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On October 9, 2016, as part of our Alternative Histories of Labor series, we showed the 1970 film Finally Got the News, about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit. The screening was introduced by Annie Sullivan, a PhD candidate in the Screen Cultures program at Northwestern University. After the film, Mike Siviwe Elliott joined her for a Q&A. Elliott is a longtime labor and community activist who grew up in Detroit around many of the people depicted in the film.

Annie Sullivan’s introduction:

The film was a collaboration between the Revolutionary League of Black Workers and Newsreel. This was a contentious moment in Detroit’s history. In 1967, Detroit had the Great Rebellion, or what the mainstream news called “the Riots.” Because economic resources were low, there was a lot of problems with the police—brutality—and so, it erupted into days of vandalism, riots, et cetera. But it kind of galvanized a lot of activism in the city. And the League of Revolutionary Workers emerged as a coordinating body of local RUMs, or Revolutionary Union Movements, in Detroit. DRUM, or the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, emerged in 1968 through a series of wildcat protests at the Dodge plant in Hamtramck, Michigan, which is a little city inside the city of Detroit.

And so, they were mostly protesting the UAW, which had no black—at the time—representatives. So, the auto workers at different plants decided to get together and form the Revolutionary League of Black Workers to coordinate black protests and thought Detroit was the best place to start a national revolution, because it was at the point of production where all labor flowed.

So Newsreel, which was a collective of documentary filmmakers in New York, heard about this. Newsreel started in 1967, wanting to create a collective of filmmakers who could make alternative films, with radical aesthetics, about what the mainstream press wasn’t showing you. So Newsreel, one member of them named Jim Morrison, who was not the lead singer of the Doors, saw this and was really inspired. He thought, “We need to go to Detroit, we need to set up a Newsreel branch there and just radicalize the city, you know spread this message, because Detroit is where it’s all happening.”

The rest of Newsreel, which was also setting up locations in other cities throughout the U.S.—there were Newsreel branches in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco… They were interested in this idea, but they didn’t really know if they wanted to fund it, because this guy Jim Morrison was not kind of a major heavyweight in the Newsreel collective. So he decides to fund it himself through an ill-fated hash smuggling scheme from Canada, which netted him ten years in a Canadian jail. But his enthusiasm for the project caught on, and other Newsreel members thought, “Okay. Let’s go to Detroit. Let’s do this.”

So, about half the group that goes to Detroit were really, really invested in this kind of—getting involved with all the radical movements in the city. The local Black Panther Party, the White Panther Party, started by John Sinclair, and being part of the student movement there. The other group was really invested in making a film about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and working with them to make this film. During the whole production process, these tensions just kept flaring up, to the point where Detroit Newsreel just fell apart. And some people decided to leave and go back to New York. Some decided to go to Ann Arbor, where there was a lot of student activism.

And the League caught news of this, and they were like, “No, they’re not leaving. We’re making this film.” So the League decided to steal—or not steal, because they thought it was theirs. They decided to take all the filmmaking equipment and write a letter to the remaining Newsreel members that said, “Hey, this is our film. This is our equipment. You’ve mistreated us. You’re trying to make a film about us without using the message we want. This is now ours, and we’re making this film. You can stay and help if you want if you want.”

And three members of Detroit Newsreel—Paul Gessner, Steve Burke, and Renee Lichman—thought, “You know what? They’re absolutely right. We have been participating in organizational chauvinism, racism… This is their story to tell. The movement has to be made; and we’re happy to stay and help them.” And from then on, they collaborated with the League to make the film the League wanted to make. And that’s really what makes this film so unique. This isn’t a documentary made by filmmakers about a labor movement or about black radicalism. It’s a film made by a black radical organization. And the other members just helped because they knew how to make film.

And one example of this, which you’ll see in the film, is the opening sequence, where once the League took creative control, they sat down with the members of Newsreel and said, “No, no. These are the aspects of the film we really want to keep in the film. These are the aspects you’ve got to cut. You have to make it our way.”

