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Black Lives Matter Boston
Greetings Community,

Thank you to all our community members and comrades who attended Boston's first CurbFest! BLM Boston organized and led our first major public event in some time with the hopes to cultivate a more informed and empowered community. We are thrilled to share that it was extremely successful and re-energizes our excitement for future community events. CurbFest’s success is defined by BLM Boston meeting intentional targets - examples of this are holding space for our intergenerational activists, organizers, and leaders to create understanding and convening in Chuck Turner's beloved Roxbury community. Another target was to curate conversations on how the past can inform future work and strategies.

Boston CurbFest Recap

The BLM Boston CurbFest started off great and continued that way throughout the day. The space was decorated with political prisoner cards Russell III addresses the audience at CurbFestand RBG themed streamers, balloons, and trinkets. Guests were warmly greeted and coats were checked. Safety protocols were taken and PPE was provided. Guests were then escorted to the information table where they were informed of the first activity. Together we learned about the 33 US political prisoners/prisoners of war listed on the website while answering questions and winning prizes. Community members learned about US History from a new lens and the particular injustices that resulted in comrades becoming erased. Philly CurbFest organizers delivered a Pan-African message on political clarity highlighting the importance of political prisoners in our work. We also had the unique pleasure of hearing from Russ III, (son of political prisoner Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoatz) who offered insight on his experience fighting for his fathers freedom. We were delighted that he came up for a visit. While enjoying a delicious meal from the diaspora consisting of jollof rice, stewed chicken, plantains, and meat pies, courtesy of Suya Joint, guests then took their seats to listen to the distinguished panel. 

How do we remember political prisoners who are locked away when the very system that imprisons them encourages society to forget about them?

The United States denies that there are even political prisoners within its borders, and we seek toPanelists Kazi Toure, Panther Shep, Zellie Thomas, Dr. Ikemba Balanta, and Sekou Odinga at the BLM Boston CurbFest event. educate the public on that fallacy. We chose the date December 4th to honor the day Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated by the Chicago Police Department, as well as honor the upcoming International Human Rights Day on December 10th. Through the panel discussion we broke down the underlying themes into a digestible conversation suitable for public discourse and our general consumption. 

BLM Boston was intentional about bringing activists, organizers and those that have engaged the carceral state in our movements from the Black Power movements of the 60’s and 70’s as well as those of more modern movements. The panel consisted of: 

Baba Sekou Odinga, an American activist who was imprisoned for involvement with the Black Liberation Army. Prior to his involvement, he helped create the Bronx Black Panther Party Chapter and the international section of the Black Panther Party. 

Dr. Ikemba Balanta, a revolutionary and professor of History and Sociology at Medgar Evers College whose courses cover The Civil Rights Movement, African American History and Culture, Select African American Topics, and U.S. History. He is a member of We Charge Colonialism and the Uhuru Movement. 

Panther Shep, is a Bronx Native who became part of the New York Chapter of the Black Panther Party at age 19. Some of his achievements include his child care work; one example of this is seen in his long-standing role as the outreach/youth program director for the Safiya Bukhari-Albert Nuh Washington Foundation and program site director for the Bronx Unity Neighborhood Center. 

Kazi Toure, a former Black Panther and United Freedom Front (UFF) member. As part of UFF Kazi Toure was imprisoned for his role in bombings combating Apartheid in South Africa and United States Imperialism in Central America. The UFF has been considered “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist [guerrilla groups] of the 1970s and 1980s.”

Zellie Thomas, is an activist, leader, and third-grade math teacher in Paterson. His social media pages are filled with tweets and videos calling us all to be better allies to the Black community, to uplift the voices of Black students, and to demand change in addressing the student debt crisis, particularly in regards to Black students. He is deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter movement in Paterson and youth work. Zelli is also the co-founder of the Black Liberation Collective.

Highlights from the panel

Kazi Toure and Panther Shepcat were adamant about the “do or die” aspect of this movement. They spoke to a “movement” that was worth dying for and shared how they didn't think they would see old age. Panther Shepcat echoed how we cannot let the movement die with the old heads and that you need youth to sustain it and keep it going. Kazi Toure spoke to the intentionality of the movement–knowing your goals and enemy. Zellie Thomas described his adamance about being in the movement of today. He discussed our relevance and importance of being principled within the movement and mirrored Black Lives Matter Boston’s sentiment about youth programs and involvement. Dr. Ikemba discussed how he was inspired by previous movements and intentionally brings over the messages of today. Baba Sekou offered many gems, including affirming how women were the leaders of the movement. He also offered insight as to how the struggle is united on an international front, and how he’s worked with other aligned Pan-Africanists. 

