Dr. Leonard Jeffries: THE STATE OF THE BLACK WORLD THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!
Waving the flags and talking about we're all one didn't change any of that. That agenda of the destruction of the black community is still in place by those operatives that they represent. And so I know what my struggle is. It's against a system of white supremacy and domination that they symbolize. Now unfortunately you got the symbols and the manifestations on both sides of the political arena, Democrats and Republicans....Waving the flags and talking about we're all one didn't change any of that. That agenda of the destruction of the black community is still in place by those operatives that they represent. And so I know what my struggle is. It's against a system of white supremacy and domination that they symbolize. Now unfortunately you got the symbols and the manifestations on both sides of the political arena, Democrats and Republicans....
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: THE STATE OF THE BLACK WORLD THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!
THE STATE OF THE BLACK WORLD
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES!
Dr. Leonard Jeffries
Journalists, political activists, elected officials and community activists from throughout the African diaspora converged in Atlanta, Georgia for the State of the Black World Conference. Convened by longtime activist Dr. Ron Daniels, the conference brought together a diverse cross section of Black minds from the USA and the African Continent.
Professor Leonard Jeffries, currently at the City College of New York, has steadfastly remained at the forefront of the battle for African centered education and true historical perspective in academia. He spoke with us on the closing day of the conference and touched on a variety of topics. This interview actually turned out to be a history lesson dealing with America and its past wars and their posture towards Blacks in the diaspora.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): It's really a blessing and an honor to have the opportunity to talk to you. First and foremost where are you and what are you working on right now?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: Well currently... this is Leonard Jeffries, the City College of New York. I'm celebrating my 30th year at the college. I'm still there, enjoy teaching the students, white, Black, Jewish, Gentile, Muslim, Buddhist, enjoying my classes, and so, I'm celebrating my 30th year at the college. Also, in 1961 I went to Africa.
That's 40 years ago, so I'm celebrating... my wife-to-be had gone in 1960, and then we met when I came back in 1961. And so we're celebrating our 40th year together dealing with Africa. It's actually a couple of days ago, on Thursday was our actual 37th anniversary so I've been blessed to have a partner who is wonderful, beautiful spiritual, supportive, intellectual support, she has her PhD from Yale University, but she's from Harlem. So she's grounded in the black experience and her family is from South Carolina. So we're going to make this year a special year.
One of the things we're doing is dedicating our work to Dr. John Henrik Clarke and African scholars who opened up this whole area of the truth of who and what we are. We're making a memorial in Ghana, a building, a slave fort, and turning it into a memorial for our ancestors. So this is a time for us to sit back and savor our great and mighty walk through the African world. That is the title of a documentary done by Wesley Snipes and the filmmaker Sinclaire Borne on Dr. John Henrik Clarke's life. It's called "The Great and Mighty Walk." I like that title because for the last forty years for me it's been a great and mighty walk. Going to Africa, after I spent two years in Europe and seeing the wonders of the continent, the challenge of the continent and then going back again and again and again and then taking thousands of people and then educating millions of people on what African people are. And it's been a glorious thing, so. That's part of our mission, to make sure that we get the tapes, the books, the materials out for the world to see.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): Our black intellectuals are constantly under attack because if it comes from outside of mainstream historical research, others want to discredit it. Of course I'm speaking specifically about Professor Tony Martin and yourself. Since the relentless assault by the ADL and some of the other media entities, has it changed or become better? Has it gotten worse? What's going on?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: (laughs) I'm glad that you asked that question because the assault on black scholars... and we call them scholar warriors -- I have in my hand an artistic rendering done by Our Sons of Africa, the Student Organization and the young adults we have around us. They came up with the title "African Scholar Warriors." Myself, Professor Scobie, in the center is Dr. Ben (Yochannan) and Dr. Clarke, and Professor James Small. This is the Harlem Posse. This is the group that has helped to turn the world upside-right, with the truth! We do not intend to not tell the truth and so that means that the attack is constant. It reached its height in '91 because we were dealing with the curriculum of inclusion struggle. They didn't want us to put this truth in the school system. But the attack is ongoing.
Just two weeks ago, the governor of New Jersey, the governor elect, McGreevy was told that they will not allow him to be comfortable in the governor's seat unless he denounces Dr. Leonard Jeffries as an anti-Semite and a racist, and of course, he did. Now I know the man but under political pressure, he was bending. They've gone to black leadership and asked them to do the same thing but fortunately I'm very strong and bonded with the black leadership and I know where their hearts are. But the attack goes on.
Two weeks ago, I was in Plainfield, New Jersey to speak to the black parents about taking control of their youngsters' lives and education. The ADL or the JDL called up to threaten the parents and to threaten the Board of Education. So the parents called me nervous at 7:00 in the morning. I said, "Well, who was it, the ADL or the JDL?" they said, "We don't know, it was one of those ADLs" I said, "Well it doesn't make any difference, I'm coming anyway." They said, "Good because we're going to stand up and fight on this issue." So what they're doing is they're trying to intimidate black folk and they're making them stronger when they see what the issues are.
