By William PLEASANT
This is not an epitaph for Malik Sekou Osei, my dear friend who left this world on November 9, 2015, but the preface to a publication of his writings that he and I composed and published in our on-line journal known as LIBERATOR. I will produce and publish a book version in his honor in 2016.
My first assessment of Sekou at learning of his death was spread around the world. It was very terse, and it read: COMRADE MALIK SEKOU OSEI SUCCUMBED TO THE RAVAGES OF DIABETES IN HIS BROOKLYN, NY HOME. SEKOU WAS A PASSIONATE SCHOLAR OF REVOLUTIONARY MARXIST PRACTICE AND THEORY. LIKEWISE, HE SPENT HIS CAREER SEEKING NEW WAYS TO COMMUNICATE HIS ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE TO POOR AND WORKING PEOPLE IN THE US, AFRICA, ASIA AND EUROPE. A POET, MUSICIAN AND TIRELESS ACTIVIST, MALIK SEKOU OSEI WAS MY FRIEND AND LITERARY COLLEAGUE...PRESENTE! COMRADE SEKOU!
I never knew that Sekou was chronically ill. He never gave me any indication that he was anything other than filled with vigor and hope. On November 8, 2015, the last of our daily conversations, I called him from a hackneyed ribbon-cutting ceremony in Baltimore. After glad-handing with the locally elected Black Democratic Party hacks and their epigone and frightening all the local TV news reporters, I called Sekou and had a big laugh. For more than an hour I explained how the best thing that the Democratic Party and its Black camp followers could answer the mayhem that gripped Baltimore after the police-gangland rubout of Freddy Gray was a politically neutral mural exactly at GROUND ZERO (Pennsylvania @ North Avenues a.k.a. zip code 21217, one of the most devastated urban regions in the USA), the point where young and de-classed Black people engaged in a battle royal with the Baltimore City Police Department, Maryland State Police and the Maryland National Guard. When the world heard “RIOT,” “BLACKS,” “BALTIMORE” the mass media was talking about the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues. After the bloodshed, mass arrests and destruction, the only thing that the authorized negroes of Baltimore could come up with was a “Black, culturally positive” mural against a wall facing exactly where hundreds of Black youths were tear gassed, beaten and arrested by the armed forces of Maryland.
|The absurdly ahistorical and apolitical mural @ Baltimore's "Ground Zero."|
On November 8, 2015. Sekou and I spoke by phone and plotted the next installment of LIBERATOR that would address this absurd historical/cultural/political failure. Anxiously, I awaited our next conversation. The next day, I did receive a phone call from Sekou’s number, but it was not from my colleague but from his wife Ama Tanks. She was distraught. She found our dear Comrade Sekou asleep forever.
What was our history together? Sekou and I spoke on a daily basis by telephone. We created LIBERATOR together from the substance of those conversations. Where did I first meet Sekou? It was in 2010 at some un-remarkable and impotent street demonstration in Lincoln Square (14th St @ Broadway in Manhattan). I did not know him, but he knew of me from my work at the DAILY CHALLENGE (NYC’s only sort-of-Black daily journal) as the deputy editor.
He admired me and I admired him immediately. Nonetheless, our social histories were extremely different. I came from the US South, from a rather culturally conservative but severely radical political family dating back to the ante bellum era. Sekou came from the culturally florid Caribbean milieu, but his family sang the obligatory, politically conservative immigrant song, so he said. Sekou politically evolved from his teenage encounters with the Nation of Islam and the legacy of Malcolm X. I politically evolved from the radicalism of my family, the University of Chicago and the literal street fights that led to the election of Harold Washington to the mayor seat in 1983. It is true that we were both relatively well-trained musicians—he played bass, I played Euro-concert trumpet—but that was about it in terms of commonality. We really came from different social planets. But through dialogue, we discovered that we politically and philosophically agreed upon everything. We simply came to the same conclusions through different social paths. That is how our collaboration on the on-line LIBERATOR was born.
What did we agree upon? What were the philosophical and practical foundations of our UNITED FRONT?
· We were both Marxists and Lenin-inspired political economists on the question of party organization and revolutionary practice.
- · We agreed that nothing could be done to reform the system of monopoly capitalism and the dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie.
- · We both concluded that the leading edge of class oppression, especially in the Western Hemisphere, resided in the 500-year history of white supremacy, socially characterized by genocide against the Indigenous Peoples, the chattel enslavement of Africans and the outright theft of Latin American lands and natural resources.
- · We saw Africa as a continent of great social and material resources continuously laid waste by neo-colonial regimes and other compradorial bourgeois political formations that aided the US and its European junior partners in looting the labor, agricultural and mineral wealth of the land for the benefit and only for the benefit of imperialism.
|Africa's neo-colonial trash|
- · We recognized that the violence of white supremacy could only be answered with extreme counter-violence from the oppressed strata of society, and the poor desperately required the appropriate social and theoretical training to bring grief to their tormentors around the world.
- · We dismissed much of what was left of the Black Liberation Movement as hopelessly theoretically under-developed and mired in cultural nationalistic mysticism/romance, giving rise to a herd of so-called Black leaders who stroked the backwardness of the de-classed and working class strata of Black America as stooges for the Democratic Party, as petty sideshow brokers of Black discontent.
|Brokers of Black discontent|
- · Sekou and I were unrelenting in our denunciation of the erstwhile “Black” Pres. Barack Obama, who we castigated as a Trojan Horse designed by the ruling strata to mystify and pacify the historically restive Black, Latino and Native populations, as well as much of the US Left. We readily referred to him as BUCKWHEAT, that affable little colored boy who tailed OUR GANG but was never actually granted membership in the white mob.
- · We realized that subjective circumstances of oppression do not necessarily lead to objective social circumstances of revolt. Overwhelmingly, the collective suffering of the people simply de-evolves into crass survivalism and escapist routines that promote social atomization and further political disorganization.
|Why do we call Pres. Obama BUCKWHEAT?|
- · Lastly, Sekou and I observed the deterioration of Black culture and art into a de-historicized corporate commodity, aesthetically driven by the illusions of sexual gratification (sado-masochism) and the quest for the trinkets of conspicuous consumption. In short, Black art and culture lay dead amongst the political and intellectual ruins of the Black Liberation Movement. There can be no humanistic or revolutionary art and culture without the theory and practice of revolutionary social development.
|No love, no art...|
Malik Sekou Osei was foremost my friend and political co-conspirator. He kept me going when I was disheartened. I returned the favor. He inspired my writing and re-affirmed for me that the quest for human fulfilment lived on among people like him who would never bend a knee to superstition, opportunism or even the threat of terror. In presenting Sekou’s writings through book form in the coming months, I hope to inspire a larger audience and a new generation to recognize that THE REBELLION OF THE SLAVES WILL BE THE WAR OF THE LANDSCAPES and, as Sekou always signed off in his writing: HISTORY IS ON OUR SIDE BUT NOT TIME.