A Ghetto in Crown Heights
The Crown Heights Ghetto after dark has weird Voodoo, Ju-doo, I-do and you do. No one knows! You feel me? At the ugly six story brick row house 256 Schenectady a very well attended meeting is happening in the basement fall out shelter. The room is jam-packed. Church goers as well as Yardies. People are sitting on the floor, on the tables, people are out in the hall craning their necks. Many of the apartment blocks on Schenectady Ave have concrete inner court yards, have multiple means to get in and out without keys, lot of places to run and evade the police. The followers of the Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson and the Chabad Movement congregate near Kingston Avenue and the large Afro-Caribbean community stays more toward Uttica Avenue. But, for the most part the Noires and Ivory live right on top of each other. They for the most part ignore each other. With the exception of a bloody three day riot in 1991 this is virtually the only neighborhood where two completely different people share a ghetto. But in the bunker basement here, not a white face in sight. They are all pressing closer to hear the words of the man that so many people had been talking about. The basement of the apartment block fallout shelter has a maximum occupancy of a hundred and fifty people. Nearly three hundred had filtered in, a hundred more are waiting upstairs. Most people had just gotten off work, some neighborhood kids, boys off the block, had dropped by to see what all the commotion was about. They heard this man was “gonna tell it like it is and how it could be”. Lay it down for them in words they could understand. The harsh white neon lighting grid in the basement flickered its blinding light. Suddenly there was a real hush. Three men dressed in baggy black fatigues pushed forward through the masses. One of the men put his hand up in the hair, a call for silence. For some people in the ghetto there was religion, for others some little hustle, for a tiny talented tent make music or athletics for the whites. But lately for the struggling Jamaican, Ayitian and West Indian diaspora lower classes there were the motivational words of the movement man. The healer Mickhi Dbrisk.
“You know what the trouble is these days?” he begins.
“We work ourselves to death at the door step of incredible plenty. As we starve spiritually, we are paid scraps for thankless toil divested of meaning. We fight amongst ourselves constantly. We embrace another civilization’s G-ds and we sing to hymns to white man on a cross. We work more, we hustle more, and we get sucked into criminality, negativity and vice. They lock up one in eight of our young men, they break up our families and they use as their slaves. We always lose, and the white man never relinquishes his hold on the thinly veiled apartheid, white racist power structure. My name is Mickhi Dbrisk and I am here to tell you brothers and sisters not just how it is, but also how it could be.”
Every voice dies down to hear what he would go on to describe.
“The Blan says we need schooling. That we are descendants from savages. But not a single one of our ghetto schools is well funded or functionally intact. So we try go to strive our way to college, but the majority of the colleges where actual opportunity is found are not even open to us.”
“The Blan says get jobs! So we go try to get one. But most of the jobs we have to take are the jobs they don’t want, the only jobs open for us. Menial slave jobs”
“The Blan says you ain’t a slave anymore! That you can get some, equal opportunity, but as we all know. They on some real bullshit. Equality is propaganda. We are willingly participating in a bondage system that get more work out of us than chattel slavery ever did!”
“Now, I ain’t some redundant brother. Here me now. Do not. Do not I repeat blame the Blan for all your problems. The white man doesn’t want to hear it, can’t hear it, so it won’t do no good for the community. Ya see, lots of brothers out there will tell you that blame needs to be cast everywhere but here. They say “Buy Noire!”. They say “Go Muslim”. They tell you “Neg Lives Matter.” Hell, I say it to, our lives definitively do matter. But it is the language behind the diction that’s important.” The cops can kill us in the streets. They can humiliate us and strip our rights in the court rooms. They can lock up entire generations and take away our votes systematically. The time for resistance was before they took us out of Afrika actually, but the solution now is not needles confrontation and protests we never stand to win. We must focus ourselves on control of our own development and intuitions! Like out Ivoryish brothers and sisters right upstairs do.”
Some of the youth began to leave.
“Hold the hell up,” said Mickhi Dbrisk.
“You wanna go play gangsta, you’ll end up in a damn coffin. You wanna be a man. Hold the fuck up. Let’s drop this glorified criminal shit today and we’ll teach you how to fight with mathematics, with science with economics and with some strategy.”
A few people, mostly young hoods walk out, but the people there are mostly becoming enthralled, this man Dbrisk can hold court. The Noire know a prophet when they see one. They know how fast they are cut down.
“I come before you with a simple message. We as a community have suffered the injustice of being begotten by slaves into a new modified slavery. We can’t hold onto that, but we must not ever forget it. We, the descendants of black Afrikan people are no better or worse than these white people in our hearts. But bear in mind, when I say blan, I’m not talking about the color of the skin. I mean the establishment here of a white supremacist oligarchy does not mean that all oligarchs are white, or that whiteness is anything besides a skin privilege. The men at the top, they are mostly white, but they are as diverse as the oppressed in their colors. There are many types of people and situations and circumstances dictate the state of current affairs. But learn to think about beyond class and race. So many out there will fight and die for their race or their religion. What I say is don’t get blinded by your race. White people are slaves too. Yellow people, brown people, Muslims and even the surviving Ivory tribe are all bound as slaves on in this world system. The majority of the human race 5 in 7 billions are wretched and miserable below $5 a day. We need allies for our liberation, but do not hear my words and think we plan to start a plantation razing race war. We are here to defeat the oligarchy, not just some plain devilish white man.”
There is a great pause. Every eye is on him now.
“Never forget what our system does to maintain itself,” he began again.
