On the Manifesto

How do people convey their desires and commitments through the genre of the Manifesto? What work does the Manifesto do to constitute a meaningful “we,” to identify a problem, and to propose meaningful responses to that problem? What do manifestos tell us about the political, material, and social context in which they emerge? How are manifestos capable of inspiring people to take action in the world? Reference at least two of the assigned readings.

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“Rules” for Radicals

You may already be an activist. Then again, maybe you’re just
somebody who wants to find ways to keep your eyes open. In
any case, I wanted to write a book for you that would relate cur-
rent progressive activism to the educational and political strug-
gles that underlie our lives today, struggles that have encour-
aged broad identifications and alliances, as well as critical
undertakings that have reimagined the past and the present in
the name of a radically democratic future. I wanted you to have
a book that provides a history of what you are noticing and
maybe even experiencing. Thus, We Demand has shown that
beginning in the twentieth century, the university has been a
primary location for the waging of a host of battles. Addressing
the university as an entanglement of bureaucratic, ideological,
and security interests, this book has also been interested in
demonstrating how this profile is an expression of neoliberal
social forces—and how the university has consequently worked
to establish student activism as a basis of suspicion rather than a
chance for social transformation. Hence, this book has dealt


82 / Conclusion

with the question of what it means to put all of our intellect,
imagination, creativity, and yes, hope into transforming and
building institutions in a context of not only stubborn but vio-
lent opposition.

In this conclusion, I set down some soft rules for dealing with
where we are at this point in history, rules that I hope you will
adapt and revise for your particular circumstances. The subtitle
is a rif on the title of Saul Alinsky’s 1971 Rules for Radicals: A Prac-
tical Primer for Realistic Radicals. Alinsky said he wrote his book as
a way “to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice,
peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education,
full and useful employment, health, and the creation of those
circumstances in which man [sic] can have the chance to live by
values that give meaning to life.”1 How to create a world in
which all people live meaningfully, cooperatively, justly, and
fully is a vital question, especially now.

Rule 1: All good radical politics require a thoroughgoing understanding

of one’s historical and institutional context. The great scholar-activist
Angela Davis has said, “Radical simply means ‘grasping things at
the root.’”2 For me, philosophical and theoretical investigations
have been the means of getting at the root of things and thus
embody my sense of what it means to do radical work. While I
developed my identity as a theorist in graduate school, I was
first introduced to the idea that theory could illuminate the
foundations of power and inequality while I was an undergradu-
ate at the historically black Howard University. My professors in
philosophy and sociological theory courses there asked their
students to put classic works such as Ludwig Feuerbach’s The
Essence of Christianity, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s The Com-
munist Manifesto, David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human

Conclusion / 83

Understanding, and Plato’s Republic alongside modern texts like
Martin Bernal’s Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civi-
lization, Cheikh Anta Diop’s The African Origin of Civilization:
Myth or Reality?, Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism, bell
hooks’s Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, and Man-
ning Marable’s How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Prob-
lems in Race, Political Economy, and Society. My teachers put these
works together to get us to see that theory—like archival work
for some, like fiction writing for others—was a way to answer
the question of how we got to this grim and head-scratching

A historically informed theoretical investigation can be one
way to get to the bottom of what you have been dealing with
concerning the university. With various court decisions that
have legally dismantled afrmative action programs and with
the dismal decline in the numbers of blacks, Natives, and Latinx
in academic institutions, our current moment shows that Ameri-
can colleges and universities continue to restrict whom they
will identify as “the people,” the ones with whom they will enter
into social and intellectual contracts.

For Kant, the construction of “the people” as semiautono-
mous, intellectually inadequate, and easily misled applied even
more to people of color. In 1764 he argued,

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the
trifling. Mr. [David] Hume challenges anyone to cite a single exam-
ple in which a Negro has shown talents and asserts that
among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who are transported else-
where from their countries, although many of them have even been
set free, still not a single one was ever found who presented anything
great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality, even though

84 / Conclusion

among the whites some continually rise aloft from the lowest rabble,
and through superior gifts earn respect in the world. So fundamental
is the diference between these two races of man, and it appears to be
as great in regard to mental capacities as in color.3

As a figure with no capacity for artistic or intellectual engage-
ment, the Negro—and, by extension, other people of color—
could not possibly benefit from university education and consti-
tuted an even lower order than the university’s “people.”

