This year represents the 40 year anniversary of the Newark and Detroit riots. Next year will be the 40 year anniversary for Baltimore. One of my former students forwarded me a discussion that relates to our discussions about the local and the global. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Amiri Baraka, Larry Hamm, and Grace Boggs about Newark and Detroit respectively. They were on two separate interview tracks until near the end, where Baraka and Boggs had a back and forth that was telling.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Amiri, what has changed in these forty years, in terms of consciousness and in terms of what the country has learned from that period?AMIRI BARAKA: Well, actually, in some ways, we’ve gone full cycle but up to another level. I mean, we went from the kind of blatant brutalization, of white supremacy and racism. We then organized ourselves and elected two black mayors. We haven’t — none of my children, for instance, have ever grown under white people ruling in Newark. They don’t even know what that is, you understand? And so, we can be proud of that. But at the same time, after we had our two domestic kind of mayors, who compromised relentlessly with corporate power, you understand, now we’ve come full circle and come to —GRACE LEE BOGGS: Let me ask you a question, Amiri. Do you think that we have challenged and criticized and evaluated Black Power sufficiently?AMIRI BARAKA: Have we? No, no, but I’ve been doing it for — I’m sorry.GRACE LEE BOGGS: When are we going to do it?AMIRI BARAKA: Well, I’ve been doing it for almost thirty-seven years. I mean, having two black mayors there, Sharpe James and Ken Gibson, I was probably their most relentless critic all the time. But now we have somebody who doesn’t compromise with corporate power, but who represents it. So that’s the difference. We’ve moved —GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, so do you think it’s a question of changing an individual? You know, for changing from Gibson to Booker?AMIRI BARAKA: No, you have to get an individual who’s willing to change the system. You have to get an individual who’s willing to actually struggle with the system to change it. As long as you have people who —GRACE LEE BOGGS: I mean, what do we mean by “struggling with the system”? How — when are we going to be —AMIRI BARAKA: To make substantive changes, to make infrastructure changes.GRACE LEE BOGGS: No, when will we begin to understand that we have to create new infrastructures, new forms, so that you can —AMIRI BARAKA: Yeah, but you can only do that through people, you see?GRACE LEE BOGGS: But you’re not going to do it from people at the top. We’re going to do it from people at the bottom.AMIRI BARAKA: Well, you have to mobilize the whole community. But what I’m saying is that people at the top became accommodated to being in power and not changing.GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes, but maybe what we’ve done — maybe what we’ve — yes, but you see, we’ve put so much emphasis on taking over the power structure, and we became prisoners of it, because the power structure —
…and at that moment the show ends. The entire transcript can be found here. What strikes you most about the differences between Baraka’s position and Boggs’?