This column, on this our 57e anniversary and in this the 228e demanding season of the just and relentless struggle of our We organization, is dedicated to Ngao (Shield of the Nation) Damu, our first commander of the Simba Wachanga and to all the other constant soldiers of We, men and women, who would not stray step from the battlefield until the fight is won. Below is an excerpt from an unpublished transcript of a lecture I gave in 1967.
I had prepared it for publication, but the crisis years of 1969-1975 interrupted this intention. In this time of growing struggle of young people around the world against oppression, I remember the Young Lions of Us and also the ageless lions who grew older over the years, but not in the will to fight constantly and finally to win our liberation struggle.
We cannot fantasize about a chariot coming to carry us to freedom; we must work our way to this essential goal and human good as our honored teacher Min. Malcolm X taught us that. There is no alternative, says Frantz Fanon, for a people to take charge of its own life, its own liberation, its own path to follow.
And he says it is our responsibility as leaders, activists, teachers and organizers to get the masses to see and accept that “it’s all up to them; that if we stagnate, it is their responsibility and that if we advance, it is theirs too. This, says Fanon, is at the heart of any real political education of the masses for a liberation struggle.
The year 1965 was the year of the Revolt; 1966 was the year of Black Power; but this year, 1967, is the year of Simba Wachanga (The Young Lions). This is the year in which young people have boldly shown their continued commitment to struggle, to revolt, to rebel. It was mostly young people who made the Revolt here in 1965 in Los Angeles, and in 1967 in Detroit and Newark.
They were young people, like the majority of the members of Us, who rose and advanced in the Watts Revolt, the Detroit Revolt, and the Newark Revolt. It is especially the young people from here and those from there who rushed into the streets to confront the police who are seen and confronted as an occupying army. They are the ones who shouted “arm yourself or you will hurt yourself”.
They are the ones who burned down towns, burned down buildings, closed streets and demanded a new way for white people to relate to us, demanded that they respect us as a people, respect our rights, our human rights as our honored teacher Malcolm taught us.
We recognize the role that young people must play and would play in the struggle if they were mobilized, educated and organized. So when we decided to celebrate Malcolm’s birthday, whom we called Kuzaliwa, we called on black people to stay home from work and school to honor this saint and sacred hero. In fact, we called it a religious holiday to reaffirm our right to define our own faith, our own saints, saviors and deliverers, and our own holy days or holidays.
But, we knew that people at work would be reluctant to do so for several reasons. So we focused on calling students out of school, distributing leaflets, going to schools and talking with them as they came in and out. We assigned Simba inside the various schools to speak with them about the issues and urge them to go out with them, and to use phone trees and personal contacts to organize the celebratory gathering that took place. held here at US headquarters in our outdoor space.
When we informed the media that we were going to do this, honor Malcolm and call on the community to do this with us, they did not respond. But, when students and community members came out in large numbers, they showed up with their cameras and their questions. As always, we have not depended on white media to advertise us, spread our message, or help us with the work that we ultimately must do ourselves.
In the end, you always have to go to the people themselves like Osagyefo Nkrumah taught, talk to them, work with them and serve them and they will join us in the good things we do and see the benefits of in their daily lives. And again, it was the students, the young people who, like us, dared to defy the rules, to go against the politics, to reject the unjust laws that would prevent them from celebrating their saint and sacred hero, Min. Malcolm X. They weren’t afraid of losing their jobs, being arrested or at confront the authorities who tried to advise against them and prevent them from leaving.
This is why We teach that it is especially when you are young that you must act for the good of your people, that you must join the struggle and dare to face and overcome the enemy and the oppressor. This is the time in life when you are most free from the fear and apprehension of yourself, the loss of freedom due to arrest, the loss of jobs you don’t have probably not or the loss of important things for married and sedentary elderly people. people and relatives.
In fact, it is your parents who give you the things you need and who allow you not to fear losing them. So you must do what they may not be able to do, fully join the struggle for freedom and without fear or apprehension of loss on any level.
Malcolm praised young people and their contributions to liberation struggles, seeing them as those who help form the vanguard in the struggles for a new world and a new future. He praises students and young people as those who bring about radical and revolutionary change all over the world.
He pointed out that many guerrillas, freedom fighters or revolutionaries in Congo, Vietnam and elsewhere in Africa, Asia and Latin America are young people. In fact, he mostly referred to our namesake, the Simba in the Congo and also to young Vietnamese revolutionaries saying, “I think our young people can find a powerful example in the young Simba in the Congo and young combatants in South Vietnam.
And we took up that challenge and organized the Simba Wachanga, the Young Lions, whose ideological foundations, martial arts training, discipline, dedication and revolutionary commitment to our people and the liberation struggle are unmatched.
Now, it is important for me to point out that not all students or young people will be radicals or revolutionaries or participate in radical and revolutionary action. But now is the best and most likely time for them to act. For as they get older and possess things, things begin to possess them. And many won’t want to risk losing those things. Also, it is important for me to say that not all senior citizens will be sitting on their side, guarding their earnings and possessions. In our own Us organization, we have old people who are as radical and revolutionary as we young people. And like our first commander Simba, Ngao Damu and others, they are committed with all of us to lead this fight for radical and revolutionary change despite everything.
As Malcolm again taught, it is not age per se that determines whether you will be a revolutionary or not; it is your will to act. For Malcolm, it’s your eagerness and willingness to act in a revolutionary way that determines how young you are. Therefore, youth is not determined by how many years you have, but how many hearts you have. For if you don’t have the heart, the heart to fight, to serve our people, and to challenge and defeat our oppressor, you are for Malcolm and Us, already old.
That’s why Malcolm says, “If you’re ready for action, you’re not old. I don’t care how old you are. But if you’re not ready for action, I don’t care how young you are, you’re old (and) some of us are getting too old while we’re still teenagers. Therefore, we of us, following Malcolm, call and need the young at heart, the young in spirit, willing to learn, to work, to serve, to build and to strive for a new community , a new people and a new world. .
So, we counted on our young people, and the young people did not disappoint us or disappoint us. And all these young people you see here, we have to say like before (Thanks and halala (congratulations and praise) to them, for it is they and their fellows who drive our agenda forward. Again, it takes a young mind and heart to drive the Us agenda forward: to educate, mobilize and organize our people into a conscious fighting force, to stand up for the people and work with them to improve their lives and liberate themselves.
And it takes a young mind and heart to be a Simba, a soldier of Us, a servant of the people, a builder among millions on the move – building, strengthening and liberating our nation, our people who, as Min. Malcolm said, are “a nation within a nation”.
Indeed, we are a nation, a people who strive and struggle to free themselves, to live a good life and enjoy full respect and the “rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, on this day”, to be achieved by all means necessary, that is to say all the means the struggle requires and requires of us.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of African Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural Center (US); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and Essays on wrestling: position and analysis, www.AfricanAmericanCulturalCenter-LA.org; www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org; www.MaulanaKarenga.org.