Constructing blacks and Natives as the antitheses of rational-
ity and as even lower than “the people” enabled colleges and
universities to accumulate and exploit nonwhite labor and land.
As Craig Wilder states,

College founders and ofcers used enslaved people to raise build-
ings, maintain campuses, and enhance their institutional wealth.
However, the relationship between colleges and slavery was not
limited to the presence of slaves on campus. The American college
trained the personnel and cultivated the ideas that accelerated and
legitimated the dispossession of Native Americans and the enslave-
ment of Africans.4

History shows us that the modern Western university was
erected as an institution fundamentally antagonistic to every-
day people in general and people of color in particular. In a way,
then, you and I are the children of this institutional inheritance,
the beneficiaries of a history that—as far as this place is con-
cerned—has always presumed the inferiority of various constit-
uencies of “the people,” constituencies based on dif erences of
ability, class, race, gender, and sexuality. And so we find our-
selves in institutions that—for the most part—have never cared
to fully imagine us.

Taking note of the ways that the history of the academy bears
down upon us also implies something about the past. We

Conclusion / 85

cannot—as strange as it may sound—presume that the past is
relegated to yesterday. So, Rule 2: The past does not stay still. From the
first to the middle hour of the day and on to eventide, it creeps. The con-
tinued narrowing of the public and the university’s relationship
to “the people,” as well as the ongoing expansion of security and
other repressive apparatuses, means that we have to situate the
erosion of education as a public good within the history of the
people’s opposition to the university system and within the con-
struction of people of color and poor people as others to the pub-
lic good. As I argue in The Reorder of Things, “ With the simultane-
ity of prison expansion and academic exclusion, a new level of
dispensability for blacks and Latinos was being born that would
create opportunities for penal institutions and omissions for aca-
demic institutions.”5 In this time when the academic options for
students of color are being narrowed, marking them as people to
whom the modern American university has no responsibility, the
past creeps and forms a racial project in which the academy is the
domain of exclusion and prisons are the domain of inclusion as
far as black and brown bodies are concerned.

But “the past” isn’t just the bad stuf that washes onto the
shore: historical and cultural riches also come in with the tide.
Those riches are crucial to challenging dominant forms of
power and creating alternatives to them. Learning the intrica-
cies of dominant power can be overwhelming, but it’s always
necessary, and as the historian Robin D. G. Kelly argues, “His-
torical models may provide valuable insights for those seeking
novel solutions.”6 If we are to challenge power’s pernicious
forms, we have to—as best we can—figure out all its angles;
cultural traditions and practices are key components of that
struggle. Such components can be found in those instances in
which someone took the time to imagine a place for us. So,

86 / Conclusion

Rule 3: Politics is not the science of resignation. It is the science of our acti-

vation, by ourselves and by others.

The history of institutions like my alma mater Howard Uni-
versity is part of the riches from which we can draw inspiration
and creativity. Ofcials from the Bureau of Refugees, Freed-
men, and Abandoned Lands founded it in 1867. At that time, as
you can imagine, there was considerable, even overwhelming
distrust of the idea that black people were capable of any intel-
lectual adventure, and so there was real opposition to the estab-
lishment of liberal arts colleges and universities for African
Americans. Indeed, the politician and political theorist John
Calhoun stated, “If a Negro could be found who could parse
Greek or explain Euclid, I should be constrained to think that
he had human possibilities.”7

The initial goals for the school were modest. First it was
envisioned as a seminary to train “colored preachers with a view
to service among the freedmen,” then as a “Normal and Theo-
logical Institute for the Education of Teachers and Preachers.”
Finally, the founders struck upon the idea of building a liberal
arts university for the education of those who were born free
and those who were recently acquainted with that status. How a
full-fledged liberal arts university became the final goal we
don’t know, but the point is that someone dared to imagine and
run with it. The great Howard historian Rayford Logan argues
in his history of the institution, “It is probable that these limited
early goals stemmed in part from doubt about the wisdom of
establishing a liberal arts college or university for the education
of Negroes. The belief in the ‘inherent’ inferiority of Negroes
was widespread in 1866.”8 Historically black colleges and univer-
sities, like Howard, were early attempts to push against the lim-
its of what a university could be and which people it might claim

Conclusion / 87

as part of its imaginative horizon. The other time when minori-
tized subjects challenged the university in this way was of
course the 1960s and ’70s, when student movements demanded
that women and people of color be seen as constituencies within
the academy, not just bodies but bodies and minds that could
help reorganize knowledge in ways that people had never imag-
ined. This grand revision of minoritized people as the bearers of
ideas, dreams, and visions is part of the cultural richness that we
bring into the present day.

