This piece was originally written [in 2015], but Saleem was enthusiastic about it being used for this project. One Hood United is a youth movement of imprisoned activists that was inspired by Hip Hop activist Jasiri X’s One Hood Movement in Pittsburgh. More information about One Hood United can be found at http://www.onehoodunited.org
One Hood United:
Ganging Up on Oppression
by Saleem/One Hood United
There’s an urgent need for the New Afrikan and other oppressed communities to develop new ways of viewing and interacting with “gangs” in our communities. Rather than look upon some of our young people as enemies that we should attack and destroy, we must be mindful that members of “gangs” are our children and grandchildren, our brothers, sisters, cousins – members of our family. We must love them unconditionally; We must protect them and work to help them along righteous paths. Rather than trying to “rid” our communities of “gangs” we should definitely try to assist them as they themselves engage in a process of transformation into community groups that aim to combat some of our real problems.
– Owusu James Yaki Sayles, Let’s Gang Up On Oppression
Baltimore, MD. The amerikkkan police state was on the ropes in Baltimore as New Afrikan (Black people born in the U.S.) youth took to the streets in a campaign of civil disobedience that forced the city to charge six “police thugs” in the brutal murder of 25 year old Freddie Gray. In an inspiring display of unity, solidarity protests by demonstrators in Ferguson, New York, Philly, Cincinnati, and Oakland let the world know that Baltimore was not rumbling alone. Let’s get it straight, it wasn’t President Obama’s speeches or retired NFL linebacker Ray Lewis’s rants that won the first phase of justice for Freddie; it was the youth and riders of Baltimore’s hoods that served notice to the state that they weren’t tolerating police abuse and murder anymore. Had the youth in Baltimore not stepped up and put the city under brick and torch, the murder of Freddie Gray by the police would have been written off as “justified” like the previous murders of unarmed New Afrikan youth in Baltimore by the police.
While the youth were bravely rumbling in the streets demanding their life and dignity be respected, another battle was being waged in the media for the narrative of Baltimore. Talking heads within the empire’s state-sponsored corporate media were attempting to one up each other in condemnation of Baltimore’s Uprising. Sadly, many mainstream Black commentators joined the chorus of condemnation. I’m not going to waste my time discussing the response of mainstream amerikkka, who instinctively believe all New Afrikan youth are criminals and thugs deserving whatever abuse the police inflict on them. The days of concerning ourselves with the opinion of racist and conservative white folks should be over, although unfortunately many New Afrikan misleaders haven’t awoken to this fact. My concern is with the “new Negro” commentators who were selling our youth out while they were putting it on the line for justice.
At a time when our youth are carrying on the mantle of civil disobedience and fighting injustice in the streets, our so-called leaders should be declaring unequivocal support for the youth. Instead, we sadly heard many of our misleaders condemn the youth for venting their righteous and justified anger at the police, and although the looting and arson were unfortunate, let’s put this picture in context. Watching the rebellion from the lens of the media, you would have thought Baltimore was being burned to the ground. The reality, according to the Baltimore police, is that there were 15 buildings put to the torch during the uprising and 144 vehicles set on fire. It should be noted that many of the buildings set on fire were businesses; no row-houses were set ablaze. A couple liquor stores were looted and burned out, along with a CVS drugstore. Again, I’m not even going to waste time lamenting the destruction of a liquor store in an impoverished and disenfranchised neighborhood. The suspicious fire that destroyed the low income senior home and received a lot of media coverage and condemnation happened miles from the epicenter and perimeter of the uprising, There were no crowds or groups of people protesting on the streets in this section of the city.
Far from being an out of control riot, the youth knew what they were doing and for the most part who they were targeting. Many of the vehicles set ablaze were either abandoned cars or police vehicles, or were positioned strategically at intersections to prevent the police from speeding through the streets in dangerous convoys, as was shown on CNN. Burning vehicles were also placed at intersections to keep marauding police out of the neighborhoods. The youth were sending a message: they didn’t want an unaccountable police presence in their territory and they could control their own neighborhoods.
Our youth are tapping into a long history of resistance, rebellion and civil disobedience within our community. The torch and fire have long been tools our youth have used to challenge injustice. The rebellions of New Afrikan communities and cities in 1919 and especially 1968 (following MLK’s Assassination) are examples of this legacy. The old slaves today who continue to lament that we’re only burning our own neighborhoods down need to study the history of our people, the people they claim to represent. During slave uprisings, our ancestors torched not only the plantation but also the “slave quarters/cabins” where they lived. The whites couldn’t understand why they would burn their own quarters out. The reason they did it is because it wasn’t theirs. They didn’t feel a part of the social contract or society at large. For the most part, it is no different today within impoverished and disenfranchised communities. Today, when we burn out and destroy the neighborhoods we are “contained” in, it is because we know we are not part of this society and have been written off.