John Watson, who was the creative director of the film—or the member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers who had the most investment in making this film and using it as an organizing tool, said, “No. What you need to do at the beginning is we’re going to tell a whole history of slavery, from the beginning of colonization to the auto working factory.” And then the filmmakers from Newsreel were like, “I don’t know. That seems like a lot to cover in a very short film.” And they said, “No, that’s what we’re doing. And we don’t want this just to be a documentary film of us. We want it to be a film where we talk to the camera. We tell them what we think, and that’s what we’re doing.” He thought about it as a form of re-education.

So, what you’re going to get in this film is the League of Revolutionary Black Workers telling you exactly what they were thinking about the film, driving you around Detroit… You’re getting their perspective on the city through filmmaking, with the assistance of Detroit Newsreel, or the remaining members of it.

Shortly after this, which we can talk about after, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers started Black Star Productions with the idea that they were going to start to making more and more films. This never happened, unfortunately. They had a few projects in the pipeline before the League dissolved. But John Watson and some members of the League really wanted to use filmmaking as a way to spread a radical message from Detroit outward. Other members were a little bit cautious of this, especially because they were scared police, who could see their activism filmed, would use it against them. Which they had good reason to think, because another Newsreel film from L.A. about the Black Panthers—the police stole all the footage and used it as evidence of what their activism strategies were.

So there was some caution in Detroit about, no, we need to keep low profiles. The revolution is what matters in the auto factory. This also helped create a divide in the Revolutionary League of Black Workers around the film. But today, this film still exists as a great document of Detroit and one of the rare examples of early black documentary filmmaking, with these labor representatives who had no history of filmmaking before kind of taking an act of control in their own representation in Detroit.

Q&A with Mike Siviwe Elliott

Annie Sullivan (AS): I just want to know—being in Detroit around this time and a little bit after, what your experience of watching this now or your experience in thinking about it as someone who was part of it in a subsequent way.

Mike Siviwe Elliott (MSE): So I’m actually beginning to cry right now. Those were some incredible times, and I was a teenager at the time, in my late teens. But I was an activist. So, all of the members of my family were members of United Auto Workers. They were all working at different plants. My siblings, my cousins, my father, my grandfather… I’m a third-generation member of the United Auto Workers.

It was just not… not just limited to what was going on in the auto plants. It was the whole atmosphere of that time. It was the Black Power Movement that was going on. It was the awakening of black consciousness that was going on. You know, James Brown created a song “(Say It Loud) I’m Black and I’m Proud.” You know that was an anthem. It represented a real change in our psychology. Earlier in the 60s, we were colored, we were calling ourselves colored and negro and things like that. And then this whole shift in our mentality occurred. We rejected those terms, like negro and colored, and we became black and descendants of Africa.

So that was a huge change. That meant that our hair became different—we started wearing our natural hair. We took pride in our history—we just devoured black history back then, to find out more and more. For instance, when I was a kid, I was taught that the Egyptians were white, and I loved history. And I was taught that the Egyptians were white. And when I found out that the Egyptians were black—you know, the founders of Egypt were actually black people—I was so pissed off I threw a brick through my history teacher’s window. [laughter] And I stabbed both of his car tires. I didn’t know how else to express my anger. [laughter]

And so it was really a magical time. We had Motown music! You know, Motown music was the music of the nation. And so all that was going on. But most importantly, those folks were my mentors. They were my mentors, they set me on a path that I remain on today. You saw Kenny Cockrel speaking. Kenny Cockrel was a lawyer. Nobody could talk as fast as that—nobody. [laughter] When I would meet with Kenny Cockrel, I would have my questions written down, and I would call, like, time out. “Kenny, I need to ask you another question!”

But he was very courageous. You know, in courtrooms, he would call the judge a racist pig, and they would lock him up for contempt. And he didn’t care. So he was like this brave example. And General Baker—like, when you heard people being interviewed in front of—that was Cobo Arena where they were protesting against the UAW. They were also saying backing then that UAW was an acronym for “You Ain’t White.” Because there was such racism within the leadership of the UAW back then. But that voice that you heard in the background, saying “We finally got the news of how our dues being used,” that was General Baker. And he was one of my personal heroes.