Rule 4: Choose intellection. The project of human recovery
requires deep and committed thinking. This is an endeavor that
allows no shortcut or slipshod work and has no room for anti-
intellectualism. As the cultural critic Henry Giroux writes in
America at War with Itself, “Ignorance is not simply about the
absence of knowledge, it is a kind of ideological sandstorm in
which reason gives way to emotion, and a willful limitation of
critical thought spreads through the culture as part of a political
project that both infantilizes and depoliticizes the general pub-
lic.”9 With this comment and the history of the American uni-
versity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in mind—
and certainly after the 2016 presidential election—we might say
that anti-intellectualism, not an accident but the intention of
certain social projects, is the mature and defensive expression of
dominant institutions, one that retaliates against past and
present political and intellectual uprisings.

In the antebellum South, white property owners did not
believe that laborers needed education; they were even less will-
ing to pay for it with their taxes, insisting that education would
make the exploitation of laborers “more dif cult; and that if any
of them were really worth educating, they would somehow
escape their condition by their own eforts.” The great African

88 / Conclusion

American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in his monumental
Black Reconstruction in America: 1860–1880 that white laborers dur-
ing the period of slavery rejected the idea of free public educa-
tion as well, “accept[ing] without murmur their subordination to
the slaveholders, and look[ing] for escape from their condition
only to the possibility of becoming slaveholders themselves.”10

Here Du Bois shows that the rejection of free and public educa-
tion was a central component of white racial identity across class
divisions in the nineteenth century.

By contrast, he argued that it was slaves who best understood
the power of critical thinking and who demanded it in the form
of a system of public education. In fact, enslaved and free blacks
demanded free public education for all people in the United
States, and as Du Bois explained, “It was this demand that was
the efective force for the establishment of the public school in
the South on a permanent basis, for all peoples and all classes.”11

As he shows, the Freedmen’s Bureau, missionary societies, and
black reconstruction governments helped to establish the mod-
ern public school system, built on the idea that education should
be available to all persons regardless of racial or class status. As
the abolitionist and author Richard P. Hallowell argued, “The
whites had always regarded the public school system of the
North with contempt. The freedman introduced and estab-
lished it, and it stands today a living testimony.”12 Understand-
ing the life of the mind as a public good was—to follow the his-
torian David Roediger—part of the slave community’s vision
for “self-emancipation.”13 A radically democratic vision of the
life of the mind is part of what we have inherited from those
who knew bondage, and we may measure our anti-intellectual-
ism in terms of our alienation from this community of the dead.

Conclusion / 89

I invoke the freedpeople’s dream of public intellection to
illustrate the fact that this country has catastrophically and con-
sistently said no to intellectual progress, especially when a con-
dition of that progress has been a serious reckoning with issues
of race in particular, as well as matters of gender, sexuality, dis-
ability, and ethnicity. It’s important to remember, though, that
while saying no to real progress has been a hallmark of US
power, saying yes has been part of its power too. Rule 5: When

institutions say yes, that is also a moment of jeopardy. As this book’s
discussions of diversity suggest, we are living in a time when
institutions such as state, capital, and university do not exert
their power simply by excluding us and saying no. They do
that—certainly. But beginning in the 1960s, modes of power did
not simply recoil from diference but instead learned how to
bureaucratize it and thereby divest it of its radical and trans-
formative potentials. This has engendered a political crisis for
minoritized intellectuals and activists and prompted the kinds
of campus activism that we now see, responses to the jeopardy
in which the bureaucratization of diference has put us.

Part of that jeopardy for minoritized intellectuals and activ-
ists has to do with the ethical crisis in which the American uni-
versity now finds itself: whether it will be a place that encour-
ages or discourages genuine critical thought and transformation,
especially where minoritized communities are concerned. This
ethical crisis has wide implications and again raises the question
of what it means to be an insurgent intellectual within the uni-
versity. The question applies not only to students but also to fac-
ulty. The postcolonial theorist Edward Said captured the crisis
produced by intellectual surrenders in Representations of the

90 / Conclusion

The question remains as to whether there is or can be anything like
an independent, autonomously functioning intellectual, one who is
not beholden to, and therefore constrained by, his or her af liations
with universities that pay salaries, political parties that demand
loyalty to a party line, think tanks that while they ofer freedom to
do research perhaps more subtly compromise judgment and
restrain the critical voice.14

Remaining independent and functioning autonomously in the
university is necessary, especially for the critical intellectual
who does not see institutional favors, decorations, and promo-
tions as the goal of our work but understands that the creation of
critical masses of minoritized subjects of all types within this
stubborn place and others like it is the prize.

