Interview with Daryle Lamont Jenkins

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Image via Daryl Jenkins

Washington, DC (TFC) – Daryle Lamont Jenkins is the co-founder and Executive Director of One People’s Project, an anti-racist watchdog organization that monitors and reports on right-wing activity. Established in 2000 in the aftermath of a racist rally in Morristown, NJ, One People’s Project maintains records and information of not only racist groups but the individuals as well. It is OPP’s intent to make certain that these groups are not allowed to function in any capacity. In October 2015, One People’s Project launched a second website, Idavox.com which now serves as the organization’s news line.

What got you interested in social justice?
When I was a kid, I was very interested in history, especially Black history. And the one thing that I noticed early on was how growing up in the seventies, you didn’t see the kind of thuggish racism that you saw in the days of the Civil Rights Movement – at least the nine, ten year old kid that I was back then didn’t see it. And I had always wondered where exactly did all the racist White people go? What happened to the Bull Connors and the George Wallaces and the Klan? Then I saw a story in my Weekly Reader about a Klan group ran by a guy named Bill Wilkinson and that made me realize they were still around, so I wanted to learn more about what they were up to. As I did that and the years went on, I noticed that a lot of what the Klan and Nazi members would say would often times be said by more respected people and that’s when I realized there was still a lot of work to do. I didn’t become active until I left the Air Force and started reaching out to groups, and the first rally I went to was outside Brooklyn Courthouse for the trials of the White men who murdered Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst back in 1989.

What are some of the more “respectable” groups who promote racism today?
These days, it’s good to look at your paleoconservative types, like the Council of Conservative Citizens or the benign-sounding National Policy Institute, but those are easy. They make no bones about their racism, and people dispatch them pretty easily when it is realized who they are. But then you have people like those in the anti-Muslim crowd who for some reason manage to get away with saying things about and doing things to Muslims that would have a person destroyed if they went after Jews in the same fashion. You look at any instance where the Islamophobes mention Muslims, and you were to replace the word Muslim with Jew, people would keep their distance from who would rightly be called Nazis. And we are talking about people and groups like David Horowitz and his Freedom Center, Pam Geller and Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America, Brigitte Gabriel and her ACT! For America group. Laurie Cardoza Moore out of Murfeesboro and so on. And I mention those groups because Islamophobia has been getting way too much of a pass, and that needs to stop.

What do we do to fight sectarianism and promote solidarity on the left?
Sadly people are always going to be at odds, so sectarianism is sadly always going to be a problem. The best thing to hope for is to make it as minimal as possible. I guess one thing to do is to make sure that everyone is working towards the same goal and producing results. Not only is everyone doing something, it is being reinforced that it is not about them.

What can we do to lessen our marginilization habits on an every day basis when forming relationships with oppressed peeps?
I was asked this by someone a few weeks ago, actually. It was coming off how media and White allies were being excluded from spaces that people of color wanted to make for themselves, particularly in this case Black people. I said then that if we are talking about the solutions to the problems Black people face, there has to be a time and place where we get in tune with each other, and I think to expand in a way to answer your question I say the first thing to do is respect that. The relationship is not at tenuous as it may seem, but at the same token remember to follow our lead. We have been burned before by allies who simply don’t get it, and in the interest of “trying to understand both sides” would end up making the points of the oppressor better than they can! It’s important to remember that we get the brunt of the blowback. We are going to be the ones who are hurt, no one else. Everyone else moves on and often forgets about us. When forming relationships, we take the lead in dealing with our issues otherwise we start off on the wrong foot.

What art or entertainment do you feel has impacted your thoughts philosophically, the most?
It’s funny you ask that question, because it was certain entertainers that impacted me the most philosophically. Much of my political direction has been molded by me being a student of history, but when it comes to how to make sense of it all, there has been two people that have been early influences on me. One is comedian Dick Gregory. He was an entertainer in the sixties who in the midst of the civil rights movement felt he could not do comedy anymore and became a full-time activist. He remains so today. I first heard of him via a book he wrote while running for president in 1968 called “Write Me In!” and he was still the comedian, putting in a few jokes here and there, but when it was time to get serious, he got serious – and prophetic as hell. He has a line in this book where he mentions that President Johnson said during a speech that we must get rid of crime in the streets of America, and everyone cheered when he said that. Gregory pointed out that the reason why was because “’Crime in the streets’ was America’s new way of saying n—-r.” It was in fact around that time we stopped complaining as much as we used to about the Klan lynching us and more about the police killing us in the streets. There were other books I read of his and I would recommend reading anything from Dick Gregory from this era. It is a hell of an introduction to what we are dealing with today.