They went to the black Board of Education and tried to get them to back down. The Board of Education said "Jeffries is our speaker. We ain't changing nothing!" And so every other week there's some challenge still going on. I go to Amsterdam. I have tapes here of my speeches in Amsterdam. And they were trying to prevent that. France, in England, all over the country. That's not going to stop us. We are truth seekers. And we found that truth and we're going to hold it up.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): Currently the topic of discussion is the September 11th World Trade Center tragedy, also, what's going on with the bombing of Afghanistan and possibly other nations very soon. Do you have a take on that?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: Well, I'm very frank and of course it's very dangerous for me to even talk about it, but. I'm a political scientist, and an Africanist, and a historian and I was very clear about what happened with the November election and that black people were disenfranchised. Many black folks. It was not just a question of punching those little holes in the ballot. Thousands of black folks were taken off the voting rolls before the election, before they could even participate in the process. And there has been a tradition of destroying and tampering with the black vote.
So when that election was won on the basis of a few hundred votes it was clear that it was stolen. So I do not feel strong at all about a President called Bush. Knowing what has happened, knowing what the agenda was. That there was an attempt to finance a candidate who would help to turn back the clock, push back black progress and to lock black people into the lower levels of this society. That's the Bush Plan. That is also the plan of the mayor of New York. The Guliani Plan. To keep black folks out of the political flow, to keep them out of the economic flow, and to deaden their spirits, to lock them up in jail. So, September 11 didn't change any of that.
Waving the flags and talking about we're all one didn't change any of that. That agenda of the destruction of the black community is still in place by those operatives that they represent. And so I know what my struggle is. It's against a system of white supremacy and domination that they symbolize. Now unfortunately you got the symbols and the manifestations on both sides of the political arena, Democrats and Republicans. So I clearly realize that black folks have to have their agenda, they have to have their VIP, their values, interests and principles clearly outlined and clearly supported. And so September 11 didn't change anything for me except it may have woken me up and it's a wake up call for black folks to make sure they put in place their agenda simply because after every great struggle in America, after every war in America, they call for unity. They call for us to stand up although initially, they reject the black man, but when they get into the war and they can't win it, then they call the black man out to stand up with them to fight and die for unity in America. It happened in the Revolutionary War, it happened in the Civil War, it happened in the First World War, it happened in the Second World War, it happened in the Korean War. So it's not a surprise that they're calling for unity now. But after every war, the promise made has never been kept.
After the Revolutionary War, we weren't given citizenship in America. They institutionalized an enslavement system. Although thousands of blacks fought in the Revolutionary War on the American side as well as thousands of blacks fought on the British side, the free black was persecuted after the Revolutionary War. After the Civil War in which a half a million of our people participated, a quarter of a million of them official Army and Navy troops, the promise of freedom was given because we won it, but instead this nation turned its back on black folks and allowed the Ku Klux Klan to rise, the black (inaudible) to take place and they took away the freedoms that had been won and we are still fighting to this day for freedoms promised.
After World War I, they wanted to keep it a white man's war but then they had to bring in a million black folks to help fight their war but they could not make us full US Army troops. France said if you don't have sense enough to use your black power then give them to France. So black men fought in World War I on the French, in the French Army with French uniforms and French weapons. When the war was over the French decorated these black men as heroes and leading the American Victory Parade up 5th Avenue were black men in French regimental form, carrying French weapons, leading the American Victory Parade. But that did not mean that we were going to get access to American society. They closed down the society to us after the war and again you had the rise of the Klan.
After the "Birth of the Nation" movie in 1915, my grandfather in Georgia was lynched by the Klan, a great leader in Kelly, Georgia, in 1917 was lynched by the Klan, which had rose again based upon this "Birth of the Nation" movie. And so you had the Red Summer of 1919 where they were murdering black soldiers and you had twenty-five urban riots in America. So we have to know what the real deal is. 1921 you have the Greenwood situation where they destroyed the black Tulsa community. In 1923 you had the wipeout of a black community in Florida, Rosewood and it was just now in 1993 that they discovered it and the Florida legislation gave reparations. So after every war, same thing in World War II, they needed us finally, they put us into the fight but after the war they went back to the usual persecution of black folks. So we had to have a Civil Rights movement in the 50's and 60's to get them off our back. So nothing's going to change. That pattern is already established in the American culture.
Dr. Leonard Jeffries and TEI Executive Director Ashahed M. Muhammad discuss issues at the State of the Black World Conference in Atlanta, GA.
"Waving the flags and talking about we're all one didn't change any of that.
