By Kofi Quaye
Syracuse resident Tashame Ali told me recently he joined the Black Panther Revolutionary Movement, and appeared to be proud that he did. His wore his favorite t-shirt, emblazoned with the insignia of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, and his thirteen-year-old son was similarly attired, in a Black Panther t-shirt, when we recently met.
“Why would you join the Black Panther Party?” I asked.
I wanted to know if he knew the risks involved, in becoming involved with an organization the U.S. government once considered to be one of the most dangerous, radical, para-military movements in the country, and a threat to national security.
Did he know the mere mention of the name “Black Panther Party” could invoke memories of shootouts between members of the organization, and federal-law enforcement agencies, which had left many dead, maimed and wounded? Did he know that Tupac’s mother couldn’t come back to America, from exile in Cuba, because she was affiliated with the old Black Panther Party organization?
“I am ready for war,” he replied.
According to Tashame Ali, life for African-Americans has not changed in any substantial way over the years. The leadership has not been effective. Joblessness is rampant. Young black men and women seem to gravitate toward a criminal lifestyle, which ultimately gets them killed, either by police, or black-on-black violence. Meanwhile, the ‘enemy’ is preparing for war, implementing a plan that has, at its core, the ultimate goal of totally dominating African people all over the world.
As a result, it is time to take the struggle to another level, he stated.
“I am angry. I am angry, I am angry,” said Peter Wynn, another Syracuse resident.
The look on his face was one of absolute seriousness. He looked straight into my eyes.
He wasn’t just talking. He meant business.
Peter Wynn was born and raised on the Southside. He has been actively involved in a number of community-based events, designed to bring together African-American men and women with expertise and knowledge in specific areas, in order to address problems in the community such as youth violence; crime; drug and alcohol addiction; poor education; and employment and business initiatives.
In fact, the last event was he was a part of was held in August, at the Dunbar Center, and had been widely attended by a cross section of the community. He is currently planning another event, which will focus on the theme of anti-violence.
“This community has too many problems that need to be dealt with,” he stated. “That’s why I‘m involved now. Somebody has to do something. There’s just too much talk, and no action.”
Wynn said he’s currently put together a coalition of individuals with widely differing professional qualifications, who are currently employed in various capacities in both government, and the non-profit sectors. He said their common goal is to find ways to help solve problems in the community.
Additionally, Khalid Muhammad said he’s focusing most of his energy, time, and resources into working with programs that will keep the city’s youth away from the streets. He just returned to Syracuse, after moving to New York City several years ago.
Muhammad asked me to help him with a community-based newspaper he wants to start. I told him we already have CNY Vision newspaper, and suggested he gets involved with African-American media already established.
Tashame Ali, Peter Wynn, and Khalid Muhammad are all people I have known well, over the years. I have seen them transition through different phases that began with an awareness of, and talking about, the problems in our community, which, over time, have seemed to be getting worse.
They talked about being disillusioned with what they’ve described as ineffective leadership by community leaders, who’ve talked about changing things when they campaign for votes, but accomplished little, or nothing, once they’ve been elected to public office.
They talked about being fed up with community leaders, and residents, who’ve attend meetings to discuss problems and offer solutions, and then nothing happens.
Now, their minds seem to have become fixated on the notion that the initiative has to be taken by individuals like themselves, from the community.
“I used to be part of the problem,” said Wynn. “I was in the streets, doing all kinds of crazy things, went to jail, and came back. I see things getting worse in my community, and I want to play a role in changing the situation. Politicians coming out to the community, just to talk about problems, have not brought any change. That’s why I am organizing community-based events, to give the people the chance to come, and listen to other people who know how to solve problems.”
According to Tashame Ali, there’s an ongoing conspiracy from outside forces, that aim at destroying African-Americans. He refers to the recent shootings of young black men across the country as “clear and convincing evidence” that there is a systemic, and organized attempt, to kill black people. He doesn’t care if he gets labelled as a conspiracy theorist. As far he is concerned, he feels justified in concluding that black life in America is in danger.
And, in the end, Peter Wynn also said he wants people in the community to begin to focus on what he describes as “the real source of violence” in the African-American community.
“Black people don’t make guns,” Wynn stated. “The guns come from somewhere else. We should be talking about what can be done to stop the guns from falling into the hands of the wrong people.”