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March 2019

News

Celebrate International Working Women's Month! 
Study the Role of "Working Class Women Leaders" 
In Our Black Freedom & Liberation Movements and the Labor Movement!

Queen Mother Moore

Queen Mother Moore was to be a major influence on my political life until this day. As a young woman activist coming of age during the late 1960s and early 1970s, she turned out to be the foundation of my ideological development. She gave me a political platform that has lasted me to this day: Black people have the right to decide our own destiny (self-determination), self respect for one’s self as a woman and for Black people, opposition to all forms of oppression, international solidarity, especially with people of the Global South, and the right to reparations for Black people’s free labor during slavery and sharecropping.

I was raised in a middle class family in the 1950s and ’60’s in South Jamaica, New York and then in the small, Black Long Island communities of Amityville and Roosevelt. I had both mother and father at home where the mantra was “get your education, stay in school, go to college.” This was logical since my father was a teacher and my mother was a clerk at the unemployment office. At the same time, the unspoken lesson was “serve the community.” They belonged to a Black fraternity or sorority and other clubs that partied and raised money for a senior center and youth scholarships. They organized food and clothing drives. They also joined the picket lines to get the Amityville school district to desegregate the new junior high school.

We watched TV about anything that had to do with Black people. The defining moments of my life were when I saw the Birmingham, Alabama police sic dogs on Black protestors and when the four little girls were murdered when their Birmingham church was bombed. From then on, Daddy and I would debate what direction Black folks should go. Early, he maintained a pro-integrationist, staunch Democratic Party stance. But over the years, in trying to help young people with their self-image and confidence, he began studying Black history. Then he got into African and Egyptian history. In later years, his politics became more militant.

Looking back, it was probably perfectly logical that I, who had picketed with my parents at age 11, would, at 15, immerse myself in the Black Liberation Movement. It was also logical that I would gravitate towards Audley “Queen Mother” Moore’s strong sense of Black nationalist consciousness and resistance, international solidarity, class consciousness, woman consciousness, and her central cause: reparations for Black people.

Mother, as I and others eventually called her, was born in New Iberia, Louisiana in 1898, she recalled, to a “half-white man who was the product of the rape of her grandmother.” She stopped school at the fourth grade by which time both of her parents had died. She trained as a hairdresser and by age 15 supported her two younger sisters. During World War I, Mother and her sisters, according to interviews, organized support services for Black soldiers when the Red Cross denied them assistance. In the 1920s, she joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Marcus Garvey’s organization and movement that promoted the development of institutions by and for the Black community under the mantra: One People, One Aim, One Destiny. He organized the first, short-lived, Black-owned shipping company, the Black Star Line. Queen Mother recalled that she was one of the first to invest in it.

Mother, her husband, and her sisters moved around looking for work, eventually settling in Harlem, NY. She became an organizer of Black domestic workers and a leader of the Harriet Tubman Association, a group that fought against white landlords who evicted Black tenants. In the 1930s, she joined the International Labor Defense and then the Communist Party (CP). As a member of the CP, Mother became a street orator. She spoke against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and in favor of the Scottsboro Boys. She became campaign manager for Black communist Ben Davis and helped him win two successive terms on New York’s City Council.

When I first saw her, in 1970, she was speaking at what would become the National Black Theatre (NBT). Founded in 1968, the NBT was committed to community service and the power of Black Theatre to uplift, strengthen, and heal Black communities. I was one of a group of Roosevelt, Long Island, high school students leading anti-Vietnam War and Black community control demonstrations. I was eager to get further connections to the rest of the Black community and tried to go everywhere and anywhere there was a protest or a cultural event taking place. When I came up the long stairs and around the corner of the building, I was struck by this elderly lady, sitting alone in the front of the room, commanding everyone’s attention. Finger pointed in the air, she held everyone’s interest as she talked about reparations and Malcolm X. She was dressed in a floor-length beaded dress with an organza shawl draped over one shoulder and a matching turban.

After her presentation, she opened the floor for questions, and as the small crowd was leaning towards the back of the room, she urged people to come closer. My crew, along with everyone else hesitated a bit and then, in our youthful boldness, stepped out ahead of everybody else. I tentatively raised my hand to ask a question. Her piercing eyes sized me up and she said something like, “Speak, child, speak!” We must have impressed her because some months later, our teacher, former SNCC member Emily Moore, and our little crew was able to convince her to come to Roosevelt and speak to a gathering at a home next door to me.

Mother always regaled us with stories of Black people standing up against oppression and intimidation. She told us stories to teach us lessons, perspectives, and approaches. In one story, the State of Louisiana was going to execute a Black man. The churches only wanted to pray for the brother’s life. So she organized church delegations to pray at the courthouse steps. When that didn’t work, she organized the churches to send their choirs to sing against his murder. When that didn’t work, they became more open to marching in the streets. With this story she taught us about approaching people where they see themselves most able to respond to issues and building from there.