That agenda of the destruction of the Black community is still in place by those operatives that they represent. And so I know what my struggle is.
It's against a system of White supremacy and domination that they symbolize. Now unfortunately you got the symbols and the manifestations on both sides of the political arena, Democrats and Republicans." -- Dr. Leonard Jeffries
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): That is a lot of hidden history I don't think many people know. You spoke briefly on reparations. What would you say about the state of the reparations movement?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: Well fortunately our coming together here in Atlanta is an important milestone in the reparations movement. All of the various groups dealing with reparations, many of them are here. The N'COBRA, the Black United Front and a whole host of other organizations are here to form a unity around the question of reparations and to develop a black agenda and to develop instruments to carry out that agenda. Reparations are absolutely necessary. Every group has had reparations. Black folks have to demand reparations and whether they get them or not, that has to be put on the table. We're not a debtor to America; America is in debt to us and reparations has to be made clear whether we get them or not. But we need them because America and the rest of the world has implemented a new system of...a new system of domination, destruction and death based upon debt, drugs and defense.
So in order to remove debt slavery from our backs, we've got to have reparations on the table. And so for us it's not a question of not having it or having it. We've got to have it! We have to let America know what they owe us and what they owe the African world community and we have to organize around them. I think the struggle will help to unify us and put our agenda clearly in focus and so I'm glad it's taking place.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): Recently an African Union or the United States of Africa has been established. Initiated by Col. Muammar Gadhafi, Minister Farrakhan and many of the leaders of many of the African countries came together and had some discussions. What are your thoughts on that, the movement for United States of Africa - an African Union?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: Well that has always been in my heart. I'm one of the leading experts in the world on Africa and African peoples whoever they are and I know the continent. I've been to the continent a hundred times. I lived there. I did my Master's there. I did my Ph.D there on economic development in the Ivory Coast. I did my Master's on the economic development plan of Senegal. I'm one of the people who raised up the work of Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop and helped get it translated into English from French. So clearly, Dr. Diop was a Pan-Africanist.
The leader of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a Pan-Africanist. A person who's a really important part of my life, W.E.B. DuBois was a Pan-Africanist. My mother was a Garveyite. Her father coming up from Virginia was a Garveyite. So Garvey was a part of my life, that's PAN Africanism. And of course, Booker T. Washington was a Neo- Pan-Africanist, telling black people to put their buckets down where they are, claim their land, build for themselves.
So for me, I follow Dr. Clarke's dictum. "Pan-Africanism or perish." Either we find a formula for Pan-African unity or we'll perish or remain the doormats of the human family. So I add to that statement "Pan Africanism or perish, reparations now!" So the question is "Pan-Africanism or perish. Reparations now." And I'm very clear about that.
I was glad that the OAU, which came as a fractured organization coming in 1963 from the Monrovial group of more conservative, moderate nations, and the Casablanca group of more radical black nations, they formed the OAU, the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and all during that history we've been hoping that they would move closer toward an African world union and fortunately that has occurred now. We're talking about an African world union and I'm glad that has occurred. I want to congratulate those that had vision to do that. I want to congratulate Minister Farrakhan for participating in that process and representing black America.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): What is the current state of the youth? You deal with college students, you're talks are geared towards youth and college students. What do you think is their current level of consciousness?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: Unfortunately there's a negative and a positive. I've seen the positive because I've traveled around the world and I've seen tens of thousands, put my hands on thousands of black students that are moving into their consciousness and I want to help, I want to congratulate them on that and further push that along. But there's a bulk of our people in colleges and out of colleges who don't have a consciousness of Africanists, who are sliding back into a Negroeness, sliding back into a consumerism consciousness, they let things make them, sliding back into imaging themselves after white folks because they don't have a concept of self. So at the same time you have this vanguard of African students and young people that are moving into a crystallization of their consciousness, we have too many of our people that are either stagnant or sliding back. And so we have to find a formula for pulling up the folks at the bottom to participate in the awakening of African peoples.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): And what would you say our leading enemy -- so to speak -- what's our leading opposition right now to creating that kind of consciousness?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: Well there are two aspects of that. One is an internal problem. We don't have the type of internal self-consciousness that we need to move our people forward. We need to do that. That's our sacred mission. That's the title of the famous Albany speech I made, "Our Sacred Mission." We have to develop the concept of self in order to move forward. But outside of self is a system of exploitation that is now dominated by white folks and we have to fight that system of exploitation and put in place our own system of African development.
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): Currently, what would you say the state of the Black world is?
Dr. Leonard Jeffries: The state of the black world is, as it has been for these past 500 years, fighting a system of white supremacy in a revolutionary posture, and we all say the struggle continues. Aluta Continua!
Truth Establishment Institute (TEI): Thank you.
Transcription services provided by Abena S. Abdul Ali
Photo: Anthony D. Muhammad for the TEI
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