The story of Diop Olugbala: why he must be set free
In 1986 Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton said, “You might not have the Black Panther Party, but you have the Uhuru House; you might not have The Black Panther newspaper but you have The Burning Spear. So they really haven’t done anything by crushing one organization.”
Huey was referring to the U.S. government’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). This militarized counterinsurgency program used the courts, different police agencies, the FBI, the CIA, an assortment of agents and agents-provocateurs and the different U.S. military forces to assault, slander, and destroy the Black Panther Party and the struggle for freedom in the 1960s.
Huey P. Newton was not the only one to understand that African people, colonized in the United States, have the Uhuru Movement to fight in our interest. The U.S. government also knows that the people have a formidable organization to fight for our rights. This organization, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) is made up of the best men and women our oppressed and exploited people have to offer.
Free Diop Olugbala
Diop Olugbala is one such African patriot, and he must be set free.
From the viewpoint of the oppressed, it is not a crime to fight to maintain democratic rights.
Our people were lynched, jailed, humiliated, bitten by vicious dogs and knocked down with high powered water hoses by fire departments that are now honored. They would do it all over again if it were not for freedom loving individuals like Diop Olugbala.
Not long ago black people could not even make it to the courtroom. Our trials were held outdoors under a tree, by an all-white jury with a rope at the ready. Individuals who dared to organize against our people’s wretched conditions of existence, imposed by the forces that represent white power, faced this terror.
From the time of brave souls such as Harriet Tubman, who organized the Underground Railroad to facilitate Africans who dared run away from the plantations and slavery, the U.S. government and those who had the ability to make laws have made it illegal for us to struggle and fight for our freedom.
The slave who ran away from the plantation was actually breaking the law. And Harriet Tubman was surely breaking a heap of laws because she led an organized effort to free her people.
The police were slave catchers then and are slave catchers now. In fact the first job of the police in this country was catching Africans who had run away from the plantations.
Today they still catch African freedom fighters and bring us to the prisons which are modern day plantations. They even murder us along the way as in the case of Imam Luqman, who was murdered by FBI police in Detroit last year for no other reason than he was an African freedom fighter.
Such is the case with brother Diop Olugbala. He is an organized agent of the oppressed.
In the eyes of the powers that be, he is a threat to their hundreds of years of oppression of black people for the purpose of maintaining white power and economic exploitation and advantage.
Police murders are always justifiable homicide – they say
Here we record for you, a brief history of the relationship of the African community to the city of Philadelphia, and why it is imperative that strong, freedom-loving brothers like Diop and Shabaka, and their organization, InPDUM must exist and must struggle.
From May 2008 to April 2009 more than 36 Africans have been murdered by the Philadelphia police agencies. Here are some of those victims.
- Timothy Goode, January 12, 2008
- Shareef Lee Jones, August 27, 2008
- Denill Giddings, September 23, 2008
- Michael “Butchie” Johnson, October 21, 2008
- Lamont Norman, November 15, 2008
- Lawrence Allen, shot by police on November 17, 2008 and died three months later
- Kenneth DeShields, an Iraq war veteran was killed by an off-duty police lieutenant on March 19, 2010
- Vincent Parsons, April 2, 2010
Diop Olugbala and what he means to his people and the freedom struggle
Diop Olugbala’s government name is Wali Shamsidiin Abdur-Rahman. He was born on May 4, 1977 in Brooklyn, New York. He was given this name because his parents used to be members of the Nation of Islam.
To get his family out the ‘hood Diop’s father joined the army. Because of this Diop grew up travelling from place to place.
Eventually Diop’s family moved to El Paso, Texas. Diop graduated from high school there.
Regardless of the places he lived, Diop’s experiences taught him the same lessons about what it means to be black in America.
When he moved to El Paso, which is right on the imaginary line that the white man calls the U.S./Mexico “border,” he saw the struggle that the Mexican people faced. They were treated as criminals and illegal aliens just for walking on the land that the U.S. stole from them!
While in El Paso Diop’s father was kicked out of the army and spent several months in jail for a crime he didn’t even commit.
After his father got out of jail things were never the same. Diop’s father left, leaving his mother to financially support the family by herself.
Diop’s understanding of the police and the government grew more and more. During this period he listened to political hip hop artists like Ice Cube, Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. These artists were talking about what was really going on with African youth.
Meanwhile Diop and his friends saw African resistance happening around the world. When he was in the 10th grade Diop remembers viewing the video of Rodney King being beaten by the police. When the rebellions happened in Los Angeles, Diop remembers several of the kids at his high school organizing to go burn down some stores in their neighborhood. They saw a connection between the struggle in Los Angeles and the struggle they were facing even in El Paso, Texas!
Diop’s interest in school and grades declined every year in high school. His teachers were getting on his nerves and he started getting into fights in class. At one point he questioned whether he would even graduate. With his mother working and going to school he had little “supervision” to keep him focused on school.
