Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ramona Africa of MOVE: A Survivor of U.S. State Terrorism

Interview by Steve da Silva
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

On the 30th anniversary of Philadelphia police’s terroristic siege on the MOVE organization on August 8, 1978, Basics linked up with MOVE member Ramona Africa . Ramona Africa is the only living adult survivor of the Philadelphia police’s second major attack on MOVE’s home in 1985, where 11 people died, five of whom were children. The following is a transcript from our interview with her.

Basics: Ramona Africa, can you tell us about MOVE and its history?

Ramona Africa: The MOVE organization is a revolutionary organization founded by a man called John Africa. John Africa brought people together from all different religious, political, socio-economic backgrounds and made us a family, cementing the bond of our family with one common belief and that belief is life. Whether it’s the air, water, the earth that feeds us, human life, animal life, plant life - all life - is important and is our priority. Toward demonstrating our belief, our first public demonstrations were at the zoo, at the circus, at unsafe boarding homes for the elderly, at the reservoir and water treatment plant, at meetings held by DuPont chemicals, corporations like that who poisoned the environment…

Basics: How long ago was that?

Ramona Africa: This was in the early 1970s. Because we demonstrated and put out such clear information about the wisdom of John Africa, the government started hearing what we were saying and seeing our example. They wanted to stop us from waking people up and setting an example for people. They initially tried to co-opt us by offering us by offering us funding and offices. But we made it clear that we didn’t want anything from them and we didn’t need anything from them. So when they couldn’t use that soft soap with us they came with the iron fist of brutality. When we would set up a peaceful demonstration at some institution of this system, they would come and tell us that we couldn’t demonstrate. We confronted them about it and said “Why, what are you talking about? Isn’t this America where people have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to protest? Does the constitution say, except MOVE?” Of course, they didn’t want to hear that, so that’s when the beatings began. Our brothers would be beaten bloody into broken limbs and consciousness; pregnant MOVE women would be beaten, stomped, kicked into miscarriage. MOVE took a strong position after this continuously happened. We said “We are a peaceful people, we are uncompromisingly opposed to violence. But we’re not confused and we’re not stupid. We understand clearly, based on the teachings of John Africa, the difference between violence and self-defense. We don’t believe in violence, but we do believe in self-defense. That is the law – the law of life. There is not a species on the face of this earth that does not instinctively defend itself when attacked. You’re not violent if you defend yourself, but you are violent if you are attacked and you refuse to defend yourself because then you’re encouraging violence, perpetuating violence. Because then you are masochistic, self-destructive, suicidal, and MOVE is none of those things. So when we made our position clear, the government really got its back up, because they didn’t want us influencing people with that kind of understanding and information. At that point, they just determined that they had to get rid of us, anyway they had to, even if it meant killing us. And that’s what the first major police attack on MOVE on August 8, 1978 was really all about.

Basics: What happened on August 8, 1978?

Ramona Africa: On that day, they used the excuse of our home having housing code violations to try to evict us out of our homes. This government has never cared about poor black people living in homes that have housing code violations. I mean, when did they start caring about that? That was the excuse they used to send hundreds of officers out to our homes to kill, not to arrest. In their fervour to kill off MOVE, they ended up shooting one of their own to death. Of course, there’s no question that they were going to blame MOVE for this. They failed to kill MOVE members so the next best thing was to put MOVE in prison for as long as possible. This is why they charged my family, the nine MOVE members, with murder and put them in prison for 30-100 years.

Basics: So the MOVE9 political prisoners, as we have come to know them, date back to that August 8, 1978, 30 years ago. Was that the last attack on MOVE?

Ramona Africa: Yes. In 1980, our home in Richmond, Virginia was attacked by police. Our sisters were arrested, they took our kids, put them in foster homes, and we had to fight to get them back. All of that in conspiracy with the Philadelphia government influencing the Richmond, Virginia government, because there was never any problems in Richmond, Virginia.

Then, on May 13, 1981, in Rochester, New York, the Federal government, the FBI, the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) attacked our family and arrested our family in Rochester. John Africa, being one of the people who was arrested, went on trial in Federal court in Philadelphia, were they brought him back to. In an unprecedented and historical act that the history books will never tell people about, John Africa – a money-poor black man with long naughty hair, wearing a sweat-shirt, boots, jeans – went into Federal court, representing himself, not presenting any evidence, not cross-examining any witnesses, not putting on any witnesses, not making an opening statement, and sleeping with his head down on the table through much of the trial, only speaking briefly to make a half-hour closing statement, was acquitted of every single charge that the Feds could put on him. That is historical, unprecedented by any black man in the federal courts or any white man in the federal courts.

Finally, when John Africa came home and we stepped up our campaign to free the MOVE9, there was a second attack in 1985 when police came out to our home again, hiding behind a lie that neighbours were complaining about us. They used this as an excuse to come out to attack us, determined to do what they failed to do in 1978. They came out in 1985 with the makings of a bomb supplied by the Federal government, a helicopter supplied by the Pennsylvania government, and using Philadelphia city cops to attack us. They dropped a bomb on our bomb igniting a fire. Now the fire department was at the scene from the very beginning putting water into our home trying to flush us out. But when the bomb ignited a fire they refused to put the fire out.

When we who were in the basement realized that our home was on fire, we made several attempts to get our children, our animals, and ourselves out of that blazing inferno. And ever attempt was met with a barrage of police gun fire, deliberately aimed at us to try to prevent us from escaping. As a result, men, women, and babies – five babies and six adults – and numerous animals, were all burned alive and shot to death. The bodies were found to have many bullets in them.

I am the only adult survivor, along with one little boy who survived. People ask me how did we survive, how did I survive, and I have no answer other than that it must have been some miracle and that I still have some work to do.

Basics: The repression against MOVE is quite evident. From the perspective of those who have power in this society, what does MOVE represent to them? Does it represent a threat to their power?

Ramona Africa: Absolutely those in power see MOVE as a threat, and we are. We don’t believe in this system. We’re not impressed with it, we’re not intimidated by it, and we don’t want anything that it has. They can’t bribe us with anything or threaten to take anything away from us. They have nothing that we can’t do without – and that gives us all the leverage in the world. What they do with other organizations is try to intimidate them, if not try to seduce them with things, positions, money, or whatever. But they can’t do that with us. We don’t believe in this system at all, and we can substantiate why we don’t believe in it.

Look at this country. When at when this continent was invaded: the air was pure, the water was clean, the earth was fertile and productive. There were no hospitals or prisons. But since this so-called civilization was introduced to North America, look at the mess that it’s made. And we’re supposed to believe in this? No, we won’t. We can substantiate our positions, but they can’t substantiate their’s. They cannot trick or fool us. We’re not imprisoned by their concepts, like legality. They can tell us what’s legal and illegal all day – we don’t care, that doesn’t mean anything to us. Tell us what’s right, and we’ll deal with that. A lot of things were legal, but they were wrong. Slavery was legal, apartheid was legal, slaughtering the Natives of this country was legal, the Holocaust was legal. None of these things were right. Resisting all of those things – slavery, apartheid, the Holocaust – were illegal, seen as crimes. But it wasn’t wrong. So we’re not going to be imprisoned by the concepts invented by our enemy. And because they can’t trick us or fool us, that makes us a threat to them.

MOVE people, we keep on fighting: they keep coming at us, and we keep coming right back because we don’t see any alternative option. It’s not an option to just throw our hands up and give in. We have children to think about it, who will have children, who will have more children, and we’re raising our children to be revolutionaries with that fire that John Africa put in us. We will never give in to this system. They don’t have enough cops, guns, jails, prison guards, sheriffs, courts to make MOVE people give in to this rotten system.

Basics: Close to home, Toronto, where Basics is based out of, there is a land reclamation struggle being led by Six Nations right now, especially the Mohawk Warriors. One of the principles that they live by is to preserve the earth and life for the seven generations to come. Would you have any principles to offer up to other peoples struggling for justice and freedom?
Ramona Africa: The foundation of our belief is life – you have to put life first, on a very personal level. For example, MOVE people have things, but we don’t beat or chastise our children for breaking or losing something. Life is our priority, and the feelings of our children who are alive are more important to us than some dead thing that has no feelings. This is how people must begin to think and live: putting priority on life, all of life. Until people do that, we aren’t going nowhere. Those people who are oppressing us, life means nothing to them. It’s the root of criminality, for instance. Young teenagers may kill another for a pair of sneakers or a jacket. They may take a life for something that’s not a life, that has no feelings at all. But they do that because life means nothing to them, and that’s the example that they’re getting from this system.

For instance, when that situation happened in Littleton, Colorado at Colombine highschool where some of the students were shooting up all those other students, Clinton was on the news telling people that we need to teach our children how to resolve conflict by means other than violence, while at the same time Clinton was bombing kids in Kosovo. What message are children getting when they see cops shooting at people 41 times and hitting them 19 times?