She taught other lessons about building institutions to meet the needs of the community. Queen Mother and her sister, Mother Langley, had a piece of land in upstate New York called Mount Addis Ababa. They would recruit people, especially young people, to come “up on the mountain, on the land” so that we could get a taste of nature. Various Black organizations would organize trips “up on the mountain” to spend the night or the weekend. It was there that Mother and Mother Langley set up a tiny building, the size of an old fashioned outhouse. They called it something like “the smallest university with the most knowledge,” and used it as a grassroots institution to serve the Black community.

Some years later, as a member of the African People’s Party, I learned more about Mother’s life as an early organizer. Moore, who was a leader in the organization, would come to Philadelphia, meet with leadership, and then later hold a session with rank-and-file cadre. She would speak on various topics; sometimes on methods of organizing, sometimes on international subjects, but always grounded in the right to self-determination and reparations.

We didn’t always agree. Sometimes, after a community program or other type of gathering she would meet with the women’s cadre. We usually gathered informally around her in someone’s living room. She would encourage us to develop our leadership and organizing skills, telling us to keep focused on the struggle. She also took the position that with so many Black men in jail, Black women needed to seriously consider polygamy. She approached the subject in a matter of fact way, explaining that we needed to do whatever must be done to win. She viewed polygamy as a social remedy to social problems within the Black community and the antithesis of the individualism taught in this society. She thought male chauvinism would be countered by women’s increased involvement in leadership. The women’s eyes couldn’t roll hard enough in opposition, but she kept that position as long as she lived.

Be that as it may, she was the link to organizations and movements spanning from the Garvey movement of the 1920’s, the labor, communist, anti-imperialist organizing in the 1930s and 1940s, and the Black liberation and human rights movement developing out of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. She was an orator, a tactician, and an organizer, working to strengthen many organizations along the way. She was anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-Black self-determination/liberation, and pro-woman leadership. She taught us lessons that we have yet to compile in history books. Regardless of whether we agreed with all of her positions, she was an invaluable asset and set an example that the current generations in struggle can and should use.

Shafeah M’Balia will be featured in an important online forum on the life of an important figure in the Black liberation movement.

 

She was a mentor to Shafeah, Saladin and Naeema as well as our Banquet speaker, Akinyele Umoja The online forum is not a live one for you to listen to. Rather you will be able to read essays each day starting on Monday, February 23. If you cannot follow them that way they will be available on the website. Please check the link below right away to get a sense of what this great project looks like and then put it in your calendar.

https://www.aaihs.org/online-forum-the-life-legacy-and-activism-of-queen-mother-audley-moore/

Remembering 
JOHN O'NEAL
September 25, 1940 - February 14, 2019

It is unfortunate that consideration of the mid-twentieth century southern freedom movement largely ignores its powerful creativity in the arts. Our art has always been tied to our struggle. This is a centuries-old truth of Black life. Beauty, after all, is part of what helps you through despair, what reinforces resistance to oppression. And who can doubt that -- more than any other group in the United States -- the words of Black people have framed the ideas of freedom; and with word and song Black people have brought beauty into the struggle for that freedom. How could this not be so? For we are haunted, wrote author and Professor Jan Carew some years ago, by “Ghosts in our blood.”
 

 
Or consider South African poet laureate Keroapetse “Willie” Kgositsile’s take that embraces Black life on both sides of the Atlantic: “. . . . There is only movement. Force. Creative power. The walk of a Sophiatown totsi or my Harlem brother on Lenox Avenue. Field Hollers. The blues. A Trane riff. Marvin Gaye or mbaganga. Anguished happiness. Creative power in whatever form it is released, moves like the dancer’s muscles.”
 

It is here, within this tradition, that we remember John O’Neal. An important part of what shaped his artistry was the Free Southern Theater, which emerged from the dynamic of Mississippi’s freedom movement. The theater was more than an effort to bring staged performances to the South. It was a conscious and determined effort to push forward recognition of the legitimacy, strength, and voice of African-American life and experience. Creativity defined the Movement as much as protest, a point too often missed by most scholars and media analysts. 


But without understanding the kind of movement creativity reflected in John O’Neal’s life, which most often bubbled from the bottom up, understanding of the Movement is at best incomplete. As poet and Dillard University professor Jerry Ward once noted in conversation with literary critic Houston Baker: “In any literary history that we will write in the future, we will have to account for those writers and thinkers who were caught up in a very active way with SNCC. They moved across regions, 
and they were agents of cross-fertilization.”

 
John O’Neal, who at the time of the Free Southern Theater’s founding was a Mississippi-based SNCC field secretary, helped author the Theater’s founding prospectus of principles. What you see in that document is a reflection of the organizing tradition that defined the Movement: "Our fundamental objective is to stimulate creative and reflective thought among Negroes in Mississippi and other Southern states by the establishment of a legitimate theater, thereby providing the opportunity in the theater and the associated art forms. We theorize that within the Southern situation a theatrical form and style can be developed that is as unique to the Negro people as the origin of blues and jazz. A combination of art and social awareness can evolve into plays written for a Negro audience, which relate to the problems within the Negro himself, and within the Negro community."
 

