Progressive community activist Tyrone Muhammad was arrested on September 3, 2019 after smashing the windows of a nail salon in a majority New Afrikan neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. This was in response to a Black customer, Charmaine Jones, being denied service and then physically attacked by a nail technician after being told that “she changes her mind too much”. Tyrone Muhammad, a local community organizer and activist, showed up the day after seeking answers on behalf of Ms. Jones. He had routinely engaged in discussion with the owner of this salon, all to no avail in regards to the treatment of the nearly all New Afrikan customer base.
Muhammad was recorded smashing the windows of the salon with bricks. A customer at the salon called the police and he was arrested for misdemeanor property damage. The contradictions between non New Afrikan owners and New Afrikan customers at such establishments as nail salons, beauty supply stores, and restaurants/convenience stores are especially sharp in cities like Chicago, Saint Louis, Los Angeles, and Baltimore. Many of these establishments are owned by Arab, Indian and East Asian petty bourgeoisie who do not live in the neighborhood. These stores routinely sell low quality/toxic products, expired food, and engage in anti-Black activity such as pulling guns on customers, using racial slurs, and calling the police on customers who oppose being overcharged for low quality products. There is a broad based progressive movement to “Buy Back the Block” supported by a variety of New Afrikan organizations and activists from the Nation of Islam to various NBA/NFL players to individuals who came out of the Ferguson uprising as activists and leaders. Of course, these things are progressive in the aspect that they help establish a base of economic self determination in New Afrikan communities and stop outsiders from making off with the community’s hard earned money. It’s essential that black business owners that many want to replace these non-Black owned businesses engage in regular material support of revolutionary/progressive organizations. Offering meeting spaces for mass assemblies and people’s assemblies/political education meetings, donating to serve the people outreach programs, and other such things are ways in which all small business owners in the community can help serve the people.
It’s asinine and racist for so called “socialists” and “communists” to lambast New Afrikans for wanting the ownership of their communities to be in New Afrikan hands, not wanting to be beholden to settler or non-Black business owners for a living, and not wanting to be deprived of basic dignity in the act of basic human activities such as shopping for food. However, it is also asinine to act as if the act of “buying black” and replacing Arab/Chinese/otherwise non-Black petit bourgeois businesses with New Afrikan businesses is in and of itself revolutionary. Revolutionaries demand the eradication of the system of exploitation altogether, as a maximum program. That is the goal that we work towards. A black petit-bourgeois, or a black bourgeois, is still of the exploiting class. However, it would be adventurism to oppose progressive efforts led by New Afrikan activists to put control of the police, businesses, land and our lives in New Afrikan hands. But those hands need to make use of collective structures to build up the economic foundation of our entire community and address real contradictions and issues. Co-ops, community land trusts, community gardens, and other methods of this type are not in and of themselves revolutionary, but they can definitely be utilized masterfully to help allay the impact of gentrification, food desertification, etc. on our people. These, ideally, would be part of the legal arm of a revolutionary Party or mass organization and guided by Party economic cadre as part of the process of conquering base areas. We know that conquering base areas requires not just armed force, but also the development of an economic structure to ensure that people do not starve, freeze or get deathly ill. Communists would do well to focus on legal and semi-legal methods to ensure the well-being of the masses in the Maoist tradition.
Going back to the Chicago incident, the method which Mr. Muhammad used bears marks of male chauvinism and individualism. While physical retaliation against exploiters and abusers of New Afrikan women should be expanded and encouraged, women should be armed and mobilized to deal with abusers of women. There should be Party-led women’s mass organizations and fighting groups to deal with rapists, abusers, and exploiters of women. It is a common trope in the so-called “Hotep” movement to portray women as weak creatures who only exist to bear children and cook for the men in their household. History puts the lie to this assertion because there are several matriarchal societies in Africa, and the most virulent fighters for New Afrikan national liberation and liberation from slavery were women. Women such as Nanny, Harriet Tubman, Assata Shakur and Angela Davis were not reliant on men to defend or assert their rights. In combating patriarchy and abuse of Black women, we Black men need to take leadership from our women fighters and revolutionaries and do as we’re told to ensure that patriarchal tropes and norms are not smuggled or allowed to fester in the revolutionary movement.