Carry it on now. Carry it on.
Carry it on now. Carry it on.
Carry on the tradition.
There were Black people since the childhood of time who carried it on.
In Ghana and Mali and Timbuktu we carried it on.
Carried on the tradition.
We hid in the bush
when the slavemasters came holding spears.
And when the moment was ripe, leaped out and lanced the lifeblood of would-be masters.
We carried it on.
On slave ships,
hurling ourselves into oceans. Slitting the throats of our captors. We took their whips,
And their ships. .
Blood flowed in the Atlantic – and it wasn't all ours.
We carried it on.
Fed Missy arsenic apple pies. Stole the axes from the shed.
Went and chopped off master's head.
We ran. We fought.
We organized a railroad. An underground.
We carried it on.
In newspapers. In meetings. In arguments and streetfights. We carried it on.
In tales told to children. In chants and cantatas.
In poems and blues songs and saxophone screams, We carried it on.
In classrooms. In churches. In courtrooms. In prisons. We carried it on.
On soapboxes and picket lines, Welfare lines, unemployment lines. Our lives on the line,
We carried it on.
In sit-ins and pray-ins
And march-ins and die-ins, We carried it on.
On cold Missouri midnights
Pitting shotguns against lynch mobs. On burning Brooklyn streets,
Pitting rocks against rifles,
We carried it on.
Against water hoses and bulldogs, Against nightsticks and bullets. Against tanks and tear gas. Needles and nooses.
Bombs and birth control.
We carried it on.
In Selma and San Juan. Mozambique. Mississippi. In Brazil and Boston,
We carried it on.
Through the lies and the sell-outs. The mistakes and the madness.
Through pain and hunger and frustration, We carried it on.
Carried on the tradition.
Carried a strong tradition.
Carried a proud tradition.
Carried a Black tradition.
Carry it on.
Pass it down to the children. Pass it down.
Carry it on.
Carry it on now.
Carry it on
By Assata Shakur, from her
Assata: An Autobiography.
(Westport Ct: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1987) p. 263.
"Then came this battle called the Civil War, beginning in Kansas in 1854, and ending with the presidential elections of 1876, twenty awful years. The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back again towards slavery. The whole weight of America was thrown to color caste."1  -- W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America 
"But what can we do with the Negroes after they are free. I can hardly believe that the South and North can live in peace unless we get rid of the Negroes. Certainly they cannot, if we don't get rid of the Negroes who we have armed and disciplined and who have fought with us, to the amount, I believe, of some 150,000 men. I believe it would be better to export them all to some fertile country with a good climate, which they could have to themselves. You have been a staunch friend of the [Black] race since you first advised me to enlist them in New Orleans. . . . What then are our difficulties in sending the Blacks away?”2  -- President Abraham Lincoln to General Benjamin F. Butler, April 1865
"We need new friends, we need new allies. We need to expand the civil rights struggle to a higher level -- to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil rights struggle, whether you know it or not, you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. No one from the outside world can speak out in your behalf as long as your struggle is a civil rights struggle. Civil rights comes within the domestic affairs of this country. All of our African brothers and our Asian brothers and our Latin-American brothers cannot open their mouths and interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States.
But the United Nations has what's known as the charter of human rights; it has a committee that deals in human rights. When you expand the civil rights struggle to the level of human rights, you can then take the case of the Black man in this country before the nations in the UN. You can take it before the General Assembly. You can take Uncle Sam before a world court. But the only level you can do it on is the level of human rights. . . .
Uncle Sam's hands are dripping with blood, dripping with the blood of the Black man in this country. He's the earth's number-one hypocrite. He has the audacity -- yes, he has -- imagine him posing as the leader of the free world. The free world! Expand the civil rights struggle to the level of human rights. Take it into the United Nations, where our African brothers can throw their weight on our side, where our Asian brothers can throw their weight on our side, where our Latin-American brothers can throw their weight on our side, and where 800 million Chinamen are sitting there waiting to throw their weight on our side." -- Malcolm X, "The Ballot or the Bullet,"  April 3, 1963, Cleveland, Ohio
In Louisiana, just a few weeks after Category Five Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 49 movement organizations from throughout the region met to develop a common strategy and tactical plan. Gathering in Baton Rouge, they formed The People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Project  (PHRF). Their main goal: to create a Black-led, multiracial, progressive reconstruction plan for New Orleans and the region that could challenge the white, corporate take-over already underway. The group also discussed how to use the painful opportunity of the man-made disaster, the racism of the Bush Administration, and the vacillation and spinelessness of the Democrats to help create a new movement with an independent, community-based program.
Curtis Muhammad  from Community Labor United  (CLU) highlighted the daunting challenges to survival and movement building that grassroots groups are facing. "We must struggle to function with no electricity, no sewage treatment, no city services. We are also faced with the task of physically locating our members after the government dispersed the poorest people the furthest away."3 
Not only are CLU, PHRF, and other grassroots groups such as Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children  (FFLIC) dealing with urgent life-and-death challenges, they are trying to develop an alternative, grassroots Black-led development plan for the Gulf Coast. They face an even greater danger: the plan of the Bush Administration and the two-party elite to "bulldoze New Orleans," drive out the majority Black population, and rebuild -- what Muhammad characterized as code for "condos, casinos, and hotels" -- the city as a depopulated theme park with a majority white, affluent population.
The so-called natural disaster of "Hurricane Katrina" is actually the man-made disaster, of U.S. imperialism in general and the Bush oligarchy in particular -- where global warming (driven by the emissions of the U.S. economy), imperialist overextension in Iraq, the cruelest versions of structural and individual racism, the crises of the cities, and the national oppression of Black people (in particular in the South) all tragically intersect.
There are historical moments when a convergence of events creates a crisis for the system, a governing crisis when the ruling class loses public support and legitimacy. Movement forces that have previously been weak and divided find a rallying cry, a moment of focus, and can launch a programmatic and ideological struggle that pushes the system back on its heels. New Orleans -- the city, but also as a symbol for the greater Gulf Coast, the Black movement in the South, the Black movement in the U.S., the Third World within and without the territorial boundaries of the U.S. -- offers such a historical challenge and opportunity.
There is a long history inside the Black Liberation Movement of the call for "the right of self-determination." When a people suffer such a longstanding, cruel and unusual set of punishments from the TransAtlantic Slave Trade to slavery to Jim Crow to the present period of continued white assault on Civil Rights, more structural demands against the system in their voice are needed. The New Orleans and Gulf Coast situation has created, not a snapshot of this continuing history of oppression but a full-length film for an international audience. This cinema verité exposes the brutal poverty, racism, neglect, and suffering imposed on the Black people of virtually all classes in the South and throughout the United States. Progressive people of all races in the U.S. and throughout the world are needed to support the most profound and radical proposals from oppressed communities, as well as to take seriously and expand the support for demands for reparations, Black institutions, and Black control of Black people's future.
Imperialism as a system operates by oppressing and super-exploiting whole nations and peoples, and it uses the ideology of racism to subjugate peoples of color throughout the world; therefore, an international, anti-imperialist united front is not simply a slogan, but a strategy to situate the many creative demands generated at the grassroots. In this way, we can try to unite all who can be united to isolate the Bush Administration and the right-wing of the Democratic Party and build a broad antiracist, anti-imperialist united front that will demand: (1) the right of self-determination and the highest level of material aid, under community control, to the oppressed Black people in the Gulf Coast; and (2) the U.S., get out of Iraq. Obviously there are many other critical demands for all oppressed nationality communities, and aid must be extended to poor whites as well. There are many other righteous critical grassroots fights that others, including our own organization, are taking up. But at this moment in history, those two focal demands can provide strategic and programmatic coherence in the current political context.
Re-Opening the Historical Record of the Achievements of the Black Liberation Movement -- a Critical Building Block for a New Reconstruction
We are living in a historical period when the greatest blow against the progressive movement and the Left is the theft of the history of our intellectual, moral, and political victories against the system and, in particular, the efforts to obliterate the profound contributions of the Black Liberation Movement. The roots of any multiracial, international movement of resistance to the profound racism in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast situation lie in rebuilding this historical record.
This foundation has been built by the abolitionist work of Nat Turner , Harriet Tubman , Frederick Douglas , Sojourner Truth , and John  Brown ; the Black Reconstruction of 1865-1877; the century of struggle against Jim Crow ; the 1950s-1970s Civil Rights Movement and Black Liberation Movement; SNCC , CORE , and the Black Panthers ; the Gary Indiana Black Political Convention meeting of 1972 ; the intellectual work of W.E.B.  DuBois , Paul  Robeson , Harry Haywood , Fannie Lou Hamer , Medgar Evers , Malcolm  X , Martin  Luther  King  Jr. , Amiri Baraka , and Herbert  Aptheker ; and, as part of a world anti-imperialist Left, the work of Yuri Kochiyama, Rejis Tijerina, Mickey Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and James Chaney; and the powerful Third World Support from the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned nations in 1955 to the victory of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front in 1975.
In 1865, only 140 years ago, when the Black people of the South won their freedom from slavery, an alliance of Black Freedmen and women, Southern poor white allies, and Northern allies (if mainly to consolidate the victory over the rebellious and racist South) came up with a program for Reconstruction. This plan was based on the material power of more than 150,000 armed Blacks who had rebelled against slavery and fought with the North in the Civil War, backed by four million more potentially armed Blacks.
This historic Reconstruction movement had a clear program that included the full enfranchisement of Black people in the South; the election of Black and progressive people to office; a major land reform program to bring land back to those who had tilled it as slaves; and profound infusions of funds for Black public education and training. This overall progressive program reached out to, and for a moment included, significant numbers of poor whites -- who for centuries had been the henchmen of the slave owners but, without land or jobs and faced with the material reality of Black power, sought the possibility of a multiracial working class movement led by former Black slaves. This miraculous decade in U.S. history was also marked by new legal status for Black people with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution which outlawed slavery, made Black people U.S. citizens, and extended the franchise to Black males. None of this would have been possible without the presence of Northern troops in the old "Confederacy." These troops restricted the brutality and counter-revolution of the Southern white planter class and provided armed support for the progressive experiment -- in alliance with the Radical Republicans, and antiracist white liberals who understood the dangers of racism, feudal slavery, and Northern capitalism. The Southern white hatred of "the North" and "the federal government" stems from this revolutionary period in which the white supremacists and plantocracy, for once, were under restriction and even temporary subjugation.
This unique and fragile experiment of Reconstruction was overturned twelve years later by an alliance of Southern planters and Northern capitalists, the so-called "Hayes-Tilden compromise of 1877." That ugly backroom deal re-established white plantation power in the South and removed the urgently needed Northern troops, allowing Southern whites to re-impose the plantation economy based on the super-exploitation of Black wage labor. This racist Jim Crow system of segregation and subjugation -- also present in the less severe but still profoundly racist practices in the North -- created a reign of terror against Black people for a full century under a formal system of apartheid and white supremacy. The story of how the Black-led Reconstruction offers a model of hope and shapes the terms of Black resistance and multiracial Left organizing to this day is the subject of one of the greatest books in the history of the written word, Black Reconstruction in America  by W.E.B. DuBois, which serves as the fundamental theoretical and analytical frame of this Letter.
