. I said, you’re afraid to bleed. [As] long as the white man sent you to Korea, you bled. He sent you to Germany, you bled. He sent you to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese, you bled. You bleed for white people. But when it comes time to seeing your own churches being bombed and little black girls being murdered, you haven’t got no blood. You bleed when the white man says bleed; you bite when the white man says bite; and you bark when the white man says bark. I hate to say this about us, but it’s true. How are you going to be nonviolent in Mississippi, as violent as you were in Korea? How can you justify being nonviolent in Mississippi and Alabama, when your churches are being bombed, and your little girls are being murdered, and at the same time you’re going to violent with Hitler, and Tojo, and somebody else that you don’t even know?”

Although these are references which do not require much detailed knowledge of historical processes, the tone is properly suited for grassroots activists, many of whom were youth living in an urban environment. Malcolm X, through his travels across the U.S. and his readings related to current events in 1963, that the general psychological make-up of the African American people was shifting at a rapid pace. The eruption of the mass Civil Rights Movement during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56, ushered in a new era of consciousness.

Yet he felt strongly that there was a need for more militant action and organizational activity. By the conclusion of 1963, the intransigence of the racist system of national oppression was intensifying. Many were outraged at the brutality utilized by the police and racist groups to intimidate and halt the forward trajectory of the African American people. On September 15, 1963, four Black girls died from a bomb explosion set off by the Ku Klux Klan at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Two other children died the same day due to racist attacks. These developments would portend much for the coming years where urban rebellion and self-defense formations came into the broader existence.

Second Speech: The Ballot or the Bullet, April 12, 1964

On December 1, 1963, Malcolm X addressed a crowd at the Manhattan Center in New York City. The theme of the address was centered on what he described as “God’s Judgment of White America”. Elijah Muhammad had directed all ministers for the NOI to refrain from comments on the November 22 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Malcolm X had been a staunch critic of the Kennedy administration for its failure to uphold the rights of the African American people and to apprehend and prosecute incidents of racist violence. Over two months had passed and yet nothing had been done to punish those responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Hundreds of activists were still being beaten and jailed even in the aftermath of the upsurge in demonstrations in Birmingham and other cities during 1963.

A question-and-answer period after the speech at the Manhattan Center brought up the issue of the assassination of JFK. In his response, Malcolm seemed to suggest that the assassination was the product of the atmosphere of violence carried out inside and outside the country by the U.S. government. Consequently, the death of Kennedy was a case of the “Chickens Coming Home to Roost.” Noting that there were many Africans who had been assassinated at the aegis of the U.S. while no corrective punitive legal actions were taken.

Four days later it was announced by John Ali of the Chicago headquarters of the NOI, that when Malcolm X made those statements, he was speaking for himself and not Elijah Muhammad. Ali then said that Malcolm X had been suspended for 90 days from speaking and organizing on behalf of the NOI.

Malcolm X said he had written to Elijah Muhammad several times during the suspension however no response was received. After the 90 days were over, Malcolm X was notified that his suspension would be extended indefinitely. The time was early March 1964 when the Civil Rights Movement prepared for another summer of demonstrations and other political work. The NOI has remained aloof from the direct action, marches and legal challenges carried out by the SCLC, NAACP, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), among others.

Ferment was being generated in the northern and western urban areas demanding quality education, open housing, decent jobs, and the eradication of legalized and de facto segregation. This was no time to remain silent about the burning questions of the period. Therefore, Malcolm X made a decision to break publicly with the NOI.

On March 8, 1964, Malcolm held a press conference in New York City to announce that he was leaving the NOI permanently and establishing an alternative mosque in Harlem. The organization was called the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and was a precursor to the founding of a political group known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) by late June.

Just one month later Malcolm would return to Detroit for a public address again at the King Solomon Baptist Church. This speech became known as “The Ballot or the Bullet.” In the address Malcolm warns the rulers of the U.S. that if complete freedom, justice and equality was not granted to the African American people, no one would have freedom inside the country.

1964 was an election year with the then President Lyndon B. Johnson seeking to win a full term after inheriting the position in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. SNCC and allied organizations were recruiting hundreds of students to enter the South in Mississippi and other areas to engage in a Freedom Summer project. Malcolm X was determined to enter the popular struggles of the period while authenticating himself as an orthodox Muslim with political connections throughout Africa and the world.

During the second speech in Detroit during this period entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet”, Malcolm said: “Just as it took nationalism to remove colonialism from Asia and Africa, it’ll take Black nationalism today to remove colonialism from the backs and the minds of twenty-two million Afro-Americans here in this country. And 1964 looks like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet. [applause] Why does it look like it might be the year of the ballot or the bullet? Because Negroes have listened to the trickery and the lies and the false promises of the white man now for too long, and they’re fed up. They’ve become disenchanted. They’ve become disillusioned. They’ve become dissatisfied. And all of this has built up frustrations in the Black community that makes the Black community throughout America today more explosive than all of the atomic bombs the Russians can ever invent. Whenever you got a racial powder keg sitting in your lap, you’re in more trouble than if you had an atomic powder keg sitting in your lap. When a racial powder keg goes off, it doesn’t care who it knocks out the way. Understand this, it’s dangerous.”

These words foresaw the urban rebellions which would erupt later that summer in 1964 in New York, cities within New Jersey, Philadelphia, etc. In the years to come, hundreds of urban rebellions would take place in cities from the west to the east of the country. Malcolm X suggested in the Ballot or the Bullet that the numerical odds within the U.S. would not determine the outcome of a revolutionary struggle for political power. He noted the victories of the revolutionary forces in China, Korea and what was unfolding in Vietnam, first against the French and then, at that time in 1964, the U.S.

During the address, Malcolm went on to illustrate that: “This is why I say it’s the ballot or the bullet. It’s liberty or it’s death. It’s freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody. [applause] America today finds herself in a unique situation. Historically, revolutions are bloody, oh yes they are. They have never had a bloodless revolution. Or a non-violent revolution. That don’t happen even in Hollywood. [laughter] You don’t have a revolution in which you love your enemy. And you don’t have a revolution in which you are begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it. Revolutions overturn systems. Revolutions destroy systems. A revolution is bloody, but America is in a unique position. She’s the only country in history, in the position actually to become involved in a bloodless revolution. The Russian Revolution was bloody, Chinese Revolution was bloody, French Revolution was bloody, Cuban Revolution was bloody. And there was nothing more bloody than the American Revolution. But today, this country can become involved in a revolution that won’t take bloodshed. All she’s got to do is give the Black man in this country everything that’s due him, everything. [applause]

Just days after delivering this address in Detroit, Malcolm flew out of the U.S. to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj. It is important to recognize that this was not the first time Malcolm X had visited West Asia and Africa. In 1959, he had accompanied Elijah Muhammad to several countries. Malcolm himself traveled to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Ghana and Sudan.

Nonetheless, the first trip he took during 1964 represented an entire new horizon for Malcolm. He was able to speak his mind fully while totally embracing Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism. After his religious pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm visited several other countries including Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana. After being abroad for six weeks, he returned to much media fanfare in May 1964.