What would it mean for those of us who claim various forms
of minority diference—race, gender, sexuality, disability, and
so on—to recognize when those systems of power appeal to our
diferences, calling out to us like sirens on the rocks, promising
to recognize our cultural and embodied dif erences without
ever taking real steps to provide a place for those dif erences to
be expressed, reimagined, and embodied by the greatest number
of minoritized people? What would it mean to produce a politics
of minority diference that revolves around the will to create
such places for such people, recognizing that verbal and bureau-
cratic appreciations of diversity are never enough? It would
mean wrestling with Frantz Fanon’s insight about the ways that
storytellers reimagined their craft during the anticolonial revo-
lutions in Africa:

The storytellers who used to relate inert episodes now bring them
alive and introduce into them modifications which are increasingly
fundamental. There is a tendency to bring conflicts up to date and


Conclusion / 91

to modernize the kinds of struggle which the stories evoke, together
with the names of heroes and the types of weapons.15

Forms of minority diference can be tools of such modifications,
but only if we refuse to let them reside in the mouth of

Forms of minority diference are not the playthings of domi-
nant institutions. They are the burnt oferings of communities
in struggle. In this regard, Vincent Harding’s distinction
between institutional certification and the historical resources
provided by black communities strikes a note that all of us—no
matter our identities—should hear:

Black scholars must remember their sources, and by this I mean no
technically historical sources. I mean human sources. I mean that
they were not created as persons, as historians, as teachers, by Pur-
due University or by UCLA or by the AHA [American Historical
Association] or the OAH [Organization of American Historians] or
any other set of letters. They are the products of their source—the
great pained community of the Afro-Americans of this land. And
they can forget the source only at great peril to their spirit, their
work, and their souls.16

Modern institutions would be nothing without their practices of
certification, acts that imply they have the power to elevate us
and to—in Harding’s words—create us as persons. So powerful
is this ruse that we often imagine that we amount to very little
without their certifying brands. But what Harding suggests is
that these powers of certification are never matches for the politi-
cal, intellectual, and ethical depths of the minoritized communi-
ties—the dēmos—that inspire us. Appreciating that we are occa-
sioned as intellectual, ethical, and political beings by those
communities rather than by the administrative procedures of



92 / Conclusion

academic institutions leads us to a bit of counterintuitive
wisdom—Rule 6: Assume you don’t belong.

After leaving Howard and making my way to the University
of California at San Diego’s Sociology Department for graduate
school, I found myself in a disciplinary setting that didn’t know
what to do with my interests in literature and race. One of my
best friends at the time was a Greek woman named Alexandra
Halkias. Alex was ahead of me in both age and graduate progress:
I was in just my second year of graduate school, and she was close
to finishing her dissertation, which later became the book The
Empty Cradle of Democracy: Sex, Abortion, and Nationalism in Modern

Greece. We taught in the same writing program and shared an
ofce. One day, during the period when all the instructors were
busy grading students’ papers, I was worrying aloud about my
marginal position in my department and considering a transfer:
“Alex, maybe I don’t belong in sociology. Maybe I really belong
in literature!” I said as she was trying to get through a stack of
students’ final papers. Having had enough of my kvetching, she
replied, “Rod, just assume you don’t belong!” To my surprise, her
advice was liberating, because I realized that much of my anxiety
was the result of trying to belong to a discipline on terms that I
never got to determine, to be certified without ever having any
say about the components of that certification. Her response
helped me to see that being in sociology (or any other discipline
or institution, for that matter) didn’t mean that I had to belong to
sociology. From that day forward, I resolved that I would never
again cry out for an institution’s certification.

Alex’s advice also allowed me to exercise another bit of
advice, which I had gotten while a sophomore at Howard. Still
striving to figure out how to be a radical intellectual, I sought
out Walda Katz Fishman, who taught some of the social theory

Conclusion / 93

courses in the Sociology Department. She was popular among
the students as the main Marxist on the faculty, “the Wildcat,”
as one of the of ce staf admiringly referred to her. Unbeknown
to me at the time, Walda was also a cofounder of the progressive
leadership-development organization Project South. After
maybe two class sessions with her, I showed up to her of ce
hours and promptly said that I wanted to be a radical intellec-
tual and to use her as a model. So she invited me to accompany
her to of-campus events and presentations. After giving a pres-
entation on racial and class inequality at a high school in Wash-
ington DC, she said to me, “Rod, I’m flattered that you’re look-
ing to me as a model for radicalism, but you know, you really
have to be your own model.”