The Second Reconstruction: The Civil Rights Revolution
One hundred years after the end of the Civil War and almost a century after the white South staged its first counter-revolution, Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act  and the 1965 Voting Rights Act  -- efforts at the national level to repair the profound damage of the Hayes-Tilden compromise and the ravages of Jim Crow.
In 1965-1968 during the revolution of rising expectations, urban rebellions took place in Watts, Detroit, Harlem, Newark, Cleveland, and Washington D.C. For many young people today who were not even born at that time, it may be hard to imagine that 458 cities experienced Black-led rebellions between 1967 and 1969. During that period, there was considerable international support for the demands of Black people, from the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, and Third World nations throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. There was even significant, if minority, white sympathy for why Black people would rebel.4  This sympathetic focus was not on "looting" but rather on police brutality, poverty, and structural racism, including the assassination of Dr. King, understanding that these realities would generate such mass outrage.5 
In retrospect, the profound mass militancy and structural victories of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement can be understood as a Second Reconstruction. This Second Reconstruction also had a clear program. From 1955 to 1975, "the two decades of the Sixties," there was a strong and exploding Black movement, growing Latino/Chicano and Asian Pacific Islander movements, the resurgence of the American Indian Movement, and large antiracist organizations of white students, such as Students for a Democratic Society. This multiracial, Black-led Left was a major force in U.S. society. It was both in unity and in struggle with a significant liberal wing of the Democratic Party that was elected during the 1960s in opposition to moderates and the Right.
The Black Liberation/Reconstruction program included an end to police brutality, and proposals for civilian and (Black) community control of the police; comprehensive jobs and social services, the concept raised by the Communist Party during the 1930s of "jobs or income now"; federal "anti-poverty" programs that included dramatic expansion of benefits and eligibility for Aid to Families with Dependent Children; Head Start programs for pre-schools kids, massive funding for Black and inner city schools; a breakthrough in large-scale hiring of Black people for private and public sector jobs; powerful government protections for voting rights and anti-discrimination; and the two demands the system hated the most -- "Black Power," reflected in Black control of community institutions, and "U.S. Out of Vietnam," the growing sentiment in Black communities to bring Black (and Latino, Asian, and working class white) soldiers home and allow the Vietnamese people the right of self-determination.
Many "non-violent" if militant civil rights activists, especially before the 1963 March on Washington , initially felt that the demands for equal protection of law, already in the 14th amendment, full equality, civil rights under the system, and full democratic rights would be eventually acceptable to the system. But out of their experience of the Kennedy Administration's weak protection of civil rights workers and conciliation with Southern Dixiecrats, and the treacherous role played by J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I. to sabotage more than enforce civil rights laws, they came to understand just how revolutionary the simple demand for "equality" and an end to racial segregation proved to be.
Many radical reformers were transformed into revolutionaries by the shots of the Klan, the blows of police Billy clubs North and South, the assaults of high-powered water hoses, and the racist killings that just would not stop -- from Emmit Till to Medgar Evers to the four young girls who were the victims of the Birmingham Church bombing, Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Fred Hampton, and yes, the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy. In 1972, poet and organizer Amiri Baraka and Gary, Indiana Mayor Richard Hatcher helped convene perhaps the broadest Black united front in U.S. history: the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana which generated a series of comprehensive political demands, including holding Black elected officials accountable to the Black community, organized under the concept of a Black Agenda. Similarly, the Black Panther Party's Ten Point Program was comprehensive and radical, ending with a quote from the Declaration of Independence in which the U.S. "seceded" from England. This was followed by the tenth "key" demand,
We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace. As our major political objective, a United Nations supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the Black colony in which only Black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of Black people as to their destiny.6 
The Black movement during the mid-1960s and 1970s developed a strong internationalist and Third World orientation focusing on solidarity with the people of Africa, and support for the anti-Apartheid movement, and the most militant opposition to the Vietnam War. Muhammad Ali's "No Viet Cong Ever Called Me a N----r" helped mobilize many Black and Latino youth, including those already in the armed forces , to refuse to kill Asian youth fighting for self-determination. The connection between racism and oppression at home and abroad was highlighted by SNCC’s cry, "Hell No, We Won't Go" to the war in Vietnam, Martin Luther King's the United States is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,"  and the Chicano Moratorium, the largest Latino antiwar demonstration with more than 30,000 participants.
The Movement had a worldview and an international strategy. It had significant and powerful grassroots movements on the ground, general unity between Black groups themselves (with, of course, tremendous tension and conflict), and a multiracial alliance that included significant antiracist white support and involvement.
The story of the Second Racist Counter-Revolution that followed the Second Black Reconstruction in America begins with three simple points: (1) it happened; (2) we are still living through it; and (3) "New Orleans" is a powerful and painful reflection of its impact as well as an opportunity to launch a Third Reconstruction -- a social revolution based on an international alliance against racism, national oppression, and empire.
The national Black community has been under attack from a ferocious counter-revolution almost before the Civil Rights revolution got off the ground. The "white backlash," which included white voters abandoning the Democratic Party in droves, began from the first day the federal government sent any troops to protect civil rights workers, from the first day one Black person got a job through an affirmative action program, from the first day one Black person was registered to vote through civil rights organizing.
By 1964, the country was split. The Democratic Party, through the election of Lyndon Johnson, tried desperately to hold together a white and Black coalition. But, despite significant if minority antiracist white support for civil rights, and an unusual well of decency among a significant minority of whites, including some in the South, the vast majority of white people and white voters were and are strongly to rabidly anti-Black. They had voted Democrat for a century to punish the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, for defeating the Confederacy in the Civil War, and for sending federal troops to the South after the Civil War to enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. They voted Democrat one last time in 1964 out of history and reflex, and out of support for the racist Dixiecrats who still controlled every Southern state and virtually all the key positions in Congress. They saw Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner from Texas, as a traitor, and after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and just three years of the federal government trying to enforce those laws, they bolted en masse to the Republican Party, where they have wallowed ever since.
By 1968, Richard Nixon was campaigning on a Southern Strategy that assured the white South, through the racialized coded discourse of "law and order," that he would not enforce civil rights. The white South rewarded him by voting Republican for the first time in its history. But the Nixon vote was not even the worst development. In the same election, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama and an arch-right-wing racist, ran on a states' rights and "defense of segregation" platform, arguing that even the Republicans were not racist enough. Nixon carried most of the Southern states, with Wallace carrying, that is winning, the electoral votes in the Gulf Coast states -- Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia. Nixon barely won the popular vote, with 43%; Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat, with 42%; and Wallace with 13%, including many white working-class votes in the North, where white anger about Black power and the urban rebellions had reached a fever pitch.
Just as with the First Reconstruction, the counter-revolution did not simply try to stop the progress of civil rights; it tried and succeeded in inflicting a subsequent reign of terror against Black people, to reverse, not simply halt, civil and economic rights. Richard Nixon's and George Wallace's plans worked, and now the Republicans and the Democrats abandoned the Black community. With the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, the brilliantly manipulative 1978 Bakke  case in which a white applicant for medical school claimed the now infamous "reverse discrimination" (and was upheld by a 5 to 4 vote of the Supreme Court), and the later rise of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, a right-wing counterrevolution based on neoliberalism and counterinsurgency was in full swing. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Civil Rights Movement was in full retreat, as the Black community has been punished by Republicans and Democrats, had suffered painful and debilitating splits, and could not organize nor fully contemplate a third road.
In 1984 and 1988, the Rainbow Coalition, led by the presidential challenge of Jesse Jackson, showed the enormous potential for a Black-led, multiracial, progressive politics in the United States -- and the possibility of aggressively challenging the Right. But in 1988, after Jackson came in an amazing second to Michael Dukakis in the Democratic primaries, the Democratic Party silenced him and his demands, and Jackson refused to cause the uproar it deserved out of "party unity." What had begun as an "independent" Rainbow Coalition challenging the Democratic Party had been subsumed into the party itself. After Reagan's 1984 rout of moderate liberal Walter Mondale, the pathetic performance of alleged liberal Michael Dukakis, and the racist and successful "Willie Horton"  ploy of George Bush, Sr. in 1988, the Democratic Party, losing white votes right and right, was in an internal crisis.7  The Democratic Leadership Council, led by Bill Clinton, vowed to move the party to the "center," to downplay discussions of civil rights, and to try to win back white voters with a "colorblind" economics-oriented appeal: "It's the economy, stupid!"
Each year from 1968, the Democrats have moved further to the Right on race. Unfortunately, unlike the racist Democrat George Wallace, Jesse Jackson was not willing to abandon the Democrats and run an independent antiracist campaign, to punish the Democrats if necessary, in an effort to build an independent Left that could at least try to push the Party back to a civil rights orientation.
By 1992, Arkansas Governor Clinton implored Black leaders, sick of 12 years of Reagan and Bush, to accept his assessment that in order to win a national election, they needed two white men from the South to run, (Clinton and Gore) and to work like hell to keep the remaining white voters inside the Democratic Party. In return, Clinton promised, if elected with no civil rights pressure to his left, to provide a massive number of Black appointments and contracts, which he did. In exchange, his two administrations undermined due process and habeas corpus with the Effective Death  Penalty Act , ended "welfare as we know it," and sabotaged the movement in California to protect affirmative action. The Clinton Administration put the movement on the defensive with the reactionary slogan, "affirmative action, mend it don't end it" (as if Blacks had already gotten too much) combined with guaranteeing the defeat of the civil rights opposition by withholding promised Democratic Party funds from the "No on 209" Campaign. In practice, Clinton gave ideological support to the racists, while he, in perhaps his most disgraceful move, privately bragged to his Black supporters that he was "the first Black president."
The Clinton debacle was followed by the racism of Gore and then John Kerry. Gore didn't even challenge the 2000 presidential election results in Florida, allowing the conservative Scalia/Thomas Supreme Court to throw the election to Bush. (Michael Moore 's greatest historical contribution may be his popularization  of the excruciatingly painful scene of Black congresspersons trying to defend Al Gore and protest the election results, while Gore turned against his most loyal, devoted Black supporters in the futile hope to placate, once again, white Southern and suburban voters for future elections.) By 2004, Kerry, who ran one of the worst campaigns with regard to the Black community and civil rights, was paid back for this racial appeal to white voters by this very voting block, especially white male voters, voting instead for George W. Bush in record numbers.
One final "fact" on how brutal the second counterrevolution has been on the Black community:
The number of people in prison, in jail, on parole, and on probation in the U.S. increased by 300% from 1980 [since the election of Ronald Reagan] through 2000, to more than 6 million. The number of people in prison increased from 320,000 to almost two million in the same period. This buildup has targeted the poor, and especially Blacks. In 1999, though Blacks were only 13% of the U.S. population, they were 50% of all prison inmates (1 million people). In 2000, one out of three young Black men was either locked up, on probation, or on parole.8 
This incomprehensible level of pain and suffering is the bitter harvest of the tragically bipartisan White Supremacy as National Policy, explains why some Black organizers put forth an analysis of a nationally oppressed people, and sets the historical frame for the events of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
As we turn to proposals for action and remedy, those Black groups and individuals in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and throughout the U.S. who choose to explain their dilemma, their experience, and their demands in a Black-centered, civil rights, antiracist, and self-determination framework should be supported by all progressive people. Progressive people of all races need to show intellectual and political solidarity. Let us register the profound courage that is required to put forth that oppositional point of view, recognizing that there will be a strong bi-partisan "backlash" against Black groups and individuals who choose to think and express themselves in this context.