 
The formality of the language does not obscure the fact that the newly formed theater was on an organizing mission. Its value was recognized and not only by the southern movement. Indeed, while the southern movement was on the cutting edge of a direct challenge to a white supremacist order, it spread the conversation about social change not only across the South, but across the nation as well. This conversation, washing over us North and South —not only about protest, but about words and music and a liberated Black existence in America—was being held by a whole generation of young Black folks, and carrying us to a new level of Black consciousness. This was a generational exchange of political and cultural ideas. 
 
Junebug Jabbo Jones was a voice that showed the wisdom found within Black life. We used it in our everyday life as SNCC organizers. Phrases that we passed among ourselves we gradually attributed to one figure. Thus… Junebug. John went further than any of us with this approach.

Poet and activist Amiri Baraka, speaking of this at the 2010 conference held at Shaw University to commemorate the 50th anniversary of SNCC’s founding, made an essential point, about not only the Free Southern Theater or civil rights struggle, or the Black Arts Repertory theater in New York, but the Black Arts Movement in general: “We had to change the conversation.” And that is exactly what happened with words and music, as well as with political ideas and stances. Few were more important to this than John O’Neal. He is missed.

 
Yoga & Rights

On March 2nd we held our first Yoga and Rights workshop. Attendees stretched their bodies while learning about their rights when dealing with law enforcement. Reflecting on police encounters can stir painful emotions, but our yoga helped sooth us, like coconut oil on our skin. Don't miss out on our next workshop on April 22nd! More information coming soon.

Retro Rhythm Section Band

Community Calendar of Events
March 2019
     
2nd, Saturday 10:00-11:00am;
Hip Hop 4 Justice presents a Know Your Rights & Yoga infused Workshop! Bring your own yoga mat if you have one. We have a few you can borrow if you don’t have one. Healthy snacks available afterwards. RSVP to Donnae at
heydonnae@gmail.com or Angaza at angaza.l.house@gmail.com or Chris at chris@major7online.com or call (919) 876-7187.

3rd, Sunday 1:00-3:00pm;  Fruit of Labor Singing Ensemble Meeting/Rehearsal 

3rd, Sunday 3:00-6:00pm; Jams are open for other musicians, vocalists and artists to sit in and share. Free and open to the community, but we do welcome donations! Snacks and beverages are available for purchase.

10th, Sunday 3:00-5:00pm; World Cultural Cinema Celebrating Women’s History Month and Harriet Tubman Day. Harriet Tubman Day is a holiday in honor of African-American anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman (c. 1882-March 10, 1913); Short film, discussion, trivia & prizes, light refreshments, music. $5 donation requested.

13th, Wednesday 6:00-8:00pm; Financial Health Workshop 4th Session. Learn about capitalism, the current crisis and how to keep from being sucked into the dark hole of consumerism.

14th, Thursday 6:00-7:00pm; (2nd Thursdays) Freedom & Justice Youth Book Club meeting at the Fruit of Labor World Cultural Center Café!  (ages 12-16) If you love reading – historical non-fiction, suspense, mystery, science fiction and historical fiction you are invited to come out. We will focus on African American and other writers of color. For more information contact: Nathanette at (919) 876-7187 or
nlmayo5@yahoo.com.

14th, Thursday 7:00-8:00pm; (2nd Thursdays) Freedom & Justice Adult Book Club meeting at the Fruit of Labor World Cultural Center Café!  If you love reading – biographies & non-fiction, suspense, mystery, historical fiction, science fiction, health/mind/fitness, poetry with a focus on African American and other writers of color; you are invited to come out.  For more information contact: Angaza at (919) 876-7187 or
frutioflaborwcc@netscape.com.

17th, Sunday 1:00-3:00pm; Fruit of Labor Singing Ensemble Meeting/Rehearsal

21st, Sunday 1:00-3:00pm; Fruit of Labor Singing Ensemble Meeting/Rehearsal

26th; Tuesday 6:00-8:00pm; World Cultural Cinema Celebrating Women’s History Month; film, discussion & snacks. $5 donation requested.

30th, Saturday 7:00-11:00pm; Fruit of Labor World Cultural Center presents an evening featuring the Neo-Soul’cial Band, poets, artists and other guest musical guests. Come enjoy good music, good food, trivia, door prizes, good discussion at this social justice fundraiser. Tickets are $15. Email
frutioflaborwcc@netscape.com or call (919) 876-7187  for more information.  
36th Annual M.L. King Support for Labor Banquet
Saturday, April 13th 5:00pm


NC Association of Educators Building at 700 S. Salisbury St, Raleigh NC. Tickets are on sale now! Donation: $40.

Contact the FOLWCC to reserve yours today!
Need a special place for your special event?

The newly renovated Fruit of Labor World Cultural Center and the World Cultural Café are your place. The 2000 sq. ft. World Cultural Center, with its big screen and surround sound theater, is the ideal intimate setting for:

• Parties & Game Nights
• Organizational & Business Meetings
• Classes, Seminars & Workshops
• Conferences
• Religious & Family Gatherings/ Reunions
• Bridal & Baby Showers
• Movie Screenings
• Receptions
• Gatherings for Watching Sporting and other Events
• Art Shows
• Small Concerts & Fundraisers

Contact us to learn more.
Website - www.fruitoflabor.org
Copyright © 2019 Fruit of Labor, All rights reserved.

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