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(en) US, Stop Character Assassination and sectarianism in the APOC movement

From Lorenzo Ervin <komboa@hotmail.com>
Date Wed, 1 Oct 2003 22:14:13 +0200 (CEST)


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STOP CHARACTER ASSASSINATION AND SECTARIANISM
IN THE ANARCHIST PEOPLE OF COLOR MOVEMENT
by the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers (BANCO)
In November, 2002, the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers
(BANCO) put out the call for an Anarchist People of Color Conference. (BANCO
is an African-American anarchist collective currently based in Michigan.) We
called for unity and mutual aid in the creation of a space where anarchists
and anti-authoritarian peoples of color could discuss our own issues. BANCO
did not call for the conference to organize around our exclusive political
views or to reflect our program in the Black community. If this had been
our goal, we would not have invited other anarchist peoples of color to join
with us in planning the conference; set up an e-mail list serve to make
their participation a reality; joined with other activists in Detroit and
Lansing, Michigan, to secure a site for the conference; or encouraged other
APOCs to organize for the conference in their own communities all over North
America. We have sought help from many. We have not all agreed about one
approach or another, but at least we have been willing to discuss it.

Unfortunately, a hostile, sectarian clique within the APOC movement
has opportunistically divided us on personal and political grounds before
we arrive at Wayne State University in Detroit, where the conference will be
held October 3-5, 2003. This clique seeks to sabotage the conference because
of their political differences with Brother Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, who, on
behalf of BANCO, issued the call for the conference.

The Character Assassination of Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

In recent weeks, these sectarian elements, whose most vocal members
include Brother Ernesto Aguilar and Sister Heather Ajani, have launched an
orchestrated campaign of character assassination against Lorenzo Komboa
Ervin, who, with Brother Damon McGee, co-founded BANCO in 1998. Ernesto,
Heather and their supporters claim that Lorenzo has been ?making decisions
on his own?; ?mistreating comrades who disagree with him?; and ?forcing his
views on others.?

The sectarian APOC forces have falsely accused Lorenzo of making
?autocratic? decisions without consulting the members of the conference list
serve. Numerous times Lorenzo asked people for their opinions on issues
concerning the APOC Conference and asked for volunteers to handle different
tasks. Many times, *no one* responded to his requests for help. When it
became necessary to move planning of the conference forward, Lorenzo did
what was necessary. Weeks or months later, after the fact, and strictly to
serve a sectarian agenda, some people have decided to object. They provide
no real evidence of their baseless charges. On behalf of BANCO, Lorenzo
issued the initial call for the conference; recruited the initial
volunteers; and started the conference e-mail list. Major decisions about
the conference have been made by members of the e-mail list serve and at
group meetings of the Michigan host committee in Detroit. Lorenzo is not the
moderator of the conference. He does not plan to seek or hold a position in
any APOC movement which may come out of the conference, either as a member
or a ?leader.? Like all APOCs, he deserves to be treated with respect by
those activists who are involved in creating a new APOC movement or
organization.

To add injury to insult, in an attempt to separate Lorenzo from the
BANCO collective, these critics insist that their criticisms are directed at
Lorenzo, not at BANCO. Lorenzo cannot be singled out and separated from
BANCO. We will not be taken in by that. An attack on one member of the BANCO
collective is an attack on the entire collective!

Lorenzo?s Contributions to the U.S. Anarchist Movement

Lorenzo has over thirty years of experience and involvement with the
U.S. anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement--experience which has
tremendously benefited BANCO?s work. Lorenzo was first introduced to
anti-authoritarianism by Martin Sostre, a Black Puerto Rican anarchist, whom
Lorenzo met in a New York jail in 1969 after Lorenzo was arrested and
returned from Europe for hijacking a plane to Cuba and kidnapping the crew
and passengers. He was convicted of air piracy and held as a political
prisoner from 1969 to 1983, serving two life sentences in federal prison.
While in prison, Lorenzo wrote the first edition of Anarchism and the Black
Revolution in 1973. This book, the first one written by an anarchist of
color in the United States, popularized the politics and ideology of
anarchism and related them to the U.S. Black liberation struggle. In 1993,
Lorenzo published the second edition of Anarchism and the Black Revolution.
To this day, it remains the only book about anarchism and anti-authoritarian
politics written by an American POC.

