As a highly contentious midterm election season ends, elder organizer Omali Yeshitela remains adamant about reminding Black people in the United States that many elected officials, and Democrats, in particular, haven’t met their interests at home or abroad.
On Saturday, Yeshitela and other members of the Black is Black Coalition for Justice, Peace and Reparations converged on Malcolm X Park in Northwest for the 14th annual Black People’s March on the White House. The rally and march took place more than three months after the FBI raided Yeshitela’s homes in St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Petersburg, Florida.
As of today, charges have not been levied against Yeshitela or his wife, Ona Zené Yeshitela.
Federal authorities said the raid was in connection to an investigation into Russian influence in American affairs. Unsealed documents cited Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a Russian national, who they said organized secession movements in other countries.
Yeshitela revealed the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), of which he serves as chairman, as one of the groups mentioned in the documents. He then said anti-Russian propaganda has been unleashed to distract Americans from Black people’s need for reparations and justice.
“They can’t tell us why they are destroying Black communities, but they said the Russians are paying us to [demand reparations],” Yeshitela said on Friday at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe. “Because of white people’s assumptions about Russians, they dismissed our arguments because the underpinning is that another force has to define our experience for us. That’s not true.”
The recent midterms raised questions about whether the Democrats would maintain or increase their power in the House and Senate. Republicans had been favored to win more than half of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot. In the house, Republicans also showed signs of securing nearly 20 more seats than Democrats.
For months, pundits focused on the five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that President Joe Biden (D) turned blue in 2020. Nevada also became a state of interest. Democrats revved up a get-out-the-vote campaign in those states, even dispatching former President Barack Obama to remind voters about the significance of November 8.
A few days before November 8, Yeshitela pointed to the Biden administration’s Safer America Plan, which increases law enforcement funding, as a sign of what’s to continue for Black people in the United States.
During Saturday’s rally, participating organizations, including Black Alliance for Peace, drew parallels between law enforcement presence in Black communities and U.S. military operations in Africa and other parts of the world.
On Friday, Yeshitela was joined on the front steps of Sankofa Video, Books & Cafe by Marsha Coleman Adebayo of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, Belinda Parker Brown of Louisiana United International, and Yejide Orunmila of the African National Women’s Organization. They explored various manifestations of the racialized violence they tackle through their work.
Orunmila highlighted APSP’s work in training African women to be doulas. Meanwhile, Adebayo brought attention to ongoing efforts in Bethesda, Maryland, to stop developers’ desecration of an African burial ground. Parker took onlookers to Louisiana, where a ballot measure, if passed, would bring further ambiguity to a statute outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude.
In her remarks, Parker demanded that the actions of the U.S. government at the federal, state and local levels reflect the will of the people.
“We won’t stand by silently while our government locks us up and throws away the key in these God-forsaken prisons and jails,” Brown said
“The system is corrupt, and corrupt people are serving their selfish gains by abusing us. They have allowed us to get tangled up in all sorts of abandonment. We have to stand up, unite and hold our government accountable for these abuses.”
In years past, APSP, also known as the Uhuru Movement, has participated in politics from the periphery. In St. Louis, the organization unsuccessfully backed the Board of Aldermen candidates that supported reparations. Yeshitela and his comrades have also coordinated housing rehabilitation projects and community gardens.
As APSP chairman, Yeshitela has also traveled to Russia and Nicaragua to organize against imperialism.
During the July 29 raid, federal agents confiscated phones, hard drives, and documents from Yeshitela’s homes in St. Louis and St. Petersburg, Florida. Yeshitela said APSP no longer has access to the signatures they collected from an online petition for reparations.
On Friday, Adebayo implored people to recognize the gravity of Yeshitela’s situation and how it is similar to what happens across the world, particularly in Africa.
“People are dying on the richest continent,” Adebayo said.
“Only a continent that serves the African community first can fight this. Chairman Omali is an indispensable part of the liberation movement of this country. We must assert hands off the Uhuru movement and hands off Black leadership.”