At the returning press conference in New York, Malcolm was questioned about his efforts to have the U.S. brought before the world court for violations of the human rights of African Americans. Malcolm noted that other oppressed peoples had sought similar remedies and that the people of African descent in the U.S. were no different.

On June 28, 1964, Malcolm X announced the formation of the OAAU at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. The aims of the organization were to unite African people in the U.S. with their counterparts on the continent and around the globe. The objective was full total freedom to be achieved by any means necessary.

In a matter of weeks during July, Malcolm had again left the U.S. for Africa and Asia. He spent considerable time in Egypt where he attended the second annual summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). While in Cairo he strengthened communications and contacts with the national liberation movements and anti-imperialist governments on the continent.

On behalf of the OAAU, Malcolm circulated an eight-page memorandum to the heads-of-state, requesting solidarity with the African American struggle. As a direct result of his work and the support of anti-imperialist and Pan-African governments, a resolution was passed condemning racial discrimination in the U.S. This same resolution was utilized during the summer of 2020, when people throughout the U.S. were demonstrating and rebelling in the aftermath of the brutal police execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As a result, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland held hearings on the racial unrest in the U.S. The brother of George Floyd addressed the UN hearing where he implored the international body to take action in support of the African American people.

The Last Message Towards the African Revolution: February 14, 1965

Malcolm X would spend nearly five months abroad between July and November of 1964. He studied Islam and politics in Egypt at the invitation of then President Gamal Abdel Nassar. He traveled to Ghana for the second time that year to meet with African Americans living and working there as part of the First Republic of President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. In addition, Malcolm visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia and other countries, seeking to build alliances with Islamic and progressive forces.

Yet a major impediment to the realization of his organizational objectives was the ongoing feud with his former organization. The leadership of the NOI had been concerned when Malcolm departed the organization only to begin another one. Several attempts had been made on Malcolm’s life and his followers. When he arrived back in New York City during late November 1964, he was prepared to move forward with the OAAU and other projects.

Malcolm maintained a rigorous schedule of speaking engagements, OAAU meetings, Islamic classes taught by the MMI, along with traveling to cities around the U.S. In early February, he traveled to Britain to speak at the London School of Economics and meet with Black organizations. He was also invited to speak in Paris before a number of African organizations residing in France. Nonetheless, the French customs officials denied him admission to the country. He was turned around and went back to England where he addressed the meeting by telephone.

After returning to New York City on February 13, Malcolm was preparing for yet another speaking engagement in Detroit. However, during the early morning hours of February 14, his home was firebombed. The entire family was able to exit the home without injury. The bombing of the house, which was owned by the NOI and the subject of an eviction order, was an ominous sign of worse things to come.

However, Malcolm was determined to honor his speaking engagement in Detroit on the afternoon of February 14. After securing his family, he took a plane to Detroit and checked into the Statler-Hilton Hotel downtown. He was seen by a physician and would later address a meeting at Ford Auditorium on the riverfront.

His comments during the final visit to Detroit at Ford Auditorium focused on the interrelationship between the struggles of people of African descent in the U.S. and around the world. He discussed his travels in Africa and the Middle East while pointing to the necessity of global unity.

Some of his remarks included this passage: “So we saw that the first thing to do was to unite our people, not only unite us internally, but we have to be united with our brothers and sisters abroad. It was for that purpose that I spent five months in the Middle East and Africa during the summer. The trip was very enlightening, inspiring, and fruitful. I didn’t go into any African country, or any country in the Middle East for that matter, and run into any closed door, closed mind, or closed heart. I found a warm reception and an amazingly deep interest and sympathy for the Black man in this country in regards to our struggle for human rights. While I was traveling, I had a chance to speak in Cairo, or rather Alexandria, with President [Gamal Abdel] Nasser for about an hour and a half. He’s a very brilliant man. And I can see why they’re so afraid of him, and they are afraid of him — they know he can cut off their oil [laughter and applause]. And actually, the only thing power respects is power. Whenever you find a man who’s in a position to show power against power then that man is respected. But you can take a man who has power and love him all the rest of your life, nonviolently and forgivingly and all the rest of those oft-time things, and you won’t get anything out of it.”

Malcolm would deliver three other speeches in that coming week. He would address a public meeting and press conference on February 15 at the Audubon Ballroom where he discussed the bombing of his house and various political issues. On the following day he would speak at an African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Rochester, New York. Two days after, February 18, he would speak at Barnard College in New York.

A public meeting of the OAAU was scheduled for Sunday February 21, 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom. After being introduced by one of his assistants, several men emerged from the audience and shot Malcolm X to death. His death has been commemorated every year since 1965 in the U.S. and around the planet.

Lessons from the Life, Times and Contributions of Malcolm X

The strength of Malcolm X’s message remains with us today some 56 years since his assassination. African Americans remain under national oppression, economic exploitation and institutional racism. They are still subjected to U.S. military service in order to carry out the political and economic imperatives of imperialism.

A resurgence in Black Consciousness and anti-racism is a healthy development in the U.S. The national response to the police and vigilante killings of African Americans has alerted the international community that racism remains alive and well in the U.S. despite its claims of being a defender of human rights and social justice.

Malcolm X was hated and feared by the ruling class in the U.S. and the entire imperialist system. Consequently, his assassination was carried out in a failed attempt to arrest the African American liberation movement.

In recent days, news related to the assassination of Malcolm X and the involvement of the New York police and the FBI, has been raised again. Ray Wood, a former undercover New York City police officer, from the BOSS division (intelligence unit), claimed in a death bed confession letter that he was sent to infiltrate the OAAU.

An article published recently in News One says of the latest revelation: “The recent accusations echo theories raised in the 2020 Netflix documentary, ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’ The series followed Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, an activist and self-trained investigator who dedicated his life work to solving the civil rights icon’s murder. In the documentary Muhammad interviews several important figures involved in the investigation, explores different conspiracy theories including possible federal and state law enforcement involvement. Muhammad also attempts to explore an accusation that Malcolm X’s alleged killer was a Newark community leader who worshipped at a local Mosque. After the documentary aired, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office announced it would review the case, with the possibility to reopen if leads proved sufficient.”

Of course, this is not the first time that confessions have been offered in regard to culpability and involvement in the assassination. These claims should be thoroughly investigated independently. Any reliance on the police and FBI, who are the accused parties, will bear no fruitful results.

What is important to understand is that the only real tribute to Malcolm X will be administered by those who believe in his message and objectives. Justice will be achieved when the systems of exploitation and oppression are completely eradicated, and a new society is built on the basis of freedom, self-determination and social emancipation.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg Played an Integral Role in Founding African Studies


February 24, 2021 

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg Played an Integral Role in Founding African Studies – Fighting Words (

Born in 1874 in Puerto Rico, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg entered a whirlwind of anti-colonial struggles which were inextricably linked to the abolition of African enslavement.