This movement has already put the Bush Administration and the Democrats on the defensive. Responding to Black rage -- articulated in Kanye West's angry observation, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people"  -- Bush was forced to say in his September 15th speech to the country, "Poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunities of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."9  Headlines on the internet actually read, "Bush Talks about Poverty," as if it was a major news scoop.
Still, as we will see, Bush's proposal for "enterprise zones" and his $61 billion corporate giveaway betray his real intentions. His much more powerfully coded "New Orleans Will Rise Again" is little more than the longstanding Dixiecrat theme "The [white] South Will Rise Again." Still, this is a reflection of the power of a resurgent movement, as Jesse Jackson has twice gone after Bill Clinton, by demanding that the Clinton/Bush Sr. Katrina response team appoint Black leadership to help head up the relief efforts, and by fingering Clinton’s lobbyists, not just Bush's, for the corporate raiding in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.10 
The heroic work of movement groups in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is helping to shape the terms of the debate. Today, not just in New Orleans, but throughout the Gulf Coast states of Alabama and Mississippi, throughout every major urban center from New York to Houston to Los Angeles, there is an urgent need for a Third Reconstruction. This effort should be led by a Black/Latino alliance as part of the broader alliance of all oppressed nationality peoples, Asian/Pacific Islander, Indigenous peoples, reaching out to antiracist and progressive whites, and allying internationally with the peoples and nations of the Third World to challenge the decadence and racism of the U.S. empire.
We must use all of our resources and resolve to try to ensure that the Black community and a multiracial movement can make an historic intervention to demand Black self-determination and the Right of Return for all 350,000 Black people in New Orleans and the Black community throughout the Gulf Coast. Only if people get home will there be a social base for a long-term struggle for power. That single demand, the Right of Return, is the key link to reconstruct a foundation of the people of the Black Belt South. We must not allow the corporate class to use this tragedy as a profit binge with public funds while the white corporate, upper, and middle classes occupy the Black community's assets.
1  W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America (New York: The Free Press, 1962), 30.
2  Ibid. 149
3  Curtis Muhammad, Interview with Eric Mann and Damon Azali, Voices from the Front Lines, KPFK 90.7 FM, Los Angeles, September 12, 2005.
4  In 1967, I was living in the Black community (South Ward) in Newark, New Jersey during the urban rebellion. From my apartment, surrounded by national guard troops that killed 23 people and injured 725, I wrote an article "Newark -- It Was Like a Happening" to a predominantly white audience, trying to explain to even white liberals why Black people would rebel and why they should support such urban rebellions.
5  As researcher Palak Shah explained, "There is wide variance in how many rebellions occurred during the 1960s, mostly because researchers have focused on cities with large Black populations, newspaper reports only, and/or excluded uprisings in schools and smaller cities." A study led by sociology professor Daniel Meyers that analyzed this bias located 1357 "riot" events. He claims that even the most complete studies contain only 752 events and this is over an 8 year period (1964-1971). According to his tabulation, 458 cities experienced at least one rebellion from 1967-1969. Dr. Daniel Meyers, "Racial Riots in the United States, 1967-1972," University of Notre Dame, www.nd.edu/~dmyers/team/frp.html . A New York Times article stated, "From 1964 to 1971, there were more than 750 riots, killing 228 people and injuring 12,741 others. After more than 15,000 separate incidents of arson, many black urban neighborhoods were in ruins" (Virginia Postrel, "The Consequences of the 1960's Race Riots Come into View,"  The New York Times, December 20, 2004).
6  Black Panther Party Platform and Program, African American Historical Documents. Available at www.africanamericans.com/BlackPantherPartyPlatform.htm .
7  Willie Horton was a Black prisoner, incarcerated in Concord State Prison for first degree murder, who was released under a week-end furlough program in 1986, under a program established by the Massachusetts legislature and supported by then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Horton never came back to prison, and while out on the streets, he viciously stabbed a man and raped his wife. During the 1988 presidential election, George Bush ran pictures of Horton and charging "liberal" Dukakis with allowing Black men to roam the streets committing crimes. Bush’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater (a clone of Karl Rove, bragged that "before this election is over, Willie Horton will become a household name." It is widely agreed that the "Horton" incident scared the hell out of white voters and was a major factor in Dukakis’ defeat and Bush's election.
RACISM AND RESISTANCE IN NEW ORLEANS
An Only-Touching-the-Surface Timeline: 1444 – 2005
Portuguese who captured Africans and brought them to Europe called them 'prisoners of war.'
Jean Baptiste Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, brought a crew of businessmen to the swampy delta at the base of the Mississippi. He decided that he needed Africans to drain the swamps in order to make the land profitable.
John Law, a Scottish businessman, began to import 3000 Africans per year to Louisiana. His company was called 'Company of the West.'
Bienville officially founded New Orleans. In the same year, the Company of the West began to import African men, 17 years or older, for sale at $660 per African. Settlers could purchase and African on credit if they lacked cash.
Bienville adapted 'Code Nair' (Black Code) from Haiti (then called Sainte-Dominique) as the legal code enabling small white male French colony in New Orleans to rule over labor and bodies of enslaved Africans. The code called for the death penalty of any African who struck a Frenchm~n and bruised. his face. Africans could not own weapons, property, file lawsuits, assemble without white permission, testify against Europeans or run away. Punishments varied from cutting off ears, hamstringing, branding, whipping or death. Children of enslaved mothers automatically became enslaved for life.
Population of Louisiana was 1925 French land owners, 276 European indentured servants, 229 captured indigenous people, 1540 Africans.
FOUNDING OF THE U.S.
Enslaved Africans in Haiti revolted against French owners, defeated Napoleon's army and became the first republic in the Americas free of slavery. The victory terrified slave owners in the U.S.
U.S. purchases a huge swath of land from the French once called 'The Louisiana Territory.' France has to sell because the loss of Haiti and the defeat of its army has impoverished the French government.
Slave trade becomes 'illegal' though it continues. With the reduction of kidnapped Africans coming to the U.S., the slave auction block became the major means of purchasing enslaved labor. New Orleans became the largest slave market in the U.S. (The auction block, originally located at the S1. Louis Hotel, corner of S1. Louis and Royal in the French Quarter, was moved to the Old Mint on Decatur Street after slavery ended.)
Rebellion of enslaved Africans in St. John the Baptist Parish of Louisiana fails. 100 rebels are killed.
Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia horrifies slave owners who tighten rules and punishments to try to prevent escapes.
Enslaved peoples revolt on board the 'Creole' enroute from Virginia to New Orleans. They overpower the crew, sail to the Bahamas, and are granted asylum.
Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland. She returns 19 times to the South land and leads more than 300 enslaved people to freedom.
New Orleans developed a three tiered racial hierarchy: whites on top, 'Creoles' or mixed race people in the middle, Africans on the bottom. About 25% of total population was Creole. Of these, 75% were skilled craftsmen, 25% were professionals. 'Creoles' were also called 'free people of color.' Unlike enslaved Africans, Creoles were permitted to learn to read and write; they could testify in court and own property. But they could not marry whites.
Before the Civil War, African labor built New Orleans: they built the levees, ran the mills, cut cane and sugar, were barbers, porters, tailors and light skin women were rented out by their owners as courtesans. Slave owners rented out 'their' enslaved labor by the day, month or year. Louisiana held the largest plantations in the South.
RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD: 1862-1877
New Orleans surrenders to Union.
Massacre leaves 37 Unionists dead.
Black leaders and Creoles begin organizing right after war. Do not rely on whites. By 1870 they have first integrated police force in the country, 1/3 of cops are Black. From 1870-1877, they integrate public schools With white Republicans, they are elected (Black men now have the vote) to the state legislature. Pritchard, a Black man, becomes Lieutenant Governor. They rewrite the State Constitution to ensure integration, and they take over the New Orleans School Board to ensure funding.
In response the white population takes its children out of public schools, and sets up 81 private and Catholic schools for white children between 1868-71.
Corporate and middle class whites set up White League (predecessor of White Citizens Councils in the 1950's) to derail the political and economic aspirations of Black people. More working class whites found the Knights of the White Camellia, a secret terrorist organization like the KKK.
In 1874, a White League militia overcomes the Republicans at the 'Battle of Liberty Place' on what is now Canal Street. Beginning of end of an era. White mobs forced Black children out of public schools. They seized the white superintendent overseeing integrated schools In New Orleans, kidnapped him and threatened to lynch him if he didn't sign an order to end segregation. He signed it.
U.S. government withdraws federal troops from the South and disarms Southern Black soldiers. Reconstruction ends. Violence, sharecropping, chain gangs, prisons, disenfranchisement of Black voters and segregation become the law of the land.
ERA OF APARTHEID, LYNCHING AND HEIGHT OF WHITE SUPREMACY: 1877-1950's
In New Orleans, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) calls a general strike. Unions of Black and white workers, though segregated work together. They all win a 10 hour day, overtime pay but no union shop.
Under the Populist Party banner, an alliance of Black and poor white farmers nearly elect a white Republican governor. But the fragile alliance is broken as poor whites move into the Democratic Party at the expense of Blacks.
The Democratic Party of Louisiana, now fully in power, rewrites the state constitution requiring a literacy test and property ownership for all voters. Poor whites are 'grandfathered' out of this policy (if their granddaddies voted, they can vote), thus ensuring a mass electoral base for white supremacy.
Between 1896 and 1904, Black voters in Louisiana went from 126,849 to 1718, or from 45% to 2% of the total electorate.
Robert Charles, a man of African descent enraged by apartheid, kills 4 white police and shoots several white bystanders in New Orleans. A white mob kills him on the spot. And begins a white riot.
(From 1860's to 1940's, Louisiana has 400 reported lynchings. Only Mississippi, Georgia and Texas top that record, and most lynchings go unreported. 86% of the lynched people are Black.)
Black and white workers on the levees and the docks, in 36 different unions, stage a lengthy strike in New Orleans. Though the media, employers and the city government all try to keep Black unionists out of the negotiations, both Black and white unions refuse to negotiate. Thanks to their unity, the unions win all their demands.
Four furious white women sue the New Orleans transit system after they are arrested for refusing to sit in the 'colored' section of ltte bus. Apparently the bus driver thought they were "Creole." Their suit alleged they were of "the pure Caucasian race and from the best families." They won their suit.
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT ERA: 1940's - LATE 1960's
New Orleans NAACP struggles in court against apartheid laws, especially after U.S. Supreme Court strikes down white primaries in 1944, and President Truman orders armed forces to be desegregated in 1948.
But most Black New Orleanians focus on building their own institutions: churches, social clubs, and civic leagues. These will become the foundations of Black activism in the 1950's.