As the end of high school got closer Diop began thinking about joining the army with his best friend Doug. However, his mother pushed him to apply for an affirmative action program called Student SUCCESS for so called “minority” (black and Mexican) students at the University of Texas at Austin. He was accepted in the summer of 1995.
Diop’s first political work as an activist started when joined the struggle to save the affirmative action programs that made it possible for him to go to school. At that time, a couple of white law school students had filed a law suit against the University of Texas for “reverse discrimination.”
This was the case that was to formally end the “affirmative action” era as defined by the so-called Bakke Movement, which purported that white people were being discriminated against in the University of California school system.
Despite the marches and protests, the white students won the case. Diop’s freshman year – 1995 – was the last year the affirmative action program at his school would be active.
Diop left UT Austin with a double major in Linguistics and African American Studies. By the time he left school Diop understood that the reason they let him go to school was to turn him into another uncle tom. While in college he remembers seeing posters in the linguistics department and other offices placed by the FBI and CIA looking for new recruits.
One thing Diop learned in school was the importance of the working class in society. He also learned some important history of the Black Power Movement. His professors in the African Americans Studies department wanted him to stay to attend graduate school. He considered it, but decided that his role was in the community – he wanted to serve the people.
Following college Diop moved back to Brooklyn in 2000. That same year he became a union organizer for U.N.I.T.E. (Union for Needletrade and Industrial Textile Employees).
In his search for the answer to his people’s struggle Diop began to see that the union he was working with wasn’t really fighting for its members. It was exploiting right along with the bosses. Even when the union would set up shop they would do nothing to stop the police brutality, the slumlords and the schools from attacking our youth.
Diop felt that he was being used as a tool by the union to get more black people to join them. He felt like a traitor. It was around this time that Diop joined the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) – after hearing Uhuru Movement founder and leader Chairman Omali Yeshitela speak at the 2001 InPDUM Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Diop was blown away by the Chairman’s words. He felt like everything the Chairman said was what he had been thinking all his life but couldn’t explain. That trip to St. Petersburg changed Diop’s life. He joined the African People’s Socialist Party later that year.
He immediately started organizing for the Uhuru Movement. He led the work in Brooklyn for a couple of years before being appointed as the International Organizer of InPDUM.
Through the aggressive style of outreach he developed on the streets of the Brooklyn Front, Diop helped transform the style of outreach the Uhuru Movement used in London. In the summer of 2004, he was sent there by the APSP to help organize a conference to build the African Socialist International.
In this period, Diop took on the name “Africa’s Trigga” because he set it off everywhere he went. Diop has been traveling throughout the U.S. and the world, building branches of InPDUM where they do not exist.
The case of the Philadelphia City Hall Two
The State, through representatives of the court and police agencies in Philadelphia, has concocted trumped up charges against Diop Olugbala and Shabaka Mnombatha.
They accuse these two perfectly sane brothers of attacking and assaulting the armed police in an open Philadelphia City Council meeting. They level these charges against the brothers although video and still photos clearly show the police attacking and assaulting the InPDUM leaders.
But those of us in the black community have long been aware that when the police beat and assault black people, it is the black person who is always charged with assault.
The assault of black people by the Philadelphia Police Department is precisely the reason Diop and InPDUM had called for an organized protest at the City Council meeting to protest Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed city budget.
The budget would have given more than $1 billion to an already over-armed, brutal and homicidal police department.
Mayor Michael Nutter who is also African was confronted by inPDUM and called out on the question of why he would give the brutal and lawless Philadelphia Police Department more than a billion dollars while at the same time closing libraries and other essential services in an African community where unemployment hovers at 50 percent and the poverty rate is among the highest in the U.S.
The InPDUM-led protesters were characterized Nutter as a neocolonialist who was in fact exercising white power through black face. They were calling a spade a spade, as the old saying goes.
Police murders in Philly – Diop had a duty to protest
The city of Philadelphia has a long and sordid history of police violence against the African community there.
In the days of straight up white power, police chief Frank Rizzo tried to publicly humiliate the Black Panther Party by raiding their offices with hundreds of Philadelphia cop/storm troopers. They forced Panthers to lie in the snow stripped butt naked in front of TV cameras that showed these images to the world as the way you deal with “uppity niggers.”
And of course the eyes of the world were on Philadelphia in 1978 when the famous photo of a white cop standing with his boot atop the head of Delbert Africa appeared. Africa was a member of the freedom-loving group MOVE whose living quarters and offices had been raided in search of persecuted MOVE founder, John Africa.
In 1985 came the infamous bombing of the MOVE offices and living quarters on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia. Police murdered 13 MOVE members, and only Ramona and Birdie Africa were to survive.
In addition, the honored Philadelphia Fire Department let the entire neighborhood burn down without putting a single drop of water on the fire. They had poured hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on the MOVE home to terrorize the group only moments before the bomb was dropped. Sixty-one homes burned to the ground.
The mayor at the time was Wilson W. Goode, Philadelphia’s first African mayor, who was also a neocolonialist stooge exercising white power in black face.