Legalized slavery in Puerto Rico and Cuba existed many years after the United States Civil War during 1861-1865. Uprisings erupted in Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1868, the same year in which the 14th Amendment was enacted by the U.S. Congress, ostensibly designed to provide full citizenship rights to African people.

During the war between the states, the-then President Abraham Lincoln, as a political and military maneuver, issued the Emancipation Proclamation taking effect on January 1, 1863. However, it would take the decisive defeat of the Confederacy in April 1865 to secure the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which was ratified by the conclusion of 1865.

Brazil,  under the monarchical rule of a largely Portuguese-dominated ruling class, did not end the enslavement of Africans until the uprisings of 1888. Although some Africans in Brazil had broken away from slavery as early as the 17th century to form their own Quilombos, independent communities in rebellion against Lisbon, the economic system of involuntary servitude would continue for centuries.

These developments unfolded up to two decades or more after the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War and the beginning of what became a failed effort aimed at democratic Reconstruction in the late 1860s, through the concluding decades of the 19th century. Brazil, where it is said that more Africans were captured and enslaved than in any other region of the Western Hemisphere, had gained independence from Portugal during the first decades of the 19th century. This form of independence left unresolved the question of African enslavement requiring a deeper movement which evolved in the 1880s.

With specific reference to Cuba and Puerto Rico, scholar Vanessa K. Valdes in her political biography of Schomburg entitled “Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg”, examines the origins and development of this historical figure. His trajectory transcended conventional academic categorization where his beginning in the independence movements for Puerto Rico and Cuba later led to a broader and extensive intervention in debates surrounding the role of people of African descent within world historical studies.

Valdes says of the events in Puerto Rico and Cuba in the 1860s and 1870s, that: “The last decades of the nineteenth century were a time of upheaval for the two remaining Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, as creole elites created divergent visions for the futures of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Eighteen sixty-eight saw simultaneous uprisings, the Grito de Lares in Puerto Rico and the Grito de Yara in Cuba, while the former was suppressed within days, the latter sparked the Ten Years’ War, a conflict that ended in a stalemate, with Cuba still a colony and slavery remaining the social, political, and economic foundation of that society. Whereas the majority of Cuban revolutionaries both on the island and in exile labored for complete independence by the last decade of the nineteenth century, Puerto Rico’s political scene was more complicated, with divisions present both within the leadership on the island itself as well as in the New York exile community.” (Valdes, p. 28)

Schomburg would participate in the political work surrounding the independence movements against Spain in relation to Puerto Rico and Cuba after relocating to the U.S. in 1891 at the age of 17. Nonetheless, his migration to New York City at this time coincided with monumental changes within the economic and social character of the U.S. which impacted both class and racial dimensions of Black people from the entire Hemisphere.

Archival and Bibliographic Contributions to the Pan-African Movement

Rapid industrialization in the U.S. by the close of the 19th century attracted migrant workers from rural areas within the U.S. along with others from Europe and the Caribbean. The failure of Reconstruction in the former Confederate states was an extremely violent affair for African Americans. Many fled the South looking for economic and social improvements although after arriving in municipalities such as New York, conditions were highly exploitative and discriminatory for Black and Brown peoples.

Race as a social construct in the U.S. represented a cornerstone in the superstructure and ideological underpinning of the system of capitalism and imperialism. Eventually, after the conclusion of the so-called Spanish-American War at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Washington solidified its dominance over Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines. The outcome of the war would largely determine the focus of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle for more than one hundred and twenty years.

Legalized and de facto segregation even within urban areas in the U.S. served to forge solidarity among peoples of African descent from the U.S., the Caribbean, both English and Spanish speaking, along with other geo-political regions. Schomburg while still in the Caribbean studying in secondary school in St. Thomas, was subjected to racist comments about the lack of contributions of African people to world history. At that point, Schomburg set out to document the antithesis of such a white supremacist viewpoint.

By the 1920s, Schomburg at his home in Brooklyn had accumulated tens of thousands of books, journals, articles, documents, artefacts and other materials which shed tremendous light on the role of African people in world affairs from antiquity to the 20th century. During the 1920s, a period popularly known as the Harlem Renaissance, there was a flowering of interests in African American and Pan-African culture and history. The large concentration of African people from various geo-political regions of the Western Hemisphere provided a vast community for the sharing of these documents.

By 1926, the New York Public Library would purchase the Schomburg Collection through a grant from the Carnegie Foundation which had an interest in building public libraries. Known at the time as the Negro Collection at the 135th Street branch became a permanent part of the Harlem community. Later in the 1970s, the library was renamed The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture while many of the documents were reproduced for distribution in public and university libraries in various states throughout the U.S.

Schomburg through his work in collaboration with contemporary artists and scholars such as Jessie Redmon Fauset, Langston Hughes, Charles S. Johnson, Gwendolyn Bennet, among many others, attracted the attention of Fisk University in Nashville. Charles S. Johnson of Opportunity magazine published by the National Urban League in the early years of the 20th century, went to Fisk in the late 1920s to serve as director of the Social Science division.

After writing to Fisk President Thomas Elsa Jones in 1931 indicating his desire to build an African Diasporic collection within the Historic Black College and University (HBCU) library system, Schomburg would be invited to Nashville to carry out this task. When he arrived at Fisk there were approximately 100 books in its library. Within a matter of months there were well over 4,000 books acquired within the Negro Collection. A reading room was established where a degree of openness for students and scholars was created. This was the same model instituted at the 135th Street Harlem branch.

Having become the curator of the Fisk Negro Collection, Schomburg later returned to New York City to take a similar role in Harlem on 135th street. What distinguished the Schomburg collections in New York and Nashville was its lack of preoccupation with African enslavement through the acquisition of books, pamphlets and documents confirming the centuries-long contributions of African people to world civilization. The collection consisted of English, French, German and Spanish language books and documents reflecting the cultural character of the African Diasporic experience.

Significance of Schomburg in Modern Times

Schomburg died in 1938 many years prior to the rise of the mass Civil Rights, Black Power and Pan-African Movements of the 1950s and 1960s where a profound interest in Black and African Studies arose. Demonstrations in high schools, colleges and universities beginning in the late 1960s and extending through subsequent decades demanded the teaching of the history and social scientific research of the affairs of people of African descent.

These developments among African American and African Caribbean students and scholars, extended to Puerto Rican and other nationally oppressed peoples along with women and gender studies. The demand for Pan-African Studies at its best raised questions related to the purpose of education within a capitalist society. Assumptions fostering notions of Eurocentric dominance within history are still being challenged by a new generation of youth in the U.S.

Today amid an economic decline and public health crisis, educational institutions will become targets of further budget cuts, layoffs and closings. The anti-racist movement will undoubtedly take up these important questions as they seek solutions in the streets, the workplaces and within the schools.