“Never forget that as an American, black, white, and yellow you all on that slave ship and our goal is our own ship not to burn the ship and all drown together. What oppresses one man oppresses every man, here and abroad. Our chains are not of lead but of the illusion of gold we are promised every day. It’s said in America that history has been a progression towards ever-greater freedom for humanity. “Name a better society than this one” is a common statement made to anyone who criticizes the system of modernity. But if no better system than this one has ever existed does that automatically recommend the status quo? What if, on a scale of 1 to 10, with most countries in the world currently scoring a 4, modern America is a 6 for its whites and a 3 for everyone else? What if humanity started out as driven slaves with a whip-master behind them; progressed to a stage in which they were only driven but not whipped, then to a stage in which they could stand enchained on their own? What if modern society is only one in which we all wear really shiny chains? Should we be satisfied with this state of existence? Is This Just The Way It Is? I cry incredible bull shit!” He pauses. “I am here to say, let us get free together.”
If anyone had the audacity to speak up now it was young ‘Tina Shabazz’. The latest code name for T-Bird Tall Flame Luv, skilled agitation propaganda officer for Cooperation Jackson faction of Uhuru Movement.
“So you talk a big game Mickhi, but what do we do?”
She was standing now, her trim and beautiful Nubian frame sliding out of her seat and pushing to the front of the crowd.
“We stand up and we dig deep inside ourselves and community, we marshal our resources and we prepare for autonomy, ghetto by ghetto,” he quickly retorts, “We prepare for a Breuklyn Canton based on communal self governance.”
“Like my grandpa died for?”
Tina would often claim that heavy hitter, Muslim preacher Malcolm X was her grandpa, but that was total invented bullshit. Anyone who knew her knew she didn’t even know her father’s name let alone her grandpas’. In the hood she was treated like a crazy artistic teenager. But a lot of her connections to Cooperation Jackson, a major Black Nationalist network in Mississippi made big things happen.
“Tina. Tina. Tina. Always rabble rousing, but never achieving nothing for the community.”
“What fucking community Mickhi? Harlem’s way more than half white now, in five to ten years district Bed-Stuy will be too. They completely displacing us.”
“Not if we unite and resist now,” he replies.
“You would burn down a brothers’ home before you let the white folks get it, is that it? That we must fight? You is on some shit. The only thing Brothas wanna fight fo’ is loosies and the next little big score. How you gonna rally um them? How you gonna wake up all the good striving Christians and Separatist Muslims? What does Uhuru and your Ivory allies have to offer that don’t get more young people killed like that last time we got up?”
“It’s this very attitude sister that keeps us all oppressed. Disunity and prejudices. Artificial divisions.”
“Way to be optimistic brother. It isn’t the man that keeps us oppressed, we do a good enough job oppressing ourselves. You used to be Crip, you know the cycle.”
“Have you missed every word I just said?”
“I heard you loud and fuckin’ clear Dbrisk. “RARARA. Uhuru Movement! All power to the people!” the same horseshit grandpa shouted.”
“As you will be Tina. As you will be.”
She knew he wouldn’t argue with her long. After all, it was all a front. Dbrisk and Tina Shabazz were in the same squad; the community just didn’t know it yet.
“We have room for good Christians, we have room for Bloods and Crips, and we have room for strivers, bourgeoisie Niggas and room for Muslims. We have a ten point program that will be familiar to everyone. We have clinics, schools and training camps. I am here tonight to invite everyone to enlist in the Uhuru Movement. As you may have heard on the wire there’s gonna be a show of force at the parade. We will keep everyone updated on the Fire Station, the underground press and via liaison officers.
“They are killing us man by man and isolating us in these ghettos to exploit us. If you can fight you fight, if you gotta run you run. This uprising is not black against white, we have allies among the Blan, the Muslims, the Ivory and even the Fenians,” he tells them.
“You go back to your churches and school and places of work, the snitches in the room can pass this on to the cops. We are fighting for Democratic Confederalism, for autonomy and also for our human rights. If you ain’t running’ wit it run from it.”
“Well nigga, how do me an’ my squad get in,” asks a tough young thug on the wall?” Who on his government papers was written down as Joshua Hunter.
“Well, you’ve got your gangster slouch down, now it’s time to master the revolutionary swagger.”
“We read ‘dem U.S.B. pamphlets. You write ‘tem or ‘dem Yids behind you?”
“Debuterliers, is blacker than me, blacker than you.”
“Who dat? ”
“No life without a leader, that is what they say now in both Africa and in Kurdistan.”
“Who you really working for my niggle?” Joshua Hunter asks.
“I’m working for the cause of the Prophet Emma Solomon, as explained to Avinadav Debuteliers leader of the resistance.”
“What’s all that that mean to me and the set?”
“Every single time we tried to resist alone, we were obliterated and look today at the vanquished state of all of mother Africa. So I say, you have local needs and local grievances. You have a local rep. If you rock with us, when we fight this time and we will be fighting very soon! We’re gonna be hitting the local oligarchy with the combined forces of the Ivory; with the Fenians; with the Muslim alongside the Mestizos, the Queers, the hipsters, the occupiers, the commies, the brothers, the sisters. Absolutely everybody. Fully united. When the Labor Day Rising begins, we ain’t gonna be alone. When liberation comes we are all going to get our human rights together.”
“What kind of guns you got comrade Nigga?”
“Shouldn’t use that word brother. Makes you sound stupid. Like a slave,” Dbrisk replies.