Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Realities of Resistance and nNationhood


                                             From The Ramparts    
                          The Realities of Resistance and Nationhood
                                             Junious Ricardo Stanton

            "Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining republic of maroons located in 'a region perhaps the size of Portugal in the hinterland of Bahia' (Braudel 1984). The Bahia - Alagoas region of Brazil is where this free African settlement was located. At its height in the early 1600s, Palmares had a population of over 30,000. By 1630, it was described by the commentators as 'the Promised Land' for escaped African slaves. King Ganga Zumba of Palmares offered emancipation for slaves entering its territories."

            The consequence of centuries of European imperialism which have caused massive death, social disruption, continuous conflict, kidnapping and forced relocation of indigenous peoples has caused numerous thinkers, idealists, activists and pioneers over the years to take the initiative to start their own society or settlements to escape the oppressive domination of Europeans. Some of the most famous were: the Quilombo dos Palmares in Brazil in 1605, the Haitian revolution, the various Maroon societies in the Caribbean, South and North America and resettlements in Africa and elsewhere. These were self-sustaining communities founded by Africans seeking relief and escape from European bondage and slavery.
            The Maroon communities varied in size, scope and effectiveness. Some were small bands of escapees, others covered larger territory and were able to fight to maintain their independence and sufficiency for decades and in the case of Haiti for centuries.  Looking at an overview of these communities, we must remember that while each was unique they held several elements in common. "Ranging from small nomadic bands to extensive settled communities of thousands of people that endured for decades, even centuries, on the fringes of the plantation economy, Maroon societies came into existence almost as soon as African slavery in the Americas did. Most of their members were African-born, as they reproduced many of the social and cultural features of their homeland in their new surroundings... Often mixing with indigenous groups and allying with their slave masters’ enemies, Maroon communities displayed tremendous resilience in the face of persistent efforts to eradicate them and horrific punishments meted out to captured runaways, which included castration, amputation of limbs, branding, garroting, and burning alive.
             The hinterlands of plantation economies throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil, North America, and elsewhere witnessed the formation of Maroon societies alongside the very introduction of slavery. In British North America and, after 1783, the United States of America, Maroon societies formed and reformed repeatedly. There is evidence for at least 50 such communities during the period 1672–1864 in the mountains, forests, and swamps from Florida to Louisiana to Virginia. Most notable among these were those in the Dismal Swamp area in the Virginia–North Carolina borderlands, where thousands of runaway slaves and their descendants survived repeated efforts to capture and subdue them. Sometimes Maroons allied with local Indians, forming mixed communities of Indians and fugitive slaves. Other times Indian individuals and polities allied with Euro-American authorities, assisting them in their eradication efforts, as occurred among the Notchee Indians in South Carolina in 1744, in Georgia in 1772, and in other places."
            African resistance to slavery was instantaneous, ongoing and sustained varying as individual acts of defiance and resistance to countless collective and organized initiatives. On the continent several African kingdoms and whole regions like Angola and Upper Guinea fought against the Europeans to defend their territories and prevent the kidnapping of their people.  Once the slave trade was established a myriad of ways to resist were employed. Revolts were common on the slave ships as many as one in ten slave ships experienced some form of organized revolt, unfortunately for the captives, rarely were they successful.
            Once on land, resistance took new forms from feigned sickness, poisoning the whites, malingering, sabotage, escape to organized open warfare. In many cases the runaways formed new settlements called Maroons. One common element within the collective resistance, escape and resettlement paradigm was the early escapees (and in the case of Haiti's slave population) unabashedly retained their African identity and cultural traditions. Deeply embedded within their African cultural identification was their will to be free or to at least hold onto some semblance of their humanity at all costs.
             " The importance of African culture – names, craftsmanship, languages, scientific knowledge, beliefs, philosophy, music and dance, was that it provided the psychological support to help the captives resist the process of enslavement.  The act of enslavement involved attempts to break the will and ignore the humanity of slaves in what was known as 'seasoning'. Obvious examples would be the use of Vodun (Voodoo) religious beliefs in the Haitian Revolution and the employment of Obeah to strengthen the Jamaican Maroons in the struggles against the British. Rebel leaders such as Nanny in Jamaica and Boukman and Mackandal in St Domingue (Haiti) were also religious or spiritual leaders. Religious beliefs should perhaps be seen as also providing the enslaved Africans a way of understanding the world and giving them simultaneously a whole belief system, a coping mechanism and a means of resistance."
            Maroon survival depended upon unity, cooperation, ingenuity, and the willingness to fight to the death to remain free. Daring initiatives varying from raiding parties, guerilla campaigns to organized open warfare against the Dutch, Spanish, French, English and Americans were recorded. These communities were self regulating and self governing; some had chiefs, others Kings while others were administered by councils. In numerous instances run-away Africans merged with indigenous peoples of Mexico, South and North America to form integrated communities of resistance to European settlement and hegemony.
            European anger at and fear of African defiance intensified the ferocity of the conflicts resulting many times in the Maroon communities being totally destroyed. But quite often the Maroons prevailed militarily, forcing the Europeans to relent and negotiate treaties and agreements with the larger maroon communities.
