TRUE HATE MESSAGE TO HARLEM
written by Sis. Marpessa Kupendua
Afrikan.net News Service
A young woman sang and played "Young, Gifted and Black" at the keyboard during this afternoon's spiritual service, but today this message of pride brought tears and a deep ache as I heard it.
"Why this reaction," I quizzed myself, and in the next instant my consciousness filled with yesterday's vision of an 8 year old black girl-child dressed beautifully and meticulously in white, singing the very same song in her sweet, clear, young voice, as snipers poised to shoot on rooftops across the Harlem street, training their weapons at the girl and her audience. The day was September 5, 1998, Harlem, New York: I witnessed the attack on the Million Youth March.
New York's finest greeted the parking query of the Philadelphia bus driver with a curt "Park at Yankees Stadium and swim over!" Yankees Stadium? Isn't that in the Bronx? We chose 116th Street instead, and began making our way to Malcolm X Blvd. The closer we got, the stronger the police presence was, a total exceeding 7,000 men/women in blue by their own count.
It was immediately apparent that our movements were being restricted in a severe, discomforting way, with barricades popping up at every turn, processing us like objects on a conveyor belt, all forced to move in one direction on one street only. Once reaching the Blvd. the barricades' dual purpose became evident, as once "X" number of people congregated at a certain spot, barricades were pushed around them, enclosing them before they could realize what was happening. Most of the MYM was restricted to one side of the street only, as traffic continued to proceed and prospective attendees who ended up at the wrong end of the maze of barricades were trapped and not permitted to enter the Blvd. at all once the six block limit had been reached.
Over 15,000 people pushed to the sides of the street with barricades running column-like behind the stage. One Sista in the crowd described it afterwards:
"Our people were penned like hogs, herded through blockades and narrow passages like cattle, a great many of us were kept from getting to the rally site. This was done as a way of tearing apart our family, like they did during slavery. Then they spied on us from the roofs of our own homes."It was nerve-wrackingly obvious that we were not going to be able to congregate together and mingle as we were prepared and hyped to do, as we had done during the Million Man and Million Woman marches. We were to be prevented from gathering as one unit BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, and were segmented off into easy targets. What was the masterplan? Were they there to mow us down like the Sharpesville Massacre, an African attendee wondered, as we became aware of the hundreds of police sharp-shooters on the rooftops of every surrounding building, including Sojourner Truth School and even at the projects a good block away. Weapons were trained at us, at our children. Was this going to be a buck-wild Nazi hunting orgy? We were literally trapped, with no place to go, all of us a trigger finger away.
The Harlem Welcoming Committee struggled to weave through the crowd and give attendees "Community Safety Tips for those attending the Million Youth March" sheets. The flyer listed general tips (Have a picture I.D., don't carry weapons - real or fake!, don't bring alcohol, illegal drugs, leave babies and toddlers at home, and avoid confrontations). There was also a section on "Tips if Stopped by the Police" which included not running from the police, no matter the reason, keep your hands where the police can see them, don't touch any police officer and do not RESIST if you're innocent, remember all police badges, names and patrol car numbers, don't get in the way or obstruct justice, make sure you ask for MEDICAL ATTENTION if you are hurt while in police custody, and if you feel that YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED there will be a team of legal observers to help you. A listing of safety resources made up of 14 churches and an emergency public safety command center (Office of Sen. David Patterson) completed the form.
Finally, the stage came alive and the program commenced with spiritual offerings from several faiths. Emcee Bro. Malik Zulu Shabazz warmly welcomed the young people and praised Malcolm X, Min. Louis Farrakhan, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth and called for Black love to Black people.
He spoke on the hell they had been put through bringing the MYM to Harlem. "There is a conspiracy to drive blacks away from Harlem," Bro. Shabazz stated, continuing by discussing how black street vendors were being attacked throughout the country, how the CIA brings dope into our communities and that as we attempt to gather together our young people today, here we are facing barricades, thousands of police, snipers, trucks, trailers and undercover police in HARLEM, *our* Black Mecca.
He talked about how the police were afraid of our young people and wanted to wipe this generation off the face of the earth and that this generation of youth are our most powerful, which is why police brutality is out of control. Guiliani and his fascist cops are out of control and Black men are an endangered species. He strongly encouraged youth to graduate from their schools and become responsible mothers and fathers to their children. He told them that they are playing right into the Pharaoh's (U.S. Gov't/Clinton) hands and must end the divisions and the killings.
The first speaker, a young brother from the Boys Choir of Harlem, proclaimed that "The 'X' in 'Generation X' has no meaning, as X = 0," but encouraged his peers to make 'X' represent the new millennium, the day when they will be the new leaders, and to begin their future now, make tomorrow's history today, that they must change the way they treat their mothers and fathers, and that mothers and fathers have to change the way they treat their daughters and sons.
Speakers such as this young man continued the theme of strongly discouraging the divisions and separations between us, such as Crips vs. Bloods, and urged us to all become one, "You are God! Be proud and fight back. Black Power!", the first of numerous Black Power salutes throughout the day.