Black students in New Orleans boycott "McDonough Day" which honors John McDonough, called the "patron saint of New Orleans public schools." By apartheid custom, Black children had to wait in the hot sun while white school children went into the public building first. This action, taken right after the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional, was called the first Louisiana boycott based on issues of racism. The boycott was led by A.J. Chapital, a Black postal worker and NAACP activist.
Whites in New Orleans flock to the newly formed White Citizens Councils determined to keep segregation at all costs.
White-run Community Chest, a predecessor to United Way, kicks out the Urban League because it advocates for integration.
City Park facilities, state colleges and universities, and New Orleans transit system are all integrated.
Black activists boycott stores of Dryades business district which have a 90% Black customer base. Boycott led by Consumers League which later became a younger, more militant CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) chapter.
Black social clubs, coordinated under the umbrella of 'United Clubs,' blackouts Mardi Gras for a year. They plan to carnival parades or balls and plan to use the money saved to build a Black social hall. Instead, they donated the money to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Youth sit in at Woolworth's on Canal Street as part of sit in movement throughout South. In response, an elite secret 'Citizens Committee of New Orleans organized by the Chamber of Commerce begins to meet to oversee process of integration in businesses. Their purpose is economic, and they want to integrate without marches or demonstrations.
Period of intense racist mobs attacking Black first graders trying to go to public school in working class white section of the Ninth Ward. White School Board had deliberately chosen schools in neighborhoods totally opposed to integration, though other neighborhoods requested to be integrated. White integrationists formed Save Our Schools to support Black community.
White youth carrying Confederate flags threatened to kill Black children while police refused to arrest the mob. White supremacist parents removed their children from the public schools as more Black children entered. White Citizens Council set up 9th Ward Cooperative School for white kids with public tax money. In 1972, schools were 72% Black; in 1992, 92% Black.
NAACP Youth Council pickets 35 stores on Canal Street demanding that Black people be hired above menial jobs. They believe in nonviolence but right to self defense. When a white man hits Raphael Cassimere, the main organizer in the face, the picketer broke his picket sign over the white man's head.
10,000 mostly Black activists march from Shakespeare Park in Central City to City Hall. Banner says "We march in dignity for human dignity." March for integration.
A small group of African American men, most of them veterans of World War Two and the Korean War, founded the Deacons for Defense and Justice in the town of Jonesboro, Louisiana. Another chapter was founded in Bogalusa, just 60 miles from New Orleans. The purpose of the organization was to provide armed self defense for civil rights workers, many of whom practiced nonviolence in the face of deadly white supremacist violence.
Their Bogalusa chapter fought off the KKK in a bloody campaign. They had many chapters throughout the South and were investigated by the FBI. Apparently, they left the scene in 1968.
Louisiana legislature removes all Jim Crow laws from books. Intermarriage now legal. Black people can move into white neighborhoods. But 1/3 of the legislators refused to vote!
January 7, 1973
U.S. Navy veteran Mark Essex prompts a 32-hour shootout from the rooftop of the Downtown Howard Johnson's Hotel across from City Hall, resulting in the deaths of nine people including himself and wounding several others. Essex was said to have reflected the extreme but nevertheless prevalent anger and lost hope of Black Americans over the widespread prevalence of racism and economic inequality.
October 7, 1974
Free Gary Tyler. A mob of White youths surrounded a school bus filled with Black Destrehan High School students (30 miles upriver from New Orleans). The white youths pelted the bus with rocks and bottles. Several Black students saw a White man in the mob with a shotgun pointing in their direction. As they dove for cover, shot dead was a young White student, Timothy Weber, who was standing near the bus. A full search of the Black students and the bus found no weapons. Yet St. Charles Parish Sheriff's deputies threatened to arrest the cousin of Gary Tyler, Ike, for "carrying a concealed weapon", citing the necklace he was wearing, designed with a spent 22-caliber cartridge. Tyler, then 16 years old, protested, saying that he too had a similar necklace. Officers arrested him and charged Tyler with "disturbing the peace". Weary that they could not find the gun or ammunition that shot dead the White student, St. Charles Sheriff deputies later charged Tyler with 1st degree murder, under suspicion of a planted murder weapon. Federal and state courts have subsequently acknowledged that Tyler's conviction in the case was fundamentally unfair, especially given the Klan-inflamed atmosphere. Once placed on death row, Tyler's sentence was reduced to life in prison, leaving him to repeatedly plead his innocence before the state pardon board. As of this writing he remains in Angola State Penitentiary, about to turn 50 years old, where he is serving out his sentence of life without parole for the murder of Timothy Weber. Hurricane Katrina displaced Louisianans who once championed his cause are trying to again arouse interest in his case amongst the scores of activists who are shifting their volunteer work from rebuilding housing to restorative justice.
November 12, 1977
Election of Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, New Orleans first Black mayor. He would serve two terms, signaling the beginning of three decades of predominate African American political leadership in New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina and beyond.
The United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) strike against the Orleans Parish School Board. Schools were closed for nearly six weeks. Pay raises and benefits were sought and won. Predominately African American and female, UTNO would face a virtual dismemberment of its contract following Hurricane Katrina, which led to mass layoffs of its membership and the acceleration of privatization of public education in the city.
United Steelworkers of America vs. Weber (also known as Weber vs. Kaiser). White worker Brian Weber sued over an affirmative action program initiated through an agreement between Kaiser and the union. The program established a quota for allowing workers to enter a training program which would result in promotion; although seniority was the main criterion, the affirmative action program mandated accepting some Black workers with less seniority. Weber, who had more seniority, sued. This was just a year after Bakke vs. University of California, in which the White man sued for "reverse discrimination" and won. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Weber and in favor of Kaiser and the union, because the defendants demonstrated a recent history of blatant discrimination: Weber had been hired when Kaiser had a strict "no-Blacks" policy, so no Black worker could possibly have as much seniority as he did! The Chalmette Works of Kaiser Aluminum, one of New Orleans-largest employers of African American industrial workers, closed in 1983. [An interesting aside: About fifteen years ago, The Times-Picayune's award-winning series on race and racism had interviewed Weber, who then was working for a firm in Metairie. He had totally changed his mind - becoming an ardent advocate of affirmative action!]
The Police Association of New Orleans (PANO), then an almost entirely white union, launches a strike during the Carnival season. Mayor Dutch Morial responds by arranging with Mardi Gras Parade Captains the cancellation of all city Carnival parades. Two other smaller police unions, The Fraternal Order of Police, and The Black Organization of Police, back Morial and cross picket lines. The Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana National Guard patrol the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday. PANO ultimately loses the strike.
March 28, 1979
The Three Mile Island Nuclear station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania experiences a partial core meltdown and release of radioactivity. Impacting the entire nuclear power industry, the incident spotlights the Waterford 3 Nuclear Power Plant, then under construction and located 30 miles upriver from New Orleans. Citizens of the all-Black town of Killona nearest the plant join the Oystershell Alliance, a nearly all-White anti-nuclear coalition. The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office and New Orleans Police increase their presence upriver as a result, intimidating both area residents and anti-nuclear activists.
WHITELASH AND REACTION: THE REAGAN ERA & BEYOND
Dr. Jim Dunn and Ron Chisom found The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. Its office is in New Orleans where Ron has been a community organizer for years. The People's Institute has become a national collective of experienced organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social change. P .1. considers racism the primary barrier preventing communities from building useful coalitions and overcoming institutionalized oppress and inequities .. P.1. believes that an effective, broad based movement for social transformation must be rooted in the principles of: * Undoing Racism; * Sharing Culture, *Learning from History, *Developing Leadership, *Maintaining Accountability, *Networking, *Undoing Internalized Oppression (Internalized racial inferiority & Internalized Racial Superiority), * Gatekeeping, * Analyzing the manifestations of racism.
People's Institute organizers worked with the Black residents of St. Thomas housing projects, and with the mostly white workers in the institutions of the Irish Channel surrounding the St. Thomas projects, for over 15 years until the city's and federal government's programs of public and private gentrificatin wiped out the housing for low income people, and replaced it with condominiums and a huge Walmart.
New Orleans Police's Intelligence Unit "Red Squad" informant, having infiltrated the Oystershell Alliance, entraps three key leaders with possession of marijuana and speed, following sit-ins and blockades at the corporate offices of Louisiana Power and Light (now Entergy Louisiana). Members plea bargain for parole -- but mailing list ofthe group was confiscated by police. This incident, along with infighting between multi-racial sectarian socialist groups of the Alliance and the more moderate all-white mainstream environmental groups, ultimately lead to the dissolution of the organization. The Waterford 3 nuclear plant ultimately opens in 1986. (Red Squad action chronicled in Figaro, 10/13/1980)
The Algiers Killings. Four Black residents of Algiers were killed by New Orleans Police in supposed retaliation for the killing of New Orleans Police patrolman Gregory Neupert in the fischer Housing Development. Then-unsubstantiated rumors of NOPD protection of drug dealers shadow the incident [In 1994, several NOPD officers are implicated in such rackets, just a year following the movie premiere of the fictional thriller The Big Easy]. Major public protests in the wake ofthe killings happen citywide. The predominantly-African American Police Brutality Committee was formed and coordinates the protests. Regular sit-ins, street blockades and business boycotts disrupt life during the period. Two examples of special note: 1) Mayor Dutch Morial was blocked out of his office at City Hall for almost three days due to his inaction towards disciplining officers. 2) Protesters on Labor Day 1981 attempted to leaflet mostly African American picnickers along Lakeshore Drive east of the University of New Orleans - but were met by the NOPD in armored personnel carriers and riot gear. Activists quickly shifted away from the lakefront and drove to Armstrong Park in Treme to disrupt a speech by Mayor Moria!. No one was found guilty in the deaths of both Officer Neupert or the four Algiers residents (one of the latter was a young mother shot to death by police in front of her flve-year-old child). However, seven NOPD officers were tried and convicted of federal civil rights violations in the deaths of the four Black residents. The PBC continued protests for years, until the successful creation of the Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) in 1983. Its first director was Morris Reed.
Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution, following the overthrow of Dictator Anastasio Somoza. Aside from Miami, New Orleans-area supporters and opponents of the revolution rhetorically and at times physically battle. Opponents were headquartered in Kenner amongst the Honduran community (itself the largest outside Honduras), lead by Mario Calero (more famous brother Adolfo Calero was headquartered in Miami). Anti-Sandinista fighters were known as "The Contras" and when severely injured were airlifted to Ochsner Foundation Hospital for free medical care, courtesy of the hospital's founder, Alton Ochsner. Pro-Sandinista solidarity groups in New Orleans centered around the Loyola Institute of Human Relations (now the Loyola Twomey Center for Peace with Justice), People's Bookstore (1976-19867) then located at 2714 Banks Street; as well as the Committee In Solidarity with the People of EI Salvador (CISPES) -- this chapter of the national group would distinguish itself with the first significant attempt by a left-wing white activist organization to face racism within its ranks (the national office of CISPES initially rebuked its New Orleans local for hosting a "Undoing Racism" seminar by the People's Institute For Survival and Beyond (hereafter known as "PISAB") -- national CISPES initially said this was straying away from the main concern of political struggle. Numerous internal struggles about how CIS PES might relate to the Jesse Jackson campaign for President, which consistently raised the issue of CISPES' relationship as an international solidarity organization to racism at home; the national office scheduled an Undoing Racism Workshop for all national leaders of CISPES in the mid-1980s.