The bottom line for MOVE is to make life a priority.

Basics: Well, with love and revolutionary thanks for this interview, are there any final thoughts you may want to add?

Ramona Africa: On a move to my MOVE family, to Mumia Abu-Jamal, long live Leonard Peltier, the Puerto Rican independistas, the Zapatistas, long live all freedom fighters: The Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front, long live all those who love life enough to fight for life and freedom. Long live the spirit of resistance, long live revolution! Long live John Africa, and down with this rotten-ass system! ON A MOVE!

Basics: ON A MOVE! Basics Community Newsletter, Philadelphia.

Fred Hampton, We Remember You! Long Live the Spirit of the Panther

by Calvin Parrish Jr.
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

August 30, 2008, marks what would have been the 60th birthday of the well-known Deputy Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Fred Hampton – had he not been murdered while he slept at the age of 21 years-old, by Chicago police almost 40 years ago.

Fred Hampton was born in Chicago in 1948. Early in his life, Hampton would become a well respected and beloved progressive community organizer who struggled against class and race oppression.

A brilliant student, Hampton graduated from high school with honors before taking pre-law at Triton College. After joining the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966, Hampton became a remarkable community organizer in Chicago. He was influential in starting free breakfast programs for children and a free medical clinic for people in his community that could ill-afford to pay for pricey medical bills. Everyday at 6:00am he would run and assist in political education classes for his community. Also, he used education as a way of converting Chicago street gangs into socially conscious and active members of the community.

At 4:45am, December 4th, 1969, Fred Hampton was murdered, as he lay in his bed, by a FBI-sponsored police raid. Between 82 and 99 shots were fired from machine guns, carbines and .357 magnums into his room – both Fred Hampton and his comrade Mark Clark were killed. He was 21 years old.

As mentioned, August 30 would have been Fred Hampton’s 60th birthday. Let us remember Fred Hampton and all our brothers and sisters, past and present, who have fallen during the struggle.

As Fred Hampton once said, “You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.” The above graphic was originally designed by Black Panther artist Emory Douglas.

What is the Prisoners of Conscience Committee?

by Makaya
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

The Prisoners of Conscience Committee (POCC) is a national, revolutionary organization in America that was founded in the nine years Fred Hampton Jr. spent in prison. In his words:
“POCC was literally birthed from behind enemy lines. Its birth canal was the concentration camps, it’s umbilical cords are the prison chains.”

POCC uses what happens inside the prisons as a learning tool to understand the oppression that takes place on the outside. They define themselves as “an organization of African Revolutionary Freedom Fighters whose agenda is to liberate the minds and hearts of African and Colonized people.” Since POCC recognizes that “ain’t nobody gonna save us but us” they aim to organize as many people as possible through their own programs and through coalition building with other revolutionary organizations and peoples.

Among the many campaigns that POCC members are currently engaged in there is the ‘One Prisoner, One Contact Campaign’ that builds real contact between prisoners and people on the outside, the ‘Welcome Black to the Community Campaign’ that helps newly released prisoners re-settle into their communities and provides packages of clothes and other necessities to aid them in re-adjusting to outside life. Molded after the Black Panthers Breakfast Programs, POCC runs the ‘Feed the People Program’ which continues to feed the hungry on a regular basis. One of the organization’s main mandates is to free all political prisoners and they are working especially hard to free their own political prisoners, such as Minister of Defense, Aaron Patterson, who is currently imprisoned and already spent 17 years on death row for a false conviction.

POCC’s Code of Culture remains strict and principled in their call out to all artists and musicians who claim to support the struggle to engage in revolutionary acts with their music.
With growing campaigns and successful community programs, with legendary hip hop artist M1 as their Minister of Culture, supporters like Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Kanye West, with bases in Chicago and Oakland and chapters opening up in other cities and around the world, such as in Brazil, the Prisoners of Conscience Committee is making its way into the hearts and minds of revolutionary people everywhere. Free ‘em all.

Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the P.O.C.C. Speaks, Part 1

In August 2008, Steve da Silva and N. Zahra of Basics Community Newsletter met with Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee in Chicago in front of the historic site of the assassination of his father, Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois Black Panther Party. They spoke about police terror in Chicago, the legacy of the Black Panther Party, the hype around Obama, and the importance of people’s self-determination. This is Part 1 of our transcript of the interview...

Basics: Chairman, what exactly is going on here now in Chicago right now?

Chairman Fred Hampton Jr: Revolutionary appreciation for having me here today. Basically it’s been business as usual for the city of Chicago. We are standing in front of the site which we refer to as one of the “ground zeros” of black and other oppressed communities. And I say ground zero because it’s the site on which one of the most brutal acts of terrorism occurred on U.S. soil and when I say that I’m not talking about September 11th, I’m talking about December 4th, 1969 when the United States government via the Chicago Police Department assassinated Chairman Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. At that time the mayor of Chicago was Daley who we refer to as Gangster Daley Senior. He was a part of the brutal counter-insurgency program against the Panthers.

Lately especially, they’re continuing war, they’re continuing attacks on our leadership, on our movements and on the people in general. It’s in the numbers: 12 shootings by Chicago pigs, and 6 murders in one month. I want to point out too that the present mayor of Chicago is Gangster Daley Junior, the son of the mayor who was in place in 1969. This is the modus-operandi, how the police get down, cause the reality is there’s no war on drugs, there’s no war on guns, there’s no war on gangs, this is war on black and other oppressed communities and in case after case, you know what I’m saying, as soon as the shootin’ go down you hear the police say stuff like, ‘Well, it was a justified shooting,’ but I just want to point out also it’s met with resistance. Just recently, this past July 25th, I was locked up in response to resistance that was waged against Chicago pigs on the south-west side of Chicago in the heart of Englewood.

It’s important that the world hear this and see what’s goin’ on, especially in contrast to what U.S. propaganda’s been putting out, especially this whole election or selection, whatever the case may be, with people getting caught up with this whole fa├žade about the first black, they say African American, running for President. A lot of people are under the impression that everything is okay in the States and in Chicago in particular. In fact, let the record reflect that Barack Obama is U.S. Senator from Chicago who has never addressed or acknowledged the atrocities that go down on a day to day basis right here in this city, and even atrocities such that the United Nations itself acknowledged Chicago as the torture capital of the country. I think it was last month, myself and our Minister of Defense, Aaron Patterson, who’s a political prisoner was also tortured by Chicago police.

Obama and all of these minions of Gangster Daley haven’t addressed or acknowledged these contradictions, you know what I’m sayin’ and when they do, if they do, they try to put it in some sort of abstract nostalgia, ‘Well this is how bad things was in the 60s and continued in the 80s,’ but the reality is in those numbers, and let the record reflect also a lot of these cases of police terrorism are not even documented. The black community is put in such a state of terror that when they get terrorized they acknowledge it as terrorism. In response we’ve also put several campaigns forward. We’ve got the African Anti-terrorism Bill. We say police brutality is a euphemism. The reality is it’s police terror.

Basics: Could you speak about the legacy of the Panthers?

Chairman Fred Hampton Jr.: The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary organization that fought for self-determination, so that people can speak in their own interests and that’s something that should not be taken lightly. A lot of different organizations playin’ that they support that but they’re really not with it. People say, ‘Let us articulate your plan for you’. We say what Stephen Biko said in the Black Consciousness Movement, that people must learn the ability to distinguish intelligence from the ability to articulate. And the reality is that the masses, they may not be too articulate but the reality is they’re very intelligent. We’re the POCC, we’re the official caretakers of this legacy. They’ve tried to say that the Black Panther Party was a racist organization, a gang. So it’s very important that we show that this was a revolutionary organization that stood up fighting for self-determination. In closing, revolutionary appreciation, ears up, eyes open and fists clenched. Power to the People.

The Foundation of the Revolution is Love: Interview with Political Prisoner Robert “Seth” Hayes

Interview by N. Zahra and Steve da Silva
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

In June 2008, Basics visited political prisoner and former Black Liberation Army member Robert ‘Seth’ Hayes at a prison in upstate New York known as Wende Correctional Facility.

Robert Seth Hayes is one of the longest held political prisoners in the U.S.A. In 1973, Hayes was sentenced 25 years to life in prison on trumped-up charges.

This interview was pieced together by Basics members Steve da Silva and N. Zahra from our written notes, because we were not allowed to bring anything into the prison to record the interview.

: What is a political prisoner?

Seth Hayes: We have people in these prisons who are just coming into a revolutionary consciousness, and we have people in here who have always been revolutionaries, agitating against the state. They are all political prisoners…

But one thing that more brothers in here need to be able to do is develop patience and a sense of appreciation for the scale of the struggle we have ahead of us. Things aren’t going to change overnight.

