VETERANS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR THE BEST OF AMERICA'S IDEALS
A panel on what it means to be a reovlutionary in America in the 21st Century




American Revolutionaries of the 21st Century," was held at Johnson County Community College in Kansas City, MO., on March 24, 2005. We encourage students to consider panels such as these at your campus. Contact Speakers for a New America at 800-691-6888, email speakers@lrna.org for information about possible speakers.

"We need to be able to talk about more radical ideas." -- Danny Alexander, a teacher, and one of the organizers of the event.



The speakers on the panel were:

Charlotte O'Neal's husband, Pete O'Neal, founder of the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panther Party, providing food, education and health care services to Kansas City's Black Community. Though they began a life exiled to Arusha, Tanzania over 30 years ago, they have never stopped providing educational exchanges between African and American youth. Vernon Bellecourt was a founding member of the America Indian Movement (AIM), which presented the U.S. government with a 20-point proposal for a new relationship between the U.S. government and its native nations. AIM has continuously worked to meet the essential survival and educational needs of America's native communities. Nelson Peery, author of Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary, arrived back in the United States after his experiences in segregated troops and some of the ugliest violence of the Pacific theater. He realized, "I still had a mission, more difficult than the last one, and more urgent." Since that time, he has been active, writing and teaching and organizing -from building in the midst of the Watts uprisings of the 1960s to co-founding The League of Revolutionaries for a New America, an organization dedicated to that still unresolved vision, a country "by the people, of the people and for the people."

What teachers and students had to say about the event:

"[It was]...very provocative, engaging and moving. I can't recall seeing students as engaged with speakers as they were in the discussion that went on this morning I know it is a busy time of the semester, but getting an insight into the roughly 150 years of combined revolutionary experience the three presenters brought with them inside of about 75 minutes "real time"--well, that's a really good return on anyone's investment of time. "

"As I had a class myself I was only able to arrive midway through Mr. Peery's comments, but I can attest, as can CJ who I slid in next to, that what went on at JCCC yesterday was successful and how-did-they-pull-this-off-at-this-institution radical."

"[The] panel was revolutionary in and of itself. I mean, an auditorium full of Johnson County Community College students, and teachers, and people from the community, heard the word "communism" said in a very positive context at least three times, maybe four or five, by some very charming, personable and smart elders. It was thrilling."

"The single most disempowering notion that many Americans carry around as hip pocket conventional wisdom may be this one: the world is the same as it ever was so we simply have to accept things as they are. The truth is America is a very young country with a volatile history. This is a country based upon revolutionary ideals, and it has been fighting out the contradictions ever since. Our founding documents stand for the ideal of equality while neglecting the rights of women (my grandmothers were born into a country where they had no vote), while declaring the native Americans "savages" in the Declaration of Independence and counting the slaves at the base of our economy 3/5s of a human in our Constitution. Within the first 100 years, we fought a civil war many call the Second American Revolution, in part, to resolve that contradiction. But much of the worst violence against African Americans and Native Americans followed that war, extending well into the 20th Century. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement achieved some but not all of its goals securing basic constitutional protections for Americans, but that movement's most famous leader, Martin Luther King, was assassinated while building a poor people's economic human rights campaign." -- Opening Remarks from Danny Alexander




"Diverse panelists raise tough agenda for younger generations "

By Clover Birdsell, Staff Reporter

Today, society expects college students to attend class, do homework and make future plans. The years after college will call upon us all to take ultimate responsibility for the future.

Three ground-breaking speakers attended a panel held by the Diversity Committee and the Student Life & Leadership office on March 24.

Each speaker made a 15-minute dissertation on the role of American revolutionaries in the 21st century.

Black Panther Party: Charlotte O'Neal, program director, United African Alliance Community Center, is a long-time civil rights activist whose husband, Pete, founded the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party. "It's not just about Kansas City anymore and making sure that the poor ofKansas City are educated about their rights ... The world is small now," said O'Neal. She also stressed building a global community. "Our youth have gotten so far apart that they feel fear of each other," said,O'Neal. She said today's youth must communicate about the breakdown of community and good will before it is too late. O'Neal said families are being torn apart and we must work to make them stronger. She also spoke of her efforts in the '60s, working together for a common good. "We [all races] built coalitions together, we worked together, and it was so effective that the government was fearful and began to wipe us out," said O'Neal. "In unity there is strength. You can change things if you are unified."

"Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary": Nelson Peery, author, "Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary," spoke of what he called "a new kind of structured poverty." "Now, not only do you lose your job, the job disappears and you never go back to work again," he said. Peery said over one-third of the work force is permanently unemployed due to robotic production. "We are seeing the breakdown of an economic class," he said. Peery said there is a growing separation between the "haves" and the "have-nots." "Middle class is becoming a thing of the past ... America is in trouble.There is unacceptable distribution of wealth and poverty developing," he said. Peery called for political revolution. "A critical problem will come that will have to be solved between the classes. And then the classes must decide what kind of America will come out of the revolution," said Peery. "America has reached a fork in the road. The decision will be made by your generation." American Indian Movement Vernon Bellecourt, political activist, American Indian Movement (AIM), shared the struggle of the American Indian and his desire for change as AIM continues its progressive struggle against racial ruin. "Our struggle is treaty rights, land rights, water rights, spiritual, cultural, social and economic rights," said Bellecourt. "We are [now] experiencing rebirth of the dignity of a people." He warned of the media's tendency to skew political controversy in favor of more stable issues in order to minimize the importance of the conflict. Bellecourt said, "Revolutionaries don't make revolutions; they recognize the problem, then do what they can to fix it." Students attending the panel had positive responses to the speakers."Fear is a big thing today," said Justin Adrian, ambassador, Student Activities. "We need to let loose and treat everyone nicely. If we don't, the world will be worse off."

Students from Longview Community College, Lee's Summit, Mo., shared opinions. "Young people are afraid to stand up for themselves," said Timothy Nasti, 23, Lee's Summit, Mo. "Try and reach out to people, especially young people. It's a sad fact that people that have ideas like these are a minority."

Carmaletta Williams, professor, English; Danny Alexander, professor, English; and James Leiker, assistant professor, History, arranged the panel to broaden the political scope. Williams said, "There has to be something to develop change ... They are talking about what they are still doing, very active trying to get change to occur."

Alexander said, "They confronted issues from perspectives people may not be comfortable talking about in our politically narrow environment. We need to be able to talk about more radical ideas."