             Forming self-sustaining communities to escape the barbarity of European domination has been on ongoing dream/option for centuries. In the US in addition to the Maroon communities in Florida, Virginia/North Carolina, following the War Between he States and the end of Reconstruction many Blacks called Exodusters left the South to establish communities in the US Mid- West and West. "The Exodus of 1879 (also known as the Kansas Exodus and the Exoduster Movement) refers to the mass movement of African Americans from states along the Mississippi River to Kansas in the late nineteenth century, and was the first general migration of blacks following the Civil War. One of the most important figures of the Exodus was Benjamin "Pap" Singleton. To escape the Ku Klux Klan, the White League and the Jim Crow laws which continued to make them second-class citizens after Reconstruction, as many as forty thousand Exodusters left the South to settle in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado. In the 1880s, blacks bought more than 20,000 acres (81 km2) of land in Kansas, and several of the settlements made during this time (e.g. Nicodemus, Kansas, which was founded in 1877) still exist today. This sudden wave of migration came as a great surprise to many white Americans, who did not realize that black southerners were free in name only. Many blacks left the South with the belief that they were receiving free passage to Kansas, only to be stranded in St. Louis, Missouri. Black churches in St. Louis, together with Eastern philanthropists, formed the Colored Relief Board and the Kansas Freedmen's Aid Society to help those stranded in St. Louis to reach Kansas."
            Over the years Africans seeking solace from white barbarism left for Africa, Canada and Nova Scotia to free themselves from white domination. In the mid twentieth century there were calls for separation from whites. Blacks were urged to migrate to land that would be given to Blacks by the US government as a form of reparations. These demands were made over the years by Elijah Muhammad head of the Nation of Islam, The New Republic of Afrika, the Black Panther Party and others. The US government has never even replied to these demands.
            Every year attempts to get a bill to merely study the feasibility of reparations never gets discussed so it can get out of committee. In the Sixties following the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act which finally (on paper) allowed Blacks to participate in the political process, many Black activists attempted to forge a Black political party. They experienced limited success. Out of that movement came the push for Black political control in the South and in cities in the North and West where Blacks held a significant population edge. This movement has produced more Black elected officials: mayors, commissioners, judges, sheriffs, district attorneys, state and US legislators than any period in US history. Yet conditions for the vast majority of people of color in this country have not improved. In fact the financial crash of 2008 obliterated billions of Black and Brown homeownership  and real estate wealth that will not be recouped!
            "The historic significance of this momentous economic crisis is not only the overall size of this housing market impact, but also the central role played by long-standing inequitable practices and policies that have seriously limited economic opportunities and wealth building for non-white groups in this country. The subprime targeting of Blacks and Latinos within the housing market is one more recent example of such practices and policies. What Americans of all backgrounds must come to appreciate is that the current unequal impact of the crisis on Black and Latino homeowners severely threatens the future recovery of the entire national housing market, and thus, the economic health of the country. The Black and Latino experience is crucial for understanding both the origins and resolution of the current crisis in a way that establishes a prosperous middle-class based economic recovery. In essence this crisis raises the fundamental question concerning the future viability of the United States as a middle class economy in the 21st Century; one with the ability of creating, expanding and transmitting wealth not only between generations but in the context of a dramatic changing demographic transformation."
            Now the 1 % political duopoly have so rigged the game, the 99% are awakening to the stark reality we live in a banana republic, with rigged elections, rigged "justice" system and a big brother surveillance police state with ever tightening restrictions. So where do we go from here?
            The reality is most of our people are not going to emigrate back to Africa. Some  of our people have returned but the masses of our people will remain where they are for the rest of their natural lives. Some folks have returned South to reside on family heir property or for better employment opportunities.  But on a macroeconomic level we as a people have fewer banks, fewer insurance companies and businesses in our local communities than we had one hundred years ago. In the 1980's and 90's white corporations gobbled up profitable Black business to increase their bottom line and add to their profitability. 
            The AmeriKKKan empire is waging a world war under the bogus claim of "anti-terrorism". Sovereign nations around the globe are threatened, invaded and bombed, their economies undermined by bankster collusion, sanctions and currency wars. No one is safe. The New World Order threatens the planet with ecocide, war, devastation, economic peonage and demonic hegemony. Other than the South Pole where can we go that these psychopaths don't hold sway?
            Our only hope is to start wherever we are, to organize, develop strategies, plans for survival: ways to create a need based economic infrastructure so we can feed ourselves, create distribution networks so we can trade and exchange goods between communities just like other ethnics do.
            Go to your local Chinatown or to an ethnic enclave near you and look at the businesses and service providers there that look just like the people who live in that community. All too often in our communities we don't see this.
            We need to develop as Jim Clingman tells us all the time an ethnocentric approach to living in a very cliquish and clannish pluralistic society. We have to think Black and by that I mean in a righteous way, collectively beneficial, not trying to rip each other off!
            We need new dynamic leadership with a better vision for us as a people. We have to trust each other enough to get back to creating pools of capital to generate the cash to invest in projects that benefit our whole neighborhood. We have to work to use the real equity and collateral we already have in our communities (like our churches, social organizations etc) to our advantage. The times demand a new way of thinking. I certainly don't profess to have all the answers but one thing I do know is, we can learn from our history. History is an important teacher. We can learn from the Maroons, we already know what made them successful. We just have to cultivate the will and determination to modify and apply those lessons to our circumstances today.


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