1898 to 2021: From Wilmington to Washington and the Role of Racism in Right-wing Coups


February 16, 2021 

Wilmington coup makers in Nov. 1898 Atlantic photograph Wilmington coup makers in Nov. 1898 Atlantic photograph. | Photo: Library of Congress

By Abayomi Azikiwe

1898 to 2021: From Wilmington to Washington and the Role of Racism in Right-wing Coups – Fighting Words (

At the time of this writing (Feb. 1q0, 2021 – editor) the Senate impeachment trial was well underway where evidence was being presented aimed at convicting former United States President Donald J. Trump for inciting insurrection on January 6.

On that fateful day, thousands of Trump supporters including the most ultra-right political tendencies in the U.S., rallied and later stormed the Capitol building in a failed attempt to halt the certification of the national presidential elections.

Many commentators and news analysts have stated repeatedly that this represented the worst attack on the bourgeois democratic system which had ever occurred in the nation’s history. The situation was such that it would take several hours for law-enforcement and National Guard units to regain total control of the legislative body.

Numerous video recordings, podcasts, social media posts and photographs were utilized by the Democratic representatives to make a clear and incontrovertible case against Trump and his supporters. Nonetheless, with the balance of forces within the Senate, where this chamber of Congress is equally divided (50-50), allowing Vice President Kamala Harris to cast a deciding vote for the passage of legislation if necessary, it will take seventeen Republican Senators voting in conjunction with all of their Democratic counterparts to win a conviction.

Such a conviction would bar Trump from seeking federal office again. Although Trump was forced to leave the White House on January 20, over 70 million people voted for him last year and the majority of them are convinced that the elections were stolen on behalf of the existing administration led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris.

Despite the racist and fascist character of the attacks on January 6, this was not the first time in U.S. history that violent attacks were launched to nullify the political will of African Americans and their allies. After the Civil War (1861-1865) and the passage of numerous legislative measures to end institutional racism and national oppression during the late 1860s and 1870s, the disputed elections of 1876, prompted the withdrawal of federal forces from the South beginning the decades long reversal of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution along with numerous Civil Rights Acts ostensibly designed to guarantee the democratic rights of the formerly enslaved African population.

The founding of the Ku Klux Klan in 1866 by former ruling class elements during the era of slavery and the eventual adoption of the Black Codes and other Jim Crow laws which enshrined legalized segregation, were all part and parcel of the process of maintaining white supremacy and capitalism. As many scholars have argued from Karl Marx to Eric Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Walter Rodney, among others, the enslavement of Africans in Europe and North America set the stage for the rise of monopoly capitalism, institutional racism and imperialism.

Today in 2021, elements within the capitalist ruling class which are represented by Trump and his cohorts, view the current historical period as an important conjuncture in determining the future of the country. The rapidly shifting demographic composition of the U.S. where people of color communities could very well become a combined majority by the middle of the century, has alarmed many whites. Trump and the right-wing are inflaming these racist sentiments encouraging disruptive and violent actions against oppressed peoples and anyone not in complete agreement with their neo-fascist politics.

Yet there should not be bewilderment in regard to these developments. U.S. history is filled with racist mob violence and pseudo-legal intolerance of the exploited and downtrodden.

The 1898 Wilmington Massacre and Its Relevance to 2021

One of the most egregious incidents during the post-Reconstruction period was the violent overthrow of a multi-racial municipal government in Wilmington, North Carolina in November of 1898. What is important to understand is that the redeployment of federal troops from the South in 1877 did not result in the immediate end to Reconstruction.

African Americans were quickly ejected from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Nevertheless, many continued to participate in statewide, county and municipal elections in some southern states. For example, in the state of Tennessee, there were at least 12 African American men who held office in the legislature during the 1880s. They, of course, were violently forced out of statewide offices by the end of that decade. However, a few continued to hold office as magistrates and other local positions until the first decade of the 20th century.

The parallels between 1898 in Wilmington and the 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C. has been noted by a number of corporate media outlets and National Public Radio (NPR). An article published by the News & Observer in North Carolina recounted that: “More than 100 years ago, another mob bore down on the center of government power, this time in Wilmington, which at that point was North Carolina’s largest city. For weeks, the throng of angry white men had been incited, incensed and cajoled by an elite band of conservatives pushing a manufactured message of fear and grievance, an effort aided and abetted by the state’s most powerful media voices, The News & Observer and its publisher. The mob, adherents to a campaign of white supremacy, brandished weapons of war and burned a newsroom to the ground. They posed for a photo in front of its smoking ruins.”

These events took place within the context of a precipitous rise in the lynching of African Americans and the forced removals of entire communities in several states. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an African American educator, journalist and organizer, initiated an international campaign in 1892-94 to draw attention to these horrendous and genocidal attacks. Wells-Barnett was eventually driven from her home in Memphis where the offices of her newspaper were firebombed in the aftermath of a successful boycott against white-owned businesses and the public transportation system. Soon enough, thousands of African Americans migrated from Tennessee to Oklahoma and Kansas to avoid further racist violence and economic deprivation.

With specific reference to the terrorist attacks in Wilmington during 1898, the same above-mentioned newspaper said: “By the time their march of terror was complete, they had killed dozens of Black people and forced the resignations of the city’s leadership, among them Black and white members of a ‘Fusionist’ party of Republicans and Populists. And in the aftermath, the mob’s actions went entirely unpunished by state or federal leaders, entrenching a Democratic Party that brought about decades of Jim Crow policies aimed at keeping white people in power. The coup d’etat in Wilmington on Nov. 10, 1898, succeeded. The insurrection in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, did not. But when North Carolina’s political leaders contended that Wednesday’s events aren’t what America is about — isn’t who we are — historians and longtime observers say they aren’t so sure that’s the case.”

Implications for 2021 and Beyond

Even though the coup on January 6 was not victorious for the neo-fascists and racists, their forces remain largely intact. Some 200 people have been arrested in connection with the attempted insurrection at the Capitol building.

However, the culpability for the violent attacks designed to disenfranchise tens of millions of African Americans, Latin Americans and other members of the electorate, far exceeds those who have been charged with relatively minor crimes. Questions about the complicity of those within law-enforcement, intelligence, political officials and the military were raised in the days after the assaults.

A further investigation into the institutional collaboration with the coup makers would reveal the level of penetration by racists and neo-fascists in all of these state structures. In fact, the history of the political evolution of the U.S. is inseparable from the ideologies of white supremacy, unbridled capitalism and imperialism.

Consequently, the oppressed peoples of the U.S. and the working class as a whole must organize and mobilize to ensure that the next attempted right-wing coup is also defeated. Given a different set of social circumstances and political balance of forces, the overthrow of the meagre existence of African American and proletarian democratic rights could very well take place.

Cicely Tyson: Pioneer for Representation in Film, Fashion and Television


February 7, 2021 

Cicely Tyson 1924-2021. | Photo: Twitter

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Cicely Tyson: Pioneer for Representation in Film, Fashion and Television – Fighting Words (

In the January and February issue of Essence magazine excerpts from a newly released autobiography by Cicely Tyson, Just As I Am, provide insights into the nearly one century life’s journey of a legend within the entertainment and cultural milieu in the United States. Essence, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, is a publication designed to illustrate the role of African women in history and the modern world. Tyson, 96 years old, passed away on January 29 of natural causes.

