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(sup) (en) US, Senzala or Quilombo - Reflections on APOC and the fate of Black Anarchism

From Worker <a-infos-sup@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 14 Jan 2005 08:00:50 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

In years past, when the slavery of the children of
Africa was carried out by chain and whip instead of
uniforms and patrol cars, black people in Brazil had
only two places where they could be – in the Senzala
or the Quilombo. The Senzala was a small hut placed
outside the master's house, a shack in which the
slaves would stay from after sunset to before sunrise,
chained to the walls and behind locked doors. The
Senzala was their home; there they raised their
children and grew old. In secret, they practiced their
language, religion and culture away from white eyes.
The window of the senzala would always face the main
quad of the plantation where a single post could be
seen emerging from the earth's belly. The Pelourinho –
the mast in which rebellious slaves where tortured
into submission or death, whichever came first. This
was the Senzala.
But, every once in a while, a laborious and dedicated
group of slaves would defect from the generosity of
the slave master's whips and chains and senzalas, and
go into the jungle. They would run, day after night
after day after night, into the mata, deeper into the
forest; away from the treacherous Capitaes to Mato,
the black or mulatos overseers responsible for
capturing escaped slaves. In the jungle, they looked
for hope. In the jungle, they looked for freedom. In
the jungle, away from the white man, they looked for
the Quilombo.

Quilombos were city-states created in the heart of the
mata by escaped slaves. The most famous - the largest
and the one whose name was whispered in secret in the
dark by those in search of freedom - that was
Palmares. Palmares had a estimated population of
twenty to thirty thousand, structured in eleven
different villages. In Palmares, as in other Quilombos
escaped slaves held the majority. Natives and poor
whites were also accepted into the Quilombo, with and
shared the same rights and duties as anyone else.
Decisions where made by village assemblies, in which
every adult, man or woman, of every race, could (and
most would) participate.

No, Palmares was no utopia. It was no communist
society in which the decisions where as horizontal as
possible and in which all were seen as equal. Palmares
had chiefs, one for each village. The chief of the
capital, Macacos, was the king of Palmares. But this
is neither here nor now. The now is the quilombo as
opposed to the senzala.

Palmares died in flames. It fought until the last
person was dead. It had been fighting for its
sovereignty and independence for over one hundred
years. It gave its blood to defend what it cherished
most – its freedom and its self-determination.

Whatever drove the Palmarinos to fight is what I am
interested in talking about. A friend of mine said
something that struck a cord in me. He said: “People
are always talking about dying for this or that. You
gotta die for the cause if you are militant enough, if
you are really bad ass you should die for your
beliefs. But nobody asks, what are you living for? Not
dying, but living – what is your life for?”

The Palmarinos were living for something. They were
living for their freedom and their collective
autonomy. They were living for their right of
self-determination, to do away with the chains that
held them slaves in the past and to decide by
themselves the path of their life. If they died
fighting for that, they died for what they were living
for. They died the death of free people.

We now call ourselves Anarchists. We say we want the
end of all chains and the extermination of all
oppression. Yet, in the Anarchist “movement”, black
folk and other folks of color are still in the
senzala. We are still having to disguise ourselves,
call whitey “Massa” and chain ourselves to the wall.
No, don't talk about racism unless is in that very
abstract sense of
racism. While there might be nobody yelling “die,
nigger, die!*”, you can hear a very clear “shut the
***** up, nigger, just shut the ***** up.”

We pretend that racism is just a minor problem,
something that, like the Leninist State, will wither
away if we will it to. The intrinsic racist
characteristics that infect Anarchism, specially
North-American Anarchism, cannot be questioned without
one being seen as some kind of authoritarian
nationalist, or even worse, a Maoist. Red-baiting, of
all things!

Like in the real senzala, our resistance to racism
needs to be covert. It needs to be hidden and made
like it is something else. It cannot be what it needs
to be, it cannot do what needs to be done, or the
senzala would break apart and the master's house would
be set aflame. No. Like capoeira, our fight against
white supremacy inside North American anarchism needs
to disguise itself as a dance in order to become a
martial art.

And you know how the rap goes: if we talk about
empowerment we are power hungry. If we assert our
self-determination, we are authoritarian nationalists.
When we expose how white Anarchism is, elitist white
Anarchists generally come with excuses like “Hey, I
saw a black anarchist once!” or the classic, “well, we
need to outreach to communities of color.”

Let me tell you something, the reason why the masses
are not flooding to your Anarchism is exactly that one
– it is your Anarchism. It is a white, petty-bourgeois
Anarchism that cannot relate to the people. As a Black
person, I am not interested in your Anarchism. I am
not interested in individualistic, self-serving,
selfish liberation for you and your white friends.
What I care about is the liberation of my people. The
collective liberation of the children of the African
Diaspora, those that have been beaten down and treated
worse than dogs all across the world.

So, no, we are not interested in your anarchism. We
need to create our own. Understand this, if the whites
in Palmares were allies and died with the blacks and
the natives it is not because they invited the blacks
and the natives into their structure, into their
society and said unto them: “We are all equal.” It was
because the blacks and the natives created their own
structure - their own society - in which power
relations were different so that whites could not
longer by the sheer force of their privilege impose
their view of how the society should be run. To try
and integrate people of color in your society or your
movement, like there would be no culture clash and no
confrontation – it is naive, senseless and can lead
nowhere but into deception.

