Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Friendship Nine and the Next Phase of the Struggle

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CNN reports that:
A South Carolina judge on Wednesday threw out the convictions of the Friendship Nine, who were jailed in 1961 after a sit-in protest in Rock Hill, South Carolina, during the civil rights movement. "Today is a victory in race relations in America," said Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said in a news conference following the ruling. "It is a new day." The prosecutor who pushed for this momentous day, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett of Rock Hill, cited King's father when explaining to CNN on Tuesday why he was motivated to take up the cause of the Friendship Nine: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

I commend these brothers for their courage and sacrifice. They risked life and limb. They went to jail so that we can be free from segregation and humiliation. They were not simply fighting for the right to eat a particular white owned restaurant. They were not fighting for the right to give their money to their oppressor. They were fighting for basic human dignity and respect.

Those Jim Crow laws were oppressive and degrading. Instead of obeying such unjust laws, civil rights workers such as the Friendship Nine realized that they had a moral duty to defy and disobey those despicable laws. Today, those brothers were vindicated. History has absolved them.

As a result of their work, we can eat wherever we what. The "Whites Only" and "No Coloreds" signs are down. Such progress is commendable. However, today's social justice movement must advance to new heights by emphasizing entrepreneurship.

Instead of giving all of our money to white businesses and other non-black businesses, we must create more black businesses. Ultimately, that is the route towards true independence. It makes no sense for the vast majority of the businesses in our communities to be owned by foreigners and outsiders. Often, we do not even own the soul food restaurants in the black community. That is not integration. That is exploitation and economic disintegration.

As I reflect on the Friendship Nine's struggle, I think about political prisoners such Mumia Abu Jamal who unjustly languish in America's prisons. I think about those Black Panthers who were wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit. Moreover, I think about Assata Shakur who is in asylum in Cuba.

Those sisters and brother fought against the same oppressive system that the Friendship Nine fought against. Like the Friendship Nine, our political prisoners should be exonerated, pardoned and redeemed as well. They are heroes, not villains. They should not be stigmatized for fighting against an unjust system. They should be celebrated.

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