Dr. Phile Chinesu, organizer of the Million Woman March, was followed by the illustrious Dr. Ben Jochannan, who stated "I've always felt as though I'm not from anyplace in Africa or America. Looking into your young faces makes me know I am at home today. Use your talents and knowledge to help uplift your people."
A speaker from Baltimore (referred to as "Tubman City") spoke strongly on the need to save Afrikan and Latino/a children from being murdered and miseducated. Another Sis., a Queen Mother, spoke on the need for young Sistas to be warriors like Winnie Mandela of South Africa, reminding them that they come from the mother of civilization. Bro. Sutton then reassured young folks that they needn't feel left out if they didn't have on dashikis, that the Million Youth March was for every one of them. He admonished youth to not throw trash in their neighborhoods or beat up on their "girls." He said they needed to be righteous, not ruffnecks.
Then he educated them that "If you see your brother pulled over by the police, don't just keep going. Stop, stay there and challenge them. We can't and won't allow the police to hurt and disrespect us any more."
A young speaker from the West Coast said how Blacks should have burned that M.F. down for what those sick police did to Abner Louima, and called for an end to the artificial divisions of East Coast vs. West Coast.
Some of the speakers spoke on Political Prisoners and POWs and strong brothas such as former PP Abdul Haqq graced the stage. Prof. Leonard Jeffries and Rev. I. Barashango declared that we had not come this far on our journey to allow our self-destruction to take place, and that we need to be serious. Rebel cop Delacey Davis walked along the side of the stage. The speakers also urged the attendees to become as serious as Jewish people in our demand for "full and complete reparations, including land." Bro. Khalifah of N'COBRA further fleshed out the demand for reparations.
Khallid Muhammad's strong young son eloquently spoke on how it was time for Black youth to become independent of white men now while they're still young. Rev. Al Sharpton and Bro. Moses Hawkins spoke on the need for unity and that we can't let this generation be lost to death, drugs and jail. Bro. Elombe Brath brought a message of support from Bro. Kwame Toure and warned the youth to be alert and aware of the police, especially at their schools. Young Bro. Curtis and Sis. Charmaine of California informed the audience that 26 more prisons were being built in California and that war has been declared on the young Blacks in 0order to fill them.
Another young brother displayed a black t-shirt on stage with a middle finger sticking up on the front and "F---Racism" emblazoned on the back. A Native woman and Chief in full cultural garb righteously declared that they were sick and tired of bits and pieces of this land and that they want "all their land," and pointed out how we couldn't even stand on the piece of land that we were standing on there and then without being threatened by police. Chief Ernie then stated that too many people suffer from constipation of the mind and diarrhea of the mouth, calling for an end to that nonsense and a building of a new unity between us by chanting, "Red and Black Power!".
The young people were truly at their finest on this day, speakers and attendees alike. Spinderella of "Salt 'N Peppa" was pointed out from the stage, and rapper Master P was recognized as having selflessly donated the $145,000 ransom that was being demanded by city officials in order to hold the MYM. The rappers Dead Presidents led a black power chant.
All of them exhibited a bravery and character that I cannot even begin to describe, I truly bursted with pride for the youth on that day, and if you did not see them in Harlem then take it from me, they were beautiful, well-spoken, outstanding, fiery and militant. Adults carried signs saying "WE LOVE OUR YOUTH" and the young folks just beamed and shined with a deep-down pride that was wonderfully evident, certainly not seen often enough by this writer.
The Five-Percent Nation represented strong as young brothers in yellow t-shirts expressed unity with the Million Youth March from the stage. Ras McPherson of the Rastafarian Brotherhood outlined the InterRasta Agenda, which included the liberation of Ethiopia and reparations with repatriation for Africans through out the diaspora. A Sista representing the All African People's Revolutionary Party spoke strongly and firmly to the youth, educating them and encouraging them.
One Sista called for a Black general strike in protest of this system's continued oppression of our people on November 11, young and old, with no shopping, school or work on that day.
All of the speakers mentioned the police. Their presence was so strongly forced upon us that there was no one, prepared statement or not, that stepped up to the mic failed to speak on the fact that we all were in what had quickly become an armed encampment. It was suffocating. One black female "Community Affairs" officer remarked that "This wouldn't be happening if Black people would have voted and re-elected Dinkins. Then Dinkins would still be in office and we wouldn't have gotten these kinds of orders. I'm just following the orders I was given."
I did not have a watch on and didn't realize that it was near 4:00, and walked through a narrow little corridor behind the stage to get a drink. From there I could see the police MASSING in the middle of the street, at least 10 abreast with batons, guns and riot helmets on. Each had 20-25 plastic handcuffs on their belts and army-looking green canteen-like pouches they were carrying that had wording which included "CHEMICAL and BIOLOGICAL." Some of the police had badges which didn't just say "NYPD" but said "NYPTF" (NY Police Task Force - like "swat team"). One witness stated that a black male cop approached two female black "Community Affairs" officers (dozens of black women were among those wearing these smocks out there that day) at about 3:55 p.m. and said "Let's go" with a head nod towards the crew that was lining up behind the stage to charge at 4:01. Some of the police officers were wearing earplugs, which some observers question.