Unless you have a very strong sense of appreciation for the deep exploitation and oppression of the people and unless you are driven by strong love for the people, you will not last long. If you don’t love yourself and the struggle, you won’t last long at all.

Another problem in here is that many people think that by becoming political they will become modern-day Assata Shakurs or George Jacksons, but they end up breaking down under the pressure of the system because they are not working from a foundation of revolutionary love.
If we are to build a revolutionary movement, we need a strong foundation to stand on, and that foundation is love.

Another problem is the baggage that a lot of people come in here with. We have a lot of people who come from gangs, and they are accustomed to living by very different principles. So we are patient in our work with these people. It is a long, protracted pedagogical process.
We are trying to teach analytical thinking and social investigation, but the youth today are so used to instant gratification, and give little time to reading and writing. If the foundation is not secure, then anything that we build upon it will collapse…

Basics: So you’re saying that study is a prerequisite for revolutionary change?

Seth Hayes: It’s absolutely necessary. Our struggle is protracted in all senses.
A major aspect of the work of the Black Panther Party was our Political Education classes. Every member of the Party had to carry out political education. When I came back from serving in the Vietnam War, I didn’t know the first thing about Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, or Mao Tse-Tung. But I soon learned the value of studying these revolutionary thinkers, and why the ruling class does everything they can to prevent us from studying these thinkers.
After carrying out our community work, we would always have to carry out our educational work. We would have these educational raps whereby each of us would have to study a different revolutionary thinker, and then we would have to debate one another on the merits of the various thinkers. These dialogues proved incredibly fruitful in advancing our thinking.
It was such a pleasure to study back then, at a time when we weren’t wasting ourselves away with all the distractions of modern entertainment.

Basics: What was the significance of studying history in the foundation of the Party and what is the significance of the history of the Party itself?

Seth Hayes: In the Party, we summarized and criticized what had come before us. Previous movements of Blacks in America had no clear sense of direction and no clear revolutionary program. We did. Unfortunately, the generation after us has been left with no memory of what we did, despite the fact that our legacy lives on vividly today.

Basics: How does the legacy of the BPP live on today?

Seth Hayes: Before the Black Panther Party, there was no such thing as a Black politician.
Why? Because before the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, there was no strong force in the Black community upon which Black opportunists could refer back to in their own compromising with the system.

So all Black politicians, Obama included, can thank the BPP for paving the way for this small advance in the Black community…

Basics: Is struggle still possible today?

Seth Hayes: We must realize that it may take us some 25 years of struggle for our work to really begin to make its mark felt. More importantly, we must realize that the capitalist class is itself planning its next 25 years of terror.

When we look at the runaway inflation that the capitalist economy is experiencing, and the dying away of the American dollar, the ruling class’s response here is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And to make this all a reality, they will need to suspend any outstanding liberties we have. This is all a hell of a legacy to leave for our children. So it’s just as clear that we have a hell of a fight ahead of us.

Africville: The Destruction of an African-Canadian Community

by Chevy X King
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

Today, peoples of African descent in Canada are referred to as “visible minorities” and are treated as foreigners everywhere they turn. However, peoples of African descent have a very long-standing history in Canada, with Africville being an important case in point.
Africville was one of Canada’s oldest African-Canadaian communities, located just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia, until it was ordered destroyed in the 1960s.

To former African slaves in North America, Africville was a certain freedom - a means of escaping the social discrimination and racism of Canadian and American society. However, as much as the tenants could escape these negative aspects of Canadian society, there was no escape from their economic situation in Canadian society.

The first set of settlers of Africville was a combination of the freed black slaves that pledged loyalty to the British crown. These slaves migrated all over Nova Scotia after the American Revolution. The initial number of settlers was around 3500. The former slaves were promised land by the ruling government, but what they were given was miserable agricultural land far from the communities of other settlers.

When the opportunity was provided for African settlers to migrate to Sierra Leone in 1791 by the Canadian government, it was quickly seized on by some 2000 of the settlers. Poor working conditions, poor agricultural lands, and the social and economical injustice that these black settlers faced in Canada made the choice to move an easy one. The government’s next strategy was to import 550 maroon refugees from Jamaica that rebelled against slavery. The maroons eventually resisted from working because of the infertile land they were given. The province then aggressively shipped the maroons to Sierra Leone in 1800.

The past lands of the maroons and former loyalist slaves were then given to black war veteran and refugees in the 1812 war against the United States. The main reason the government gave the land to those veterans was to replace the labour it lost with the last two sets of refugees. This new set of refugees and their descendants established what has come to be known as Africville. The refugees obtained land from the coastal areas of the Bedford Basin from former slave owners in the 1840s.

Africville slowly began to be torn apart as the city of Halifax grew in the nineteenth century. In 1853, train tracks were laid down right through the community, resulting in many families losing their lands and livelihood. A prison was established on the hills overlooking the community. The prison’s dump was accumulated on the eastern point of the freed refugee’s community that also added to harsh conditions of the land.

In 1954, a city manager presented to Halifax city council a proposal for the residents of Africville to be moved to other lands owned by the government. The proposal stated, “The area is not suited for residents but, properly developed, is ideal for industrial purposes. There is water frontage for piers, the railway for siding, a road to be developed leading directly downtown and in the other direction to the provincial highway.”

The residents were never informed of the original plans of relocation and favour drew closer to the city’s reasons for the bulldozing of the community. One tenant stated, “Those who refused or were slow to leave often found themselves scrambling out of the back door with their belongings as the bulldozers were coming in the front.” Most people were given just under $500 for compensation. The last building was bulldozed in 1970.

Today, the historical site where Africville once stood has been turned to a dog park with a sundial commemorating the community.

Africans have inhabited this country for centuries. Yet people of African descent, with the exception of indigenous peoples, are still the most marginalized and exploited people in Canadian society. The destruction of Africville plays into the Canadian state’s attempt to wipe away the historical memory of African peoples in Canadian history, thus making it easier to continue the exploitation and marginalization of African peoples in the present.

With no historical understanding of ourselves - and this goes for all oppressed people - there’s no way to understand how we got to where we are today, and no way to understand where we are going tomorrow.

Detroit MCs Invincible and Finale Speak to Basics on the Gentrification of Detroit

An interview by Corrie Sakaluk
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid hosted Detroit-based emcees and community activists, Invincible and Finale, with headliner Dam, for an incredible show at El Mocambo on May 15, 2008. BASICS got a chance to hook up an interview with emcees Invincible and Finale, and the following is an excerpt.

BASICS: We’re here with Invincible and Finale who just finished ripping it on stage here in Toronto. Is this your first time in Toronto?

Finale: It’s my first time in Toronto, yeah.

Invincible: I been here a couple of times but this is my first official solo show up here. I’ve been up here before with the Pied Pipers but have never been up here doing my own material and never been up here with Finale. We do most of my shows together. It was a real big event tonight, especially opening up for Dam because they’re one of my biggest inspirations to keep making hip-hop. They really go back to the essence of using hip-hop as a tool of resistance.

BASICS: How did you guys find the Toronto crowd?

Finale: It was a hit once they got into it. They had to get used to us but once they got used to us it was cool.

Invincible: We’re very lyrical and when the sound isn’t perfect you got to slow it down and do a couple of acapellas for them. Once they heard what we were talking about and they could really feel the production – we got Detroit production on most of our music - they warmed up to us and were able to really vibe with it.

BASICS: Your music has a lot of conscious, social lyrical content and some crazy flow. Why is it important for you to have social lyrical content in your music?

Finale: It’s important to have a message behind whatever you do. I talk about my city because I grew up on the East Side of Detroit and I’ve seen what’s happened to it, what’s happening to it now and where it’s headed. In order to avert that and change that, we have to work for the youth and for that work it’s really important to have a message behind what you say out there. If there’s nothing behind it then you’ll lose them in 5 minutes.

Invincible: I feel that everything has a message to it. No one is apolitical. For me a lot of our music has overt messages to it but some of the music we just slip the medicine in. We might be focussing on the flows, and put less emphasis on the lyricism but when you listen close you’ll hear the references slipped in there. Like a battle rhyme, you know what I mean? We always try to slip the message in and make it accessible to people who might not normally hear the message. That’s one of the greatest things about hip-hip as a whole, is that you can make something accessible for people. With hip-hop you can take something that normally feels like someone is preaching to you or talking over your head and you can make it relatable and accessible through the music.

BASICS: Today's show was put on by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA). Why are you performing at an event for a group that is a political group focussed on an international issue? What does Palestine mean to y’all when you’re from Detroit?

