Omali Yeshitela

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Omali Yeshitela
Born Joseph Waller
Occupation Political Activist
Political party African People's Socialist Party-USA
Movement The Uhuru Movement
Spouse(s) Ona Zene Yeshitela
Children yes

Omali Yeshitela (born Joseph Waller) is the founder of the Uhuru Movement, an African Internationalist organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida with members throughout the world.

Early background[edit]

Born in St. Petersburg, Florida, Yeshitela participated in the American Civil Rights Movement in his youth during the 1950s and 1960s as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. At the height of the civil rights movement in St. Petersburg, Waller was jailed for an act of civil disobedience in 1966, when he tore a mural displayed at City Hall which depicted black musicians serenading white partygoers, a scene Waller termed a degrading caricature of African Americans. However, Herman Goldner, the mayor of St. Petersburg at the time and a civil rights advocate himself, rejected Waller's claim. "I find nothing offensive in the portrayal of strolling troubadours and picnickers at Pass-a-Grille Beach. ... I think you know that I, personally, am not a racist. I think ... that all of our minority groups must mature to the point where self-consciousness is not a motivating factor for complaints."[1] Goldner's reaction in this situation was comparable to that two years later in 1968, when Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland lectured black activists following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.[2]

Waller spent two and a half years in jail and prison.[1] After Waller's release, he was stripped of his right to vote for decades until Governor Jeb Bush and three members of the Florida Cabinet restored Waller's voting rights in 2000.

African Internationalism[edit]

In the heat of revolutionary struggle and during his early years as a political prisoner, Yeshitela was driven to discover the reasons why black people all over the world are impoverished and oppressed. Yeshitela developed the political theory of African Internationalism that understands the world through the eyes of the African working class.

Through African Internationalism he exposes the significance of Marx’s concept of the “primitive accumulation of capital,” the starting point of capitalist wealth accumulation, playing in “political economy about the same part as original sin in theology.” Breathing life into Marx’s analysis, Yeshitela noted that “African Internationalism recognizes that the process of slavery and brigandage that consolidated the political economy, national identity and general well-being of what came to be known as Europe is the same process that results in the wretched, divided, impoverished and exploited lot of Africans and much of the world.”

Yeshitela contends that the leading force of struggle is the African and oppressed working class throughout the world against “parasitic capitalism,” embodied in U.S. and Western imperialism built on enslavement, genocide and colonialism.[3]

Civic activism[edit]

In his civic activism in his native St. Petersburg, Yeshitela has stresses his view that political and economic development will bring and end to the oppression of African communities throughout the world. He moved to Oakland, California in 1981, living and working there.[4]

Many of the most critical and legendary campaigns of the African community over the past 40 years have been led by Chairman Omali and the Uhuru Movement.

The campaign to free Dessie Woods, an African woman sentenced to 22 years for killing a white attempted rapist with his own gun in the 1970s, reverberated throughout the world with its slogan, “Free Dessie Woods, Smash Colonial Violence!”

The historic Measure O, the Community Control of Housing Initiative placed on the ballot in Oakland, CA as a land and housing reform measurein 1984, won 22,000 votes and raised forever the struggle for African community control of housing.

In 1996, the Chairman united and mobilized the African community following the rebellions sparked by the police murder of 17-year-old TyRon Lewis just four blocks from the Uhuru House in St Petersburg, FL. The Chairman launched the demand for “economic development, not police containment,” forcing the U.S. government to send in the Civil Rights Commission for hearings .[3] Yeshitela came under national attention when the community rebelled. He condemned the killing as the culmination of a long pattern of repressive and racist measures by the St. Petersburg Police Department in African American neighborhoods, and rallied support for the victim's family in the black community. As a result of the community outcry, the city came under federal scrutiny, leading to a meeting between Yeshitela and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who was sent to the city by President Bill Clinton in answer to the disturbances. After meeting with the veteran civil rights leader, Cisneros warned the city council that the black community's problems with the police were deeply rooted and that the demands of the community must be heard and called Yeshitela one of the most "admirable leadership figures" he had ever encountered. [1] According to the former HUD Secretary, Yeshitela is "a person who touches lives in a serious way." "I found him a thoughtful person who had some important things to say," said Cisneros.

