(en) Interview with a member of Black Autonomy

Martin Howard (Martin.howard@qnet.org.uk)
Wed, 26 Nov 1997 22:46:55 -0800

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The following is from Black flag issue 212. It is an interview with a member of Black Autonomy from Atlanta who visited London during the summer. A hard copy of BF can be obtained from BM Hurricane, London WC1N 3XX or via AK Distro.

Recently, we met a member of Black Autonomy visiting London. Sister Nora is a student in Atlanta. We began by asking about the lockdown of poor black communities that occurred during the 96 Olympics in Atlanta. Nora: During the Olympics, thousands of homeless people were evacuated out of the city, and loads more arrested for no good reason, some spending months in jail. The police were everywhere, though people in Atlanta are used to seeing them as Georgia is a police state. Most working class people had jobs, but many in the African American community set up venues in a historic part of town. The police and city council conspired to direct traffic away from them, and many were ruined.

BF: Were there any protests during the Olympics? Nora: There was no protesting or boycotting - the police stopped it all, using anti-terrorism laws. The city returned to normal after the Olympics, but they beefed up police security, with lots of roadblocks. People in Atlanta think this is normal, they are used to it. The police are very brutal. In 1995 they killed Brother Jerry Jackson, shot him dead in cold blood. The officer who did that hasn't even been prosecuted or brought to trial. In August 1996, Sister Olabumi Chavious was brutalised by police after someone jumped into her taxi. The police officer involved slammed her face into the pavement and refused to call a doctor despite the pleas of witnesses. Police harassment is constant. There is little done to counter it, old organisations like the NAACP have a lot of meetings, banquets and so on, but they don't DO anything. The situation for poor people is one of high rents, high gas and electric, high reconnection fees if you're cut off.

BF: What sort of opposition is there to this? Nora: There's very little, none really. The middle class are very afraid of the poor working class, and the poor are caught up in materialism. Many can't read, do math, and are so called third generation welfare. No one on the campuses is working with the poor, the only community oriented organisations are very middle class. In many places the police run the communities. One particular squad, the "Red Dogs" run the drugs industry. The projects are very bad, in one a baby choked on a cockroach and died. the ghettos are starved of resources, and this is in a black run city. At my school there was no heating, and I ended up going to a white high school. The Atlanta education system is one of the worst in America.

BF: What about police involvement in the drugs trade? Nora: They are famous for it, especially the Red Dogs who break into peoples' homes. There are some projects where it has now been proved that the government brought crack into them, because certainly no one there could afford it. Most police are black, the whites tend to live in the suburbs. The biggest problem is the lack of education, the leftist organisations are afraid of the black working class themselves.

BF: What about the Nation of Islam and their drug programmes? Nora: The NOI is very strong in Atlanta, and Farrakhan is a demigod to them, though they don't do anything political here. The Million Man March was well organised by the NOI but nothing came from it. Their next plan is the Million Woman March, out of Philly. The Communist Youth Brigade are active on campuses but won't touch the black working class. The NOI fill the vacuum that ought to be filled by leftist organisations with things like the breakfast programmes and drugs work. With the NOI, this tends to be individuals do this work, and the Nation rallies round, though some Ministers have been expelled where they did a lot of work with the working class. It is a good escapist organisation for people without self-discipline.

BF: Is there a way out of it? Nora: It needs education, the kids feel there's something wrong but don't know what. There are various organisations which do literacy programmes but they don't address where people are coming from. A lot of the kids don't feel they can do anything for themselves, and there are a lot of measures against them, like curfews.

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