I actually have an interview with him that I recorded in 2014, and he died some months after the interview. But if you go to YouTube, look for Mike Elliott, you’ll see some of my videos, but you’ll see that interview with General Baker, and you will know how powerful that man was. So, you know, growing up with people like that, and not only those guys, it was, like, James and Grace Boggs. Malcolm X was the minister at Mosque Number One. Mosque Number One was founded in Detroit. And so, I was very fortunate. My grandfather was a follower of Marcus Garvey. He instilled in me an international view of black people.

And so, growing up in those times, we had the ’67 rebellion, but we also had the shoot-out at New Bethel Church, where members of the Republic of New Africa, you know… where the door of the church was kicked in at New Bethel Church, and the reverend at New Bethel Church was Reverend C.L. Franklin, the father of Aretha Franklin. And he supported that movement! And he used his political connections to actually get those folks out of jail. But there were so many things that went on in Detroit at that time. There was no way you could just close your eyes. It was impossible. Because they all affected you. Your family members were talking about it constantly. You know, people on the street, it was the topic of conversation.

General Baker pointed out quite clearly how at that time, during that period, the real understanding of how capitalism works was right there in our face. It was, like, during the ’67 riot, black folks were quarantined to certain areas of the city. But if you worked at one of the assembly plants, and you had your ID on you, you could pass patrol, barricades, and everything else. They said, “Well, you work at Ford? Let him through! Produce those cars!”

So it became clear that, wow, our purpose is to just produce products for these folks. As you can see, the brother that did the most talking, particularly at the beginning, how articulate he was, how clearly he understood everything… And so, when DRUM was formed—the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement—when it was first formed at Hamtramck Assembly Plant, where I worked at later on as a college student, the idea began to spread, and other plants started forming chapters of DRUM. Of course, they didn’t call them “DRUM” because the D was for “Dodge,” So it was like at the Eldon plant, it was like ELRUM.

And so, it spread. And it really empowered us, in so many ways. Not only did it give us pride, but it educated us about the world economy works… what our purpose is in serving this nation as workers. And how capitalism will keep us divided racially, even though all the workers were being exploited, and the white workers were very clear about how the line was speeding up and all that kind of thing. But they will keep us divided, feed us these lies and myths to divide the working class. That’s still going on today. But I’ve probably said too much so far.

AS: Well, I have a bunch of questions that I could ask, but I’m wondering what everyone else thinks. Does anyone else have anything to say?

Audience Member #1: I got drafted in the Army in ’66. Some of my best friends were from Detroit, and so, they were always above the other people when it came to sharpness. And I did a lot of research on the city of Detroit. One thing that is significant is that I found out that in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, they made over 50 percent of all the cars in the world. Now only two percent come out of Detroit. I also found out that when they dropped crack in this country, three cities were the first cities to go. One was Oakland, the second one was New York, and the third one was Detroit. And in listening to you and seeing the movie and already knowing about how the streets operate, I see what? The only dilemma I have is how can I be in this building the same day that the President of the United States is in this building, and he leaves. I get the gift, and he leaves. The movie was excellent. Thank you. [Applause]

AS: And one thing I want to say—first of all, when we talked about Ken Cockrel, he also was on the Detroit City Council. So they elected, Detroit, a Marxist, radical lawyer who calls judges racist pigs to the Detroit City Council, and he was going to try to be mayor—

MSE: He would have been mayor.

AS: He would have been mayor, but he died of a heart attack, unfortunately. But there was a lot of radical activism. And even though the League sort of dissolved after 1972, those people all continued in their fights to change the city. And another thing is, a lot of people who have written on this film—like scholars and activists—they talk mostly about how the film is a Marxist labor film that deals with the auto plants. And then they kind of leave out parts about the end or think of it as an afterthought, where you have a woman’s voice suddenly talk about women’s labor. Or talking about the strike against the police officers who murdered Danny Smith (note: see p. 13-14 here). But what’s interesting about this film, to me, is thinking about the relationship between the labor activism and how they’re thinking of Detroit as a community, and thinking outward. And one of the reasons that brought me to this film in the first place was thinking about the problems of Detroit today and how many of those problems you can see them responding to in 1969, 1970. Like, it hasn’t changed, it just keeps going.