The other person is Whoopi Goldberg. She was important to me when she first came onto the scene because there are a lot of contemporary things that she challenged, and she made clear why she was challenging them. There are times when I disagreed, but I would say it was a respectful disagreement. There was an HBO special she did after the first one which was based on the one-woman act that broke her into the mainstream that focused on one of her characters, a junkie with a PhD named Fontaine. In this special, Fontaine had gotten straight and started seeing things a little more clearer and a lot of how I was going to go forward in life came from those observations. There was an audio tape from this performance called “Fontaine: Why Am I Straight” that became my Red Book for a long while. I would quote a lot from it, even today every now and then. Much of the performance was about how we relate to one another both politically and socially, how we fail ourselves, how we enrich ourselves and what we can do to make things right. I was a 19-year-old Security Police officer in the Air Force, going through a lot because I didn’t think that was going to be the way I can contribute, and Whoopi pretty much told me that there are indeed other avenues. And the important thing with her was that she didn’t call for a certain political line. She just looked at what makes us human and go from there. And THAT…a lot of heads who are active are VERY lacking in.

Can you talk a bit about a few famous figures and give us your thoughts on the resonance of each group/ person?
Remember that when we are talking about these figures and groups we are talking about people who are not merely activists. They were people who were an integral and contributing part of the communities they were from and that makes all the difference in the world.

Malcolm X – He didn’t just work to build Black people. The important thing about Malcolm X, or as he was known at the end of his life, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was that he worked a lot to build himself. That’s really what makes him such an important figure. He was a student of life and been through the good and bad of it. My mother did not like him. She lived in the Bronx and actually saw him speak on the street corners back in the day. She is a Christian, which was a factor, and also didn’t like what she saw as hate speech, but she also saw that change coming out of him, learning later after reading his autobiography that it was after he went to Mecca when the transformation began. Malcolm X is a study in how one person worked to find himself.

Nation of Islam – There are so many tiers with them. For one thing I am not a nationalist and I am not down with it. I am also not a conservative, and the Nation of Islam is that as well. I am down with Black empowerment, however and that is important if we are going to continue on in today’s society. We can talk all day long about the anti-Semitism and the hate that people have seen come with this group, but if you want that to go away, the hate that they are responding to – the kind that this nation was built on – has to be done away with first. Radio talk-shit host Sean Hannity is an interesting character. He routinely supports groups and individuals who are about what he would call hatred and race-baiting were they not White. Trump for example. He also often uses his show to defend White people who use the N-word. And his argument has always been that no one complains about Black people when they say it, when they express hate, etc. You listen to Hannity long enough and you realize that he is not angry that Black people are racist. He’s mad because he feels White people can’t be anymore. And that means the world is about to change for people like him. The difference is even the Nation of Islam doesn’t want to maintain that particular war and won’t as time goes on. So when all is said and done and we have all moved on from hate politics, Hannity and his ilk will still be back there trying to hold on to something that we don’t want and diminished significantly as a result.

Nations of gods and earths – I generally stay away from talk about them, because I never understood it. It was a popular thing to claim when I was in high school, and they were derided as “part time Muslims”. I don’t know if that is a fair assessment, and that might have to be how it was seen only because some folks adopted it as a fad, but let’s be clear, not all. After high school it became less and less of a presence in my life, so it might not be fair for me to say any more than this.

Angela Davis – I think she might be the first well-known political figure I have ever met. 1990 at Rutgers University. She came to speak and she was supportive of an action that was taking place on campus where a group of students taken over a building in response to rising tuition costs. She also spoke at Occupy Philadelphia back when we had the encampment. The important thing about her is that she’s not a Nationalist. And she is not a conservative. She opened the door in that regard for empowerment of all people.