Rule 7: In all things, be your own model, but one with historical ties.

We can connect this rule to the theory of minoritized commu-
nities that this book has put forth. Minoritized communities are
not static but dynamic entities, “constantly dancing between the
past, the present, and the future.” Harding argues that those of
us who are inspired by this dynamism and who are committed
to multiplying it must “be alive to the movement of history and
. . . recognize that we ourselves are constantly being remade and
revisioned.”17 Walda’s advice, then, can be taken as a nod to
transform ourselves through the inspirations produced by dis-
franchised communities.

In order to engage that kind of transformation—one that
requires a commitment to hearing other people’s voices and
perspectives—we have to be always ready to experience infor-
mation and inspiration. Rule 8: You can learn something from every-
body. While radicalism can be a really inspiring standpoint from
which to imagine and transform the social world, it can also be
deceptive, in making us believe that the only knowledge we

94 / Conclusion

need to care about is the knowledge that we and others like us
possess and produce. When I was trying to invent myself as a
young intellectual in high school, one of my favorite teachers, an
older white woman from New Orleans named Mrs. Virginia
Scott Joiner, gave me a bit of advice. She was one of those people
who could read by the age of three. Recognizing her precocity,
her father told her while she was still a little girl, “Remember,
Virginia, you can learn something from everybody.” When she
gave me that advice, she was telling me to remember the same
thing that her father meant: that my budding sense of myself as
an intellectual could help me to engage others who were dif er-
ent from me rather than dismiss them because of their dif er-
ences. This insight joins hands with something Audre Lorde
said about the 1960s: “Sometimes we could not bear the face of
each other’s diferences because of what we feared those dif er-
ences might say about ourselves. . . . But any future vision which
can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and
expanding, not easy to achieve.”18

Standing by this homespun principle of learning from one
another is also a way of challenging one of the primary levers of
historical violence, the lever that turns people and the planet
into abstractions, rendering them objects that are not worthy of
human consideration, distorting the living and the breathing
into simple means to an end. This has been a failure not only of
liberal and conservative formations but radical ones too. After
the Soviet Union massacred Hungarian communists—specifi-
cally, students, workers, and soldiers whom Stalinists called
“anti-Soviet Soviets”—for demanding greater freedoms in 1956,
the progressive historian E. P. Thompson wrote, “Stalinism is
socialist theory and practice which has lost the ingredient of
humanity.”19 This is an ingredient that we have to add over and

Conclusion / 95

over again to our political eforts. As the great theorist and
activist Grace Lee Boggs argued in her memorial to Martin
Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, true revolutions
are about “giving birth to a new society based on more human

This bit of wisdom has also matured in artistic and academic
domains. James Baldwin, for example, said, “It seems to me that
the artist’s struggle for his integrity must be considered as a
kind of metaphor for the struggle, which is universal and daily,
of all human beings on the face of this globe to get to become
human beings.”21 In her tribute to the black political theorist
Cedric Robinson, the social theorist Avery Gordon captured
this sense of our radically human task when she wrote, “The
driving force behind all authentic radical thought is, as Cedric
has eloquently written, ‘the recovery of human life from the
spoilage of degradation.’ ”22 Thus Rule 9: We are part of long and cou-

rageous eforts of human recovery that someone took the time to imagine,

and our political visions must be grounded there.

While the academy is not the source of our personhood, it is
definitely a site of struggle. Louis Powell knew that for sure. One
of the reasons that he worried over how much Herbert Marcuse
was writing was precisely that he realized the potential of criti-
cal work to inspire and transform. Indeed, the Powell Memoran-
dum was an attempt to call attention to and encourage the emu-
lation of what was for Powell the overwhelming work done by
progressive intellectuals in media appearances, teaching, and
writing: it propagated a conservative agenda whose exponents
could apply the might of their dispersed and coordinated ef orts
to meet the force of progressive production. If we think back to
the arguments from chapter 4 about the role of demoralization
in student struggles, we can see that one of the central aims of