She was born to immigrant parents from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Tyson came into existence in 1924 during the period that is popularly known as the Harlem Renaissance. Beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, Harlem was rapidly transforming from a European immigrant community to one which became largely occupied by Black and Latin American peoples.

This period which began many years prior to the 1920s, witnessed a flowering of African American literary, musical and political contributions to the overall struggle for freedom and self-determination. Personalities such as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, W.E.B. Du Bois, Claude McKay, Josephine Baker, among many others, gained prominence domestically and internationally during this period.

People of African descent from the southern U.S. and the Caribbean flooded into New York City and other urban areas in what later became known as the Great Migration. Although this category of mass geographic movement is associated with the rise of industrial capitalism, the people who participated in this migratory phenomenon were not just seeking economic improvement. Many saw the large and medium-sized cities to which they fled as potential avenues for greater social and political liberation.

Tyson writes in her book that: “The United States has never been ‘one country under God’ but several nations gazing up at him, dissimilar faces huddled beneath a single flag…. The era I grew up in both deepened my racial wound and soothed it with the healing balm of the arts. My childhood spanned the 1920s and 1930s, two of the most economically memorable and culturally rich decades in American history – a period when Negro literature, music and culture flourished.”

The author mentions some of the hallmarks in Harlem such as the Savoy Ballroom and the Cotton Club along with musicians Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton, whose contributions shaped the consciousness and cultural life of the early decades of the 20th century. Tyson acknowledges the philosophical reflections of Alain Locke, author of The New Negro, published in 1925 and the works of James Weldon Johnson, a songwriter and poet who composed the Black National Anthem, entitled “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” She mentions the classic book, “The Souls of Black Folk,” published at the dawn of the 20th century in 1903 by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, which was still being read voraciously by the successive generations of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Economic Crisis and the Struggle for Liberation

Of course, with the stock market crash of October 1929, African Americans and African Caribbean people were disproportionately impacted by the Great Depression which lasted until the beginning of the U.S. intervention in World War II. Tyson reviews the mass mobilizations surrounding the Scottsboro Boys case, which originated on the borders between Alabama and Tennessee in 1931 where nine African American youth were falsely accused of raping two white women on a freight train. In addition, the book reviews other horrors of the 1930s such as the U.S. government’s sponsored Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, where African American men were recruited to participate in a longitudinal study on the impact of the deadly disease. The men were promised free healthcare while in fact being denied treatment for syphilis long after penicillin was discovered as an effective treatment.

Tyson goes on to point out that the Depression years resulted in a consolidation of legalized segregation and national oppression against Black people: “The attack on our humanity continued in 1934. That year, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) established redlining, a set of racially discriminatory real estate and bank-lending practices that barred Blacks from purchasing homes in white neighborhoods—and thus set the stage for wealth disparity between Black and white households that remains to this day. Home and land ownership are the primary means by which Americans have historically amassed wealth, and when Blacks were locked out of bank loans and segregated into slums, we were robbed of the potential to build fortunes. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal brought a measure of relief for poor Blacks, but some of its policies, such as redlining, made the New Deal a raw one for us.”

Transcending Barriers and Achieving Recognition

While coming of age in Harlem, Tyson’s mother vehemently opposed her entering the acting business. Her mother felt that it was a profession filled with criminality and debauchery. However, Cecily continued to pursue her dreams.

She came to the attention of Ebony magazine, founded by John Johnson after the conclusion of World War II with a small loan from his family. By the 1950s, Ebony, Jet and other media projects sponsored by Johnson Publications, became a mainstay in the households of African Americans.

Tyson modelled for the fashion ads so prevalent in the magazine. Later she made appearances in a number of television and film productions. In 1963, she became one of the first African American women to wear natural hair in the television series entitled “East Side/West Side.” By 1967, she would appear on the cover of the groundbreaking Miles Davis album entitled “Sorcerer.” Tyson became a partner of the legendary jazz icon, known for his innovative sound and fashion. The two of them were often photographed while in public setting trends for African Americans and broader segments of the population.

According to an article in Variety magazine the day after her death: “Tyson broke into movies with the 1959 Harry Belafonte film “Odds Against Tomorrow,” followed by “The Comedians,” “The Last Angry Man,” “A Man Called Adam” and “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.” Refusing to participate in the blaxploitation movies that became popular in the late ’60s, she waited until 1972 to return to the screen in the drama ‘Sounder,’ which captured several Oscar nominations including one for Tyson as best actress.”

In 1974, she played the leading role in a television drama entitled “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman”, based on a book released in the early 1960s chronicling the life and times of an African American woman born into slavery and living through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the early years of the Civil Rights Movement. She also appeared in another television drama mini- series centered upon the novel by Gloria Naylor, known as ”The Women of Brewster Place.” The 1989 series was produced by Oprah Winfrey.

The same Variety review of her career mentioned above says: “She was nominated a total of 16 times in her career, also winning for supporting actress, in 1994 for an adaptation of “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All”; she was nominated five times for guest actress in a drama for “How to Get Away With Murder.”

Cicely Tyson through her own work and interventions in the movements of the African American people has secured a position within history. Her efforts will continue to motivate women and oppressed peoples in the generations to come.

Africa Begins Large-scale Vaccinations Distribution


February 18, 2021 

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles are seen under an electron microscope SARS-CoV-2 virus particles are seen under an electron microscope. | Photo: Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin / CDC

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Africa Begins Large-scale Vaccinations Distribution – Fighting Words (

Several countries within the African Union (AU), a 55-member body encompassing independent states and the Western Sahara, through its Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), has issued statements in recent weeks related to the acquisition, use and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

During the early phases of the pandemic, the number of recorded cases on the continent was relatively low in comparison to the rates of infection in other geo-political regions, particularly in the United States and Western Europe.

However, the appearance of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 which have appeared in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil is raising scientific and public health questions about the viability of the existing vaccines and those which are most effective against the evolving genomes. In South Africa, the government suspended the use of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines supplied by the Serum Institute of India based upon preliminary results from a trial study conducted inside the country.

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the initial results of the study, proved to be less effective in regard to preventing mild and moderate symptoms among those contracting the virus. Since the release of these findings, the Ministry of Health in the Republic of South Africa has announced that it will begin inoculations utilizing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which clinical trials indicated had 57% efficacy against the virus. The J&J vaccine has been deemed effective against the variant which has surfaced in South Africa, 501Y.V2.

With the rise in COVID-19 cases in several African states such news related to the uncertainty of vaccine efficacy had to be addressed by the African CDC and health ministries across the continent. Vaccinations programs are already in operation in Morocco and Egypt while other countries such as Zimbabwe rollout their own projects.

AU member-states are already facing serious challenges to healthcare systems due to the overall structural problems inherited from colonialism and neo-colonialism. The lack of hospitals, clinics, trained physicians, and other medical personnel along with access to pharmaceutical products and therapeutics are direct manifestations of the unequal status of African states in relationship to the western industrialized nations.

