Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Burning Spear. Light edits have been made to conform this piece to TF’s style.
This month, Regions Bank, a financial institution with branches in the U.S. South and Midwest, notified the Black nonprofit, African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF), that the bank was “exiting” its 20-year relationship, closing accounts, withdrawing lines of credit and canceling mortgage loans.
This assault on the ability of African people to build economic self-reliance was the latest in a series of actions revealing government and corporate cooperation targeting the Black community programs of the Uhuru (Freedom) Movement, including its popular Women’s Health Center, Black Power Vanguard Basketball Court, “One Africa! One Nation!” Marketplaces, Gary Brooks Community Garden, Uhuru Jiko Commercial Kitchens and Bakery Cafe, Akwaaba Hall events venues, Black Power 96 radio station, Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles stores, Uhuru Foods & Pies and Uhuru House community centers for Black people.
Facebook has blocked the ability for supporters to crowdfund for Uhuru programs through their personal pages. GoFundMe froze over $9,000 in donations for the Hands Off Uhuru! Legal Defense Fund for more than three months until the group’s lawyers took legal action to get the funds released. The Stripe payment processing company also blocked contributions to the group for a period of time.
On February 14, the Pinellas County Commission revoked $36,801 in funding that had been previously approved for WBPU 96.3 FM Black community radio station in St. Petersburg, Florida, after expressing political opposition to its association with the Black power Uhuru Movement.
These economic sanctions have come on the heels of a series of violent government-initiated attacks on the Uhuru Movement that began in earnest with the July 29 militarized FBI raid on seven Uhuru properties. That also includes two acts of arson, one arrest and interrogation, censorship in the removal of a change.org petition, and a U.S. State Department announcement of a $10 million reward for information that could tie Uhuru leaders to Russian government interference in U.S. elections and public opinion influencing.
Ona Zené Yeshitela, Board President of APEDF, says, “Our organization has built over 50 economic institutions, financed through our own fundraising work and the donations of thousands of people. These banks don’t want Black people to be able to feed, clothe and house ourselves. They do not want money circulating in the Black community.”
Omali Yeshitela is founder of the Uhuru Movement and Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party. He is considered the primary target of the FBI raids and reportedly pending indictments on charges of serving as a pawn of the Russian government. A 1960s field organizer registering voters with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the 81-year-old Yeshitela has fought for Black Power for over 50 years.
He charges, “These banks are collaborating with the government to deny Black people the right to have free healthcare, to have economic development in our communities, for our children to have safe basketball courts. They want us on welfare. But we’ve got a right to have our own power. These banks are imposing economic sanctions on our movement because we are engaged in unifying the African Nation that represents an existential threat to the continuation of the colonial mode of production on which they are built and maintained.”
Yeshitela likens the economic aggression against Uhuru Movement institutions to those the U.S. government and society made against Marcus Garvey and his United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the bombing of Tulsa’s “Black wall street” and the destruction of the Black Panther Party Black-community survival programs.
He accuses the U.S. government of imposing economic sanctions against the Black-led Uhuru Movement, as they do against countries that do not bow to U.S. world domination, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Afghanistan, China and Russia.
The actions of Regions Bank and other financial institutions come after widespread public exposure of the role of the slave trade in the birth of the U.S. banking and insurance industries and during a time of growing demands for reparations to Black people for slavery and colonialism.
A campaign has been launched to defend the Uhuru Movement, its leaders and institutions, chronicled at HandsOffUhuru.org. Supporters are raising funds for legal defense, mobilizing for protest demonstration at U.S. federal buildings, organizing call-ins to government officials and demanding “Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!”
Burning Spear is the official organ of the African People’s Socialist Party.