CISPES New Orleans would distinguish itself in another key way, through its empowered female leadership. Following the death of Carroll Ishee as he fought alongside Salvadoran guerrilla fighters seeking the overthrow of the rightist U.S.-backed death squad government, Ishee's spouse Lavaun Ishee, a nurse by training, would singly raise their two children and lead CIS PES New Orleans towards both incorporating the Undoing Racism of PISAB and encouraging feminist leadership in the Central American solidarity and anti-nuclear war movements. Pax Christi New Orleans, then the largest chapter of the International Catholic Peace Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Committee for Peace in Central America, the Movement for Peace is Central America, and the New Orleans Nicaraguan Solidarity Organization all had female/male co-chairs. Ishee later would open doors to gay and lesbians, and would be pivotal in the formation of the group Women for Peace, one of thousands worldwide which stood in solidarity with the women peace campers outside European and U.S. airbases that held nuclear weapons.
The election of Ronald Reagan for President of the United States not only inflamed those in solidarity with Latin American liberation struggles; it sparked creation of a broad anti-nuclear weapons movement. Mostly white nationwide and in New Orleans, some groups nevertheless began to address issues of racism and social inequity, notably the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The only U.S. chapter of the British mainstream organization, CND united New Orleans' then small Asian and Buddhist religious communities with predominately white secular and Catholic pacifists. One leg of the "March for Disarmament" to the UN Special Session in New York, June 1982 (reportedly to date was the world's largest single demonstration, with 2 million people) began in New Orleans on January 1, 1982, Marchers on the Louisiana leg would proceed on a twelve-day journey up Airline Highway / U.S. 61 to Baton Rouge, then east to Slidell via Florida Blvd / U.S. 190. The multiracial marchers were first threatened with arrest upon entering Livingston Parish east of Baton Rouge -- only to be vouched for by both Black and White area Baptist Church leaders. Three marchers (me included in that number) were run off the road by hooded Klansmen just east of Albany, LA., about January 8, 1982. The marchers planned sanctuary on Albany's eastside, an all-Black section, was protected all night by area residents and Livingston Parish's then-one African American sheriff's deputy. No arrests were made.
CND would eventually hold three major citywide "Peace Sunday" marches. Their second march (1983) was marred by the unilateral decision of the March committee to reroute the march away from the Lafitte Housing Development enroute from City Park to Armstrong Park. The 1984 Peace Sunday did include the lafitte area, but Ronald Reagan's reelection as president prompted many to leave the movement. CND in 1985 effectively split into two groups, with one continuing more traditional Peace witness through churches and schools, and another uniting with the New Orleans Committee Against Apartheid specifically to block shipments of South African uranium through the Port of New Orleans. At the height of anti-nuclear weapons and Latin American solidarity organizing more than thirty groups were active in New Orleans, as well as a dozen more in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Slidell and Houma.
May 15, 1982
Organized community opposition, led by the elements allied with the Police Brutality Committee dissented against proposed City sales tax increase. It passed.
Local #328 Pari-Mutuel Clerks strike at Jefferson Downs Race Track (then in Kenner, closed in the 1990s). The AFL-CIO charged that track owners were firing unionized Black employees in favor of non-union White workers. The strike ultimately was settled thanks to a high-profile picket-line honoree, country-western singer Willie Nelson, who refused to perform at a planned and sold-out October 2, 1982 concert unless grievances were met. The fired workers won reinstatement into their old jobs and monetary restitution for lost wages, plus a modest pay raise.
Protests demanding political asylum for eight Haitian refugees spotlight then-Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti's ever-expanding Orleans Parish Prison complex (which became Louisiana's largest until Katrina, housing at its zenith almost 8,000 local, state and federal prisoners). The eight were separately imprisoned at the OPP-acquired Conchetta Motel on Tulane Avenue. A federal judge in July 1982 would order the release of the 8, along with 2000 other Haitians nationwide held in detention for immigration violations.
May 8, 1982
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference protests the conviction of Vernon Chapman of rape, during a vigil in Covington. Chapman, who is Black, was convicted in St. Tammany Parish by an all-White jury.
May 29, 1982
Louisiana Conference Against Militarism at St. Mark's Methodist Community Center, became one of the first predominately-white anti-war organizations nationwide to integrally-host the PISAB's "Undoing Racism" Workshop (which at that time was just presented as an introductory seminar in a call upon activists who were White to undergo a more deeper analysis If they were to continue social justice activism.
May 30, 1982
250-strong and multi-racial women religious march for peace from Congo Square to Jackson Square to in front of St. Louis Cathedral, in defiance of avowedly pro U.S.-war then-New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Phillip Hannon.
July 22, 1982
Acid rain levels in Baton Rouge were measured at 70 times normal. This lead to mostly Slack neighborhoods and activists to ultimately unite in a first coalition with the then all-White Sierra Club I New Orleans and area unionized industrial workers. Their early activism led to the development of both the "Environmental Racism" analysis and the term "Cancer Alley" -- the latter describing the ninety mile petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Several significant marches occurred through 1990, weaving environmental, health and housing activists together in concerted organizing campaigns, which became national models.
August 3, 1982
An eleven-month rent strike by tenants of the St. Thomas Housing Development to protest poor living conditions and increased utility rates. Over $300,000 in rent money was put into escrow, in expected re-calculation of the tenant's utility allowance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ultimately approved of a settlement with the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), according to tenant's attorney, Bill Quigley. Quigley today remains New Orleans public housing residents' leading advocate in the wake of their developments' closure following Hurricane Katrina.
September 25, 1982
"Freedom of Conscience: Nonviolence and the Right to Dissent" conference unites the all-Black Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the then all-White Catholic peace organization Pax Christi New Orleans, the then all-White Friends Meeting of New Orleans (Quakers) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.
Significant and mostly unsuccessful nationwide strikes of Air Traffic Controllers, railroad workers, and NFL Football players. Only the football players would advance their interests, with the Air Traffic Controllers union, PATCO, ending up broken as the result of a forced lockout, affecting controllers at New Orleans International Airport.
Black and White elderly mostly female tenants of the Delta Tower, corner of Claiborne and Canal Streets, protest anticipated evictions for the planned conversion of the building into a hotel for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. They were all evicted.
December 1982 – Early 1983
Citywide boycott of Majik Market Food Marts I Gulf Oil Stations after 17 Black women clerks protested being sexually harassed by both Black and White male managers. One manager ultimately was fired and another reassigned. Fired workers earned back pay following months of street pickets and blockades of gas pumps by Black and White community activists and families of the women.
Black school custodians, all men, in Bogalusa, forty miles northeast of New Orleans go on strike for higher pay. School lunch counter workers, all women, join them in solidarity. Both were represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
The National Campaign to Free Eddie Carthan and the Tchula 7. The first Black-elected mayor of Tchula, MS, a town of 2100 people north of Jackson, Eddie Carthan and seven elected Black council members were implicated in what turned out to be a fraud scheme designed by the old White-power structure as a public misappropriation of tax funds in order to overthrow the town's Black-elected leadership. Initially sentenced by an all-White jury to a three year prison term, Carthan received a new trial and was acquitted. He was later granted Executive Clemency by outgoing governor William Winter and was released from prison October 13, 1983. Significant numbers of Black and White New Orleanians rallied in Carthan's defense in both Jackson and New Orleans. Many organizations attributed the harassment of Carthan to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)-centered campaign, initiated in the Reagan era, to criminalize Black activists involved in Southern voting rights work, as a way to undermine Black electoral power.
Proposed utility rate hikes by Louisiana Power and Light due to nuclear plant cost overruns force the closure of one of the area's biggest employers of skilled African American workers, Kaiser Aluminum's Chalmette Works. Today only the plant's smokestack remains.
January 15, 1983
More than 400 people, both Black and White march Uptown in demands for creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday.
January 19, 1983
Black community activists in the Desire Housing Development area decry gross neglect on the part of the Orleans Levee Board for the latter's failure to close floodgates to block massive flooding of the Desire-Florida area.
Debate flares in the progressive community over the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union's decision to defend the free speech rights of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was denied a parade permit from Hammond, LA police in November 1982, citing threats to public safety following the police traffic stop of then-Hammond Black City Councilmember Wilbert Dangerfield. The ACLU ultimately won the right to free speech, even by the terrorist organization KKK, June 1, 1983. Twenty-one robed Klan members marched June 18. An equal number of counter-demonstrators, mostly from New Orleans, were also present. There were no arrests.
March 7, 1983
In a trial that was moved to Dallas, Texas because enormous pre-trial publicity, Seven NOPD officers after a three-year delay were formally indicted in beatings and killings formally known as the Algiers killings.
March 7-10, 1983
A lawsuit was filed to reapportion congressional districts, ultimately affording creation of a New Orleans district with a 55°/0 Black majority. Amongst those leading this effort was the ACLU, PISAB and the Survival Coalition (Ron Chisom was the lead plaintiff). The original White-majority 2nd District was fashioned at one point to look like a duck, hence its short-lived name "The Donald Duck District." Settlement of the Congressional remap suit also resulted in the numerical set-aside of a Black-majority Louisiana Supreme Court district, leading to the election of the high court's first Black and female judge, Bernette Johnson.
April 18, 1983
The Citizens Memorial Committee, led by 92-year-old labor and peace activist, feminist and writer Elizabeth Cousins Rogers, marked publicly for the first time honoring public school integration in New Orleans. Plaques for this and noting the election of New Orleans' first Black mayor, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial were set in the neutral ground promenade of Elk Place, catty-corner from the Main New Orleans Public Library. Honored were the first four African American children to integrate previously all-White schools sites: Ruby Bridges, Gail Etienne, Tessie Provost and Leona Tate. Formal integration of New Orleans Public Schools began in 1960 and was completed by 1972, despite massive White flight to the suburbs.
May 30, 1983
Rally in support of the commemoration of the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, DC. Over 700 people were in attendance at Greater St. Stephen's Catholic Church. Speakers included Coretta Scott King, Rev. Joseph Lowery and special local guests.
Armstrong Park redevelopment opposed by the Tremé community. Proposed hotels, restaurants, night clubs and an amusement park known as Tivoli Gardens, were opposed by residents of one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in the U.S. Lead by activist Ron Chisom, opponents cited the threat to Tremé's historic residential character. The New Orleans City Council voted 5-0 to stop the project.
July 4, 1983
"Get NOPSI Back" Brownout deemed success. Planned cut-back of utility usage in protest of high rates and nuclear power prompted a recorded 11010 decrease in kilowatt hours over the same time the previous year. "NOPSI" stood for New Orleans Public Service Incorporated. It is now known as Entergy New Orleans. The action highlighted the electoral effort to regain local regulation of the utility from the state Public Service Commission, a right lost due to an extremely low-turnout, Thanksgiving-Saturday election contest which saw only 8% voter turnout. This public referendum was also distinguished for its source of funding – directly and openly from NOPSI!
