Hotep to my Brother’s and Sister’s. I hope and pray that all is well with you and your families. I had a good weekend taking my daughter to an Historically Black College University school in South Carolina. We got her situated in her apartment, met her boss (the women’s head basketball coach), who quickly took us on a tour of the Claflin University campus. It was beautiful, small, peaceful and filled with young freshmen who looked fired up and full of hope.
While in the small town of Orangeburg, SC, (with an estimated population of 13,964 people), I noticed that Black folks dominated everything there. The stores were filled with us. Even the clerks at the stores were just about all Black. We walked into a Chinese restaurant and the clerks were Black. We started to walk back out cause, come on now, Black folks cooking Chinese food! Give me a break! Turned out that this was a Chinese restaurant that had enough sense to hire some young Sister’s to front the place in an all Black environment, while they still did the cooking. This was the scene everywhere we went.It was encouraging to see young Black folks employed so that they could begin building a foundation from which they could pay for their schooling, maybe start their own business, raise a family and build a strong community.
Turns out that this little small town has a rich history of the struggle for our liberation. In the 1960s, Orangeburg was a major center of Civil Rights Movement activities involving students from both Claflin College and South Carolina State College and residents of Orangeburg’s Black community. When whites used economic retaliation local Blacks seeking school integration in 1956 after the US Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional, students came to their support with hunger strikes, boycotts, and mass marches. In 1960, over 400 students were arrested on sit-ins and integration marches organized by CORE. In August 1963, the Orangeburg Freedom Movement (OFM), chaired by Dr. Harlowe Caldwell of the NAACP, submitted 10 pro-integration demands to the Orangeburg Mayor and City Council. After negotiations failed, mass demonstrations similar to those in the Birmingham campaign resulted in more than 1,300 arrests. On February 8, 1968, after days of protests against a segregated bowling alley, violence broke out near the bowling alley as police attacked Black students from South Carolina State. Police opened fired on a crowd of students, killing Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, and Delano Middleton, and wounding 27 others in what became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre“.
With this intense history of struggle, It dawned on me that the next area or place in this nation where we as a people can build a strong power base, where we control our own economy, politics and institutions, will be in the South. There, we already dominate the population, but don’t have the mindset to put that power into action. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should give up on cities in the north. But looks like we’re loosing a lot of the gains we made politically there, because we weren’t able to rebuild Black Wall Street due to, in part, Institutional Racism. Where there was no investment in cities like Detroit and because of self hatred. Where we have been unable to come together and put together our own institutions because we were so busy arguing with each other, that we allowed Suburbanites to put together a coup to take over many cities where we are the majority.
In the south, where we have land, labor and Universities to produce our next generation of leaders and worker’s, this would be an excellent place to launch our own line of grocery and department stores, to feed and cloth ourselves. Create an educational system that not only teaches us about our history from the ancient African Civilizations in Egypt and all over the continent, but also teaches us how to be self sufficient as a people. In the South, we have the environment and the people to put together a system of self reliance that we can import to our people all over the country and the world.
During this weeks 50th anniversary march on Washington, it would be nice if such an empowering component could come out of it. Where, instead of asking for jobs and justice. We create our own jobs that give us the economy we need to support our politics that will in turn lead to us providing our own justice because we’ll have the power to keep people from committing injustices against us.
The South will rise again for us. Because if we keep our eyes on the prize and continue the struggle, we shall overcome and as a people get to the promised land!