Sunday, April 5, 2009

Support Economic and Social Justice, Not Police Containment in Oakland

Why & How We Must Participate in the Solutions to Oakland's Problems
Two weeks following the killings of four Oakland police officers and Lovelle Mixon, many in Oakland are still trying to make sense of what happened and put forward solutions to the underlying problems that we face in our city. As the economic crisis deepens throughout the country, we see the rapid escalation of violence - in nursing homes, family homes, immigration offices, and yesterday's killing of two police officers by a 22 year old white man in Pittsburgh, PA who had just recently lost his job and was concerned about losing his guns.

We can see that the economic crisis is at the root of many of these killings - people losing their jobs and with it their ability to feed themselves and their families. In these troubled times, many people are suffering. And yet, African communities across the U.S. have faced an economic crisis for a long time now. The unemployment rate in the black community has always been disproportionate to the rest of society. Joblessness, homelessness, poverty and oppression follow the historic legacy of a two tiered system and reality that maintains the wealth and privilege of white people in opposition to the impoverishment of African and Mexican communities. This oppression coincides with the lucrative prison economy of California, fueled by the lives of young black men like Lovelle Mixon who are caught up in the poverty and hopelessness and forced into a fierce struggle just to survive.
The Uhuru Movement has stated that the events in Oakland are the result of the failed policy of police containment, which offers no future for the African working class communities. The police are part of the state, an apparatus that encompasses the courts, the prisons, the navy and the army. They exist to maintain the divisions between the wealth and poverty, the employed and the unemployed, the imprisoned and the free.

While we can only surmise what was in the mind of Lovelle Mixon when he shot and killed the Oakland police officers (what happened in the house on 74th Avenue, we still do not know), there are some things we do know. The city of Oakland spends 40% of its billion dollar budget on its notoriously brutal police department, infamous for the "Oakland Riders," fabricated search warrants, consistent killings of young black and Mexican men and unsolved homicides in East and West Oakland. This portion of the budget going to a militarized police force does not include the amount in overtime monies paid to officers nor does it include the thousands of dollars paid by the city in police brutality settlements.

It is commonly understood that the same public policy functioned in the brutal public killing of Oscar Grant III on January 1st by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. This police killing is in the consciousness of every young African person as they face the daily presence of the OPD in their neighborhoods and the constant reminder that they could be the next victims of deadly police violence.

We also know that the city government spends just one half of one percent of its budget on community economic development in a city one in five households in our city live on $5,000 or less. Oakland is a city of haves and have nots maintained through the violence of the state. This is a city of the hills, the cool hip, artsy neighborhoods versus the impoverished and desparate flatlands where black children live 15 years less than white children in the hills.

The Uhuru Movement has always provided a forum and a voice for the most oppressed sector of the African community. The Uhuru House community center in East Oakland provides this space through which the African community has stood up on numerous occasions for economic and social justice and struggled for community control of the police, housing and education.

The black community-led Uhuru Movement has recently initiated an international collective response to the deep economic crisis we are experiencing that is hitting the African community especially hard, called the African Village Survival Initiative.

For those of us who want to see social justice and peace in our city, the African Village Survival Initiative is a program and a vision for the future we can all support. This program is a prototype for creating green, sustainable energy, farming and economic self-reliance programs that can be reproduced anywhere in the U.S. & worldwide. This is a program that we can support that will be led by the African working class community themselves to grow their own food, build their own programs, meet their own needs and hasten the transformation of this terrible reality into something new and something good for everyone.

We can struggle for genuine economic development and an end to the failed policy of police containment that has created the volatile conditions in East and West Oakland. We can support programs like the African Village Survival Initiative in Oakland and beyond. The more of us who can participate in real community based solutions the sooner we can bring about the change our city and our world needs.

Learn about the African Village Survival Initiative and the campaigns and programs of the Uhuru Movement. Join the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and Uhuru Foods that raise funds and support for the Uhuru movement. Attend our study this Wednesday, April 8th from 7 to 9pm at the Jump 'N Java Cafe, 6606 Shattuck Ave, Oakland

Call (510) 625- 1006

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