Consequently, healthcare professionals and public officials are viewing the acquisition and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as the best possible hope to curb and eliminate the crisis. This same outlook is prevalent throughout the world in both the geo-political regions of the Southern Hemisphere as well as the North. Therefore, absent of a mass vaccination program, the peoples of most nations throughout the world will be faced with an uncertain social, economic and political future.

The African CDC issued a press release in regard to these recent developments involving the use of vaccines on the continent. The media advisory noted: “Many countries in Africa are managing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been over 3.6 million cases and over 96,000 deaths reported on the continent since the first official case was reported on the continent on 14 February 2020. The continent’s case fatality rate of 2.6 percent is above the global average of 2.2 percent. The emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant known as N501Y.V2 (or B.1.351) is associated with increased rate of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and has been of concern across the continent because of the increased pressure that the high number of new infections will place on the healthcare systems, many of which are already overburdened. As of 9 February 2021, South Africa reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases on the continent, with more than 1.4 million cases and over 45,000 deaths. The new variant accounts for at least 80 percent of new cases identified during the country’s second wave of the pandemic.”

The Role of China in the African Vaccine Programs

Republic of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced in a press conference on February 15 that the Southern African state would begin its vaccination program in collaboration with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Sinopharm, a state-owned company headquartered in Beijing, has agreed to import vaccine doses to address the threat of a further spread of COVID-19 infections.

Several high-profile members of the Zimbabwe government and the ruling ZANU-PF party have contracted and succumbed to the disease. Foreign Minister S.B. Moyo, a key player in the current administration, died from COVID-19 in late January, among others.

An article published by the Zimbabwe Herald on February 16, featured an interview with Mashonaland East Provincial Epidemiology official, Paul Matsvimbo, giving an indication of what is being done inside the country. Matsvimbo was quoted as saying that: “All is set for the roll out of the COVID 19 vaccine in the province and we have put in place all the logistics. We have put in place measures to ensure there is a flawless start to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. We are all ready for the vaccine and training is expected to start Tuesday (Feb. 16) while distribution is expected to start as soon as we receive the vaccines from the national stores. Marondera and Mutoko hospitals are going to be our disposal centers as we have functional incinerators there. The first phase of the vaccine rollout will start with 7000 frontline workers to be immunized at 213 centers.”

China committed as early as last May to provide vaccines to developing countries. President Xi Jinping was reported to have said at the World Health Assembly that it would share any additional vaccines with those geo-political regions where the product was inaccessible. Several African leaders such as former AU Chairperson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have accused the imperialist states of “vaccine nationalism”, remaining largely unconcerned about the public health of people outside the western countries.

Sinopharm says that its vaccine is 80% effective against COVID-19. The product has been approved for distribution in a dozen countries impacting hundreds of millions of people. Early Phase I and II data suggests that the vaccine is safe. Outside of Africa, at least two countries in Europe, Hungary and Serbia, have arranged to utilize Sinopharm.

Africa has a population of 1.3 billion and the Director of the African CDC, Dr. John Nkengasong, says that the aim of the continental body is to vaccinate 60% of the population in order to achieve herd immunity. At the same time, the ACDC and other relevant institutions are continuing to encourage the maintenance of other established public health protocols to eradicate the pandemic in Africa.

Socialized Medicine is Needed on a Global Scale

The rate of coronavirus vaccinations in Africa is far lower than what exists in the U.S. and Europe. The rate for vaccinations in the U.S. is now significantly higher than in Europe.

Nonetheless, inside the European Union countries and the U.S., millions are concerned about the pace of vaccinations and the efficiency of distribution. Phone lines at hospitals and pharmacies in the U.S. are jammed with people, particularly senior citizens and those suffering from chronic ailments, demanding to know when either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines will be available.

Infections rates and deaths are reportedly down in the U.S. while the appearance of the UK and South African variants are being reported in several states. There are elements within the political and social superstructure of the U.S. which are continuing to urge the total reopening of business activities, sports, restaurants, schools, etc., while the number of people killed in the pandemic is approaching 500,000.

The major problem in the U.S. is the lack of a consistent pandemic policy which could have saved many lives. The previous administration proved contemptuous of the scientific and medical community often undermining its own COVID-19 Task Force. The Biden-Harris administration has again empowered the directors of research institutions and agencies to speak to the media.

However, the rapidly developing social crisis in the U.S. and the other capitalist states, largely stems from the unequal distribution of resources fostered by the profit system. Under a socialist system, the government could plan ahead for the number of physicians, nurses, therapists and other medical personnel needed to protect the overall population and to build preparedness for pandemics such as COVID-19, and the inevitable appearance of other infectious diseases.

All healthcare treatments would be guaranteed under socialism. The access and distribution of vaccines and other medicines would be carried on the basis of need and availability.

Africa to Receive a Billion Doses of COVID-19 Vaccines in 2021


February 6, 2021

Photo: Xinhua

By Abayomi Azikiwe

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, the African continent is seeking to halt the pandemic through the acquisition of vaccines and the implementation of other safety measures.

During the first and second phases of the pandemic in the countries of Europe, the United States, India, Brazil, among others, these nations suffered a rapid increase in infections subsequent deaths. African Union (AU) member-states initially were spared the astronomically high number of cases and mortalities. Yet, in recent weeks, the number of coronavirus cases in the region have accelerated.

South Africa and Morocco are cited as the two leading states in regard to positive tests and deaths. Both governments in these respective nations are addressing the crisis by an increase in testing and the securing of vaccines for mass distribution.

According to a statement issued by the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), an affiliate of the AU, there is cause for concern in regard to the progression of the spread of infections since the beginning of the year. The ACDC says:

“Africa is currently experiencing an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. As of 27 January 2021, at least 40 countries have experienced a second wave of the pandemic, including all countries in the Southern Africa region. This new wave of infections is thought to be associated with the emergence of variants that are more transmissible. Preliminary findings show that three new similar but distinct Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants, the 501Y/VUI – 202012/01, 501Y.V2, 501Y.V3, reported in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, respectively, are significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with high viral shedding observed among cases. There is currently limited data on the extent to which these new variants have spread in Africa, but preliminary data show that the 501Y.V2 variant has been reported in 22 countries globally including South Africa, Ghana, Botswana and Zambia.”

This rapid rise in cases poses additional challenges for the AU member-states. Due to the historical legacies of enslavement, colonialism and neo-colonialism, the continent has been systematically underdeveloped for centuries. Even with the national independence of 54 states throughout Africa, the societies are still dependent to a large measure on the revenue generated by the export of commodities in the energy, agricultural and mineral sectors of the economies.

These problems of underdevelopment and dependency have impacted the growth and viability of the healthcare industry in regard to trained personnel, treatment centers and hospitals. Therefore, the situation thrusted upon the AU and its 1.3 billion people over the last year is further straining the capacity of the healthcare institutions to address the pandemic.

