Community Control for A Zone of Peace

Co-coordinator of the Black Alliance For Peace Haiti/Americas Team and coordinator of the Black Alliance For Peace Baltimore Citywide Alliance, Erica is a member of the Black worker’s centered Ujima People’s Progress Party in Maryland and the founder of Liberation Through Reading. She is also the co- editor of the revolutionary African blog, Hood Communist. Erica speaks here about her work and how we can support our Black Alliance For Peace brothers and sisters in their current struggles.

As said, my name is Erica Caines and I do a lot of work with the Black Alliance For Peace (BAP). Just a bit about BAP.  We launched on April 4th 2017 with the intent of recapturing and redeveloping the historic anti-war, anti-imperialist, and pro-peace positions of the radical black movement. We do this through educational activities, organizing and movement support. Organizations and individuals in the alliance work to oppose both militarized domestic state repression, and the policies of de-stabilization, subversion and the permanent war agenda of the U.S. state globally.  

Earlier this year, in January, I had the privilege of spending ten days on the Women In Nicaragua: Power and Protagonism delegation which was organized by the Jubilee House Community Casa Benjamin Linder and Alliance for Global Justice. This was nothing short of a life changing trip. This opportunity came by way of a sponsorship so I want to encourage you all in donating to allow another person this same opportunity. Because I promise you, I have not been the same since I’ve returned.

I’ve often described my trip in January as nothing short of life changing. So when given the chance to return in July leading a BAP delegation to talk about the Zone of Peace campaign [that we] launched in April of this year, I took that opportunity. During that trip, we attended celebrations in recognition of the 44 years of the revolution. We also took a tiny little plane to Bluefields, which is an African autonomous region where it rains thirteen months out of the year. When I landed, I understood words said to me earlier this year, that “you haven’t been to Nicaragua if you haven’t been to Bluefields.”

I’m certain Johnny, who I had the pleasure of meeting, will talk about the rich history of Bluefields. But what I want to do is center my discussion of Bluefields, what I learned in the days that I was there, by connecting it with the struggles that Africans in the U.S. are facing. 

One of the pivotal struggles of the Zone of Peace campaign’s objectives has been helping Africans in the U.S. understand ourselves as part of the larger Americas. Contending with this contradiction, the framework of internal colonization is fitting. This framework, as of late, has been rejected because of the ways people understand traditional colonies, which are understood as lands geographically distant from the controlling metropole. However, the majority of African communities in counties or cities within the U.S. are forcefully segregated. As Pan African Community Action, who are community organization members of Black Alliance For Peace, describes, our communities, African communities,

 “… are sources for cheap labor in factories or government jobs. They serve as a dumping ground for cheap or unsafe products, such as the meat no longer good enough for nice neighborhoods, used clothing that can be resold instead of trashed and housing that turns a profit without the need for repairs. They provide the functional equivalent of raw materials in the form of ‘customers’ in for-profit prisons or bodies to justify government contracts in health, social services or a number of other sectors. And the residents of Black communities provide the powers-that-be and middle class white communities with an eternally useful bogey-man for any range of social ills.”

In both form and in function, Africans in the U.S.have a colonial relationship with the larger society of the U.S. It is a relationship characterized by institutional racism. This colonial status operates in three areas: politically, economically, and socially. Africans here are politically stunted due to a lack of political  power, economically disenfranchised and dependent on larger society and this is maintained by a social order that designates police in our communities as occupying forces—- like with the emergence of cop cities across the country.

So, understanding a Zone of Peace means contending with neocolonialism, which is the continuation of colonial- like practices in a subtler and indirect manner. Within this empire which manifests itself as the Black misleadership class, a group of Black leaders of elites holding positions of power not aligned with the interests and needs of the larger African masses. In both instances external powers, seeking to maintain their influence, support and prop up certain individuals or groups within the ‘Black’ community who are willing to cooperate with and serve  their political interests. We see this play out domestically and globally through imperialism which manifests as counterparts with police occupying our neighborhoods, militarily, turning our blocks into war zones.

Self determination and sovereignty are the foundations of a Zone of Peace. Iterations for the desire for self determination and sovereignty are found in pockets of mass uprisings against the state monikered “Black Lives Matter protests”.  However, a  local manifestation of a Zone of Peace should be understood in terms of revolutionary liberated zones and community control. 

The connection between revolutionary liberated zones and community control lies in the idea of empowering local communities to take charge of their own affairs and resources. In revolutionary liberated zones, like Bluefields, people have gained relative autonomy from the existing power structures and are working towards creating alternative systems. Within this context, community control refers to the practice of allowing the community members to collectively make decisions about various aspects of their lives, such as governance, economy, and social services. This connection fosters a sense of empowerment, solidarity, and collective responsibility among the people in these areas, as they actively engage in shaping their own destinies and challenging traditional hierarchies.

Autonomous regions like Bluefields and the local fights here for community control and revolutionary liberated zones, at large, should be interlinked! Autonomous regions are established with the intention of granting a higher degree of self-governance and decision-making power to the local communities within their boundaries. In an autonomous region, the community residing in that area is given more authority to make decisions about their own affairs, resources, and cultural identity.

The people have the right to participate in shaping policies and making decisions that directly affect their lives. This can include governance, economic development, social services, as well as cultural preservation including language. The objective is to enable the people who live in the Americas to have a say in matters that impact their material realities directly fostering a sense of empowerment. Overall, these concepts are rooted in the idea of internationalism, decentralization and giving more agency to the people to shape their own destinies and futures. That is how we begin to establish a Zone Of Peace in OUR Americas.

And I’ll conclude there. Thank you.

More from this Writer

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.