A critique and a program
By Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

Chicago Hip Hop artist, Kanye West, said it best during a telethon
recently for Hurricane Katrina victims, “President Bush doesn’t care
about Black people.” For having the nerve to say it, he was pilloried in

the white establishment media, with white pundits claiming that he was
“insincere” or made the comments as a “”publicity stunt to hype his
forthcoming musical release.” West had nothing to gain by criticizing
Bush, and everything to lose in terms of his newly-won mainstream
musical success. Certainly the media and the government will try to
destroy his career, just as they have done with other outspoken Black
commercial artists who have criticized the political establishment.

The statements West made were “on the money, and yet not motivated by
money. Did he lie? All of Bush’s policies for the last five years, since

he has been president, clearly have been on behalf of the rich white
ruling class, and totally against the poor, black or white. It should
therefore be no surprise that he would not jump to help the
predominately Black victims of the hurricane in New Orleans. If Bush is
not personally a racist, his policies have certainly racist and
oppressive, not much different from other segregationist politicians.

So for several days before and after the hurricane, the ‘great white
chief” had hunkered down in Texas, “on vacation” to avoid Iraq anti-war
protesters, while hundreds, maybe thousands of people, primarily poor
and working class Black people, have drowned in the 15-20 foot
floodwaters brought by Katrina, which inundated New Orleans and the Gulf


All that time Bush sat on his couch at his palatial homestead and
watched all this occur on television, and never lifted one finger. Then,

days after so much tragedy, after people had starved, died of thirst,
and filthy conditions, Bush appeared for his photo opportunity in
Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, shaking the hands every white
politician he could find, and later being photographed kissing Black

Like millions of other television viewers, I watched thousands of
primarily Black residents begging for food, water, and rescue from
rising waters, only to be ignored by the political establishment on the
city, state, and national levels. Many died, while tens of thousands
suffered in the most inhuman fashion possible, fighting for their very

Thousands of people may lie dead in New Orleans alone when the flood
water recede or are pumped out of the city. If true, that is a
staggering amount, the largest disaster in United States history. We
should mourn the victims, but we should also examine the evidence of
criminal culpability by the government. Bush should be impeached or
indicted for this and his imperialist war in Iraq.

How did all this happen, that some 150,000 people (a considerable
segment of the inner city) were literally abandoned to the coming of a
massive hurricane? The answer is quite simple, and unlike Bush’s
defenders or the hand-wringing of white liberals in the media, I will
come right to the point. Nobody in the government cares about these
Black and poor people. To this government, even a number of poor whites,

who shared in their fate, were totally expendable. They are niggers too,

the underclass.

No buses were sent by the mayor, governor or president for these Black
and poor people to take them to safety, even though there was a full 3-4

days warning. No plans were made to feed or house them, or to give them
medical attention. They were abandoned to their fate. Neither Bush, nor
the local politicians, cared if they lived or died. This was a criminal,

genocidal non-response by American government officials in the Bush
administration especially, one of the most right-wing federal
administrations in U.S. history. Since Bush took so much credit as the
“savior of the nation” on September 11, 2001, when terrorists struck New

York city, which propelled him to a 2nd term, now he must take the blame

for craven cowardice, stupidity, racism, and incompetence for the
Hurricane Katrina disaster.

But in this situation, it is not enough for Black or progressive
activists to just criticize Bush personally or the government generally
for its racism, we need to think about grassroots organizing strategies
to empower poor people. This crisis has also showed Black and poor
people that this batch of black establishment politicians are no friend
of the poor, and that these civil rights leaders are not just “out of
touch” with the masses, but are totally ineffective, in the camp of the
oppressors. The same can be said for Democratic Party white liberals.

These so-called leaders are providing no guidance in this crisis, nor
providing us with any resistance strategy. This is not only in the
especially dire circumstances of what happened in New Orleans, but in
this entire post-civil rights period of class warfare by the rich, which

takes place every day all over the country. The “so-called leaders”
cannot save us poor folks from this racist corrupt government, which
allowed this to happen to us now, but the weaklings have also stood by
all this time while our youth were thrown into the prison system
wholesale, while we were being gunned down or brutalized by racist cops,

and while we were being starved by mass unemployment and homelessness.
With “friends” like these Black politicians, civil rights misleaders,
and limousine liberals, who needs enemies?

We also should not depend on this government to suddenly find
“enlightenment” and begin to help us, or because Bush is in a political
crisis as a result of broad criticism of his government’s inaction to
help flood victims. The fact is that we need to organize for our own
survival. We need a Poor Peoples Survival Movement, led by the same
kinds of Black people who were left to die in New Orleans, the poor and
the super-poor. This movement, although Black-led, will ultimately
provide the backbone for an army of the poor from every racial and
ethnic group to wage class warfare against the rich and their agents.