Black lives matter – This is the straw breaking the camel’s back. Twenty years ago, when I first became active, it was around police killings, and the response from the right was to point at the criminal record of the person killed and say, “You should stay out of trouble, pull yourself up from your own bootstraps and work for what you want!” Well we did that, and you know that we have because the police now kill Black people who don’t have criminal records, who worked for what they have, who are supposed to be the people they are sworn to protect. Then George Zimmerman comes in, and now we see that people who aren’t even cops get the same protection when they kill someone. Ferguson happens and that was it. Shit was going to change. And BLM has scored victories in areas that we have never seen them. The momentum that BLM has is scaring the hell out of the right, because it is taking away their favorite toy – the criminal justice system. It was always there to dispatch the people they hate, but now it looks like they can’t rely on it they way they used to for generations. That is why you see them lashing out vis a vis Dylann Roof.

MOVE – A perfect example of how the right used the criminal justice system is MOVE. If – hell, when it is a group of white people that the government is hassling when all they want to do is live their lives, they would rally around that group. When they are a group of Black people, they will take what started off as a noise complaint and turn it into 37 years of death, incarceration and government bombings, all at the behest of one of the most racist mayors in all the Northeast, Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo. And in the Northeast you have another caveat. The White Democratic leaders giving lip service to the Black community while maintaining a good relationship with the racist mayors and politicians who push this kind of thing. That’s what created the climate that gave us the persecution of MOVE, and people around the world recognize that.

Can you talk a little about how gun control negatively effects marginalized communities?
When you consider that the NRA uses Black people and crime as a rallying point for people to demand their guns, it might give you pause when you talk of gun control. But let’s be careful here. It would be foolish as hell to not recognize the concern. There are too many shrines on too many street corners around the country where people have been shot and killed, and that can’t be ignored. There are ways to protect the right to keep and bear arms without compromising the safety of people, and that needs to be addressed. And properly.

How do you see technology ,especially automation and 3d printing changing the way we discuss labor, dialectical materialism, and the means of production?
I think any advances in technology has always meant that things that used to be needed won’t be anymore, while other opportunities will take place. And just like in the past labor and production will shift with those changes. It is not going anywhere. When’s the last time a Teamster driven a team of animals?

How often must we as radicals shake up the language to get away from the pavlovian responses we see in reactionary and reformist politics?
Every chance we get, but as opposed to reactionary and reformist politics, it is especially when it comes to dealing with the “love me I’m a liberal” clowns. I just saw an article written by some guy named Charles Topher for the If You Only News blog where he addressed the fact that no one has tried to stop the militia in Oregon and their occupation, as they would (and did) Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Now, I’m used to whenever I deal with neo-Nazis and other right wingers, the first thing from the “love me I’m a liberal” crowd is to immediately defend the right wing’s freedom of speech and admonish anyone who is critical of them, as if calling out the racist is more damaging than the racist themselves. Well, Topher decided that the best way to deal with the militia in Oregon is to keep making them laughingstocks and continue sending them dildos, or as he put it, “Allowing the so-called “revolution” to move forward in a remote forest in Oregon could be the most effective tactic the government has ever come up with to battle right-wing terrorism.” That’s pure cowardly “love me I’m a liberal” bullshit, and that is one Pavlovian response we have always had to counter. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” was in response to that kind of crap.

But overall, shaking up the language means knowing exactly what to say when the usual responses and clichés come up. Most importantly it needs to be backed up with action. Make moves regardless of what anyone says, and if you are successful, they will come around – saying how “we” scored a victory!

What do you do when you suffer from burn out and grief?
That’s a good question because I suffer from it all the time. I think the best way has been to go to music and action movies, things like that. It’s not always political, nor does it has to be. When you are out there fighting, it is always good to appreciate what it is that you are fighting for. You don’t have to be on every minute of your life.

Any shout outs to current projects you’d like to mention?
The efforts against the racist events coming up like the National Policy Institute in DC on March 5, the Stone Mountain, GA rally and National Socialist Movement rally in Rome, GA both on April 23 and the upcoming American Renaissance conference May 20 need to be supported. People need to come out to all events that counter hate rallies and conferences. The biggest fear those circles have is opposition and exposure because no opposition or exposure means they can keep doing what they are doing. Oppose them. Expose them. Ruin them.