Hard Knock Radio (02-18-14) We speak w/ Kali Akuno, Special Projects and External Funding Director for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi and member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Our conversation starts off with reaction to the Michael Dunn/ Jordan Davis trial verdict and its larger implications.
We spoke with Kali about connecting the dots and looking at the larger issues connected with what seems to be an uptick in vigilante style killings of Black people at the hands of ‘scared’ white folks who than try to hide behind Stand Your Ground laws that now exists in 26 states.
Kali had unique perspective to this incident because he did organizing work in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina where there were a number vigilante killings involving mobs of white folks literally hunting Black people.
Ground zero was the Algiers section of New Orleans, but there were also disturbing incidents on the Gretna and Dezanger Bridge where Black people seeking dry ground were shot and killed. In the last couple of years we’ve seen high profile cases with the murders of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride and Jordan Davis.. A lot of this was highlighted in the documentary Katrina’s Hidden Race War and the explosive article by AC Thompson for the Nation Magazine.
In our conversation Akuno noted that many of these incidents seem to borrow from the same play book with vigilantes claiming they were frightened and felt threatened by unarmed Black people who they thought were armed. The same excuse is used by police who have been gunned down unarmed and innocent Black people.
Kali pointed out this history of fear is rooted white supremacy and the notion that the Black people who have been killed were somehow not in the ‘right place’. Their presence is deemed out of the ordinary which leads to folks becoming ‘suspicious’ and acting with malice..
We talked about ways in which people are organizing to combat this and what organizing will look like ideally as more people step up and push back.
We also asked Kali to put on his other hat as Special Projects and External Funding Director and give us some insight as to how people in his city of Jackson are organizing and protecting themselves given the sordid history of Mississippi and that it too is a Stand Your Ground state.
Kali noted that is organization has gotten a number of calls to investigate troubling incidents that have gone down in the state, primarily in rural areas. With respect to whats going on in Jackson, the Lumumba administration has been carefully laying down groundwork to enact bold, progressive initiatives that has gotten many people excited and simultaneously gotten many in power upset.
He noted that the state legislature is one of the most reactionary in the country and have put forth a bill similar to Michigan where the governor can arbitrarily appoint an Emergency Manager. Dubbed the ‘Takeover Jackson Bill‘, this would allow one individual appointed by the governor to come in and usurp the power of the Mayor, City council and other local elected officials. The Emergency Manager would have the power to set budgets, oversee the police, hire and fire administrators as they saw fit etc.
Kali noted that such moves were to be expected and that their response as an administration is not be shocked and surprised but instead apply their skill sets and years of fighting in the trenches to organize and employ strategies and counter measures of their own.
Kali noted one of the first steps is to raise awareness and make sure folks are in the loop as to whats happening. The second step is to organize folks on the ground and get them prepared for the latest attack and attempts to oppress folks..
As Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress recently noted whats taking place is that many of these new laws are being put in place with Black People being used as training ground.. Once the proverbial kinks are out they are then applied to everyone else who is deemed a threat or ‘the other’.
Far too often everyone ignores these laws when its hitting the Black community and literally sweep it under the rug until it’s too late.. That’s one hard lesson folks should’ve learned with the fight around mass surveillance. It was ignored when it was being used in the Black community for a couple of decades under the banner War on Drugs..
The Emergency Manager tactic was ignored and even justified by some who should know better when it was impacting cities like Detroit and Flint. Some rationalized that such places were run down and needed a change..Now they are directing it at Jackson, Ms toward a progressive Mayor who hasn’t even been in office 6 months.. Who will be next and how are we prepared to fight?
Later on in the show, we hear excerpts from an hear a panel discussion featuring author/scholar Rickey Vincent and members of the Black Panthers Funk band The Lumpen…William Calhoun, Clark Bailey and James Mott speak about their experiences as revolutionary rank and file members of the panthers and what led to them forming a band. They note that its important to keep in mind they were Panthers first before ‘rock stars’..