Finale: There are a lot of similarities between Palestine and Detroit. No matter where we are on the planet there’s so much that we can relate to with people. My community might be similar to their community, and that’s the way music bridges the gap. For me to have that message behind my music and for them to have a similar message behind theirs is great to see. I’m here to support them.

Invincible: We really see our struggles as inseparable. I had the honour of going and hanging in Palestine and there are a lot of very similar issues to Detroit. You have people’s homes being demolished, community being uprooted, and the government uses the excuse that they have to get rid of them, because of people being terrorists and criminals or in Detroit it’s selling drugs. But in reality they’re not looking at the root problems. In Detroit, and other cities in the U.S., drugs were flooded into poor communities. All other economies were disinvested from our communities and so drugs became an unhealthy alternative, but it is the only economic alternative for the most part. The focus of our song Locusts is that we still need to create development in our communities but in a way that’s accountable to the community itself. Of course what’s happening in Palestine and Detroit are connected, because all of our communities are trying to figure out how to solve our problems, and the more that we are in communication with each other the more that we can learn from each other’s approaches to solving the problems. It will help us to be able to solve things locally and on an international scale, to really have some concrete blueprints and models that we can exchange.

BASICS: You mentioned, Finale, that your grandfather spent some time taking the both of you around Detroit and sharing his knowledge and memories. Could you talk a bit about that with us, what you saw and how people are organizing to resist and fight back against gentrification and displacement?

Finale: My grandfather has been in the city from day one so he’s seen everything changed. From when we had a neighbourhood in Detroit called Blackbottom totally run by blacks, everyone used to come here, Joe Louis and everyone, we had our own doctors, lawyers, and everything. Then the city changes took everyone out. My grandfather took us around to different areas and told us what used to be and what is now. He said downtown doesn’t look the same, the old hangouts are all gone.

Invincible: I really realized from looking around with his grandfather that the whole history of our city is being erased. For example, the Motown building was an international landmark. Motown internationally changed how music is listened to and performed, and the Motown building was torn down for a parking lot for the Superbowl. That’s a really shocking blatant example of how our history is being laid to waste not just locally but internationally. Beyond just the sentimental value of a historic landmark like that, there’s real spirit and community attachment to those types of places. I have a song on my album called People not Places that deals with the fact that although people constantly change their relationship to land, there are still certain aspects of it that you can’t disconnect. Some people look at displacement as a natural course of things, they think that people’s neighbourhoods and the make up of who’s living there are always going to change so we should just get over it. But when there’s a community like Blackbottom or Paradise Valley in Detroit, it’s a historic neighbourhood with a strong infrastructure. When these communities are completely uprooted it has a long lasting impact on the whole community on many many levels.

To give you a concrete example, in several US issues (and this is probably true in Canada as well) whenever there was a self-reliant community of colour, especially Black communities, that’s where the highways were built, right through those neighbourhoods. And now what we have is that in all those neighbourhoods that are communities of colour that’s where for the most part condos are being built, it’s like a new pattern. In many cities there are very strong infrastructures economically, of small businesses and people really taking care of one another and building micro-economies. Every time the destruction and displacement happens it completely uproots that, and people have to start all over again.

In certain places it happened very blatantly like for example when Katrina hit New Orleans, we saw the next day all these developers like Haliburton coming in and displacing everybody by tearing down project buildings that were still inhabitable. Or take it back more historically to a place like Kansas. There was a place in Kansas called the Black Wall street with hundreds of businesses and that area was bombed by the white communities around it. These are blatant examples, but now what we have happening is a more insidious approach to how those communities are being uprooted. It’s not happening as blatantly, it’s happening drawn out over 30 or 40 years with a long period of disinvestment in that community. We have to really look at the connections because it’s going to happen differently in each place, whether it’s in Palestine with the colonization from 1948 and on until now, or whether it’s on a smaller scale with gentrifying our communities.

BASICS: Do you find it easy or difficult to navigate being an artist and trying to make a living and at the same time trying to stay true to the political principles that you have? Also can you talk a little bit about your experience of connecting with other artists who are also politically motivated and what you are trying to do to build those networks?

Finale: I believe the way to get your message out is to not be too preachy. You lose when you over-preach stuff. I might be in the middle of a verse that’s bangin' and slip in a little consciousness, and my job is done. Knowing how to navigate and balance it is important, you can’t go over the top, and you have to try to ride that line. It’s definitely possible and we’re doing it right now. It’s a way to put your message behind your music and that’s what hip-hop is for. Independent hip-hop is on the rise. People want to hear about what’s happening around them. They need some inspiration, and that’s where our music and other politically conscious artists’ music come in.

BASICS: If I can throw a wrench in that, though, last summer I was down in NYC for Rock the Bells and I still have a picture that I use as reference point. It’s a shot of the crowd with hands all up, but all the hands are white. How do you see that in terms of the way that hip-hop is going? I’ve seen the same thing in Toronto shows. You’ve got someone like Talib or Mos or Common and it’s a mostly white crowd. Then you’ve got someone like T.I. coming and that’s really where the black youth come out.

Finale: I think that hip-hop shows do get marketed to a predominantly white crowd, a suburban crowd. It’s the artists’ prerogative to take the music to the hood or where the ghetto kids get too. I take my music where I grew up. I want people from the East Side of Detroit to feel my music just like I want people in suburban Michigan to feel my music. Part of balancing it is the artist’s obligation to take it to different communities. Take it there. Artists have to stand up. If you let someone navigate you as an artist, they’re going to take you where the money's at. And the money’s not in the inner cities right now.

Invincible: To answer the initial question, it’s very few artists that are able to make quality art and not let their conscience overshadow that, or vice versa. Some artists might make quality art but the message gets watered down. For me, I strive to make sure that my music is not an essay or a lecture, because if I want to do that I can do that in a different forum. I got to make good songs, with the message inherently in there. I also want to point out something that it’s very important to me: the music is not the end all be all of the message . Like you said, someone like T.I., he may not be the most overtly political artist musically, but you don’t know what he may doing in his neighbourhood back in Atlanta. That’s not to make excuses for counterproductive content. For instance Master P did a lot of things in New Orleans for that community but his content in his music was sometimes counterproductive. So I’m not saying it makes up for counterproductive messages, but you have to look at the whole picture. Because some cats they got message, but they’re studio activists. What they do outside of there is not that effective. You got to look at the whole picture.

As far as going to hip-hop shows with mostly white audiences, I think it has to do with when you make music that’s thinking music, that makes people think and not just party or have a good time music, but you’re actually combining thinking and having a good time, in general you’re not going to be able to have as wide of a reach. It’s not as marketable. With us, we reach a lot of youth and we reach a lot of people that we want to reach but we do it on a small scale. We will go to the community centres and do a small event. We’ll organize something small. Let’s say we’re doing a show in a city where the show is not going to necessarily reach who we want to reach. We will do that show, but then we’ll organize a second event in a neighbourhood where the people might not have been able to come to the main venue. We will go to the people.

Artists who are doing this on a larger scale have the marketing behind them to be able to reach the kids who are only influenced by MTV or BET and others in the media monopoly machine. But for us, we’re going against the status quo. We’re going to still reach them, but we’re going to reach them on a smaller scale. Maybe when you go to an Immortal Technique show or a Kwali show you see all white hands, but I know these artists do hundreds of speaking engagements with youth on a small scale. Immortal Technique will go to every single migrant worker village in California when he does those big shows in L.A.

Everybody has their own personality. We’re all real people, we’re not out here trying to be politicians, we’re artists. It’s a complex thing when as an artists you’re trying to balance your music and your message and trying to make a living. For me it really comes down to building a relationship with your listenership. I just started a label called Emergence Music (emergencemusic.net is the website) and before I was on a label called Interdependent Media. Both go under the same concept, that we’re part of a larger community, we’re not just artists in a vacuum putting on a spectacle for a crowd. We’re part of a community and we’re making music that represents our larger community as well as our own expression. And so we really want to build connections with those listening to our music and through that have a mutual support type of thing.

I want to make music that’s accountable to that community that’s listening to me, as opposed to making music that’s accountable to major labels that are completely disconnected from our communities. And that’s going to be a longer road to really do that successfully. I’ve been doing this for 12 years and I am just releasing my first solo album. Finale’s been doing this for 7 or 8 years and he’s just now about to release his first solo album. It is a longer road but to me it builds a much more stable foundation. And then also to balance it with your message. Not all your message has to be in your music. Some music can just be about having fun, good times, but then on the side you’re really doing the work with the youth or in that community.

BASICS: Ok last two questions! Are the Pistons going to have a chance against the Celtics and if they beat them, who do you want them to face the Lakers or the Hornets?

Finale: Aw man! I believe in the Pistons. We the bad boys so I’m looking forward to a Pistons and Lakers clash.

