#bLEXIT Not Welcomed

Image by Vanessa Beck, Black Alliance For Peace

*contributing writers include Brandon Walker, Ujima People’s Progress Party and Vanessa Beck, Black Alliance For Peace

Trump’s recent words about the city of Baltimore has caused its democratic public officials to band together in reactionary discourse, avoiding the root issues that burden the city. While the city watched its political representatives put on a show, they also watched another performance—- “white saviorship”. 

The ignorance and pervasive arrogance of the local political misleadership class in Baltimore City has apparently blown the dog whistle for conservative political pundits and followers of right-wing politics. Led by pro Trump right- wing conservatives Dustin Ffifer, Alex Buck and Scott Presler, more than 170 volunteers, many also being supporters of Trump, spent 12 hours cleaning parts of West Baltimore.

Despite the city being a democratic stronghold, Trump’s message about rodents and unkempt conditions of an entire city spurred media reports and analysis that has misrepresented the true nature of Baltimore’s local grassroots activism, and the work of consistent grassroots organizers in the community. Many block associations, urban farmers, community organizations, business owners, and residents were ignored by local media efforts highlighting the far-right group called “Baltimore Clean Up” moonlighting as activists in West Baltimore. 

Baltimore City has been troubled and plagued by the plantation politics of the local democratic party. The Constituent Services comprised of 14 City Council districts in Baltimore has led many residents, voters, and political opponents to openly express their lack of confidence in local government’s ability to address any ongoing issues of public health and safety. By design, city sanitation services prioritize certain relatively privileged districts and neighborhoods over poorer Black districts (based on property value, tax revenues, and political representation). They respond to calls for nuisance, violations, and crime much faster in these neighborhoods than they do poor Black neighborhoods, where calls about ongoing drug activity and environmental hazards go unheeded and remain unaddressed.

By reducing city services for Baltimore’s bulk trash pickup to only once a month, with trash/recycle pickups happening once a week, a large number of blighted homes owned by the city are overflowing with garbage onto the sidewalks and alleyways. They become drug stash houses, hideaways, and potential future crime scenes for dead victims. Baltimore City local government also owns a majority of the vacant homes and lots in the neighborhoods where trash is constantly piling up, which explains why the democratic establishment hasn’t effectively stood up for their constituents in neighborhoods where right- wingers were compelled to host a clean up.

The right- wing groups in Baltimore have taken advantage of the recent media coverage, presenting themselves with an opportunity to gain attention from the comments made by Trump. They have expressed a false sense of concern and support for the daily struggles and unfortunate experiences that many residents in West Baltimore faced long before Trump’s derogatory comments. Despite supporting an entire agenda and political party that doesn’t invest in the common interests of poor and working Blacks in urban cities across America, we’re seeing these right wing opportunists riding the backs of the local political misleadership class in Black communities. 

Their goal is to shift political power in the form of Black support over to the Republican Party, while opening a door for political jabs at democratic strongholds that exist locally and nationally. Of course, neither capitalist party actually serves Black poor and working-class people. The level of political masturbation between the two parties has gradually taken the focus off of the root causes of trash-filled areas and garbage-packed alleyways. 

Maryland’s independent Black worker- led party, Ujima People’s Progress Party, has already analyzed this contradiction, explaining, 

“White saviorship, Black disinvestment, and lateral violence goes hand-in-hand, while prompting the need for an independent Black worker-led political lens in American cities. This is where honest conversations MUST begin! Much like third and independent parties who do NOT receive much or any media coverage for their campaigns and agendas, the media becomes self serving in slanting stories that propagate racial attitudes and stereotypes. Local, corporate, and legacy media alike understand a few things about America and its population– that controversy, violence, and sex sells, but nothing like the ole “any publicity is good publicity” photo op!

For so many years, poor and working-class Black communities have been tirelessly at work fighting crime, violence, gentrification, political misleadership, police violence and corruption, and lack of economic development for Black and Brown communities in Baltimore. Despite this work, these residents, marginalized rather than applauded, fall victim to state violence or lose a family member or neighbor due to the inactiveness and negligence of institutions that are well-funded and responsible for supporting these communities.”

