RCP, Black Activists Feud on Twitter as Janelle Monae Performs in Atlanta
(APN) ATLANTA — Singer Janelle Monae and other members of Wondaland performed in front of a large crowd on Monday, August 31, 2015 as part of a rally organized by Stop Mass Incarceration Network and the Revolution Club (Revolutionary Communist Party, also known as RCP or RevCom).
At each stop of Janelle Monae and Wondaland’s The Eephus Tour across the U.S., similar rallies have occurred. The Wondaland artists have performed the song “Hell You Talmbout,” alongside families who lost a loved one to police violence. The song names victims of police violence, alongside a call to “say her name,” or “say his name.”
“As musicians and artists, we’re so moved that we recorded a song, a vessel, a tool to give, as you guys are healing, as you come into peace and understanding,” Monae told the crowd.
RCP has been fighting for decades against police brutality and killings, long before Black Lives Matter (BLM), It’s Bigger Than You, or the current critical mass in general that is making it easier for people to speak out, came to be.
However, concerns about the role of RCP in organizing these types of rallies showed up on Twitter in the weeks leading up to Atlanta’s event, resurfacing on the day of the event itself.
On August 11, 2015, Aurielle Lucier of It’s Bigger Than You, who has trained with BLM, posted a video on Twitter showing protesters shouting, “Y’all better go first!” at RCP. This was in reference “to their suspicious disappearance when police descend,” she wrote.
“And who does this serve?” Revolution Club ATL tweeted back. “Drawing bigger divisions in the movement. Putting people in danger and spreading lies. That’s piggery.”
“And not only that, they [RCP] have a strategy to END it,” Rev. Club ATL added, referring to communist revolution. “You don’t have 2 agree with them, but have some principal [sic]. Who is the real enemy?”
“This is not only ******** [BS], but really low BS,” Rev. Club ATL added.
In a later post, Rev. Club ATL referred to Lucier’s post as “COINTELPRO-style accusations,” referring to the U.S. government’s erstwhile counterintelligence program, which involved infiltration, instigation, and covert surveillance.
Lucier responded: “And here goes Revcom being violent & invasive. But y’all keep camping for these ‘white allies.’”
“It’s that same privilege that have ya’ll the audacity to show up at a *BlackOrganizerOnly* conference & start fights,” Lucier tweeted.
The Twitter war re-kindled yesterday around the time of the demonstration and Monae performance.
“So today I add another chapter in the book of why #REVCOM is a co-opting, self-centered, Black erasing/jeopardizing body of danger,” Lucier retweeted.
“The Revolutionary Communist party repeatedly manipulates Black lives and places them in danger with ZERO protection,” Lucier re-tweeted.
RCP has had a contentious role in areas that intersect with Black Lives Matter activism.
Black Lives Matter was started as a hashtag by three queer, Black women after the acquittal of vigilante George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin, a young Black man whose mistake was walking while Black while carrying Skittles candy.
BLM is built on a principle of activism that centers around, and is accountable to, diverse Black leadership.
At the rally, few activists on either side wanted to speak publicly about the feud.
Organizer Jamel Mims with RCP felt it was important for activists to be united, rather than divided.
“What’s more important, joining up to stop [police killings of Black people] right now, or whatever issues you have with this line or that person or organizing this way or that? What’s more important?” Mims said.
Georgia has over half a million people on probation or parole, by far the most in the nation, and the fifth highest incarceration rate among the fifty states and the District of Columbia.
According to Mapping Police Violence, at least 210 Black people nationally have been killed by police so far in 2015, and this does not include deaths from private security guards or vigilantes.
While APN was unable to get anyone to speak on the record during the rally about the concerns of Lucier and other Black Lives Matter organizers, there was a general sense that RCP has responded poorly to criticism in the past, particularly around the role privilege plays in shaping their politics and strategies.
The video clip that started the Twitter fighting, highlights a frequent concern from RCP critics – that members escalate protests and other events, but leave others to deal with the consequences, including arrest.
It appears unlikely that the tension between RCP and other organizers will be resolved soon.
This is not the first time RCP has had a parting of ways with other Atlanta activists. For example, in 2009, World Can’t Wait, another RCP affiliate, upset Black, LGBTQI activists by organizing with them, but then interrupting a speech by controversial Rev. Rick Warren despite promising not to do so.
The Black LGBT Coalition, as it was then called, was unhappy because people were blaming them for RCP’s actions, which many felt were disrespectful of the church that hosted the event.
APN also highlighted RCP’s tactics of escalation in an article earlier this year:
The midday rally itself gathered a crowd of about two hundred people, and included the Hell You Talmbout song, a march through downtown Atlanta and the Georgia State University campus, and a short sit-in on Courtland Street near Hurt Park. There were no arrests.
“We come because we strongly believe that silence is our enemy and sound is our weapon. We come with drums not guns, all right? So, if you can join us in honoring those that we lost we would greatly appreciate it. This is for the families, we pray that just this little moment helps you get a little more peace of mind,” Monae said to the crowd.
“I would like to say thank you to Wondaland. My name is Felecia Christian, I am the mother of Alexia Christian,” Felicia Christian said, referring to an Atlanta woman who was recently killed by police while in custody.
“This is a very important movement. I reached out to Wondaland because I didn’t hear my daughter’s name in their song, Hell You Talmbout. And I feel like they came all the way down here to Atlanta to do this just for me. I know there are a lot of other families here, but I take this personally, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Felecia Christian said at the end of the event.
For much more on the shabby history of the rcp see the archive at this link
Please, all of you, whatever side you may have taken in this lamentable exchange, put your differences aside until we get an end to all the persecution of black people in the USA. You write with determination and strength; do not waste those qualities on each other while they are so sorely needed for a higher purpose. You argue as if the last side to make a statement will have won the argument. If you want to really win, be the first to stop and make better use of your time and qualities.
I think Janelle’s contribution to this nascent movement will bring, at the very least, official recognition that there is something that stinks which must be addressed without delay.
I wrote, even before Janelle became a label co-owner, and while the treatment of black people by a significant minority of the police was starting to become a highly critical situation, that Janelle would grow beyond being an entertainer of the highest level. The lady is on her way. Do not waste her, Black America. Many years will pass before another person of Janelle Monáe Robinson’s stature, intelligence and drive comes along.