Participants in the wildly divergent “Debate: The Black Community: Which Way Forward” forum, left to right: moderator Rhone Frazer; Hip-Hop Party for the People Proctor Cyril “RellStylez” Bullard; New Black Panther Party Field Marshal Minister King Samir; and tea party activist Sgt. Robert Allen Mansfield. — PHOTO/ BILL ACHUFF
Gather an African-American tea party activist, a field marshal for the New Black Panther Party and a representative of the hip-hop community together on the same stage —while asking them questions about race, politics and other third-rail topics — and the sparks are sure to fly
This is exactly what happened on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania last weekend at the Hip-Hop Party for the People 2011 Convention, as three such figures debated “The Black Community: Which Way Forward.” And while the three participants — the tea party’s Sgt. Robert Allen Mansfield, the NBPP’s Minister King Samir Shabazz and the Hip Hop Party’s Cyril Bullard “RellStylez” — had obvious differences between them, they and their audience of about 50, who had ventured out for the event in driving rain, discovered that they also share some similar views.
Mansfield is an Iraqi War veteran who has often taken stances not exactly in step with those of his fellow tea party members. For instance, he is not a proponent of Michele Bachmann, the Republican presidential candidate and tea party darling. He professed — as does Shabazz — a genuine love for Black people. Shabazz, once the subject of a controversial Justice Department investigation concerning voter intimidation in Philadelphia that has since been dismissed, on the other hand, said he is for the total destruction of American “white supremacy.”
“There is no other way to move forward other than fighting and destroying the very ideology of white supremacy in America,” maintained Shabazz. “It is the very root of our enslavement, the very root of our oppression; and the very root of our self-hatred. It is even the very root of the tea party. We can have no more voting, legislating, marching and singing and dancing because none of this will get Black America out of the condition that it’s in today.”
“So,” continued Shabazz, “the only way for us to get out of this condition is we are going to have to kill some crackers. We are going to have to be just as brutal with this beast — just as savage if not more with this cracker. The only thing I see for Black people moving forward is we are going to have to go to war with the very haters of peace.”
While listening to Shabazz’s statement, a smiling Mansfield, who suffered a head injury that forced him from the Army, shook his head in disagreement, disbelief or possibly both. A committed integrationist, Mansfield believes that all Americans are entitled to their opinion, but he clearly disagreed with Shabazz’s stance.
“The Black community has to go back to the independence and self-reliance that was prevalent prior to the War on Poverty,” said Mansfield. “Abortions are at 60 percent in the Black community since then. Black fathers have been relegated to nothing more than sperm donors. Black fathers have been replaced by amoral preachers, thugs and gangster rappers.”
“Don’t get it twisted,” Mansfield continued. “I’m not suggesting that there isn’t racism in America. To the contrary, since the inauguration of President Obama, hate group activity has gone up 100 percent. In spite of that, the Black man has to reassert himself in his community and start being a man.”
Despite his tea party ties, Mansfield readily quoted African-American leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke of African Americans becoming self-sufficient and building wealth within their own communities. Shabazz smiled and reminded Mansfield that this was a principle of Marcus Garvey’s, the famous Black Nationalist who founded The Universal Negro Improvement Association.
“Only when we do this,” Mansfield said, “the sting of racism will be lessened.”
However, when it came to the American political system, there was no meeting of the minds. Mansfield loves the Constitution; he carries a copy of it in his pocket. He feels that African-Americans make a terrible mistake by supporting the Democratic Party “blindly.”
“I don’t want African Americans to just be Democrats,” said Mansfield. “I don’t want them to just be Republicans; I want them to be independent. I want them to be able to say that if there is a Green Party candidate — and he’s qualified — then cast your vote for him. But you should never go into the polling place and pull the lever straight Democrat or straight Republican.”
None of this, of course, sat well with Shabazz. In fact, the political system that he said will work best for African Americans is “African communalism.”
“I am for the total destruction of the white man’s politics, period,” Shabazz said. “I don’t believe in voting for one cracker over another cracker. I don’t believe in voting for either Satan or Beelzebub. We are communist; we are communal people. What we should do is begin to study African communalism. The Constitution is a slave document. It doesn’t teach us anything about Black-on-Black love; Black-on-Black honor. We have to get back to Black. If we don’t, we will always be controlled. And he who controls the way you think, controls the way you act. That’s where we are right now.”
While Shabazz’s views could be seen by the mainstream as the most radical, Stylez’s position on the issues was more pragmatic.
“There is a lot that we have contributed to this country, we just aren’t given credit for it,” he said. “It’s not just about educating Black people. It’s about educating Black people, brown people, red people and white people on the true history of this country because there is a lot of mis-education.”
One remedy Stylez offered is a nod to the past.
“We need to go back to boycotting, lobbying; we need to form think tanks,” Stylez said. “We need to begin to do these things again so that we can build up a power base. If we build up a strong power base among our people, then we will be able to lead this country and build something new, something better than what we already have.
The debate, which was hosted by Philadelphia City Council write-in candidate Pili X, concluded with all three men hugging and posing for pictures. There was clearly no animosity between them, just differing opinions — which didn’t differ as starkly as one might think.
“It’s not surprising to me,” said Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at Columbia University and host of the nationally syndicated television show “Our World with Black Enterprise.” “When you get all of us in a room together outside of the mainstream media and the forces that are committed to dividing us, what you realize is that there are some consistent threads that run through most of our community. There are some exceptions, but one thing that is always present is an idea of fundamental independence. There is a fundamental skepticism of the government’s ability to protect us and provide for us, whether that comes from conservatives who don’t believe in government or radical Black folk who are witnesses to history and have seen where we’ve been — rendered expendable and disposable.”
“At the end of the day you end up in the same place,” Hill added, “which is, we have to do for self.”
Tribune staff reporter John N. Mitchell can be reached at (215) 893-5745 or