A Black/poor peoples survival program for poor and working class people
in the inner cities is a very simple and practical program. We need a
new way of confronting our oppressed situation. We need to unite our
people to fight, and to do all that is necessary to educate, organize
and mobilize them. The tragedy of News Orleans should be a rallying cry
to put pressure not only on the white government, but to build a new
grassroots protest movement. What follows is an example of the kind of
survival program we need:

1. The people of the inner city of New Orleans must be allowed to
return, rebuild their homes, and the city generally. A city which was a
majority Black entity must be allowed to return to its original form,
but with better living conditions for all the residents, not just for
the French Quarter or white affluent areas. Over 250,00 inner-city
residents in New Orleans are without jobs and have lost their homes and
all personal property, as we are speaking. Adequate jobs and services
must be provided to all community residents including first preference
for all construction jobs in the Black community, when community public
works brigades are assigned to rebuild the city. To help the residents
who want to rebuild in New Orleans, we must fight for grassroots control

of government funds through a network of mutual aid banking societies,
community development credit unions, and housing cooperatives. WE DON’T
2. Working class Black people must have community control of all
government or private planning boards affecting and concerning the
conditions of the Black community. To enforce these demands we should
lead rent strikes, demonstrations, urban squatting, and any other
actions to drive the old landlords out, pressure the government, and
take over property.
3. We must demand that the U.S, government provide massive economic aid
to rebuild New Orleans and the deteriorating inner cities all over the
United States. The government sat by while thousands died and had
systematically looted the budget to strengthen the levees, which could
have held back the flood waters, and should provide the billions of
dollars to rebuild the Black community and poor areas, and provide
employment for all our people. We must build a mass movement in our
communities all over the country to compel the government and rich
corporations to provide the means for our community redevelopment.
4. We must have community control of all businesses and financial
institutions located in our communities. Those businesses, especially
banks, that do not work in our best interests or are not working to
return some of their revenue back to the community, should be seized and

turned into community cooperatives and mutual aid banking societies.
5. To the degree possible, we must have an independent self-sustaining
economy in the Black community. Such an internal economy will not free
us, but it is a method of survival in hard times. It also allows our
money to stay in our own communities, rather than be imported outside by

others. We need a viable local economy that we control. We must develop
a Black community redevelopment bond system and complementary monetary
funds, in order to not only rebuild the economy of Black New Orleans,
but other inner-city communities all over the US. We must also build a
network of housing, food, electricity and other cooperative economic
6. We must establish a Black community-controlled food system for
self-sufficiency as a way of fighting to end hunger and malnutrition.
This food network would include trucking networks, warehouses, communal
farms, farmer cooperatives, agricultural unions, urban food coops and
cooperative buying clubs, and other collective associations, to help
feed a large population in the inner cities. This network is especially
needed now that the United States has entered into a deep economic
crisis and cannot totally provide for our needs. NOTE: although we can
raise a great deal of resources among our people, we should demand that
the government which taxes us, provide a large portion of these funds,
to be administered under our total control, instead of a government
7. End police brutality and unfair trials of Black people. We demand
criminal prosecution and jailing of all brutal racist killer cops. We
demand that these corrupt cops, like the notorious New Orleans police
department, be removed. We must organize our own community self-defense
forces, both a militia and search & rescue teams. We must put pressure
on the government with a nationwide mass movement to get rid of killer
cops, and start to run our own affairs.
8. Reparations: the Big Payback. The United States government and the
rich class of this country have stolen and oppressed African peoples on
this continent for centuries. The upper crust of this country are only
rich because of our forced labor. They worked our ancestors as slaves,
and after slavery, they continued to oppress, murder, and economically
exploit our people on down to the present day. They owe us for centuries

of robbery and abuse, but we know that they won’t give the money to us
out of guilt or a sense of atonement, we must fight for it. We must
build a new movement of the grassroots poor, to put pressure on the
government and rich corporations. We must demand that financial
reparations, in the form of community redevelopment funds, be provided
and placed in credit unions, cooperatives, and other mutual aid
institutions in the Black community, under total community control, so
that we can start to obtain some measure of economic self-sufficiency
and rebuild decent housing, construct a cooperative economy, and begin
to employ our own people.
9. The central demand of a survival program is for Black control of the
Black community, its politics and economy. We have to take over the
cities, establish municipal communes, and exercise autonomy in a way
that has never been done to this point. We are the majority in many of
the major cities of this country, and we should be able to control our
own affairs and not be under the total dominance of the central
government. The Black Power movement of the 1960’s was sold out because
we settled for Black politicians, by passively depending on salvation
from leaders of one sort or another, and by no longer engaging in the
type of community based struggles which won us whatever “rights” we have

under this system. We won’t ever get community social or political power

that way. No “leader” is coming to save us. We have to do it ourselves,
if we are ever to finally get on the road to freedom.
10. We should have a mass demonstration on the White Man’s House at 1600

Pennsylvania Avenue, where George W. Bush currently resides, to protest
his policies, not to exalt one or another of the current so-called Black

leaders of this period, at a “millions more march”. We especially need
to protest Bush’s denial of the human rights of the victims of the
recent hurricane in New Orleans, and his policies which allowed the
hurricane and flood to happen with such devastation.


I reiterate that I am not writing this as something that pertains
strictly to New Orleans; it may be helpful there, but it is something we

could be building wherever we are. This proposal is also not engraved in

stone, cannot cover every issue confronting poor people, and like any
proposal, it is a set of ideals not yet reality. The point of this
critique is that now is a moment for us to critically rethink our
circumstances in America, and to come up with new social formations,
movements and grassroots leadership, not continuing on as before as
though nothing has happened. ‘Nuf said, let’s organize the hood!

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin is a Chicago-based Black activist, writer, and
theorist. A veteran of the civil rights and Black Power movements of the

1960’s, he is currently working on a project to create the Ida B. Wells
Community Learning Institute on the Southside of Chicago and working to
create Let’s Organize the Hood, a youth and community grassroots
project. He can be reached at: Komboa@hotmail.com