Invincible: Detroit in general, we’re the under-dog-est city in the world. We got to root for the underdog. Our official city motto is rising up from the ashes, so even if we have the worst loss in one game, we going to do that because that’s our official city motto. We’re always going to have that mentality where all the odds are stacked we’re going to change that crisis into an opportunity for a new beginning and be the world champions once again. We’re visualizing it right now!

Hip-Hop Unites Revolutionary Native, Black, and White Youth at Six Nations

by Wasun
Basics Issue #10 (Aug / Sep 2008)

On Friday, July 11, 2008 youth from the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) attended the Six Nations Youth Rally at Chiefswood Park in Ohsweken, Ontario. The rally was organized by Six Nations youth organizers to mobilize local youth to fight for a youth recreation center on the reserve, which is long overdue. The opening evening of the concert was dominated by revolutionary rappers from across Ontario.

BADC organized a diverse group of artists to perform at the rally. Toronto-based Wasun and Lameck Williams performed new tracks from the Underground Railroad Mixtape, Volume 1. Shing Shing Regime out of Hamilton, Ontario, representing the Nations of Gods and Earths, performed their new tracks.

Testament, an Arab anti-poverty activist from London, Ontario blessed the mic with hard hitting anti-imperialist lyrics drawing connections between the struggle for Palestinian liberation and the Six Nations land reclamation against Canadian colonialism. Finally, School of Thought, a group of white working-class youth from Barrie, Ontario came together with all of the MCs present to do a throwback freestyle set on a series of classic Wu-Tang Clan instrumentals. The Six Nations Youth Rally Concert was a good example of how revolutionary hip hop is being used to unify native, black, and white working-class youth in our common struggles for liberation.

Attacking History: Black August Film is Not the Real George Jackson

by Michael Brito Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)
Recently released straight-to-DVD film Black August tells the story of former Black Panther Party Field Marshall George Jackson, portrayed by CSI’s Gary Dourdan. You definitely won’t find a copy of this film in blockbuster, but you can check it online or through your local DVD or mixtape hustler.

Not many people know what indeterminate sentencing was, but not so long ago in many states in the US a person convicted could be sentenced to any amount of years to life. What that means is that after you serve your mandatory minimum, then its up to the parole board to decide when you can actually get out. In the case of George Jackson, he was arrested for stealing $70 from a gas station in his late teens and was sentenced for one year to life. He was never released after serving his minimum and spent the next eleven years of his life locked up in California’s concentration camps. While in prison he studied and organized, developing to become an important revolutionary theorist for the Black Liberation Struggles of the 1960’s and 70’s. While locked down, often for years in solitary confinement, he published two books: Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye. He was implicated in the death of a prison guard in 1970, and through a highly publicized defense campaign became a radical celebrity. He was murdered by guards in San Quentin on August 21, 1971.

The recently released movie Black August will provide many people in our generation with an introduction to George Jackson. Young people in particular will benefit from learning of this man who was able to maintain himself through 11 years of imprisonment, keeping his dignity while organizing prisoners to rebel against the system from within its dungeons.

However, while the film may touch those unfamiliar to George Jackson, those who know his history, fought alongside him, or have simply read his works will find the film to be a shallow depiction at best, if not an outright malicious attack on the man.

In a critique of the film, Shaka At-Thinnin of the Black August Coordinating Committee has written that “the many brothers left in isolation behind the walls who still live half lives due to their commitment to collective revolutionary ideals have no connection to or input in any aspect of this concoction… The people who put together this collection of indictments against true revolutionaries both gone and surviving have no knowledge or understanding of the times or characters of the individuals portrayed.”

According to At-Thinnin, George Jackson never had emotional temper tantrums nor was he paranoid, as the movie depicts. “There were no one sided ass whippings given to comrade George the entire time he was in prison”, though the film depicts the contrary. And George Jackson never had a love affair with Angela Davis, as the film suggests. More important to challenge, At-Thinnin continues, are the malicious suggestions that George instructed his younger brother Jonathan to carry out the armed action at Marin county courthouse on August 7, 1970. The film also suggests that George Jackson was the culprit of the murder of a prison guard who was thrown from an upper tier of the prison.

The biggest piece of fiction, At-Thinnin continues, “is that piece of fiction put out by the state and glamorized by the movie” that a gun was snuck into the jail for George Jackson the day he was assassinated. At-Thinnin points out that the level of security that George was regularly subjected to would have made this absolutely impossible.

But should we be surprised? As is always the case when Hollywood makes a film about a historical or revolutionary figure, one needs to keep an open and critical mind. If the media lies to us about everything else, why wouldn’t they lie to us about our heroes?

If you come across this film and decide to watch it, don’t stop there. Get a copy of George Jackson’s books to get a sense of what this brother was really all about, such as Soledad Brother or his more theoretical work in Blood In My Eye.

People need to hear Comrade George’s message today more than ever, given the growing prison populations both in Canada and the US, increased state repression and surveillance, racist police violence, imperialist wars abroad and all these greedy capitalist pigs trying to ruin the whole planet.

Harper Gov’t Approves $490 billion in New Military Spending

by Hassan Reyes
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

While our public facilities are either crumbling or becoming privatized as a result of a lack of government funding, such as with education, health care, social housing, social assistance, and public transit, Harper and the Federal Conservative government released a 20 year plan to give almost half a trillion dollars to the military. Clearly, there’s no shortage of funds laying around in the Federal public purse.

The 20-year plan will boost the defence budget every year starting in 2011 until it reaches $30 billion a year in 2027-28.

The funding also includes:
• $20 billion for new aircraft, tanks and ships;
• $15 billion in transport planes, trucks and helicopters that had been purchased earlier; and
• $250 billion to recruit 70,000 regular and 30,000 reserve force personnel.

The hundreds of billions for recruitment should signal that plans are underway to start aggressive military recruitment campaigns directed at the youth, in likely similar fashion as is done in the United States. Using education as the carrot, war mongers offer tuition payments for post-secondary school as a means to get our kids to register with the military. Most of these young people never make it back from their “tours of duty” to make use of their education.

The plan focused heavily on ‘responding to terrorist attacks’, ‘leading major international operations for an extended period’ and ‘deploying personnel to international crises’. Combined with money to maintain the ability to conduct continental operations through the North American Aerospace Defence Command its obvious that Harper and his government are very interested in increasing Canada’s involvement in the US-led ‘War on Terror’.

The Liberals for their part only complained that these were not new announcements, which confirms that they are indeed spineless lapdogs serving the people who want to spend our money and send our kids to die for other people’s wealth.

Zimbabwe: The Other Side of the Story

by Tony Black
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

According to the Western mainstream media, Robert Mugabe is another ‘pariah’ or ‘monster’ of the nature of (the former Yugoslavia’s) Slobodan Milosevic. However, just as in the case of Milosevic, the Western portrayal of Mugabe is largely a piece of pure propaganda. To understand why we first need to examine a bit of historical context.

The problems of modern Zimbabwe started at the very outset of independence in 1979. At that time the vast majority of the country’s arable land was held by a few thousand white farmers, mostly descendants of the original British settlers who had taken the land by force a century earlier. Under pressure, the fledgling independent state agreed to a land transfer agreement that was called ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ whereby the British government would put up monies to help poor, black Zimbabweans (many being veterans of the independence struggle) buy back the land from white farmers – when and if, of course, the latter chose to sell. However, even this agreement was considered too radical for the likes of Britain, which in 1997 reneged on its financial commitments.

The slow pace of ‘land reform’, then, was a sore that continued to fester until Mugabe, under pressure from the veterans, finally passed legislation in 1997 that led to the seizure of nearly 1,500 farms owned by white Zimbabweans. At that point all hell broke loose and Mugabe became the overnight international pariah we all love to hate.

But, of course, there is much more beneath the surface of this political iceberg than just a few confiscated farms. Both Washington and London hate Mugabe on a number of counts among which include: 1) his abandonment in the late ‘90’s of International Monetary Fund (IMF)-mandated ‘structural adjustment programs’ (which take money away from public programs like health and education to pay rich, foreign investors etc); 2) his refusal to privatize every national institution in sight; 3) the fact that he sent troops to support Laurent Kabila’s government in the Congo (which the US was attempting to overthrow); 4) the threat he poses to vested British economic interests and companies; and, finally, the fact that his fast track land reform is a deeply troubling symbol to neighbouring countries like South Africa which, despite the fall of apartheid, has done virtually nothing to redistribute wealth or land to its people.