Below are are some major points pulled from the discussion:

“America means prison .. you can be imprisoned without being behind bars.. Our thoughts and our actions are being policed every day” - Dr. Ikemba Balanta

Why does the US deny that there’s political prisoners, and how does this affect the work you have done as a former political prisoner and as an advocate for the freedom of political prisoners in this country?:

“It doesn’t matter what the United States wants to recognize or not. I was convicted of sedition and conspiracy. That’s a political offense...Everyone that was brought here on them ships was political prisoners.” - Kazi Toure

Role of women in the Black Liberation, Women Political Prisoners and why we don’t hear as much and see as much: 

“This country is male controlled. Women have always played a big role in our struggle from slavery up until today. Women ran the Black Panther Party. There wouldn’t have been no Black Panther Party without women.” - Sekou

“Two-thirds of membership of the Black Panther Party were women. That’s who ran the party.” - Shepcat

“We are learning about all the different struggles we’re experiencing, as black people. We realize that black people aren’t just black, but we have other identities as well. And those people… need to be empowered, need to be put into positions of power, need to be trained.. and they need to be recognized and affirmed. When we talk about youth it’s not just giving them a space to be part of it, but letting them lead as well. Looking at them as equals… It has to be modeled after the same type of world we want to live in. So if we want to create a world in which women are free, where women are liberated, women have to be liberated in our organizations - women have to be safe in our organizations if women want to be safe in this world.” - Zellie

On education:
“[We need] Professors in.. public school systems that are willing to risk their jobs to teach and to invite speakers like on this panel to do workshops in their classes” - Shepcat 

“We have community centers in every project, in every city that can be utilized to do classes in” - Shepcat 

“Community activists [are] historians” - Dr. Ikemba

“You got to have your own independent educational system, your after-school programs in your community that teach that teach that true history…But picture if you had after-school programs in each of those churches not just teaching religion, but teaching the true history” - Panther Shepcat on how to embrace the new Afrikan identity

"We need more youth in leadership." - Sekou Odinga

“Because I’m black and I’m a male, I’m perceived as dangerous” - community member

“Sovereignty is not equality, because besides equality, you could still be white - community member

One principal or politic that should be stronger today:
“Communication and information is the key.. If you don’t have programs that are in your community, [people] are not going to get involved.. There’s a struggle for self-determination. There should be a Black Lives Matter office in every city so people can go there, get involved and do the work. You’ve got to be in your community. That’s what we did then. That’s what is missing now. People don’t know where to go. That’s the job of young people.” - Shepcat 

"We owe the political prisoners a debt. They have suffered for us." - Sekou Odinga

What do we mean when we say Black Lives Matter? 

The Philadelphia CurbFest committee addresses the audience at the CurbFest event.Black Lives Matter extends to all the freedom fighters who engage in principled struggle towards our liberation. We're so thrilled to share that Boston's own CurbFest will officially be happening annually. We also want to share our gratitude to our panelists, our co-moderators Tone and Robert Cuffy; DJ Shaybiz; our assistant Mario; our host Crys; our Wellness Vendor EniThingsPossible, BAP, The Jericho Movement and the Philadelphia CurbFest Committee. Special thanks to Panther Tyreek, and Russ III and all those who fight against oppression. Free Alkebulan, Free Palestine, Free them ALL.

What's Next?

We are even more energized about our upcoming Letter Writing campaign slated for January 15th and 22nd. The Boston CurbFest taught us valuable lessons about what's needed in our communities. We got to listen to the questions asked by the community, and this engagement implores us to keep that conversation going. It returns us to abolition. As we actively support comrades, we must continue to stay up to date in practice and the study of our conditions. We have an upcoming youth book club launching in 2022 that will serve as a cohort and empowerment space. We also have some upcoming work with some of our partners and aligned groups locally and beyond (Deeper Than Water and The Black Alliance for Peace). Visit our community calendar to find out how to get involved. From academics, supporters, volunteers, organizations and partnerships, young or grown, everyone has a place in the movement. If you are interested in events like Boston CurbFest, please reach out directly to Black Lives Matter Boston. Keep the conversation going by staying up to date on our newsletter and getting involved in the work. This is just the beginning, and we are so grateful you are on this journey with us. 

In solidary,
BLM Boston

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday based on African harvest festivals such as the First Fruits, festivals practiced on the African continent today. These festivals are a unifying tradition as seen by the KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland tribes to name a few. Check out Umkhosi Wokweshwama (here) for more information.
Umkhosi Wokweshwama ‘First Fruits Festival
Zulu people at a Umkhosi Wokweshwama ‘First Fruits Festival'

Principles of Kwanzaa
Rest In Power to the indelible bell hooks and comrade Russell Maroon Shoatz. Peace and power to our teachers who dedicated their lives towards liberation.

“There will be no prison which can hold our movement down.” - Huey P. Newton

“If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved." - Julius Kambarage Nyerere

“We can’t combat white supremacy unless we can teach people to love justice. You have to love justice more than your allegiance to your race, sexuality and gender. It is about justice” - bell hooks 

For more information, on the significance of CurbFest, 
Umkhosi Wokweshwama, 
and our Community Calendarhere are some links

BLM Boston Community Calendar
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