POSITIVELY BLACK Junious Ricardo Stanton What Are We Celebrating? "It was a sellout. They controlled it so tight they told those Negroes what time to hit town, how to come, where to stop, what signs to carry, what songs to sing, what speech they could make and what speeches they couldn't make and then told them to get out of town by sundown. And every one of those Toms was out of town by sundown." Malcolm X's response to 1963 the march on Washington. August 28th marked the fortieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs Justice and Civil Rights. It was a March planned by Bayard Rustin and financed by money from liberal whites, with token support from organized labor. The march occurred at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum and spreading from the South to parts of the North. Two hundred fifty thousand people attended the March and heard Martin Luther King Jr. give a stirring speech which has become known as the "I Have A Dream Speech." For the major Civil Rights organizations like CORE, the Urban League and NAACP it was a monumental success, featuring an integrated crowd with support from several liberal white religious denominations and a few labor unions. However everyone wasn't armored by the March. The more militant organizations like The Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee were displeased because their members were pressured to tone down their speeches, writer and social critic James Baldwin who flew in from Paris was discouraged from speaking because the planners and money behind the March had an agenda that didn't have telling the truth or relating to the masses of black people at its core. In the African-American community assimilationist organization like the NAACP, CORE and the Urban League promoted the March and helped rally support and attendance in Washington D.C. for the event. People like Malcolm X who was the national spokesman for the Nation of Islam derided the March, it's planners and the agenda of the white liberals who footed the bills. In a speech in Detroit entitled "The Ballet or the Bullet" Malcolm called the March a sham and poked fun at the Civil Rights leaders claiming the March itself was "subsidized by white liberals and stage managed by President Kennedy." Today the Civil Rights movement is a shadow of its former self, having been ravaged by the government's counterinsurgency agenda known as COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO was designed to undermine and eliminate all vestiges of black cohesion and leadership whether it was militantly nationalist or conservatively accommodationist. They did so by infiltrating and disrupting the organizations, promoting feuds and fratricide, discrediting and slandering the leadership, framing them on bogus charges and even murder. We must ask ourselves, what are we celebrating about the March on Washington? Are we commemorating the courage and will to struggle for human dignity and black folks attempting to throw off the yoke of racial oppression and color caste? Or are we inadvertently celebrating the duplicity of the oppressors. (In pictures of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy are on hand along with King. Hoover and Kennedy were smiling knowing full well they had okayed COINTELPRO and targeted King for neutralization.) I was only 15 when the March on Washington occurred but I heard my menial working class family members talking about it around the house and we watched it on the news. I remember feeling confused seeing the signs carried by the marchers indicating support for civil rights by organized labor because in Philadelphia where I lived, organized labor was adamantly opposed to blacks joining labor unions and virulently resisted black demands for inclusion on union projects. In fact around the time of the March the local NAACP which was led by activist attorney Cecil B. Moore broke with the staid tradition of the NAACP. Moore took a grassroots direct action approach to racial discrimination much to the chagrin of the hoity-toity tea and cotilion crowd that had run the NAACP prior to Moore and Georgie Woods assuming leadership positions. They called for massive demonstrations and got grassroots folks involved. In fact the Philadelphia NAACP was the largest, most vocal and most activist chapter in the organization. However the hoity-toities hatched a scheme to divide it up and recapture the leadership. But I digress. When we make a big deal about the 1963 March on Washington are we paying homage to men like Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr and countless women like Fannie Lou Hamer who put their lives on the line to make changes in a thoroughly corrupt and criminal system? Or are we celebrating the pimping of the struggle, the success of COINTELPRO to the point most so called Civil Rights leaders today are sycophants and shills for corporate AmeriKKKa or straight up hustlers using the Civil Rights movement and the Democratic Party as a means to get over? The fascist ruling elites and their minions have made the word "liberal" anathema and so called "white progressives" are impotent and directionless. There are no white revolutionaries because few if any white folks want to fundamentally alter this system and its racial power arrangement. So where does that leave us? What is this celebration about? Does it really mean anything to us? Is that why there were so few folks in D.C. this past weekend, because deep down we see the Civil Rights movement as a sham and farce? Are we afraid of the government? Or will we wake up and realize no one can/will save us but us and mentally resist white supremacy, organize and move on the road towards self-determination and sufficiency to the point we can grow our own food and products distribute and retail them? Will we take heed to what has happened during the last forty years and start our own education, socialization and liberation programs in buildings we own or spaces we control? Or will we roll over and let the fascists win by default?