Suddenly, the helicopters that had been circling all day began to buzz the crowd, flying down so low that everyone took notice of it and pointed at them. The police blue line began moving quickly down the middle of the street towards the back of the stage, walking right into the people in the street. Those who didn't allow themselves to be pushed back were jabbed in the ribs/stomach with their batons, and a couple of bros. reported being kicked in the groin. The police continued advancing on that stage until the entire block was full of them and hundreds were behind them around the corner.
These police officers began massing down the street from the stage BEFORE KHALLID MUHAMMAD EVER BEGAN TO SPEAK. A group of police split off and began advancing towards 118th St. and another group of police rushed the back of the stage, just in the blink of an eye Khallid Muhammad announced that women and children must leave the stage area immediately and just as they fled, the police came roaring up the steps of the back of the stage, throwing people out of the way and ripping through there like a pack of hungry wolves, it was an incredible sight to see.
The police yanked the power from the sound system and shoved people around and the police helicopters were diving up and down and circling like crazy. Soon chairs and huge pieces of materials from the stage were flying through the back of the stage at the police, and some attendees began throwing rocks and bottles at the helicopters.
Witnesses saw at least one black man being carried from the stage by police and one police officer was carried away on a stretcher. The ambulances came up 118th St. where the police opened the barricades just enough to let them through, then quickly snapped them back shut. Some people were screaming and it wasn't clear where the screams were coming from, one baby was knocked from its stroller as the line of blue rushed hundreds of barricades into tight positions, yelling "GO THE F--- HOME!," moving on us robotically, pushing the barricades further and further back. Bro. Malik Zulu Shabazz exited the back of the stage speaking loudly into a bullhorn, but I couldn't make out his words. Another witness reported that at least one of the brothers on the stage had been maced.
The Harlem Welcoming Committee embraced angry attendees and said "It's not worth it, today is not the day, please go into the churches," but a cadre of Sistas and a few Brothas stood our ground at 118th Street (I'm sure there were similar scenes being played out on streets throughout the area).
"You are the intruders, this is my home and I will not move," one Sista said tearfully whose home was in the area, as she sat on the lower edge of one of the barricades. That scene will stay with me the rest of my life.
Family members and news watchers at home during the MYM News were fed Headline News reports that the MYM was over at 4:00 and that other than a few scuffles, everything was kept in check by the police. But by 4:30, reporters told audiences that police moved in quickly on the "demonstrators" to "disperse" the rally, excerpted some of their mayor's comments, and quickly edited inflammatory excerpts such as "take those barricades and ram it up those bleep bleep behinds" by Khallid Muhammad and used them as proof of the need for the melee to occur. They also reran old extremely controversial statements of Khallid Muhammad's regarding white people, gays, jewish people, etc. Later still, every report showed those same speech excerpts as audiences viewed on television, oblivious to the fact that behind that stage at that very moment when Khallid was filmed making those remarks, he was watching the attendees being moved on as well as folks fighting to try and keep the police away from the stage. Thus, the viewer/listener was given the impression that Khallid Muhammad was just "spouting hateful rhetoric" with no knowledge that Khallid had seconds before urged people who were scared to leave the area and called for the clearing of women and children from the stage. That is the sequence of events that I and many others observed.
Today (Sept. 6) it was reported that the NYPD is planning to bring charges against Khallid Muhammad for "Inciting to riot." NY Police Commissioner Safir watched the rally on a TV hook-up and was quoted saying that it was obvious to him that the police had to go in, but could not satisfactorily explain that remark. "Nothing like this happened at the Million Man March or the Million Woman March," said one observer, "Why our children? I know why - to put the fear of the 'mob' into our future leaders."
One Sista in Harlem said today, "My heart is still heavy, my consciousness aches for satisfaction, and my sense of right and wrong are all upside down. I must concentrate on harnessing this anger until our people find the inner strength to step forward and stay at the front. To retreat, to me, is to accept defeat! The day started out so positive, I just can't believe we let them do it again. What are we, as a whole, afraid of?"
>A FEW TALKING POINTS:Many stories will be reported on the day's events and mine is based on my own eyewitness accounts and discussions that I've held with other attendees since. Many will question the judgement of the MYM organizers in choosing NYC as the place for the rally, knowing the hostility, racism and depravity of the NYPD and the heated exchanges between the city and organizers prior to the rally, particularly with vulnerable young people as the target audience and the target for the police. Questions will linger as to what the city's "final solution" for this march was. Were we all just a firecracker noise away from being mowed down? What were the orders that were given, did they include the slaughter of black children? Who authorized what, and when?
The Struggle Continues.
by Sis. Marpessa Kupendua
[home] [chat] [conferencing] [updates] [what it is]
[politics] [contests] [opinion] [links/photos] [media]