Several leaders have spoken out against what they perceive as the disregard for the well-being of peoples within the Africa region along with others in lesser developed states. Current AU Chairperson, Republic of South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, has charged the western imperialist states with “vaccine nationalism”, meaning that these industrialized governments are purchasing the bulk of vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) leaving the majority of the world’s population living in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, notwithstanding the poor and oppressed within the so-called advanced capitalist states, to their own devices as it related to dealing with the pandemic.

Vaccine Distributions Already Underway in Several African States

The North African Kingdom of Morocco has instituted a vaccination program in response to the spike in coronavirus cases inside the country. In addition, two other states in the North Africa region are inoculating their citizens, Algeria and Egypt.

Seychelles, an Indian Ocean nation and a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has received doses of the vaccine as well. All of these countries are receiving their vaccines from China through Sinopharm. Although the Pfizer/BioNTech  vaccine is the only one as of late January to be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), the importation of this particular product would be challenging as a result of the requirements for the storing at -70 Celsius.

On February 1, vaccines arrived in South Africa from India’s Serum Institute. The event was covered extensively by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as a newsworthy item providing hope to the country of 60 million where the number of cases rose during December and early January. Several high-level government officials have been stricken by the coronavirus which took the life of cabinet minister and African National Congress (ANC) ruling party stalwart Jackson Mthembu.

The vaccine imported to South Africa, known as Covishield, was developed by the University of Oxford in Britain by the AstraZeneca firm. There will be no cost for the vaccine which will be covered by employers and the ANC government.

President Ramaphosa says that the distribution and administering of Covishield will be the most complex and challenging logistical undertakings in the history of South Africa. The government considers the acquisition of the vaccines as a pivotal point in its efforts to arrest the pandemic. Since the advent of coronavirus during the early months of 2020, its impact on the economy, the most industrialized on the continent, has been severe by aggravating existing problems of joblessness and poverty.

Much attention has been paid to the COVID-19 variant in South Africa, B.1.351 as to the level of effectiveness the existing vaccines would have in halting the spread of the infections. This variant, along with others discovered in Britain and Brazil, are said to be more easily transmissible. A Johnson & Johnson trial of its vaccine, known as Novavax, in South Africa, produced an effectiveness rate of 57% in comparison to 72% in the U.S. and 66% in Latin America.

The East African state of Uganda under President Yoweri Museveni, announced on February 2 that the government was reopening schools which have been closed since March. Simultaneously, Uganda revealed that it was acquiring over three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, from the same Serum Institute of India which is supplying South Africa.

AU Continues to Secure Vaccine Supplies

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing from Geneva, Switzerland on January 29 that the large-scale purchases of anti-coronavirus vaccines by western industrialized countries to the exclusion of others would not protect their residents from the pandemic. There must be a comprehensive international approach to the global public health crisis.

Dr. Tedros, who is originally from the Horn of Africa state of Ethiopia, has spoken out consistently on the need for cooperation between geo-political regions in battling the virus. The former U.S. administration of President Donald J. Trump broke relations with the WHO during 2020, falsely accusing the agency of concealing the spread of the pandemic and aligning itself with the Chinese government. Since taking office on January 20, Democratic President Joe Biden has rejoined the WHO and members of the current Coronavirus Task Force are collaborating with the global body, which is affiliated with the United Nations.

An article published in the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail on January 31, says of the continental response that: “The African Union Special Envoy on the Covid-19 crisis, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, says Africa will get more than one billion doses of vaccines by year-end. In May 2020, the African Union appointed Masiyiwa as a special envoy to rally the private sector to provide solutions to Covid-19, while helping the continent to source personal protective equipment (PPE) and other material to combat the pandemic. Speaking recently, Mr. Masiyiwa said international donors had already pledged 700 million free doses this year under the global finance initiative, Covax.”

These efforts by the AU member-states are commendable under the challenging economic and social crisis facing the continent as a result of the pandemic. Solutions to the resolution of these public health problems require the mobilization of the world population to demand equal access to the available medical treatments and vaccines.


February 25, 2021 

By Detroit Fighting Words Staff

There has been a series of incidents over the last several months in the city where unscrupulous landlords engaging in sexual harassment against women are utilizing Detroit police officers to illegally evict these same people and their families.

Hundreds took to the streets for the second time surrounding the 10th Precinct in the Livernois and Elmhurst area on Saturday, February 20, 2021.

Members of Detroit Will Breathe (DWB), Detroit Eviction Defense (DED), Moratorium NOW! Coalition, and others, gathered to express their support for tenants amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a worsening economic crisis.

In Detroit and other cities across the United States, a federally-imposed Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium on evictions is still in place until the end of March. Many landlords and property management firms are routinely ignoring the CDC moratorium or finding loopholes to continue evictions.

In Albany, New York, the local newspaper reported that a landlord, frustrated by the CDC mandate, kidnapped two sleeping tenants, bound them with zip ties, and dumped them in a snow-covered cemetery. Fortunately, both survived.

What makes these actions even more outrageous is that some members of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) are physically carrying out these illegal evictions under the guise that tenants are occupying the homes as squatters. Landlords are engaging in sexual harassment of women and when they reject these advances, an eviction is carried out placing the women and their children at grave risk due to the inclement weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Feb. 20 rally and march, activists demanded that the police cease their assistance to slumlords, saying all evictions in Detroit should be halted.

Solidarity with the People of Haiti!


February 17, 2021 

Daily protests are paralyzing Haiti Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched in Port-au-Prince Sunday to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse. | Photo: Edris Fortune/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

By Haiti Action <>

Demonstrations took place in cities and towns throughout Haiti yesterday to denounce the Jovenel Moise dictatorship and the US-UN occupation that supports it. In Port-au-Prince a march of over 100,000 people stretched for blocks. Haitian police and their affiliated death squads attacked protestors with tear gas and bullets; many injuries were reported in Port-au-Prince. A leader of the moto-taxi drivers union, 30-year-old Ronald Dufresne, a father of five (5), was killed and set on fire along with his motorcycle near Delmas 95. Stand in solidarity with the struggle in Haiti. Demand an end to US support of Haitian dictator Jovenel Moise!  

Haiti Action Committee strongly condemns the continued US and UN support for Haitian dictator Jovenel Moise as he flaunts the Haitian constitution and clings to power. Moise has been ruling by decree for months and is now pushing to enact illegitimate constitutional reforms that would give him even more power. Having come to power through a US-UN supported fraudulent election, denounced widely in Haiti as an “electoral coup,” the Moise regime is now poised to stage another series of phony elections to maintain its stranglehold over the country. We stand in solidarity with the resistance and resolve of Haitians in and outside of Haiti to get rid of this criminal regime.