96 / Conclusion

conservative forces is to keep progressive folks from turning
back to our work, from making our writing a power within the
world. The Powell Memorandum was designed not simply to
build a conservative onslaught but to halt progressive creativity.
Here the Chicanx queer writer Gloria Anzaldúa’s words on pro-
gressive creation prove instructive:

For many of us the acts of writing, painting, performing and film-
ing are acts of deliberate and desperate determination to subvert
the status quo. Creative acts are forms of political activism employ-
ing definite aesthetic strategies for resisting dominant cultural
norms and are not merely aesthetic exercises. We build culture as
we inscribe in these various forms.23

Dennis Billups, a black disability rights activist who occupied
San Francisco’s Department of Health, Education, and Welfare,
ofered in an interview in the Black Panther, “We need to show
the government that we can have more force than they can ever
deal with—and that we can eat more, drink more, love more
and pray more than they ever knew was happening.”24 Rule 10:
Progressive creativity is a multiform social force.

Powell’s worry about progressive creativity was partly due to
the fact that the critique of capitalism was connecting various
types of communities and people. As he argued, “We are not
dealing with episodic or isolated attacks from a relatively few
extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the
assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consist-
ently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.”25 Put
plainly, Powell was alarmed by the relational agendas of pro-
gressive work, its potentially extensive itineraries and strategies
that reach beyond singular locales, neighborhoods, communi-
ties, and regions. Rule 11: There is no progressive politics that is not
relational. At the heart of this relational vision is an awareness


Conclusion / 97

that historical change comes through a politics and an ethics
devoted to collective afliations and alliances. In her 1971 poem
“Paul Robeson,” the black poet Gwendolyn Brooks captures this
relational vision:

That time
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.
The adult Voice
forgoing Rolling River,
forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge
and other symptoms of an old despond.
Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.26

The best of revolutionary demands have this relational spirit at
their core.

In his essay “The Student Demand,” the performance studies
scholar and theorist Tav Nyong’o invokes a relational outlook in
C. L. R. James’s definition of black studies, seeing it as a “critique
of western civilization.”27 Nyong’o writes,

Black studies as the critique of western civilization teaches us to
ask: What do we owe each other for the sacrifices we are each called
upon to make to rebuke and repair the world? How can we—those
of us who profess to educate—accept the student demand not only
as a rebuke, which it is, but also as a gift?28

98 / Conclusion

June Jordan’s discussion of the open admission movement’s stu-
dent demands also captures this dual function. The university is
vexed and vexing, she understands that, but the fact of the mat-
ter is that it’s there, a ground that must be decolonized. “Yet it
waits there,” she says, “at the end of coercion, the citadel of tech-
nique and terminology. . . . How shall we humanly compose the
knowledge that troubles the mind into ideas of life [italics
mine]?”29 The “ideas of life” are precisely those that have been
threatened over and over again in the world in which we live.
And among you, the seasoned and the unseasoned alike are
needed to “repair the grand devastation.”30

The black independent filmmaker Louis Massiah framed his
1995 interview with the writer Toni Cade Bambara by saying,

I think of this gathering as an inquiry into culture as well as an
inquiry into the possibilities of what it means to be fully human as
we come to the end of this century. If the problem of the twentieth
century is the color line, then the question in the era we are going
into is really how can we be fully human? The struggle is between
forces of inhumanity that push us further into alienated states
against forces that really work for humanity, work for us to gain
greater understanding of each other, understanding our possibili-
ties in the world. It’s really in this context that I locate Toni as a
force for humanness, helping us to try to realize our human

To work for humanity—our own and that of others: this is the
high demand of the disfranchised.


The Black Panthers: Ten Point Program

We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine
our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions
which exist in our communities.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person
employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not
give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from
the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can
organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.

We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the
overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100
years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept
the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American
racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel
this is a modest demand that we make.

We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed
communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the
people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for
the people.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If
you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world,
then you will have little chance to know anything else.

We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health
facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result
of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee
our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be
developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and
medical information, so we may provide our selves with proper medical attention and care.

We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic
enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other
people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right,
therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed
people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these
fascist police forces.

We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the
aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination
upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government
or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend
themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.

We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States
prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist
judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate
elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and
women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims
of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that
when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of
their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the
political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the
powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and
nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they
should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever
any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to
alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such
principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to
effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long
established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all
experience hath shown that mankind are most disposed to suffer, while evils are
sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are

accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpation, pursuing invariably the
same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it
is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future

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