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform NOW) began a squatting campaign of abandoned homes in the Ninth Ward to provide help for the homeless and low-income residents. The campaign lasted more than a year and started off with two houses and evolved into the reclamation of dozens of structures.
October 22, 1983
City referendum to afford unlimited mayoral terms defeated soundly. Referendum to force the return of utility regulation back to the New Orleans City Council failed by a margin of just 800 votes. The transfer thru another vote occurred 2 years later.
November 12, 1983
Creation of the New Orleans Committee Against Apartheid, following public addresses by South African dissidents, at Loyola University's Nunemaker Hall. Protests throughout 1983 and 1984 against trade with South Africa led to the New Orleans City Council passing such a resolution. Four people, including the late Reverend and state Representative Avery C. Alexander, were arrested for trespassing following a sit-in at a coin shop where South African gold was sold.
November 26, 1983
- January 15, 1984
Voices of the New Orleans Movement held an exhibition of Civil Rights photos entitled "We'll Never Turn Back" at N.O. Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation offices on Chef Menteur Hwy. Curator of the exhibit was the late Oretha Castle Haley, the youngest of the group of youths who integrated New Orleans lunch counters, for whom Dryades Street was renamed in her honor.
December 14, 1983
Louisiana reinstates Capital Punishment after a 22-year absence when Robert Wayne Williams was executed for his murder conviction. Louisiana would become the highest per capita rate of executions in the U.S.
Plaquemines Parish canceled the holiday which honored the late Leander H. Perez, Sr. Perez was an arch-segregationist and virtual dictator as District Attorney of it and neighboring St. Bernard Parish, two coastal parishes located southeast of New Orleans, as well as Plaquemines Parish's then-Police Jury President.
White New Orleans Police officer Stephen Rosiere was convicted of Second-Degree murder in the shooting death of a Black teenager, Gerard Glover, during an August 31, 1983 motorcycle chase. Rosiere's partner, Fred McFarlane, granted immunity for his testimony against Rosiere, said Officer Rosiere shot Glover for no reason. Soon after the incident, Rosiere planted a gun two blocks from the dead teen. Rosiere received a mandatory life sentence, This investigation, which was almost thwarted by Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, was first launched by the Office of Municipal Investigation.
April 12, 1984
The first attempt by the New Orleans City Council to pass a comprehensive public accommodations civil rights ordinance, incorporating race, gender, religious belief, handicap and sexual orientation fails. It deadlocked 3-3, but would ultimately pass unanimously following the defeat of KKK and neo-Nazi advocate David Duke in his bid for Louisiana Governor in 1991.
The Louisiana World Exposition, one hundred years past a similar exposition that led to the creation of Audubon Park and the University District of Uptown New Orleans, opens just upriver from the foot of Canal Street. It would be a financial debacle; though it could also be argued that it sparked creation of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and gentrification of an adjacent area known as the Warehouse District. The latter development some suggest led to the virtual dislocation of most Black New Orleanians away from riverfront Uptown neighborhoods - which were particularly highlighted during Hurricane Katrina for being spared flooding that otherwise inundated eighty percent of the city.
May 23, 1984
More than 12,000 mostly women educators rally at the Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge to demand pay raises, the first in four years.
Tenants of the Fischer Housing Development in Algiers begin a rent strike until repairs to their units are completed. Many single mothers and all African American, these actions were a prelude to wider attempts for tenant management of their complexes.
August 6, 1984
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund file a suit in federal court which ultimately leads to the enactment of "Motor Voter", eliminating barriers to voter registration.
More than 200 public housing tenants march across the Westbank and across the Mississippi River Bridge to the Canal Street federal Housing and Urban Development office, protesting President Reagan's housing policies and fighting to recoup $2 million in utility and rent overcharges. Leading the effort are residents of the Acre Road complex in Marrero, who demanded tenant management of their complex and the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority as a whole. Despite threats by the local HUD representative to withhold funds, Acre Road tenant Beverly Epps was appointed director of the Jefferson Housing Authority November 28, 1984, becoming both the first Black woman and the first tenant to hold such a position nationwide. This also sparked the creation of the Gulf Coast Tenants Organization, along with reinvigorating the New Orleans-based National Tenant Organization.
The Louisiana American Civil Uberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lance Hill, against Louisiana State Police and Jefferson Parish District Attorney John Mamoulides seeking public records that disclose why the state police and DA dropped charges of arson and conspiracy to commit murder against two avowed KKK and neo-Nazis, brothers William and James Demick. Hill charged that a clear pattern in Louisiana of a failure to prosecute crimes by openly avowed members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations, and his requests were also designed to determine the real depth of Klan and Nazi activity in Louisiana.
(and April 1988)
Resistance to Police Harassment of Central American Solidarity Activists. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joins the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression (NAARPO) in condemning local, state and federal police surveillance of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of EI Salvador (CISPES). Several Central American nationals were intimidated away from this organization, with one of them formally being asked to become an informant, and others being stopped coming off air trips to and from the region. NAARPO spokes member Ron Chisom said that even if no threats by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been made, the mere fact that people are being questioned about their friends and organizational affiliations created a climate of suspicion, distrust and intimidation -- making it much harder to exercise their U.s. Constitutional rights of free speech and political expression. It would be later found (April 1988) that the New Orleans FBI bureau office disproportionately focused upon the New Orleans chapter of CIS PES which stood out amongst its national chapters for incorporating racism and repression against African Americans as a central part of their critique towards the U.S. war against progressive forces in Central America. While FBI spying of dissent groups was found to have occurred at S2 of S9 of the agency's field offices, more than 6000 pages out of 13,000 pages of released documents in 1988 were devoted to the New Orleans CISPES chapter alone.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament voted to make stopping $300million in uranium shipments from South Africa through the Port of New Orleans its main focus, expressing solidarity with the escalating anti-Apartheid movement. CND began regular informational pickets of the Napoleon and Nashville Avenue wharves on the Mississippi River where such ships would off-load their cargo into barges for use in American nuclear power facilities. The group would also sponsor production of the film that would become a national model for relating this international human rights struggle to local communities, From Capetown to Uptown.
March 20, 1985
Under pressure of months of weekly pickets, blockades and arrests, the South African Apartheid-era government closes its New Orleans Consulate, transferring its duties to a less public Houston high-rise.
March 30, 1985
Three St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Members were recalled for their hostile conduct against predominately African American and virtually all female striking teachers following an 8-week strike thirty miles upriver from New Orleans.
April 10, 1985
The Orleans Parish School Board voted 3-2 to construct a new Moton Elementary school atop a hazardous landfill site. The location first had received refuse as the result of Hurricane Betsy twenty years before, resulting in being declared a Superfund hazardous waste site. Much of the surrounding African American community termed the soil cap placed atop the site for both the school and their homes a substandard remediation effort.
April 14, 1985
Thirty-nine people were arrested for walking on a road in solidarity with St. Charles Parish public housing tenants, who were protesting poor living conditions. After intervention by Louisiana State Representative and Civil Rights activist Rev. Avery C. Alexander (who was also part of the original 39 that were arrested), the charges were dropped. Another march across the Luling Mississippi River Bridge was held, attracting two hundred marchers demanding tenant management of housing complexes, like those in neighboring Jefferson Parish.
April 25, 1985
Four Mississippi River Bridge Authority police officers were indicted for federal civil rights violations following the April 18 traffic stop of White motorist James Winkler in the 600 block of Camp Street. WDSU- TV African American camera operator Herbert Vigreux filmed the beating incident, only to himself be beaten by the same officers. The incident was recorded on tape, even as Vigreux was forced to drop his video camera -- but fell on the pavement still filming the police abuse of both men. The four officers were convicted in July 1985 and the MRBA settled with the abused out-of-court, resulting in damages and attempted-dissolution of the police agency.
May 4, 1985
The "Get NOPSI Back" campaign scores a 63-37% turnout victory to return to the New Orleans City Council regulation of New Orleans Public Service Incorporated, a gas and electric utility which is now known as Entergy New Orleans. The effort, led by the multi~racial Alliance for Affordable Energy and two New Orleans City Council members, Joe Giarrusso and James Singleton, garnered a 30,000+ voter majority in its second try to reclaim oversight, following transfer in a Thanksgiving 1983 weekend ballot initiative which handed It over to the state Public Service Commission.
May 13, 1985
Spontaneous protests occurred in downtown New Orleans following the Philadelphia, PA police bombing of the MOVE Communal household, in which eleven people were killed, and a whole block of row houses enveloped into flames.
June 20, 1985
The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to reallocate over $2 million in city pension funds from banks known to do business with the Apartheid-era government of South Africa.
Gordon Plaza residents protest again against the Moton Elementary school construction and demand relocation from their Superfund-situated neighborhood.
October 23, 1985
Unarmed African American Vernell Foster was shot to death Uptown by Gary Garfunkel, a White man who feared being robbed as Foster approached. Though shooting Foster five times, three shots in the back, Garfunkel was formally cleared of wrongdoing by an Orleans Parish Grand Jury and District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr.
into early 1986
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) both called and settled a boycott of Winn-Dixie Supermarkets following the finding that the southeast U.S. chain had knowingly relabeled canned pears, peaches and fish to cover their South African-origins. The SCLC also launched a boycott of the locally-owned Nicholson & Loup Food Giant supermarkets, until a formal retraction was made by the stores' owner, State Senator Elwin Nicholson. He publicly suggested that school test scores would improve if Black children's records were removed. Nicholson also said that integration has ruined Louisiana public schools. His stores in Gretna, Kenner and Marrero faced weeks of pickets by African American SCLC members and several White New Orleans activists.
March 26, 1986
Thirty members and supporters of the predominately African American group Fishermen and Concerned Citizens in Plaquemines Parish were arrested for "disturbing the peace" during a parish commission council meeting. They had demanded job and social service relief projects in their community, even as similarly-situated white parish residents were assisted in the face of a major economic downturn in the oil industry.
April 9, 1986
A federal judge ruled that Gretna aldermen must be elected from districts instead of citywide, to give its 5,200 Black citizens (out of 21,000) a more representative voice in government. A similar suit in the other Westbank of Jefferson Parish municipality of Westwego was also awaiting trial.
June 16, 1986
In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Soweto Uprising against the South African government, Louisiana State Representative Rev. Avery C. Alexander and other activists began regular pickets of Shell Oil company service stations. Protesters braved heavy rains to call attention to Royal Dutch Shell Corporation's directly-linked support of providing fuel to the South African Security Forces in defense of upholding the strict racial segregation of Apartheid.
June 23. 1986
Local 100 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) signed a one-year collective bargaining agreement with the downtown New Orleans Hyatt, marking the first recognition of a hotel labor union here in nearly forty years. A year of national boycotts of all non-union Hyatt properties after a five-year impasse with New Orleans Hyatt workers preceded the settlement, which represented 250 mostly female and all African American housekeepers, valets, concierge, bell staff and linen workers. A major catalyst towards settling the dispute was the National Council of Churches cancellation of its spring 1986 New Orleans convention, along with spirited picketing by scores of activists during that year's Sugar Bowl festivities.
July 21, 1986
In solidarity with the opponents of South African Apartheid, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club cancelled a then-much vaunted tourism trip by New Orleans Carnival's largest African American-led parading krewe to the country.