The intelligence of men who place themselves in between our youth and battalions of riot police in lines of human chains has to be called into question, along with men who would defend liquor stores from the torch. If you are defending youth from the police then why the hell is your back to the police? If you are defending the youth, then do an ‘bout face and face down the police in a human chain. It is the youth who must be protected from disproportionate police violence – from police in body armor and riot gear who would open fire with smoke canisters, tear gas or riot batons because a protester tosses a water bottle or rock at them. Although the intentions of the men who form these human chains are well meaning, the perception they are creating is that it is the police they are protecting and it is our youth who are the problem. The media exploits this perception. We need the men and women of our communities to stand in solidarity with the youth protesters and make it clear to the police that disproportionate police violence against them will not be tolerated. We need strong men and women defending our youth and we want our leaders in the streets doing the same. Too often our youth are being led by misleaders more interested in photo-op politics instead of the actual pursuit of Self Determination, Freedom and Sovereignty. This is why when we take to the streets we are not only combating the state but also well intentioned members of our communities.
We are now entering a potential new phase in New Afrikan youth insurgency and we must be prepared for the state’s counterinsurgency campaign, which will be waged today by “New Negroes” and amerikkkan state-sponsored and corporate media outlets. We got a glimpse of the counterinsurgency campaign in the Baltimore Uprising. In the week preceding the uprising, the Baltimore Police Department sensed public opinion was going against them and put out a false report that the major street organizations – the Bloods, Crips, and BGF – had set aside their differences to target police. The police hoped to paint themselves as victims under fire from dangerous gang members to divert attention from the fundamental issue of police brutality. The diversion backfired as no police were targeted for murder by the street organizations. The street organizations didn’t take the bait.
In fact, there was a truce, according to Dr. Heber Brown, pastor of the Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, who serves as a mediator with youth organizations. However, the truce was not about targeting police; it was about halting youth violence in Baltimore. This is a city that averages five so-called “Black on Black” murders a week and over two hundred a year. Our leaders must support any truce that diminishes youth violence in our neighborhoods.
The youth organizations should be commended for observing a truce and instead of the community misleaders isolating them and condemning them they should be embracing them and legitimizing them. The youth should be commended for taking to the streets in a campaign of civil disobedience in defense of their communities. The so-called gangs have shown that they have the power and it is within their ability, not the police or state, to end the violence in our communities. The next step for the youth is to move from rebellion to revolution and to start putting programs in place that secure our own neighborhoods. Street organizations, with the assistance of credible activists, should start establishing “safe corridors” in the hoods for the people that ensure their protection from street violence – “drug free” playgrounds and streets, as well as “Cop Watch” programs. They should consider adopting the code of conduct for gang members advocated by the late Tupac Shakur (available at: http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/open-forum/9011-code-thug-life.html). They should also designate credible activists and former “gang members” as mediators for territorial disputes and personal beefs. They should have procedures in place to mobilize and take the fight into the streets to get justice in instances of police brutality and to mobilize rallies against mass incarceration and other internal threats to our neighborhoods. The youth and street organizations must become, in the words of Assata Shakur, “shields that protect our communities and spears that penetrate its enemies.” They must also know that the objective of any uprising must be control over our communities and the liberation of our territory.
The street/youth organizations in Baltimore today are walking in the example of the street organizations who came together after the 1992 LA Rebellion and built a lasting truce between the Bloods and the Crips. So-called gangs did the same thing in Watts in 1965 following the Watts Rebellion. The reason police and the state fear gang truces is because once gangs stop fighting each other and terrorizing their “hoods” they will wake up to who the real criminals are and start challenging the state for power over their own “hoods.” Huey Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, said the Party was born out of the ashes of the Watts Rebellion. The street organizations of Baltimore and other “hoods” should be encouraged to resurrect the example of the Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army from the ashes of Baltimore and to rebuild the New Afrikan Liberation Movement. Comrades within the kamps should take a lesson from the youth of Baltimore and put all set and territorial differences to the side to rebuild and contribute to a new era in New Afrikan liberation and to join the struggle in the streets. To make this a reality they should get on deck with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s Let Your Motto Be Resistance campaign to seize control of our neighborhoods (available at: https://mxgm.org/let-your-motto-be-resistance-a-handbook-on-organizing-new-afrikan-and-oppressed-communities-for-self-defense/). They should also check out The New Afrikan Community Security Protocol Mandate by Bro. Abdul Olugbala Shakur (available via [email protected]).
At the end of the day, from Ferguson to Baltimore, from Philly to Oakland, We are: One Hood United!