Moreover, the economic disarray of the country is, in large part, a direct result of the ‘international community’s’ deliberate undermining of the economy. Thus, the IMF, the World Bank and the International Development Association have waged an extensive campaign of economic warfare against Zimbabwe by freezing loans, denying credit vital to its food and energy security, and engaging in undeclared economic sanctions. In December, 2001 the US passed its ‘Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act’ which further tightened the screws on a nation already reeling under what amounts, in essence, to a form of collective punishment. Considering that Zimbabwe imports 100% of its oil, and 40% of its electrical equipment and spare parts, these sanctions and interferences have, single-handedly, destroyed much of the country’s industrial and agricultural sectors.

None of this is to say that Mugabe isn’t corrupt or hasn’t acted harshly to crack down on internal dissent. But one must immediately counter with the fact that Zimbabwe is very much the subject of extensive foreign subversion. Much like the so-called ‘colour revolutions’ in Serbia, Belarus, Georgia, and the Ukraine – and numerous other attempted such ‘revolutions’ across the globe – Zimbabwe’s ‘independent’ oppositional groups have received extensive funds, equipment, and organizational support from the likes of the US State Dept., USAID and the ubiquitous US-funded National Endowment for Democracy (essentially the civilian arm of the CIA). And, of course, the corporate media can be relied upon to conjure their usual bang-up demonization campaign.

Meanwhile, right next door in places like Tanzania - concerning which we hear not a peep from the media - even the barest hint of a strike is met with state violence and imprisonment; or like Rwanda, where under the Western-backed Kagame dictatorship, thousands are routinely ‘disappeared’; or in Uganda where there has not been a free election since the U.S.-backed Museveni came to power in 1986.

Then again, according to a recent update by the Oxford Research Bureau, the US and Britain (with extensive support from Canada through its sub-imperial role in Afghanistan) are now responsible for the deaths, since 2003, of 1.3 million people in Iraq.

‘Pariahs’ and ‘monsters’, it seems, are very much in the eye of the beholder.

The Politics of Baby-Snatching

by Bryan Doherty
Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

So the Canadian government doesn’t want babies to be raised by racists? Five months ago Child and Family Services in Winnipeg removed a 7-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy from their mother because it was felt the children’s emotional well being and safety were at risk due to their parents associations and conduct. The mother, who can’t be named as it would identify the children, has been all over the news claiming she’s no nazi – just proud of her white race. Her home is decorated with white supremacist flags, posters and, slogans. One day her 7-year-old daughter went to class sporting a classic nazi symbol – the swastika – drawn on her arm. Her teacher scrubbed it off and sent her home. Before the mother of the grade-schooler sent her back the next day she was sure to draw the white supremacist images back on. Children’s Services were alerted and the mother was left childless.

The mother has a long history in white supremacist organizing. When she’s not on the internet ranting about how she has to raise her children in a city “infested by Indians” she might be found out postering Winnipeg with white supremacist propaganda. Her children are likely being raised to hate everyone that doesn’t share their skin colour and political views. But are her attitudes much different than the Canadian society she lives in?

Child and Family Services objecting to parents raising their impressionable kids with racist views may seem like objecting to racism itself. But Canada is one racist country. The systemic discrimination based on the race of families and children runs right through all levels of power: governments, police, social services, schools, health, etc. This country was built through racist policies that continues to this day. Is Child Services going to be carrying out visits to police officers homes after they shoot unarmed young men of colour? Will politicians that under-fund social housing and then sell off the land to condo developers have their children taken in the middle of the night? What about all the children of soldiers that are busy occupying the lands of people oversees – do they go into foster care? Is racism really the issue here? We aren’t going to let this one case fool us into thinking racism is honestly being tackled by either Canadian social services or the government.

Let’s not be fooled into thinking that the Canadian government is opposed to fascism or the racist ideas that support fascist governments. Canada’s genocidal reservation system against the Natives was where apartheid South Africa and apartheid Israel first learned how to colonize. And the Canadian government has no problem supporting governments whose policies are genocidal and whose governments are pretty close to fascist: U.S.? Israel? What about the authoritarian Karzai government ruling under Sharia law in Afghanistan that Canada is propping up?

The solution to racism isn’t to take away the kids of racist parents, even if their parents advocate the most despicable ideas history has known. The point is that these ideas are the outgrowth of living in a society born out of slavery, colonialism, endless imperialist wars, and class exploitation with racial divisions between the classes. Capitalist society is riddled with all of these contradictions, and racism is an ideological expression of these contradictions. Without making apologies for racists, ultimately the fight against racism must be the fight against capitalism.

Merchants of Death Coming to the Capital: Ottawa to Host International Arms Trade Show

Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

From September 30 to October 1, Lansdowne Park in Ottawa will play host to an international arms trade show, sponsored by some of the biggest players of the military-industrial complex, including General Dynamics, Sun Microsystems and General Atomics.

The exhibition is moving ahead despite a 1989 Ottawa City Council ban on arms shows on city property. The ban came about after community groups launched a campaign against ARMX, Canada’s biggest arms trade show at the time. Under mounting pressure, the politicians were won over and banned all arms exhibitions from all city parks and facilities in a near-unanimous vote.

City staff have attempted to defend the decision to allow the arms show to take place by claiming that Secure Canada 2008 is not really an arms show at all, since actual weapons will not be on display. The group Coalition Against the Arms Trade rejected this excuse in a public letter, pointing out that many of the exhibitors “are famous the world over for the manufacture of bombers and fighter aircraft, frigates, destroyers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, tanks and other large weapons and weapons delivery systems which do not lend themselves to display at most “arms exhibitions” where booths average 8’x10.’”

The arms show will be a three-part exhibition featuring a veritable who’s who of the military-industrial complex. The first part, “Secure Canada and the World” is to be hosted by the U.S. Embassy and the British High Commission in Ottawa and will feature “pavilions” for the display of top American and British weapon producers. The second part, “Tech Net North” will run under the theme of “National Security in a Coalition Environment” and is organized by the Canadian chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), a non-profit group that encourages close cooperation between the government, the military, corporations, and academics. The third part, “Unmanned Systems Canada Expo” is organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The AUVSI main office is in Arlingon, Virginia, about 12 miles from CIA headquarters. Back in the 1990s, Anne Healey, the current Executive Director of AUVSI Canada, infiltrated the peace movement in Ottawa as a spy for her father, a retired Rear-Admiral and lobbyist for the arms industry.

The fair will also allow Canadian arms traders to show off their deadly wares. MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), a Vancouver-based company, produced satellites (paid for by taxpayers for around $1 billion) that have placed Canada in a leading role in the militarization of space. The satellites were used extensively by Canadian, American, and other NATO forces in the criminal wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Montreal-based Canadian Aviation Electronics Ltd. (CAE), a “global leader” in military simulation technology, produces training systems for various military forces around the world, including the U.S. Army, NATO, and the Israeli Air Force – all of whom are currently engaged in ongoing war crimes.

Although the exhibition will be closed to public scrutiny, we can expect that heads of the Canadian government and military will be doing more than just attending. They will also be on the lookout for the latest war-toys to purchase for the Canadian military as part of the Harper government’s pledge to pour billions of dollars into upgrading military hardware so that Canada can unleash even more violence on the world stage. Canada currently spends $18.9 billion a year on the military, more than it spent on average during World War II. This is money that could have gone to creating jobs or social programs.

The people of Canada must demand that this arms trade show be cancelled! Contact Ottawa’s mayor, Larry O’Brien by email at Larry.Obrien@ottawa.ca or regular mail at City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. West, Ottawa, ON, K1P 1J1 and tell him to uphold the ban on arms bazaars!

When Workers Can’t Find Work: GM Cuts Another 2600 Jobs in Oshawa

by Enver Harbans
Basics Issue # 10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

On June 3rd, 2008, Canada’s manufacturing sector was dealt another blow as General Motors announced they will be shutting down their Oshawa truck plant in the third quarter of 2009.
With this decision the Oshawa community is out another 2,600 jobs adding to the 10,800 jobs they lost in the last 2 years alone. This disturbing trend of job losses throughout Canadian society adds to the troubles working-class people are facing as energy costs and food costs sky-rocket. In the last 5 years alone, Canada has lost 350,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs, most of which were covered under union collective agreements.

Consider 2008 alone, where days before the Oshawa closures were announced Air Canada had announced that they were going to lay-off 2,000 union members. A little earlier in the year, Canac Kitchens in Scarborough announced that they would be closing, and thus, shall we say, draining out another 900 unionized jobs.

The situation in Ontario and Canada is such that the capitalist system cannot guarantee work for its servants and the working-class advocates in the trade-unions are scrambling for answers. Take the case of Oshawa workers and their union representatives, the Canadian Auto Workers Union. CAW made it clear in the contract that job allocation was the key item in this round of negotiations. It was agreed upon that new car parts would continue to come through the Oshawa plant throughout the life of the contract, which would have expired in 2012.

Members ratified the contract, taking serious concessions on wages in exchange for ensuring the long-term productivity of the plant. This was all shot down when GM decided they were going to move the plant to Mexico and Fort Wayne.

