Khallid Who?

Young Black Activists Are on the Move— And on Their Own

"Khallid taps into that anger, which is necessary," says Bandele, but "Che Guevara said that a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love"— the only thing, she says, "that will sustain you in the long haul." With about 20 New York members, MXG hosts trips to Cuba in support of political exiles such as Assata Shakur, campaigns for political prisoners including Dr. Mutulu Shakur and Russell Shoats, and every other Sunday joins with members of FIST (Forever In Struggle Together), a predominantly Afro-Caribbean youth organization, to feed about 60 of the homeless on Brooklyn's Fulton Street.

Working in loosely structured, nonhierarchical formations has allowed groups like these to make the transition from traditional student issues to police brutality and defending Mumia Abu-Jamal. Yet Suheir Hammad, 24, a Palestinian American writer, poet, and activist, observes that when it comes to multiracial alliances, Muhammad "doesn't see them." Last year, veteran black activists admonished Muhammad for ignoring the influence of the city's historical alliances. Indeed, says Anderson, the Panthers not only made common cause with the Puerto Rican Young Lords, but Asian groups like I Wor Kuen (Harmonious Mighty Fist). And this year, says South Asian activist Monami Maulik, 25, "We were looking out for meetings for organizers, but there was nothing."

Ironically, this indifference comes as youth activism is experiencing a resurgence. Ninety-five young activists currently face charges in Philadelphia stemming from their seizure of the Liberty Bell on Independence Day weekend to demand a new trial for Abu-Jamal, who faces a December 2 execution date. The Coalition Against Police Brutality has brought black, Latino, and Asian leftist and nationalist groups together. Maulik has cofounded Desis Rising Up and Moving, to DRUM up solidarity between Asian immigrants and other communities of color.

Three faces of youth activism in New York: Kofi Taha, Monifa Bandele, and Sandra Barros
photo: Michael Sofronski
Three faces of youth activism in New York: Kofi Taha, Monifa Bandele, and Sandra Barros

Scholar and activist Manning Marable writes that the problem for African American politics is that "liberal integrationists and conservative black nationalists aren't saying much that's new." Ultimately, whether Muhammad becomes totally irrelevant to his imagined constituency depends on other voices filling the void. As Anderson puts it, "If the black liberation movement were stronger, there would be no Khallid Muhammad." And as to whether a revived call to Black Power is the direction for youth, Taha knows that "the answers have to come from young people," but even he "can't answer that question, so I know that Khallid Muhammad can't."

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