MAJ: For IAC/ Ramsey Clark Gala at Riverside
[speech writ. 12/30/12] © ’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Friends, Sistas & Brothas, comrades:
It is fitting that we gather here today, as icy winds whip against the walls of Riverside Church, we celebrate the work and life of Ramsey Clark and the Int’l Action Center; Ramsey’s 85th year; and the IAC’s 20th.
It is fitting that we gather here – at Riverside, for even as I surprise myself, as I praise a former US Attorney-General, I am also a student of history, and I know that he is far more than that.
For here, at Riverside, was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had perhaps his finest hour- and his greatest public crisis. For here, at Riverside, King made his biggest and boldest speech against “the evils of capitalism”, which he likened to “the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.”
At Riverside, King denounced America’s “puppet” (King’s words) in Vietnam, ‘president’ Ngo Dinh Diem, as “one of the most vicious modern dictators: and the US “concentration camps” throughout Vietnam.
At Riverside, King said, America is siding with “the wealthy, and the secure while we create a hell for the poor.”
At Riverside, King said, “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper melod6y within the American spirit...”
Here, he said, “we must get on the right side of the world revolution.”
He said that here, at Riverside (Negro spiritual: “down by the river side….”)
And, although he felt lifted by his speech, the liberal elites went on the attack. Whitney Young, a leader of the Urban League, condemned him. The New York Times called his remarks “reckless”. The NAACP put out a resolution saying civil rights and peace movements shouldn’t be linked. Black columnist, Carl Rowan, working with the White House, wrote an article designed to “Fake out” King, as a dupe of communists. And the Washington Post (long the house organ of the CIA), wrote a blistering editorial saying, in part, that King’s speech was “unsupported fantasy”, further, that King:
has done a grave injury to those who are his natural allies…and…and even greater injury to himself. Many who have listened to him with respect will never accord him the same confidence. He has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country and to his people. And that is a great tragedy. (Washington Post, Thurs. April 6, 1967)
And these were the liberals.
Anniversary of the International Action Center.
Here, from this post, it is entirely possible that Clark has done more against injustice than when he was head of the US Dept. of Justice.
For here, at the IAC, we find the strongest voices against the evils of racism, the evils of militarism and the evils of capitalism (as King said, here at Riverside).
When Millions of people were in the streets, in the spring of 2003, the IAC was holding rallies, putting out leaflets, manning (and womaning!) websites, staging protests against the coming Iraq War. Who was on the right side of history? George W. Bush? Or Ramsey Clark and the IAC?
When the bombs were being readied for Afghanistan and the White House was swearing vengeance, who dared to stage rallies, predicting disaster?
Abu Ghraib, Pakistan, drone strikes and wild Islamophobia, fueled by fear and ignorance. Who opposed these developments at every step?
And as capitalism sent jobs abroad, hollowing out the middle class, causing dystopian hells in US inner cities, who spoke out against the rapacious greed of Wall St., and the resultant prison industrial complex, and the death industry of Death Row?
Ramsey Clark – and the organization he helped found in two small rooms of his law office, the IAC, 20 years ago.
Ramsey Clark, as a former attorney-general: indeed, the son of an attorney-general and a US Supreme Court justice (Tom C. Clark), could’ve gone to any law firm, or gotten a sinecure at a think tank, and made his ‘pile’. He could’ve made millions.
That he took some of the toughest cases in the nation; and with IAC, fought some of the roughest battles against the might of the Empire, is telling; and high tribute.
A final thought; if King were alive today, he’d be a year younger than Ramsey: 84.
But, where would he be?
At a vast, multi-million dollar cathedral in Atlanta, or at that place where he could speak his heart’s truth, where his spirit and his politics merged into one?
He would be with the People; with Ramsey Clark; with the Int’l Action Center; he’d be with us all: at Riverside!
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