Free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have made it possible for corporations to make these plant closures and moves easy and without any penalties for businesses. Under such free trade agreements, countries that allow for corporate profits to be impeded by unions, high wages, health and safety standards, etc., are faced with the threat of capital packing up and moving out.

However through mass mobilizing tactics, which included a 12-day blockade of GM headquarters, forced the company back to table to negotiate new terms of closure. The union was able to secure buyout packages for workers which include compensation anywhere from $37,500 to $120,000 (depending on seniority) plus a GM car voucher worth $35,000. The buyout packages are good for the short-term but what about the next generation of workers?

The trade-union movement must come to terms with capitalism and its ongoing crises and working-class organizations must develop methods to unite workers in and out of the trade-unions to struggle against this exploitative system.

The right to a good job should be a guaranteed human right., and this system can promise workers no such thing. Working-class Canadians must organize and fight for a nationalized industrial base owned and operated by the people.

“What Makes a Hero”

Filipino Community Gathers to Commemorate the Life of Police-Slain Jeffrey Reodica

by Steve da Silva
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

It’s been over four years since undercover Toronto cops murdered Jeffrey Reodica in May 2004; but time has yet to heal the wounds inflicted by his tragic and unjust departure.

On June 28, 2008, family, friends, and allies gathered at the Wellesley Community Centre from across the GTA to commemorate Jeffrey’s life. The event was organized by Migrante Ontario Youth, with support from the groups Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC) and the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ).

The free event included musical and cultural performances by talented Filipino youth, which included spoken word artists Len Cervantes and Myk Miranda, rapper R. Scribe, and vocalist Belinda Corpuz.

The emotional high of the event was struck with the stirring words of Jeffrey’s father Willie Reodica, who recounted the painful last days of Jeffrey’s life. Reodica reminded the mostly-Filipino audience that “We Filipinos are still the targets of police violence because we do not have enough organization amongst us”.

A lawyer who worked with the Justice for Jeffrey campaign during the Coroner’s Inquest, Mike Leitold, recounted for those gathered how it had been the mobilization and demands of the community that led to an expedited Coroner’s Inquest. More importantly, Leitold pointed out that because justice was ultimately not attained for Jeffrey “we need to continue relying on mass organizing if we’re going to get justice”

The event was concluded with vocalist Belinda Corpuz’s singing of “What Makes a Hero”, a song written by Jose Maria Sison, a hero among Filipinos who helped found the present-day national liberation movement in the Philippines.

The empassioned father of Jeffrey, Willie Reodica, tells crowd of his experience of losing his son to police terror (Photo by Alex Felipe).

Vaughan / Oakwood: Profile of a ‘Mixed Income’ Neighbourhood

by Louisa Worrell
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

On Sunday, June 1, 2008 at approximately 11:30 pm more than 50 Toronto cops raided the studio/home of hip-hop artist Kama Kazie, allegedly for drugs.

A couple days later the bar/club across the street Town Talk was raided for the same reason.
Neither of the raids were fruitful, no arrests were made and no drugs were found at either site.
A couple days later on June 3, there was a “community” meeting organized by a group known as 5-Points Community Action, regarding a shooting that had happened May 24 on Belvedere, just off of Vaughn and Oakwood.

Although Vaughn and Oakwood’s ethnic make up is predominately Jamaican and Chinese, and is considered a mixed-income neighbourhood, the attendees of the community meeting did not reflect this reality. The meeting was attended by pre-dominantly middle-class white residents who expressed concern about “community safety”. And this is the reality of mixed income neighbourhoods: put wealthy homeowners who are concerned about their property value alongside deeply exploited workers and the unemployed, and what you get is a conflict. It should be clear who the police are going to side with in this equation.

To be sure, the June 3 meeting was attended by the police, with much discussion about the local business Town Talk at 616 Vaughn Rd. People at the meeting expressed concern that criminal activities such as drug dealing were going on at the bar. Only one of the community members who spoke had actually been to Town Talk, but there was a clear sentiment that the bar made people at the meeting uneasy. One attendee, Samantha Goldsilver, was quoted in the Toronto Star saying: “It’s just a bunch of hoodlums hanging out late at night,” she said of one of the bars. “If you drive by at one in the morning there’s people out on the street drinking and people who live on the street feel very intimidated. They feel like they’re walking a gauntlet to come home.”

It’s too bad that some of the hundreds of Jamaican-Canadian patrons of the restaurant weren’t invited to the meeting – they might have had a different opinion.

Tragically, on July 21, 2007, 21 year-old Kimel Foster was gunned down outside of Town Talk and since then Toronto police have heavily patrolled the bar’s vicinity. But a higher policing of the youth cannot be a solution to a problem that is social and economic, such as alienating curricula in Toronto schools and a lack of decent employment opportunities for young workers.

Furthermore, the police routinely set up RIDE programs right down the street from the bar on busy nights, further harassing community residents and patrons of the bar.

5-Points Community Action is currently rallying their members around stopping Town Talk from serving alcohol on its patio, despite the fact the Town Talk already has a license to do so.

It’s clear that the current organizing of middle-class homeowners in the community is suiting the agenda of the police, given that both are working together to marginalize and intimidate the non-white working-class residents of the community. It’s time for Vaughan and Oakwood’s working-class residents to organize as well. We must demand an end to police harassment and intimidation in our own neighbourhoods!

Armed Cops Moving into Toronto Schools in Sep ‘08

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

High School students have another thing to look forward this September - police with guns patrolling their hallways. On June 23rd, the chair of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), John Campbell, announced that at least 22 public and 8 Catholic schools will each get a police officer this fall - for security and to supposedly ‘build relationships’ with students. Campbell first said the cops would be walking around in jeans and golf shirts “meeting… and talking to kids”, but he was corrected the next day by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who made it clear that the officers would have both their uniforms and their weapons in the schools.

While we’re told that the police are supposed to help with security in schools, a School Safety report released in January (in response to the Jordan Manners killing at CW Jeffreys last year) did not make any recommendations to put police in schools. This Safety Report was written by a three-person advisory panel, after surveys of students and teachers at two west-end schools, and made many recommendations on how to improve school security - none of which included police being sent into high schools. However, the report did talk about the devastating effects of the social service cuts to Ontario in the 1990s, as well as the destructive use of the Safe Schools Act. Surveys showed that Black youth feel that racial discrimination by teachers is a major problem - and that they experience racism from the police outside of school. So the decision to put armed cops in Toronto High Schools made by the School Board ignored advice both from a community panel they appointed, and the feelings of their own students.

You only need to look at the US, which has put armed police in the schools of many of its major cities, to see what this policy will mean for students. In New York, youth are regularly brutalized and arrested for swearing, being late for class, having cell phones or not having hall passes. A number of times, teachers and even principles have been arrested for trying to protect their students. On a regular basis across the United States, youth have to be sent to hospital for injuries received from police while in school.

Will Toronto cops be very different? The announcement from the School Board was made a week after Toronto police were cleared by the S.I.U. in the murders of 17-year-old high school student Alwy Al-Nadhir and 28-year-old Byron Debassige, both of whom were unarmed when murdered by police. And according to the School Board, police will be put primarily in “schools who have the highest suspension rate and highest crime rate”. We know this means schools with the highest number of poor, black, brown and native kids. These are youth who are already threatened, brutalized and arrested by police on a daily basis in this city. There’s no reason to believe that the way police treat youth every day on the streets will be any different in the halls of a high school.

TDSB should focus on implementing community services and after-school programs for youth, and dealing with its own systematic racism and discrimination, instead of making schools a more intimidating and oppressive place for youth.

T.O. Cops Accused of Lying and Abuse by Judge

by Hassan Reyes
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

A Toronto judge recently dismissed the charges against two young men on the grounds that signs of physical abuse by police were obvious and that the police evidence was “unreliable, likely false.”

Shayne Fisher, 24, and Valter Almeida, 23, who were arrested on Lawrence Ave. W., west of Keele St., were found not guilty by Ontario Superior Court Justice Brian Trafford.
Fisher suffered a fractured rib, a perforated right eardrum, and bruising around the right eye. Almeida suffered abrasions on his forehead, back, neck and legs, with his nose bloodied.

The defendants also testified that they were threatened by the assaulting police if they complained or asked for medical attention. Fisher and Almeida - who police accused of selling crack when they were just smoking marijuana - may be filing a lawsuit against the police in the coming months.

This comes at the same time as a report was released showing that 43 Toronto police were acquitted for 12 civilian deaths, 50 injuries and four sex-assault complaints in the last year. This includes the murder of Alwy Al-Nahdir and Byron Debassige.