Until recent years, Lorenzo was often the only person of color at U.S.
anarchist meetings and conferences. Numerous times, he has been falsely
accused by many white anarchists of being a ?nationalist? when he raised the
issue of the right of peoples of color to have autonomy within the anarchist
movement. Frustrated with the refusal of the predominantly white U.S.
anarchist movement to seriously deal with racism within its ranks, Lorenzo
left the movement for a time. He eventually returned, however, because of
his belief that anti-authoritarianism remains the best method for peoples of
color to win their liberation.

We have briefly summarized Lorenzo?s history and contributions as a POC
in the U.S. anarchist movement to set the record straight about his long
period of service to the movement?a record that deserves respect. We do not
claim that he is ?better? or ?superior? to other APOCs. He is certainly not
an ?unaccountable leader,? as his critics falsely charge.

Sectarian Politics

In July, 2003, Ernesto Aguilar and Heather Ajani submitted a proposal
for an Anarchist People of Color Network to be created at the conference.
However, they have refused to discuss their proposal before all the
conference participants at the plenary session. Instead, discussion of the
proposal for an APOC Network will take place in a workshop. Because all the
conference workshops will be held simultaneously, everyone will not be able
to attend this workshop. Ernesto and Heather have made the argument that
because fewer than a dozen people who pre-registered for the conference
indicated that they were interested in building an APOC organization, such
proposals should not be discussed at the plenary session. In addition to the
fact that everyone who will attend the conference will probably not
pre-register, those who did pre-register might change their minds about
forming an organization if presented with proposals. They need to at least
be given a chance to hear and discuss the proposals for forming an
organization and make up their own minds.

BANCO has tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Ernesto and Heather to
present their proposal at the plenary session. Now, we are making the matter
public, and asking conference participants to raise the issue with them. We
want to be clear: BANCO does not object to discussion of the proposal for an
APOC Network, but we do object to the way this proposal will be
discussed?in a workshop rather than at the plenary session. Anyone who
attends the conference has the right to present a proposal, especially
proposals for the creation of an APOC organization.

What is ironic is that it was Ernesto?s idea that proposals for forming
an APOC organization should be discussed at a plenary session! His
suggestion was included in a Feb. 24, 2003, proposal to members of the APOC
Conference e-mail list serve regarding the overall structure and format of
the conference. Ernesto?s proposal was approved, with 10 voting in favor of
it, one voting against it, and 19 abstaining. A few weeks ago, as part of an
attempt by some of the sectarian APOC forces to prevent BANCO from
presenting our Draft Proposal for Building An Anarchist People of Color
United Front at the plenary session, Ernesto began insisting that a decision
to hold a plenary was never made. He asked Lorenzo, the administrator of the
APOC Conference list serve, to produce records showing that there had been a
vote on this matter. Lorenzo re-posted the results of the vote, which
verified that Ernesto?s proposal had been approved by a majority of the list
serve members who chose to vote. Then, Heather objected that because 19
people abstained from voting on Ernesto?s proposal, the vote was
?undemocratic.? If people choose to abstain from voting on an issue, that is
their right. No one can make them vote or punish them for their refusal. Not
until BANCO challenged Ernesto and Heather to discuss their proposal for an
APOC Network at the plenary session, not in a workshop, did they object to
the plenary session?six months after it had been approved in a democratic
vote.

On September 26, a week before the conference is to start, Brother
Shemon Salam, a member of Students Movement for Justice at Wayne State
University, the group that is co-sponsoring the APOC conference with BANCO
and is coordinating the logistics for the conference, said in an e-mail to
the conference list serve that people had ?reservations? about the BANCO
proposal for an APOC United Front being discussed in the plenary. Shemon
suggested that a vote be taken at the plenary on whether people wanted to
even hear BANCO?s proposal .

In e-mails posted to the conference list serve, Lorenzo objected to
Shemon?s proposal. Lorenzo pointed out that it was undemocratic to treat
BANCO?s proposal one way while the proposal for the APOC Network was being
handled in another way, in a workshop, because of the refusal of the
supporters of the network to present their proposal at the plenary. After
Lorenzo?s objections, Shemon apologized to members of the list serve, saying
that his suggestion ?had no official bearing whatsoever. It was my own
opinion.? BANCO is not so sure.