Even though Moise’s term of office officially ended on February 7th, he has announced his intention to remain in power for one more year, and has launched a major crackdown against any opposition to his rule. Rather than denounce this attack on democracy, a recent statement by US State Department spokesperson Ned Price signaled the Biden Administration’s backing for Moise. Millions of US dollars have been provided to the Moise dictatorship to fund the murderous security forces and impose illegitimate constitutional reforms followed by phony elections as a strategy to keep Moise in power. Jovenel Moise’s rule has been marred by repeated acts of blatant corruption and terror, according to numerous reports by investigative agencies. Atrocities by the regime have been carried out by the US/UN-trained Haitian police and affiliated gangs or death squads with the full backing of high government officials. Community residents protesting the lack of basic services have seen their homes burned to the ground with family and friends massacred, as happened in the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Lasalin, Tokyo, Site Vensan, Bele among others.

Under the Moise regime, impunity is the order of the day. Well-known perpetrators with arrest warrants such as Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, wanted in connection with the horrific massacre at Lasalin in 2018, go about freely and even receive police protection. On October 5th, 2020, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres blatantly credited the G9 death squad headed by Cherizier with reducing homicides while the G9 was involved in murdering residents of Bele and burning their homes.

Please E-mail and tweet the demands below to the following officials and to your Congressional representative and Senators:

End all support for the dictatorship of Jovenel Moise
● End all recognition of the government of Jovenel Moise as of February 7th, 2021 as required by Haiti’s constitution
● Stop all funding of the criminal Haitian police and security forces

US Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Senior Member, House Foreign Relations Committee: tweet @RepGregoryMeeks; ph: 202-225-3461

Secretary of State Antony Blinken: tweet @SecBlinken; ph: 202-647-4000; email

President Joe Biden: tweet@POTUS; email

14th Amendment: a Tool Congress Should Use to Oust Neo-Klan Reps and Senators

February 5, 2021 

By Chris Fry

In the aftermath of the ferocious January 6th attack on the Capitol building as well as the vote by most of the Republican House members and many of their Senators to discard the Electoral College result and allow Trump to retain power in a coup d’état, the Democratic leadership quickly drew up an article of impeachment against Donald Trump, chief instigator of this violent “insurrection.”

However, President Biden, rather than condemning those Reps that voted before and even after the violent attack to disenfranchise voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. has signaled his message of “unity” and “bipartisanship” with those racists. The majority of Republican Senators have already voted that the impeachment of Donald Trump is “unconstitutional” because their delay tactic for opening the trial allowed Trump to leave office unscathed.

This makes Trump’s acquittal a foregone conclusion. So Trump and his Congressional minions, who engineered the Capitol attack by falsely proclaiming the election “stolen”, smearing Black people and officials in Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta and elsewhere as “illegal voters”, face no consequences.  Only a small fraction of the neo-Klan mob that rampaged through the building, threatening to shoot or kidnap Speaker Pelosi, Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others, and even to hang chief Trump minion Vice-President Pence, quite justly face trial.

This does not have to happen, even within the confines of the capitalist legal system, designed to be a brutal police state for the oppressed, while at the same time a “protective bubble” for the billionaire class and its political minions, whose crimes of corruption and exploitation are meant to be rewarded rather than punished.

The 14th Amendment: A tool to fight the Ku Klux Klan

After the Union victory in 1865 in the Civil War, the Black “freedmen” and “Unionists” in the South came under relentless attacks from the newly formed terrorist Ku Klux Klan, made up largely of ex-Confederate soldiers and political leaders.  Black political meetings in Memphis and New Orleans were attacked, with dozens killed.

President Andrew Johnson, who blamed this reign of terror on the newly freed slaves themselves, moved to quickly allow the Southern states back into the Union under the control of ex-Confederate officials.

A small but powerful Abolitionist group in Congress, called the “Radical Republicans”, who had already engineered the passage of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution that outlawed slavery, composed the 14th Amendment to deal with this crisis and prevent the slavocracy from taking back power. The text of this amendment has five sections (source – Wikipedia):

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 1 makes clear that all persons, including Black people, born, or naturalized in the U.S., are citizens, to be treated equally by the law. Section 2 makes it clear that it is unlawful to deny citizens the right to vote (unless, for example, they participated in the Confederate “rebellion”).  This was written before the 15th Amendment, which gave all men the right to vote in all the states.

Section 3 has the greatest implications for the current situation. It declares that any public official who was “engaged” with the Confederate “insurrection, shall never be permitted to hold public office, unless two-thirds of each house of Congress agrees to it. This excluded not only Confederate officers, but all the Confederate political leaders.

Section 4 declares that all debts incurred by the Confederacy are “illegal and void”. Section 5 states that Congress has the power to enact legislation to enforce this amendment.

This Amendment was used by Congress and the Grant administration to not only smash the first iteration of the Klan, but also to allow the election of hundreds of Black local, state, and federal officials from the South, including Congressmen and Senators, replacing those racist white ex-Confederate officials.

Unfortunately, particularly after the Great Panic of 1873, the reformers within the capitalist class lost their clout, and with the racist “Compromise” of 1876, the northern and southern capitalists came to terms, Union troops were pulled out of the South, and the Southern ruling class was able to impose its horrible Jim Crow regime. But the 14th Amendment is still on the books. And it  has been used to advance Civil Rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and more.

The timidity of the Democrats and the right of workers and the oppressed to have justice.

It is clear that the Democratic Party leadership will acquiesce to the acquittal of Trump, and the Biden spirit of “bipartisanship” will prevail with the racist, Trumpist Republican Senators and Congressmen who acted to overturn the votes of 81 million people, in support of a violent fascist neo-Klan insurrection openly designed to do just that.

Why is that? It is because they are too afraid to offend the section of the billionaire class that supports Trump, as well as the other members of that class that opposes Trump because he has created massive disorder in the midst of the pandemic, yet want to keep the growing fascists militias in their “back pocket” in the face of the powerful Black Lives Matter movement that is challenging the power of their racist murderous police.

But there is a pathway for the workers and oppressed to decapitate the leadership of this right-wing turn. Whatever the outcome of the impeachment trial, we can demand Congress enact legislation under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment that:

Declares the violent attack on January 6th an insurrection with the proclaimed purpose to disenfranchise voters in several key states.

Using Section 2 to declare unlawful Trump and the Congressional Trumpists attempt to disenfranchise the voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin

Using Section 3 to declare that Trump can never hold public office again, and

Using that same section, to declare that all Representatives and Senators who voted to overturn the electoral college results after the insurrection were in fact declaring that they were engaged in that insurrection, and thus must be removed from their seats and never be permitted to hold public office again.

There can be no compromise, no “bipartisanship”, with any of these Trumpists, since as the Amendment says, they violated their oath to the Constitution and defacto supported this white supremacist insurrection, the most serious since the Civil War. Such legislation would only require a majority vote in each house. Even the threat of passage could have a profound effect.

These neo-Klan militias and their representatives in Congress are a threat to all working people, particularly at a time when nearly 450,000 people have lost their lives to the Covid-19 disease, millions have lost their jobs, millions are threatened with foreclosures and evictions, all while 660 billionaires are stashing trillions in their vaults from their Wall Street stock speculations.

We have a right to use every tool at our disposal, even legal demands, to defeat these threats to our welfare and that of our families.