These right- wing groups have vowed to return to “cleaning up Baltimore”. The influence these conservative right- wing and anti-immigrant groups have in the city has allowed them to capitalize on both Trump’s words and Baltimore city’s democratic misleadership by hosting events and parties inviting other right- wing conservatives to the city– modern-day infiltration being done through electoral politics a year before national elections.

Contradictions are exposed when the working class is fragmented like it is in Baltimore City. It easily opens the doors for right- wing politicians/supporters who intend to use these moments to shift Black voters away from the democratic party and into the arms of conservatives. This was a working strategy with “Democrats for Hogan” during the 2018 elections. The “Block Clean-up” has opened the door for more opportunists to visit Baltimore to exploit the troubles created by their political opponent’s misleadership.

Enter Candace Owens. 

Candace Owens is a far-right conservative journalist whose pro-Trump, anti-immigrant and anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric has garnered her national attention. Her provocative fame is based entirely on a platform of maligning the oppressed, extreme xenophobia and the denial of systematic racism— redefining “white supremacy” as not the driving force of oppression, but a mythical defeatist inferiority complex Black people have.

Through her tactical use of twitter, YouTube and Fox News panels, Owens has been branded the new face of Black conservatism in less than 2 years. Her appeal is both manufactured and organic. It does not hurt her brand that celebrities are always mentioning her as either friend or foe, which allows her space to spread her very intentional messaging.

Owens has been effective in exploiting the discontent many colonized people feel with the democratic party. In an interview with Washington Post Magazine back in March, Owens exclaimed, “Sixty years Black people have been voting the same. What have we gotten back? That’s the plantation. We do the work, we make sure you get elected every four years. You get the power, and we get absolutely nothing back.”

Evoking “plantation” rhetoric of the Richard Nixon years (a favorite Republican pastime) assumes that the Black working class aren’t smart or politically savvy enough to understand what’s in their best political interest. While constantly leaning on the failures of the democratic party, Owens denies police brutality as a community concern, refers to “rise of white supremacy” as media fabrications and purposely conflates intersectionality, the analytical tool, for “oppression olympics”. 

On September 15th, riding on the coattails of Trump’s words and the media support of right- wing efforts, Owens brought her platform, nicknamed #BLEXIT (Black exit from the Democratic party) to Baltimore. 

The Ujima People’s Progress Party, Black Alliance For Peace, Pan African Community Action, People’s Power Assembly and Baltimore Green Party showed up to reject that white supremacist, capitalist platform. The coalition of these Black leftists and their allies in Baltimore not only protested the event, but offered a true alternative for Black working class—- self determination.  

The presence of a Black left rejects Owens’ message that, while denying racism’s existence, seeks to play on a racial binary electoral narrative of democrat and republican. Baltimore’s Black Left is seeking to win power to the people and local communities outside of elections. Organizing around sustainable economic and restorative models in practice, protecting our families, and educating ourselves in the community has more material results than playing into the ruling class electoral process. 

Baltimoreans surely deserve an alternative to the quality of life as they know it now– but we can not allow these opportunistic, right- wing vultures to swoop in and claim they are the alternative. Building power on the grassroots level, determining our own needs and how we want to meet them while rejecting both capitalist parties is the way forward. We will continue to fight the lies and ill governance of the Black political misleadership class in Baltimore that serves corporate interests rather than the people. 

“Isn’t it curious that then Republican party supporter Frederick Douglas would warn us, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. On this day, there was both agitation and struggle against the call for Black people to join the imperialist Republican party. How many Black Republicans would dare to uphold Douglas’ call that we FIGHT against injustice, war, imperialism neo-colonialism and theft of peoples’ land and resources. Today we showed that we were the true continuation of Douglas’ fighting spirit and not the Black members of the Republican party.”

-Nnamdi Lumumba, The Ujima People’s Progress Party 
All images above captured by Vanessa Beck, Black Alliance For Peace and Sima Lee, Maroon Movement

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Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.