We repeat again: BANCO is not pressuring people who attend the
conference to vote on our proposal for a United Front. From the start we
have said that we want conference participants to hear and discuss all
proposals and decide what, if any, action they want to take on the
proposals. But we will continue to protest any effort made to deny us the
right to speak at a conference that we called for!

Much has been made recently protesting critical comments that Lorenzo
made several months ago on his personal Internet blog about Black anarchist,
Brother Ashanti Alston. Lorenzo?s blog appeared in December, 2002, and
reflected his thoughts then on a personal dispute between him and Ashanti.
The comments did not appear on an e-mail list or other discussion group.
Lorenzo?s e-mail address was included on the blog, yet to this day, Ashanti
has not contacted Lorenzo directly to protest the blog. According to Heather
Ajani, at one point, ?most of the APOCs in New York were not going to attend
the conference because of Lorenzo?s blog about Ashanti.? Yet, none of these
people have contacted Lorenzo directly to criticize the blog, which was
written almost 10 months ago. Why not if they were so upset about it?
Instead, as part of the campaign to discredit Lorenzo, about three weeks
ago, Ernesto introduced the issue of Lorenzo?s blog to the conference list
serve, claiming that the comments concerned a prior discussion about the
location of the conference.

In a subsequent e-mail to the conference list serve, BANCO member
JoNina M. Abron refuted Ernesto?s bogus allegation about Lorenzo?s blog. She
explained that during a telephone conference call in November, 2002, in
which she, Lorenzo, Ashanti and several members of Ashanti?s collective in
New York discussed the conference, Ashanti objected to the date of the
conference, originally set for August, 2003. During that phone call nor at
any other time, did Ashanti tell Lorenzo that he (Ashanti) objected to the
location of the conference.

BANCO had not intended at first to submit a proposal for an APOC
organization; we considered supporting whatever other proposal came forward,
even that supported by Heather and Ernesto. However, since there was only
this one proposal, the proposal for an APOC Network, we submitted our Draft
Proposal for An APOC United Front. We did so because we believe it is
harmful to have only one proposal for such an important issue as creating
an APOC group, and because we were opposed to the sectarian nature of the
campaign of those who favor an APOC Network. It is vital that all APOCs
have the opportunity to present our ideas as part of this process to build a
new movement and to democratically and honestly debate such issues. BANCO is
not trying to prevent the workshop on forming an APOC Network from being
held. What we are saying is that if a workshop is held, it should be held
after the proposal is presented at the plenary session, not because we say
so, but because it was something that even Ernesto agreed to. It?s clear
that his word means nothing however.

Uphold the Principles of Anarchism

Where does the APOC movement go after the conference is over? How do we
build an autonomous POC movement? This is an issue that concerns all APOCs.
It should not be decided during a workshop, which fewer conference delegates
can attend. This is not the anarchist way of doing things. Indeed, this
method rivals the worst excesses of Trotskyism or other Marxist tendencies.
Many left-wing groups are notorious for ideological splits and political
factions, but even these communists understand the importance of fully
debating all issues at a party congress or other mass meetings, and then
making decisions. Anarchism represents a form of ultra-democracy, so we can
do no less. It would be dishonest and hypocritical to allow a minority to
decide the direction of the APOC movement. If we accept this way of doing
things, we totally betray our principles.

BANCO does not claim to be the only ones with good ideas. We want to
talk to others. But if we do it in a sectarian fashion, we will witness the
mere creation of two or three hostile, mutually exclusive political circles
being created in the APOC movement, and repeat the sectarianism of the
general anarchist scene. This may yet happen, but we want to call for unity
first, and then attempt to debate our political differences. BANCO calls for
an end to political sectarianism and slander in the APOC movement.


Prepared by JoNina M. Abron, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, Damon McGee, and Munyiga
Nosakahere. BANCO, P.O. Box 19962, Kalamazoo, MI 49019, e-mail
banco_midwest@juno.com.


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