August 13, 1986
New Orleans Police officer Romallis Stokes pled guilty in the September 18, 1985 electric stun gun torture of Patrick Ledet, and of Thomas Merricks four days later.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee retracts public comments that suggested that Black people should be stopped by police if seen in White Jefferson Parish neighborhoods.
Two streets leading from the predominately Black Pigeontown section of Uptown New Orleans into the predominately White Jefferson Parish community of Southport were physically blocked by parish public works road barricades, at the suggestion of Sheriff Harry Lee, who said it would curtail street crime in the area. Pigeontown residents called for the teardown of "our Berlin Wall", which led New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy to order a Department of Streets backhoe to uproot the metal barricades. Jefferson Parish officials were subsequently found to have improperly blocked entrance to a state highway (Montecello Ave.).
June 20, 1987
2000 union workers and their supporters protest the three-year plant lockout of 370 workers at the BASF Chemical Corporation facility in Geismar, fifty miles upriver from New Orleans.
October 10, 1987
Civil Rights activist Oretha Castle Haley dies of complications from cancer at the age of 48. As a youthful organizer with the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE), Castle-Haley played a major role in the sit-ins and pickets of downtown New Orleans lunch counters to protest Jim Crow segregation. In her later years she sparked the consciousness of retaining African American community and Civil Rights movement history. The New Orleans City Council renamed the business-portion of Dryades Street after her in recognition of her activism and community leadership.
Amnesty International assails the State of Louisiana as an abuser of human rights for its number one per capita ranking in its use of the death penalty. In the summer of 1987, Louisiana gained international notoriety for executing 8 convicted murderers in 8 successive weeks. As of this time since 1722 Louisiana officially had killed 867 persons by hanging, electrocution and beheading.
Tulane University battles over Apartheid. An announcement by Tulane University officials to formally grant with an honorary doctorate anti-Apartheid and human rights activist Bishop Desmond Tutu -- while it simultaneously held steadfast to investments in corporations doing business in South Africa -- sparked student demonstrations on the Uptown campus. Four protest shanties made of cardboard and scrap wood, signifying the squalid housing occupied by many Black South Africans in the townships where they are relegated are erected, first on the University Center Quad, then in front of Gibson Hall on St. Charles Avenue April 17-30. Students hold 24-hour a day vigils through the conclusion of the spring semester, protesting university hypocrisy in not divesting its funds from such corporations while honoring the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town with the degree during commencement exercises. Tulane protestors reflect 137 other campuses nationwide demanding their respective university officials to empty their portfolios of these companies whose economic capital props up the white-minority Apartheid regime. Maki Mandela, eldest daughter of then-imprisoned anti-Apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, spoke across from the shanties at Mc Alister Auditorium April 19. A sit-in at the campus administrative office prompts Tulane University's board to meet to consider student demands. Offering the bizarre counter argument that the "free speech and inquiry" would be adversely affected were Tulane to agree to protestors' demands, the board declines the portfolio change. Hearing of this, Bishop Desmond Tutu declines the planned Tulane University honorary degree May 9: "I regret that the university did not fully share with me its position on South Africa at an earlier stage. I am willing to accept the degree in a year's time should Tulane review its decision not to divest."
May 4, 1988
NOPD kills Black teen seen with toy gun. Sixteen-year-old Michael Preston Foley Jr., a 9th-grade special education student at Nicholls High School was playing with his younger cousin, 14-year-old Tyronne Conners, using an air pistol behind their apartment at 7215 Chef Menteur Highway. An employee of the nearby American Bank and Trust Company at 7201 Chef called police and summoned them to the apartment complex. Seeing this, the teens ran back to their home. According to police accounts, Foley had pulled out the realistic-looking .45 caliber pistol and pointed it at officers. Foley's family said that one uniformed and one plain-clothes officer had pursued the teens and kicked-in their door. Seeking to comply with their request to drop the "weapon", Foley pulled it out from under his shirt, only to be Instantly shot in the chest by plain-clothes officer Sgt. Anthony Chetta. Foley stumbled towards his aunt and parental guardian, Jessie Howell, before collapsing and dying at the scene. The Liberation League led community protests the next day and organized legal support for the family. Later that summer an Orleans Parish Grand Jury declined to indict Sgt. Chetta.
May 9(?), 1988
NOPD shoots another person with a toy gun. Gerald A. Mathieu filed suit May 26 in Civil District Court after a grand jury refused to indict NOPD officers Gary Guggenheim and Armando Asaro for negligent injury. A homeless man, Mathieu was shot as he was resting under a tree near a nursing home, despite protests by neighbors who said the man was harmless and that his pistol was a toy. The $28 million suit claims the officers over-reacted.
Organizing for the Republican National Convention raises charges of movement racism. Hundreds of mostly white activists converge upon New Orleans to dissent against the Reagan/1st Bush administration. Concerns were raised over the impact that these protestors would have upon local issues and neighborhoods. The latter concern rose after a protest encampment was initially proposed for Armstrong Park. The request was withdrawn after the mostly-white and out-of-town activists acknowledged they failed to seek consent from the Treme community to camp there (ultimately their encampment was six blocks away from the Morial New Orleans Convention Center. Due to the intense heat of convention week, only a few campers were present at the treeless, then-windswept site). The very arenas of protest were also under dispute, this time by some local activists, who pleaded with national protest organizations NOT to agree to NOPD-deslgnated areas -- lest the rest the city becomes off-limits for protests. An official lIfree-speech" stage was erected in Lafayette Square, while those who dared to protest outside the park were harassed or jailed for the duration of the convention. There were a few significant protests, including a labor march down Poydras Street, a "die-in" by anti HIV/AIDS activists at the Morial Convention Center, and a few disruptions of right-wing evangelical preacher revival meetings (by "Ladies Against Women", targeting Pat Robertson; and "The Church of the Great Green Frog", targeting Jerry Falwell) resulting in several arrests.
Formation of Angola State Penitentiary's "Native American Brotherhood". Incarcerated Native Americans and Black prisoners with links to the Mardi Gras Indians organize to assert recognized spiritual and religious practices, demanding equal treatment with other religions practiced by prisoners within the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
New push to free “the most rehabilitated man in America.” Prisoner solidarity activists, led by Ted Quant of the Twomey Center for Peace with Justice, re-Ignite a campaign to free acclaimed prison journalist Wilbert Rideau. Then in Angola State Penitentiary for 27 years, Rideau, a Black man, was convicted in the February 16, 1961 murder of a White female bank teller during an armed robbery at a Lake Charles bank. Despite numerous awards for his co-founding and editorship of The Angolite and proclaimed even by prison officials as rehabilitated, a succession of Louisiana governors fail to agree with their own hand-picked pardon board recommendations and denied Rideau clemency, Then-Governor Buddy Roemer became the latest to do so December 7, 1988, then again near the close of his administration in 1989. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out Rideau's first murder conviction, citing prejudicial treatment because of his race. He was retried and convicted of manslaughter on March 15, 2005 and was sentenced to the maximum 21 years in prison. Having already served 40 years for his now discarded murder conviction, Rideau was immediately released. Rideau then won a state district court ruling which barred Calcasieu Parish from assessing him $127,000 for court costs borne because of his retrial. Rideau currently resides in California.
George Herbert Walker Bush is elected President of the United States, in a land-slide victory over Michael Dukakis, continuing and extending the Reagan-era for four more years.
November 11-23, 1988
The Louisiana Great Toxics March. Arguably one of the first substantive collaborations of White environmentalists, industrial union workers and Black community activists under predominate Black leadership. The march began in Baton Rouge, and was routed through what it defined (and hence is now Widely termed) as "Cancer Alley": the 90 miles of communities and petrochemical industrial facilities along the Mississippi River, into New Orleans. It was met variously with proclamations of welcome .- through most predominately African American communities located right next door to massive industrial complexes; from the Mississippi River Bridge Authority, to march on the bridge itself into New Orleans; and from then-newly elected Mayor of Gretna Ronnie Harris. Harris and the MRBA in particular countered the official blocking of the march through Jefferson Parish by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee -- the latter originally threatening marchers with arrest if they traversed the parish. Eight March organizers were arrested by New Orleans Police upon arrival at Armstrong Park. State Representative Rev. Avery Alexander, then-leader of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, led the remaining 200+ marchers on its final day to attempt to block the eight arrests (by surrounding police vans) until police threatened greater force (guns were drawn, tear gas was threatened). Ultimately the charges of "incitement to riot" and "marching without a permit" were dismissed. A second march would be held going from New Orleans to Baton Rouge two years later, strengthening ties amongst the participants, and advancing the area of participatory sociological inquiry and action known as "Environmental Racism."
February 18, 1989
David Duke is elected to the Louisiana State Legislature. He won the District 81 seat, representing the suburban New Orleans neighborhoods of Old Metairie and Bucktown against John Treen, the brother of former Louisiana Governor Dave Treen (who was the first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction). Duke would use this win to nearly score electoral victories for the U.S. Senate (1990) and Louisiana Governor (1991) -- both inflaming racism and resistance to it. His primary base of white supremacist support comes from the white working class parishes surrounding New Orleans.
Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Fascism comes together in response to the election of David Duke. The coalition is a multiracial but mostly white group that spearheads the organized opposition to Duke when he runs again in 1991 for governor of Louisiana.
Duke's platform is opposition to affirmative action, support of the concept of "reverse racism" against white people, opposition to welfare, denomination of poor Black women, and equation of Black men and "criminals." He wins 55% of the white vote in the statewide election: 156,119 in New Orleans, 665,409 statewide.
Building on Black opposition to Duke's vicious racism, Jewish opposition to Duke's admiration of Nazism, and white corporate fear that a Duke election will damage the tourist trade; the Louisiana Coalition builds an electoral front grounded in the massive Black vote in New Orleans that defeat's Duke.
THE BUSH, CLINTON AND BUSH YEARS: 1990-2005: RACISM, PATRIARCHY, AND CAPITALISM/IMPERIALISM WIPE OUT THE GAINS MADE BY OPPRESSED PEOPLE OF COLOR OVER THE LAST 60 YEARS
Critical Resistance, an organization devoted to the abolition of prisons, forms its Southern chapter after a highly successful conference in New Orleans.
Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, a national organization committed to ending all forms of violence against women, holds its conference in Tremé, the oldest continuous Black community in the U.S.
NEW ORLEANS BLACK COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE. THIS HISTORY NEEDS TO BE RESEARCHED. THE FILES OF THE PEOPLE'S INSTITUTE DOCUMENTING THE POWERFUL COMMUNITY ORGANIZING OF THIS PERIOD VANISHED IN THE FLOOD. EVEN THOUGH AFRICAN AMERICAN, LATINO, AND ANTI-RACIST WHITE NEW ORLEANIANS ARE SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, THE STORIES OF THEIR SURVIVAL AND THEIR RESISTANCE NEED TO BE TOLD.
(1) "Together Apart: The Myth of Race," a 6-part series in the Times Picayune newspaper of New Orleans, May 9 -Nov. 18, 1993. Part 2: "Chained to History," week of June 13, 1993, provided most of the historical data for the time line.