Chairman Omali succeeded in making reparations a household word with the establishment of the International Tribunal on Reparations for African People which was first held in Brooklyn, New York in 1982. Hearings of the tribunal, which determined that U.S. owes African people in the U.S. $4.1 trillion in reparations for stolen labor alone, have been held thirteen times.

Yeshitela served on St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer's Challenge 2001 Steering Committee and on the St. Petersburg Housing Authority's Hope VI Advisory Committee, two projects dedicated to attracting jobs and investment to South St. Petersburg. He has also chaired the political action committee of the Coalition of African American Leadership, made up of a number of black churches and civil rights groups in the area, and served on the board of radio station WMNF community radio. Along with eight other candidates, Yeshitela made a run for mayorship in February 2001. Although he did not make it to the runoff, he won every African-American and mixed precinct but one in the entire city.

Yeshitela is also the founder of Citizens United for a Shared Prosperity.

Uhuru movement[edit]

Main article: Uhuru Movement

The Uhuru Movement refers to a group of organizations under the principle of "African internationalism," or the liberation of Africans in both the continent of Africa and in the African Diaspora. 'Uhuru' is a Swahili word for freedom. The Movement is led by Yeshitela's African People's Socialist Party (APSP).

The APSP has formed several organizations, each with specific tasks and purpose. Affiliated organizations include The International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, African Socialist International, African People's Solidarity Committee, and Burning Spear Productions, the African People's Education and Defense fund and the All African People's Development and Empowerment Project.

In May 1972, after his release from prison, Yeshitela founded the St. Petersburg-based African People's Socialist Party (APSP), a political party founded on an ideology combining black nationalism and socialism called "African internationalism." [2] Yeshitela later set up an organization for white people to join in solidarity with the APSP's goals, the African People's Solidarity Committee.

Later, the APSP formed the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement to work under the guiding principle that the only way for Africans to achieve liberation and self-determination is to struggle for an all-African socialist government under the leadership of African workers and poor peasants.

Yeshitela has also established the African People's Education and Defense Fund, which seeks to address disparities in education and health faced by African Africans, and Burning Spear Productions, the publishing arm of the APSP.

The APSP is affiliated with the African Socialist International, an organization Yeshitela helped establish that seeks to unite African socialists and national liberation movements under a single revolutionary umbrella in opposition to imperialism and neocolonialism.

He calls for reparations for the black community. Yeshitela has set up a coalition promoting reparations for slavery, arguing that African people worldwide are due reparations for more than slavery, but also over 500 years of colonialism and neocolonialism. [3]

In popular culture[edit]

Excerpts of a Yeshitela speech are played in multiple tracks of the album Let's Get Free by the hip-hop duo Dead Prez.


Self-published with Burning Spear Uhuru Publications / African People's Socialist Party:

  • One Africa! One Nation! (2006), ISBN 978-1-891624-04-9
  • Omali Yeshitela Speaks: African Internationalism, Political Theory for our Time (2005) ISBN 978-1-891624-03-2
  • Social Justice and Economic Development for the African Community: Why I became a Revolutionary (1997)
  • The Dialectics of Black Revolution: The Struggle to Defeat the Counterinsurgency in the U.S. (1997)
  • Izwe Lethu i Afrika! (Africa is Our Land) (1991)
  • On African internationalism (1978)
  • Tactics and Strategy for Black Liberation in the US, 1978
  • The Struggle for Bread, Peace and Black Power, 1981
  • Stolen Black Labor, 1982
  • Reparations Now!, 1983
  • A New Beginning and Not One Step Backwards,1984
  • The Road to Socialism is Painted Black, 1987
  • Overturning the Culture of Violence, by Penny Hess and Omali Yeshitela, 2000 (ISBN 978-1891624025)
  • One People! One Party! One Destiny!, 2010 (ISBN 978-1891624070)
  • An Uneasy Equilibrium: The African Revolution Versus Parasitic Capitalism, 2014 (ISBN 978-1891624117)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]