The Black Radical Tradition Conference took place in January 2016 in Philadelphia at Temple University and the Church of the Advocate. Its goal was to cement the struggle for black liberation in these days and times within the philosophy and activism of the Black Radical Tradition. #Blacklivesmatter then became black liberation. “Reclaiming our future” meant the pathway to the liberation of black people, which was dependent on the liberation of all humanity.
I was a part of this collective as a student and activist. I drafted the two statements that emerged from the conference with the input and conversation of my friends and fellow activists. The statements were thus rooted in the ideological framework of the Black Radical Tradition, but also my own context and experience as a Pakistani-American Muslim woman – Third Worldist, steeped in an ethos of Islamic liberation theology, and a collective opposition to racism and capitalism from which love and solidarity of the highest order sprang.
The Black Radical Tradition Conference, starting on Thursday, January 7, 2016, and finishing on Sunday, January 10, constituted a historical achievement of the highest order. It was a powerful congregation of leaders, activists and people fighting for social change in their communities and dedicating their lives to the liberation of humanity. Anchored in revolutionary love, the conference represented the unity of Black Philadelphia in challenging white supremacy and capitalism, and it anticipated the next stage of the Black liberation movement.
Black Radical Organizing Collective (BROC) was responsible for organizing the conference. BROC is a revolutionary collective based in North Philadelphia, and our membership draws from the diverse revolutionary community of the Philadelphia area and beyond. We are a multigenerational, multiracial and multifaith organization committed to revolutionary change and transformation. We serve the people, because we truly come from the people, distinguishing BROC from nonprofit and/or policy organizations. Our members and volunteers are unpaid and we do not enjoy substantial funding, wishing to locate ourselves in the power of the people and resist co-optation by the white supremacist and capitalist forces of money and power.
Instead, we locate ourselves in the people of Black Philadelphia and its organic institutions. BROC’s primary sponsor is the Church of the Advocate, which hosted the Black Power Conference of 1968, the Black Panther Conference of 1970, and the first ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in 1974. The Advocate continues to serve the Black Philadelphia community through social services, community programs and spiritual enrichment, continuing the legacy of its pastor, Father Paul Washington, who practiced and envisioned the theology of liberation.
The Black Radical Tradition Conference delivered ideological clarity and centered radicalism in the movement. The conference prioritized the people who fight and struggle on the ground for social change and actively participate in movement-building and history-making. The conference invited historical leaders like Angela Davis, Pam Africa, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Jamala Rogers and united them with youth forces like Umi Selah, Kashara White, and Charlene Carruthers in shaping the future of the movement.
The conference empowered the Beloved Community in fighting for liberation, and contextualized our movement in the global struggle against capitalism, colonialism and white supremacy. Ours is an internationalist struggle that builds unity and claims progressive power in the fight against oppressive systems. Approximately 2500 people attended the conference, coming from different parts of the country, impacting the nationwide movement for Black lives matter and establishing the important role of Philadelphia in the national struggle.
The Black Radical Tradition Conference anticipated the next phase of struggle in the Black liberation movement, rekindling the fiery anticapitalist momentum of the earliest stages of the movement. The conference inspired the people to new levels of consciousness and cemented the crucial importance of united struggle. We struggle towards revolutionary transformation and we serve the Beloved Community. Our struggle aims to reshape the future and come from the people. We can only move forward from here.