(2) Philip Foner, ORGANIZED LABOR AND THE BLACK WORKER: 1619-1973. NY: International Publishers, 1974, p. 89-92 for sections on Black workers.
(3) For information on Deacons of Defense, googling, watching the film, and stories from activists back in the 1960's.
(4) For material from The People's Institute, the St. Thomas Residents Council, and the St. Thomas/Irish Channel Consortium, training materials from the People's Institute in the mid-1990's. See www.pisab.org. 
This timeline was compiled by Sharon Martinas of the Challenging White Supremacy workshop. Your constructive criticism is welcome! Please email cws [at] igc [dot] org.  Thanks to K. Bradd Ott  for his many helpful additions from his independent study project.
(Editor's note: This interview as well as "For a Former Panther, Solidarity After the Storm"  suggests the experience of building 'Serve the People' programs that have inspired the current 'Solidarity not Charity' model used by Common Ground Collective, co-founded by Malik Rahim.)
by Brice White
This is an interview conducted on WTUL (91.5 FM) on March 13th, 2000.
Malik Rahim is from New Orleans and is an activist in the Bay Area now and Ahmad Rahman is also an activist and he lives in the Detroit area. They were both members of the Black Panther Party.
I wanted to get you, Malik, to talk about the 30th anniversary
of the shoot-out in the Desire projects right here in New Orleans...
Malik: Well, I was in the first shoot-out, and at that time, at the time when we first came together to organize a Black Panther Party chapter in New Orleans the governor of this state, McKidden, came on TV and swore he would never allow the Panthers to ever get established in Louisiana. The National Committee to Combat Fascism was the first step in organizing a Black Panther Party chapter. On September the 15th, 1970 there was the first shoot-out between members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism and the New Orleans Police Deparatment, and the second one was the week prior to Thanksgiving in 1970.
Were you from all over the city or were you from one specific area?
Malik: No that's really it, a sister named Betty Toussaint and my first wife Barbara Thomas and I, we came out of Algiers, the Fischer area. Most of the Party members came out of the Calliope projects, and at that time the African American community in New Orleans was one that was very territorial, if you came from the 9th ward you stayed in 9th ward, if came form the 15th ward you stayed in the 15th ward. This was the first time where you had individuals from all over the city coming together. But most of the members came from the Calliope projects and then the Magnolia projects, so those two brought us the most members.
The first house you had was in St Thomas?
Malik: Yes, we started establishing programs in the St. Thomas projects, our education program, our breakfast program, and at that time we were also beginning to organize the crime prevention program. Now, we had only been in existence in New Orleans for about 5 or 6 months, so then we get our eviction notice. And at every place that we would rent, as soon as we would open up our office, we'd get a notice. Our location at the time was at the St. Thomas, our group was having a meeting, and then some people from the Desire housing project came and told us about their plight with crime and asked if we'd come back and help them. With the eviction notice, we decided to move our office to Desire. Our new building was already being occupied by a community activist program called the Sons of Desire. The Sons of Desire was downstairs and we was upstairs.
This was the house on Piety Street?
Malik: Yes, this was the house on Piety. Shortly after we moved in we received an eviction notice there too.
Most people don't know anything about the shoot-out that y'all went through in Desire.
Malik: Well, there was basically 11 of us in the party office at the time, and almost a hundred police with everything from a 60 caliber machine gun and armored cars down to their revolvers. We had about 9 shotguns, and a couple of handguns, .357 revolvers. But everything we had was legally purchased and it was registered to our office. Our position was that African Americans should no longer be lynched or beaten or attacked and have their rights taken away without any form of resistance.. We believed that you had a right to defend yourself, you had a right to defend your community, you had a right to defend your family, and you had the right to defend your honor as a human being.
The reason that we survived the shoot-out was because the community stood with us, they wouldn't leave and allow the police to do their dastardly deeds. During the short period we'd been in the Desire we reduced crime to just about 0%, the Desire projects went from one of the highest crime areas in the city to one of the lowest. It was compatible to any middle class white community by the time of the shoot out. And so the community looked at what we did and they looked at what the police came in their telling them... all these contradictions about what we were gonna do and what was gonna happen, they didn't believe it. They were defiant. They not only didn't believe it, but they stood up for us in the second shoot-out.
Now when we opened our second office in the Desire, 600 police came the second time. 600 police, national guard, and state troopers. And then almost 5000 people came out of the Desire projects and stood between the police and our office and refused to move. That was the reason we survived the second shoot-out. It took them to do a deed that is about the greatest betrayal of morality that I have ever witnessed to get us. They came and raided the office the second time dressed as priests. They borrowed priest's uniforms from the priests here at Loyola who had been coming to our free breakfast program. Those priests had been telling us "We're gonna bring you some more food so you can continue to feed the kids", and then they go and give their uniforms to the police. Betty Toussaint, the sister from Algiers, was shot through the door when they raided the house.
And here in New Orleans, like many places in the country, this was the first time that there was an act of armed defiance against the white power structure where the blacks that participated in it had survived. And they were hell-bent on making sure that since we had survived that we would spend the rest of our lives in Angola. This is our 30th year since then, and this is a part of history that our youth and the youth of this nation need to know about. Not only what we did and accomplished, but what caused the condition for the emergence of the Black Panther Party. It has to be known, it cannot be a part of history that is just kicked on the side.
Maybe you could talk more specifically about some of your programs.
Malik: Well, by the time of the shoot-outs we were feeding somewhere in the neighborhood of about 300 - 400 kids every morning, Monday through Saturday. We did this six days a week....
And in most cities around the country the first sickle cell awareness and sickle cell associations was established by members of the Black Panther Party....
How did you all fund these kind of programs?
[ . . . ]
Malik: We went out and asked for donations from within the community, we had supporters that worked who consistently gave donations, we sold papers, buttons, we raised the funds to make things happen.
I know there was a national Black Panther paper, were there also local ones?
Malik: No, but there was always room for local sections. All chapters submitted articles to the Panther Party Newspaper. In that same period of time [as the shoot-out], I believe it was in 1970, you can correct me if I'm wrong, J. Edgar Hoover had declared the Black Panther Party to be the greatest threat against national security. After that statement it was all out war against the Black Panther Party, I believe that almost 300 party members around the country were assassinated and countless others was incarcerated. I believe at one time almost 60- 70 % of our fundraising effort went to political prisoners. The money went to supporting, to making sure that we were kept aware of their conditions....
It seems like now is a time where a lot of people are starting
to get organized and get politically active around the country. I was
wondering if you guys could talk about that or why you became
politically active in the first place?
[ . . . ]
Malik: I would just like to add that conditions like we have now, they bring about a contradiction. By that I mean in California, on Mardi Gras day, proposition 21 was passed. This proposition means that now in California they can try 14 year olds as adults. Now they gonna send 14 year old boys to prison. The authorities think that this 14 year old person is rational enough to pay the ultimate consequences of being executed or being sentenced to life, but is not rational enough to vote, or drive, or drink, or buy cigarettes. I believe that when any injustice is allowed to exist, that that is an injustice to everyone in that community or society. The injustice that is happening to Leonard [Peltier], the botched surgery, where they have basically fused this man's jaws shut, where this man has got to smash his food and suck it into his mouth. Some may say it was just an accident, but one of the FBI agents that Leonard was charged with killing, was shot in the mouth. This is the kind of thing that is going on...
You have issues, like MOVE, in Philadelphia in the early 1980s, where they literally dropped a bomb on the MOVE house, which is just like in Tulsa Oklahoma in the 1920s. African Americans veterans who had just come home from the war stopped a lynching of an African American man, and it caused a whole town to be destroyed. The white power structure flew over this town and actually dropped kerosene and burnt Tulsa down. You have these type of conditions that are in existence, you have people like Mumia who, because he took the stand and because he was a reporter that spoke the truth he was targeted...you have men here in Louisiana who are political prisoners in Angola, who have spent he last 28 years in solitary confinement. That's 28 years locked down, 23 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Weekends 24 hours. They have took beatings, they have suffered some of the worst conditions that a man can suffer and survive. They have withstood this for 28 years.
Something is drastically wrong when the priorities of a nation are not to serve its citizens but to incarcerate them. The entire HUD budget for 2000 is 23 and a half billion for this entire nation, this nation on the other hand will spend almost 36 billion dollars on prison. Their is a mentality that part of our society is disposable and that is what we are seeing with the current increase in incarceration. And we have two million people incarcerated, two million people! And something like 800,000 of those come out of HUD and subsidized housing.
These kids from the projects have a lot of knowledge, not necessarily the ABCs, but how to survive, how to defend themselves, what to do in case their is a shooting. Most kids in this society have never seen someone killed, but if you go to any public housing development in this city and as soon as a child can form some kind of concept of death they can say they have actually seen someone getting murdered. There's no form of psychologists that are sent to these projects to help these kids deal with what they've seen, no one is there to help them like in Columbine, those kids just have to survive.
And even though this country is experiencing it's most prosperous economic boom in its history, in public housing we are still dealing with unemployment that can run up to 70 And 90 percent. So you still have this. Here you have a direct relationship with poverty and crime, it's not based on race because in poor white areas and during the depression you can draw the same conclusions. And right now we possess the tools to cure this problem and that's what has to be done, we have to find solutions. We are making the appeal process shorter and the execution process quicker. Now we even have a Republican governor in Illinois who has put a moratorium on capital punishment. People need to come out and get involved, regardless of who you are, because this is something we must stop. I am a member of the International Action Center and I am the executive director of Prison Rights Union. And people can contact these groups if they want to get more involved.
Ed. note: This version of the interview has been taken from
Benjamin Greenberg's blog, Hungry Blues .
The Louisiana New South Coalition (LSNC) pulled together photos and graphics from a number of grassroots organizations "who see their issue in the context of a greater disease racism – and who understand how racism divides us, hurts us and keeps power in the hands of a very few" to make a calendar with the title A Whole Lotta Peoples Is Strong. The coalition "supports the work of the organizations depicted but they are each independent of each other and of us." Click on the thumbnail graphics below to go to a larger picture.
The Louisiana New South Coalition 
Jim Dunn and Ron Chisom, 1987 
The Kuji Center 
Free Gary Tyler! 
Women of the St. Thomas Residents Council 
The Gulf Coast Tenants Organization 
Louisiana State Anti-Apartheid Committee 
Lesbian and Gay Pride 
Treme Community Improvement Association 
Ecumenical Immigration Services 
Welfare Rights Organization 
The United Houma Nation 
The Fishermen and Concerned Citizens of Plaquemines Parish 
Kwanzaa at the Community Book Center 
LSNC dedicated the calendar "to Jim Dunn and Ron Chisom, co-founders of the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. Jim and Ron have committed their lives to undoing racism; and to Mississippi freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer who understood: "A Whole Lotta Peoples Is Strong!" The 1992 calendar was produced and designed by Charmagne Andrews and Lavaun Ishee.
(Ed: The pictures in this calendar give a visual snapshot of the powerful tradition of grassroots racial justice organizing in New Orleans that has been recreated in the aftermath of Katrina.)
Next: The Louisiana New South Coalition