In the senzala of contemporary Anarchist theory and
practice, the only place for Blacks and other folks of
color is the chain in the wall or the Pelourinho. To
question the structure of this “movement”, why is it
really composed mainly of white suburban boys, is a
invitation to the Pelourinho - or to the Quilombo.

Some escaped slaves decided to create their own
Quilombo in the forest of North America, and they
called it A.P.O.C. - Anarchist People Of Color. APOC
was a necessary step on the beginning of the
self-determination of people of color inside the
movement. This self-determination we seek is to
analyze the problems of race inside and outside the
movement in our own perspective. To create our own
analysis of authority and what it means for us to be
Anarchists. What does it mean for those that have
always felt odd at an Anarchist event while looking
around and thinking are they made the wrong turn
somewhere and ended up in a white only area of
segregated Mississippi.

When an anarchist tells me about how the cops are
fascist pigs, I stop for a second and think. A lot of
times I'll of some experience in a protest against
this or that corporate meeting or something, in which
the cops tear gassed the crowd and whoop some ass and
I think, man, you got it easy. I remember in my
neighborhood in Brazil, where if you got only an
ass-whooping, you would considered yourself lucky. I
remember the day they shot my uncle dead. I remember
this one cop that used to follow me around and scare
the life out of me because I thought he was going to
cap me and there no way in hell I was approaching no
authorities to complain because then I would surely
wind up dead. I remember the police invading my
grandma's house, guns in hand, while my cousin was
still a baby and was sleeping in my aunt's bed. Even
here, in my neighborhood in East Palo Alto, you can
always hear the cops fussing around at night and you
know they are not looking for no black-bloc kid from
some protest or another. So tell me again how the cops
are fascists...

The fact is, we know oppression. We live it, we
experience it. In one form or another, one extreme or
another. We do not conceptualize it. We do not sit
down and intellectualize about pain because our people
have been hunted down and shot, and burned and beaten
and we lost the need to understand pain
philosophically when we learned it physically.

So why are the people not filling the ranks of the
Anarchist movement? What it is that prevents those
people of color that have been feeling the brunt of
police brutality, and have been living off the scraps
of what capitalism leaves behind, why have they not
joined the movement?

The answer is simple: because is not their movement.
It can never be their movement while it is being
created by and for white middle-class kids with a
Jesus complex who think they can save the world (or
the ones with Buddha complex who think they can get
wet by talking about water). You cannot hustle the
movement and you cannot hustle the people. Revolution
is not a game in which you can pretend to listen to
the voice of the people of color only when is
convenient and shut them off when they start
questioning your privilege.

APOC, as any revolutionary step, spurned an immediate
reaction, a counter-revolutionary step. The amount of
voices in the Anarchist “movement” that have been
raised to criticize, put down or, in any other form,
discredit APOC (most, if not all of them, white, by
the way) have been, if small, consistent and bold. To
incur and cite these criticisms is irrelevant to
today's discussion. I am not here to defend APOC. I am
here to talk about why I don't need to do it.

APOC is our Quilombo. Our keep, our fortress, where we
can meet as people from oppressed background and not
only share our experiences and how they are relevant
to each other, but also how they are relevant in the
larger scheme of things. APOC is more than a safe zone
for people to feel good about not being in a room
without white folk, but is a conscious project of
self-determination for people of color. It is a step
closer to our freedom as a people and the
materialization of the idea that community comes from
something in common, something we can share.

No, APOC is no utopia. It is not even close. But that
is neither here nor now. We may stumble, we may fall,
we may even break our heads wide open. But at least we
are walking on our own two feet.

It is pointless for me to try and convince white
Anarchists of the need for APOC because white
anarchists have not experienced what we a people of
color have experienced. It is like trying to convince
my boss of the need for Socialism – a more often then
not fruitless endeavor.

And while there are white Anarchists out there who
remember that only the oppressed can liberate
themselves and the end of white supremacy cannot be
brought about by white people – there are those that,
in their arrogance and shortsightedness, will not
yield and cannot tolerate the thought that maybe there
is something that Anarchist people of color need to
discuss that does not include white people.

And if, for a moment, I thought that APOC needed to be
approved by the white anarchist scene that would be
the moment in which APOC would lose its appeal to me.
Because is not about being accepted, being cherished,
being “on the good side” with the white Anarchists –
that is the Senzala. It is about self-determination
and it is about resistance. It is about creating our
own culture, our own analysis and dictating our own
future. APOC for me is not about seeking a way to make
white people love us, or hate us.

I have to tell you a secret about APOC: it is not
about white people at all. It is not, and it should
not be ever. I am tired of talking about white people,
thinking of white people, analyzing white people and
worrying about white people. I want to know what I
have in common with my Korean sister and my Guatemalan
brother. I want to know about the great struggles for
liberation in Uganda and how the Filipino resisted
imperalism. What can we learn from each other as
people of color? What does my bairro in Rio de Janeiro
has in common with a Latino barrio in East Side San

This is something I wrote for my sisters and brothers
at APOC. We need to understand ourselves in order to
understand the world around us and be able to fightand
destroy the bourgeois plague which eating away our
homes, our lives and our cultures.

As a black person, my anarchism is Black Anarchism. As
a member of the exploited class, my anarchism is
Class-Struggle Anarchism. As a person who wishes for a
better future, my anarchism is Anarchist-Communism.

Vamos a ela, porque temos muito, muito para construir.
Não tá morto que peleia!
Viva a Anarquia!

Pedro Ribeiro, a class-struggle anarchist.

by Pedro Ribeiro from the Furious Five Revolutionary
San Jose, CA

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