The mechanisms currently in place to review police conduct, such as the SIU, are a joke and must be overhauled so that retired cops aren’t judging their own buddies and former colleagues for abuses. The people of Ontario need a truly independent civilian-led body to oversee the police, because clearly the police cannot be trusted to themselves. And before getting this, people need to be more vigilant of police conduct in our communities.

Chicago Police Rampage: 12 Shot, 6 Killed in 4 Weeks

by N. Zahra
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

Between June 11-July 5, 2008, Chicago cops shot 12 people, murdering 6 of them. All of them were either black or latino and most of them were unarmed and/or shot in the back. Amongst those dead were Shapell Terrell, a 39 year old sanitation worker supporting 7 children, Robin Johnson, a mother with a history of mental illness, and 17 year old Jonathan Pinkerton who had just graduated from highschool the night he was murdered.

According to Fred Hampton Jr., chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee (POCC), this is business as usual for Chicago cops who routinely get away with harassing, brutalizing and murdering racialized youth in Chicago. However, this time the people came together to show that they would not accept such abuse.

On July 25th, 2008 people rallied in Englewood (a Chicago neighbourhood) to protest the brutal behaviour of the cops. At a nearby basketball court, more people had gathered for a repast for another slain youth. Out of nowhere, the cops drove up and started tearing up pictures of Bennie and calling the youth ‘nigger bitches.’ The protest against police brutality spontaneously spread to the courts. At the end of the evening an estimated 10 people had been arrested and brutalized, amongst them Chairman Fred Hampton Jr.. In an interview with Basics, the Chairman described the rage of the youth who chanted, ‘Let them go!’ not allowing the cops to drive off with their captives.

Despite brutal repercussions, the people of Chicago continue to organize and resist police terror, naming the cops for what they really are, the biggest gang of them all.

$5 Million Boost to TAVIS... More Police Terror on the Way

by Ellis Mayfield
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

Toronto Police Services has recently received a $5 million dollar boost in its budget from the provincial government for its Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) unit. The money is earmarked to add 26 new officers to the Jane and Finch and Regent Park areas. Beefing up the police further simply doesn’t make sense in a city that is ranked by Statistics Canada, as of July 2008, as having the second lowest crime-rate in Canada. In Toronto, the police budget stands at a whopping $840 million, which adds up to as much spent on Fire Services, Social Services, Shelter, Support, and Housing, TTC and Wheel-Trans, Children’s Services, Emergency Medical Services, Toronto Public Health, and Homes for the Aged all put together.

Ontario Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci has lauded TAVIS for making over 10,000 arrests and seizing 400 guns since the program began in 2006. That’s 1 gun for every 25 people arrested.

What most people who watch these raids on television the next day don’t realize is that most of these youth are never convicted or even charged. The pro-cop corporate media, such as Toronto’s CP24, loves to frighten and console its audiences with images of tens or hundreds of black youth being arrested in TAVIS unit raids. But we know very well that the guns and drugs do not come from these communities; and those youth who are getting pulled into the illicit economy do so because the formal economy and the government simply isn’t offering these youth the jobs, skills training, and educational opportunities they need. The only solution for these youth will be a social and economic system that provides them with meaningful life opportunities, not joblessness, decrepit housing, and irrelevant curriculums.

Uprising Erupts in Montreal as Cops Murder 18-Year-Old Fredy Villanueva

by Luis Granados Ceja of Barrio Nuevo
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

In the middle of the night on August 10, 2008, youth from Montreal-Nord took to the streets to express their outrage with the racist actions of the Montreal Police. Protestors marched through the streets and set fires to cars and trash. A fire station was also burned.

The youth were responding to the police murder of 18-year-old Honduran youth Fredy Villanueva the night before, on the evening of August 9. According to witnesses, the police approached a group of youth who were playing dice and became aggressive with the group of youth. Fredy’s brother, Dany Villanueva, was singled out by the police to be searched without cause and ultimately arrested. After Dany was placed in the back of the police car, the situation quickly escalated and the police fired four shots without warning, killing Fredy. Police have refused to explain themselves for their actions. The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations in Montreal has called for a public inquiry as a result.

It is clear that the actions taken by youth on the night of August 10 are merely the boiling over of anger towards a history of racism and misconduct by police in Canada, especially toward racialized youth. The murder of Fredy Villanueva is not an isolated incident. Just last year, Toronto police murdered unarmed teenager Alwy Al-Nadhir in a similar unprovoked attack, and earlier this year, 28-year-old Native man Byron Debassige.

Communities subject to racist policing need not tolerate it anymore. Although the riots on the night of August 10 certainly got the public’s attention, it cannot bring lasting solutions. Our communities must create a broad-based movement to end racist police brutality all together.

Police must not be allowed to “investigate” each other so as to cover their own backs. We must demand justice for the murder of Fredy Villanueva, but moreover, we must organize ourselves if justice is going to be realized.

Brother of murdered youth, Dany Villanueva

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Justice for Alwy B-Ball Tournament - Saturday, Sep 13, 2008

Register Now for the Justice for Alwy basketball tournament!
Saturday, September 13, 2008

On Saturday, September 13, the Justice for Alwy campaign against police brutality will be holding its first annual Justice for Alwy 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The tournament will consist of two separate divisions: "16 and under" and "17 and over". Proof of age will be necessary to compete in the "16 and under" division. First prize for the tournament will be $500 for the "17 and over" Senior division and at least $150 for the "16 and under" Junior division.

Registration cost is $50 per team for the Senior Division, and $25 per team for the junior division (a maximum of 5 players per team). The event will be held in Carlton Park, which is two blocks west of Symington and one block north of Dupont.

Registration deadline is September 5 - and the number of teams allowed to compete is limited, so register now!

Contact justiceforalwy@gmail.com to register or call 647.202.0805. Or join the Justice for Alwy Facebook group, and see the Justice for Alwy B-Ball Tournament Event in that group.

Organized by: The Justice for Alwy Campaign Against Police Brutality, Basics Community Newsletter, and the Hood to Hood Movement

Crooked Cops Get Away with Murder...Again

by N. Zahra
Basics Issue#10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

“When they shot my step-son, they shot her too…” exclaimed Byron Debassige’s step-father Mike Vigneault about his grief stricken wife. Ever since the murder of their sons at the hands of Toronto police, the mothers and families of Byron Debassige and Alwy Al-Nadhir have been struggling to keep afloat and continue their fight to know what really happened to their loved-ones. Their quest for justice has become even more urgent in the wake of Special Investigation Unit (SIU) reports being released earlier this summer.

On June 12, 2008 the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) released reports regarding the police murders of 18-year-old Alwy Al-Nadhir and 28-year-old Byron Debassige. In both cases, the reports cleared police of any wrongdoing. The reports have left the families more confused and distraught, obscuring the scant information they had collected in the wake of the murders. Both official reports clash with the information that the families had been given prior to the reports being released. In addition, certain crucial information was missing from the reports.

Nowhere in Debassige’s report does it mention that Byron was schizophrenic. Contrary to what the report says about eyewitnesses, witnesses told the family that Byron posed no visible threat and was in fact singing and laughing when he was approached by the police. Also, the report neglects to mention that Debassige was shot five times. In Al-Nadhir’s case, the report says that Al-Nadhir tried to grab the officer’s gun from him. This is inconsistent with the scant information provided to the family prior to the report being released when investigators told Al-Nadhir’s family that he had tried to run away.

To add insult to injury, each of the families were disrespectfully treated during investigation. Prior to the report on Byron’s murder being released police used intimidation tactics to get Byron’s mother, Jennifene Debassige, to admit that her son was guilty of some crime and accused her of being a liar. In a phone conversation with Basics, Jennifene described how disrespectful the police were toward her and her family, making her feel even more miserable in her time of mourning.

Salma Al-Nadhir, Alwy’s older sister, told Basics how as the months wore on and the family was becoming desperate to know what happened to Alwy, the SIU’s visits became increasingly infrequent and when they did visit, their story would change every time. This uncertainty caused much anxiety for the family, especially to Alwy’s mother who continues her fight to know what really happened. In fact, the SIU did not even have the decency to present the report to the family the day it was released.

Both families have come together to demand justice and are seeking to unite with other families who have been through similar ordeals. They are calling on all those who have similar demands and their supporters to unite and demand swift coroner’s inquiries! More importantly, that killer cops have been cleared once again by the SIU shows how useless that organization really is.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the only people capable and trustworthy of overseeing the police are THE PEOPLE themselves.

Families must unite to demand a complete overhaul of the SIU and its replacement with a truly civilian body that holds the police accountable for their crimes.

Ultimately, whether or not the Ontario government overhauls the SIU, only the action and organization of the people can put an end to police brutality. Let’s organize for Justice for Alwy and Byron, Justice for All, now!

Alwy Al-Nadhir

Byron Debassige