Now we must take a closer look at Diop’s most recent involvement in the struggle for black rights. We mentioned earlier how the U.S. government used the Counter Intelligence Program to brutally smash the Black Panther Party and the Black Revolution of the Sixties.
We would be naïve to believe that this program has been dismantled; that the most brutal government in history would just allow the still enslaved African in America to fight for our freedom uncontested.
At this very moment in history the vicious U.S.-led capitalist world economic order is facing the most organized resistance to its continued existence ever by the colonized and neocolonized peoples throughout the world.
The U.S. made a last ditch effort at tricking the world through the selection of Barack Hussein Obama as leader. This was exposed by an InPDUM demonstration in St. Petersburg, Florida, led by none other than Diop Olugbala.
The African People’s Socialist Party has recognized all along that Barack Obama was a spokesman for, and a selected leader of, the white power liberal wing of the democratic party, a party who 50 years ago Malcolm X had already defined for us.
It was this correct analysis which led the Party to make the decision to expose Barack Obama as a self-serving neocolonialist tool of imperialism. Diop would carry out the Party’s strategy to a T.
At that August 1, 2008 demonstration Diop posed a simple question to then candidate Obama, “What about the black community?” Obama, with all of his Harvard educated oratorical brilliance could do nothing but stutter on the question. It was then that Obama too was characterized as a neocolonial stooge, exercising white power through black face.
And although, virtually the entire African Liberation Movement had abandoned their principles and gone with Obama, it was the African People’s Socialist Party through its young dynamic leader Diop, and rightly so as the whole world can see now, who exposed Obama as the class enemy of the black working class and the toiling masses of the world.
So we say to Obama and the U.S. government – HANDS OFF DIOP AND SHABAKA!
Any charge against Diop is one charge too many. One day in jail is one day too many.
As African political activists we know very well that the prisons and jails are dungeons for holding and murdering black revolutionaries.
Comrade George Jackson, former Black Panther, Soledad Brother, and revolutionary went into the California prison with a two year sentence and never came out alive. He was murdered for believing that African people must be free and moving on that belief.
The same is true for black revolutionary leader Robert Sobukwe in South Africa (Occupied Azania). Sobukwe was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for protesting the murders of 69 Africans by the South African police in 1960. He would never leave the prison alive.
So we say no, they cannot have Diop. Not for a single day. He must be set free.
Most recently, the state of Pennsylvania has conspired with Philadelphia officials to legally murder Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther who sits on death row at Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene maximum security prison. He is there on trumped up charges that he was responsible for the death of a Philadelphia cop. But in reality he is on death row because he dared struggle and participate in the movement for the liberation of his people.
The State obviously does not have a real case against Diop and Shabaka and our movement and legal team can defeat their effort to railroad these two African freedom fighters to prison, and possibly to their deaths.
We call on the international community of freedom loving peoples to form “Free Diop Defense Committees” wherever you are located. We call for international social networking to mobilize the freedom loving youth from Soweto to Nairobi to Freetown to Conakry to Colombia to Havana and call for the freedom of Diop Olugbala.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
What you can do
Editor’s Note: Comrade Diop’s trial is scheduled for Wednesday, May 12. The judge’s name is Roxanne Covington, an African woman. She has a history of defending the State, so it is not surprising that she was assigned to this case. During her seven-year tenure as the Philadelphia assistant city solicitor with the City Law Department, Covington represented the Police Department, Fire and Rescue Department, and the Department of Human Services. She started her career in Washington, D.C. where she worked as a prosecutor.
- Support the legal and political work with a donation. Makes checks to “InPDUM” with “Free Diop Olugbala” in the memo. Mail to:InPDUM
1245 18th Ave. South
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
- Call judge Roxanne Covington at 215-683-7142 on a daily basis with the following demand: “I am calling to oppose the City of Philadelphia’s efforts to convict Diop Olugbala, also known as Wali Rahman, with the trumped up felony charge of aggravated assault on police. His arrest represents an attack on the rights of African people to free speech and economic development. I stand with the demand for the immediate dropping of all charges against Wali Rahman and Franklin Moses.”
- Call district attorney Seth Williams at 215-686-8000 and demand all charges against Wali Rahman and Franklin Moses be dropped
- Participate in the Day of Action: Wednesday, May 12! There will be a rally in front of the Courthouse (13th and Filbert) at 8am to protest Diop’s trial. Shabaka has already been found guilty of misdemeanor charges. Shabaka’s appeal trial will be Thursday, May 13.
Join the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement – www.inpdum.org
Article originally posted on Uhurunews on April 22, 2010 by Omowale Kefing, Editor of The Burning Spear newspaper. We here at the site feel that it is of the utmost importance to highlight grassroots organizations doing the unacknowledged work that will truly change our condition with Imperialism. People working together make change, not individuals, and if we can’t support those that make sacrifices, then we can be sure to have a boot on our necks until capitalism destroys the planet. Below is the 2008 rally where Diop confronted Obama.