©1997 by Sundiata Acoli

Again, i’m honored to be selected as a Co-Chairperson of this year’s SCLC’s Kansas City Martin Luther King Celebration and that the theme is: “Youth: Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Hope.”

Our youths are confronted with a situation in the U.S. today where more Afrikan men are in prison than in college, Afrikan women are being imprisoned at twice the rate of Afrikan men, and young Afrikan males lead the nation in death rates from AIDS, from homicides by each other, and from being shot and killed by the police who are almost always White. Yet, when have you heard, if ever, of a Black policeman shooting and killing a White youth? It doesn’t happen often.

Our young Afrikan women have the highest death rate by AIDS among women, the highest rate of HIV infection, and the highest rate of babies born with HIV virus. Afrikan youths lead in teenage unemployment rates and in children taken from their mothers by courts and put up for adoption. More and more frequently these Afrikan youths are adopted by Whites, and recent high court rulings have made it even easier to do so. But when have you heard, if ever, of a Black family being permitted to adopt a White child? It doesn’t happen often.

These are only a few of the challenges facing our youth today. In fact, it is our challenge, as an Afrikan people, and one we must overcome if we are to have hope for tomorrow, or a tomorrow period. No youth, no future; no women, no future; it is as simple as that. To have 1000 men and 1 woman spells the death/genocide of a nation. The one woman can only produce 1 baby per year and the nation will be unable to sustain or rebuild its population. To have 1000 women and 1 man is life/perpetuity. One man can impregnate 1000 women to produce 1000 babies per year. He’ll be a little tired, but you get the point: with youth and women a nation can perpetuate itself or rebuild. Without them it is already extinct, no matter how many millions of men or old people exist in its society. And it’s why one saves “women and children first” in any life threatening situation.

So when our youths and women are challenged, by its very nature, that challenges our survival as a people. Our response must be to provide an environment where our women and children can survive, and prosper. To ensure that, we, as a people, need control over our own life and destiny. It’s not possible for us, as a racial minority, to do so in a White racist society. In any vote necessary to pass laws that we feel are needed to solve our particular problems, we will always be outvoted and overruled by the racist White majority. Thus we will never be able to implement our own solutions to our own problems, or control our own destiny, because we will always be subjected to the solutions dictated by the White majority. It’s also why democracy in a racist society is nothing but a dictatorship to the racial minorities in that society. The recent Supreme Court ruling that outlawed Black-majority voting districts is a case in point.

To control our own lives and destiny we need REPARATIONS, LAND AND INDEPENDENCE. And what would MLK say about such a demand for reparations and land? Let’s listen to his Sunday morning sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., taken from the Oct. 27, 1996 Los Angeles Times article by Peter H. King titled: “Dr. King: Quote, Unquote”

“. . . Now there is another myth that still gets around; it is a kind of over reliance on the bootstrap philosophy. There are those who still feel that if the Negro is to rise out of poverty . . . . out of slum conditions . . . Out of discrimination and segregation, he must do it all by himself. And so they say the Negro must lift himself up by his own bootstraps.”They never realize that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. The people who say this never stop to realize that the nation made a Black man’s color a stigma; but beyond this THEY NEVER STOP TO REALIZE THAT THEY OWE A PEOPLE WHO WERE KEPT IN SLAVERY 244 YEARS.

“IN 1863 THE NEGRO WAS TOLD THAT HE WAS FREE AS A RESULT OF THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION BEING SIGNED BY ABRAHAM LINCOLN. BUT HE WAS NEVER GIVEN ANY LAND TO MAKE THAT FREEDOM MEANINGFUL. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that the person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, ‘Now you are free,’ but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. . .

“And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the Black man through an act of Congress it was giving away millions of acres of LAND in the West and the Midwest. . . . Not only did it give the LAND, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming. Not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every year not to farm.

“And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.

“We must come to see that the roots of racism are very deep in our country, and there must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice.”

“These were King’s last public words on the subject. Four days later, he stepped onto a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., and was shot dead.”

I urge you to work toward ensuring our tomorrow, and our hope for tomorrow by making the focus of our struggle one for REPARATIONS, LAND, AND INDEPENDENCE.

Sundiata Acoli
U.S.P. Allenwood
White Deer, PA 1/15/97