Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the March 1, 2001
issue of Workers World newspaper



By Gloria La Riva
San Francisco

Larry Holmes, a national leader of Workers World Party and 
an initiator of Millions for Mumia, spoke at several Black 
History Month events on the West Coast sponsored by WWP in 

In San Francisco on Feb. 10 and in Los Angeles and San 
Diego, Holmes focused on the ongoing struggle against the 
brutal racism of the U.S. prison-industrial complex, and the 
suppression of the African American people's civil rights in 
the recent U.S. presidential election.

He opened up talking about the execution of Wanda Jean 
Allen, "the first Black woman who was executed in 50 years 
in the U.S. "

"The day after the execution you could hardly find a word 
about it in the national media. It got maybe two lines in 
the Oklahoma newspapers. Here it is, the first Black woman 
legally lynched, it was a big outrage.

"You know why it wasn't covered? Let's talk about the 
obvious reason. It was a few days before the inauguration 
and they didn't want people to be thinking about execution, 
because you have Bush as president who is associated with 
more executions than anyone else.

"It is hard," said Holmes, "to celebrate Black History Month 
with more than 2 million people in U.S. prisons, 35 percent 
of them African American, with more than 3,600 people on 
death row, more than 50 percent of them African American or 
Latino, with Mumia Abu-Jamal, our revolutionary brother 
still facing death.

"And so this important month that came about as a result of 
the struggle against racism and cultural genocide must be an 
opportunity to plan the militant struggles that will 
liberate all oppressed people," Holmes said.

Holmes gave tribute to the heroic prisoners who engaged in 
the biggest prison rebellion in U.S. history, 30 years ago 
this year, the Attica rebellion of Sept. 4-9, 1971.

1964 AND 2000

He also compared the 2000 presidential elections to 1964 and 
the searing commentary given by revolutionary leader Malcolm 
X in his famous 1964 speech, "The Ballot or the Bullet."

Holmes said, "What happened in Florida makes me think about 
Malcolm X's words. His speech was a polemic against what 
happened during the 1964 election. It was in his view a big 
effort to scare Black people into voting for Lyndon Johnson 
out of fear of [Sen. Barry] Goldwater."

Holmes reminded the audience of Goldwater's blatant 
rightwing, racist, warmongering program, and how the 
Democrats tried to contrast Johnson. "Malcolm went over who 
Johnson was, a downright racist, descendant of slave 

"Malcolm basically said, 'If you vote for him ... then you 
vote for a system that perpetuates your enslavement, and you 
shouldn't be surprised after you cast your vote, if your 
relative is next to get lynched. Voting for Tweedle Dum and 
Tweedle Dee is not going to free you.'"

Just days after the Israeli election of Ariel Sharon, Holmes 
saluted the Palestinian people who maintain their struggle 
in the face of such brutal repression, before and after the 
elections there.

"It was good to see the demonstrations in Gaza and West Bank 
the day after the elections, where they had both Sharon and 
Barak's pictures in a kind of equal sign, like they're both 
the same."

Holmes' talk was the basis for much discussion afterwards. 
He pointed to the many ways that the Black struggle 
continues, against racism, poverty, prisons and the system. 
Most heartening was his call for dedicating Black History 
Month to Black women in prison, "in fact," he said, "to all 
women in prison."

Autumm Beard, a college student and lifelong resident of 
Bayview Hunter's Point in the city, emceed the Feb. 10 Black 
History Month forum in San Francisco. Beard told the 
audience that it was the Black historian, Carter Godwin 
Woodson, who put Black history on the map with his 
designation of "Negro History Week" in 1926.

Born to former slaves and a coal miner himself in Kentucky, 
Woodson was not able to enter high school until he was 20 
years old.

After working in the coal mines and pursuing his educational 
dreams, he became Harvard University's second Black doctoral 
recipient. Later his organization, the Association for the 
Struggle of Negro Life in History successfully got Black 
History Month official recognition in 1976.

Beard said, "Before his work, this field of vital history of 
African Americans had been largely neglected or distorted 
under the control of bourgeois capitalist historians."

Willie Ratcliff, publisher of San Francisco Bay View 
newspaper, a prominent African American weekly in the city, 
also spoke at the meeting. Ratcliff said that it is 
impossible to talk of just racial justice, without also 
talking of economic justice, of the right to housing, the 
right to a job, food and education.

Significant audiences also attended the public WWP forums in 
Los Angeles and San Diego.

- END -

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