So while the League of Revolutionary Black Workers kind of stopped some of their organized activism, how much of those problems continue to this day, and continue to be addressed by activists like these people? So their legacy lives on in people like you.

Floyd Webb: You know, some of this is real interesting is because I was engaged with League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1968, when I was 16 years old working for Revolutionary Union here in Chicago. That’s how I was introduced to them, through what is now the cult of Bob Avakian. But at that time, I was working with the People’s Voice newspaper, and this is how we came to the League of Black Revolutionary Workers. Now it’s real interesting, because when League came into Chicago, the Black Panther Party just started. And basically, they totally diminished Eldridge Cleaver’s lumpenproletariat. And this is something that nobody ever really talks about, because the League fell apart around 1972, after Fred Hampton was killed, but this thing about the lumpenproletariat, it was a real discussion, it was a real struggle in the street for what that leadership was.

This is one of the first films that I actually pushed around. When I got out of high school and in college, this was a film that we brought around, along with The Murder of Fred Hampton, because this film was one of the most powerful films that talked about what real black power was—which was at the point of production. Because I come from a family, I worked in a factory at 16. All five of my family, six of my family who worked were members at UAW. And yeah, “You ain’t white.” That’s what the union was. And we struggled against the unions at Standard Screw Company. That’s the real name of the factory, Standard Screw Company. We provided the bolts, the nuts, bolts and tappets for the engines up in Detroit. That was our job…

But the impact of this film was not lost on a lot of us. But there was a whole disinformation thing about really pushing this lumpenproletariat model that was, like… Nobody really read Marx. People said they did, but nobody really read Marx, so they didn’t know what the lumpenproletariat was. They didn’t know that they were basically the quickest to sell out, that they were really people who were in a class of—what was the word? I can’t remember the exact words, but it wasn’t a good thing, right? But Eldridge and these people, they kind of massaged it in order to create this vanguard. And a lot of my best friends are Panthers, but this is something we struggled over constantly.

This is a film—I mean, we really need to bring this film back. I’m going to show this… Because of organizing, this is a film that people need to see. Know what I mean? It’s like, Black Lives Matter, for all of their good intentions… This is organizing! This is what organizing looks like, you know? What we have now, for all the demonstrations in the streets, it’s about how do we seize this power. You don’t have to seize state power. All you have to do, the first step is seizing local power. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Peter Kuttner (filmmaker, activist, SSP board member): With the brother that just spoke, Floyd Webb, talking about pushing films around, he didn’t really say what he does. He’s a major curator of films in Chicago. He brought the first African films to Chicago, started the first African film festival… so if Floyd’s going to show a film, it’s going to be important. And since I’ve got it, just for one second, Black World Cinema is a series that runs the first Thursday of every month in a cineplex down in Chatham, 87th and Dan Ryan. Just Google it. There’s movies that you’ve never heard of that will change your view.

Speaking of changing views, it’s really funny. I’m an older man than Mike Siviwe Elliott, and I’m a lighter skinned man than him, but I was moved by exactly the same things. And literally the same man, Kenny Cockrel, whom I met in 1980, when he was on the City Council, making a film about him. I’m hoping Annie knows this film, called Taking Back Detroit

AS: Yeah, I’ve seen it.

Peter Kuttner: But what’s interesting is the organizing part. Because everything you said was correct, Annie, that he was going to run for mayor and that. But he wasn’t just going to run for mayor because he was a famous guy. He had an organization, and the organization was—I’m not sure whether they were Marxist-Leninists or not; I know there were Marxist-Leninists involved—but he had an organization called the Detroit Alliance for a Rational Economy and had people from all different neighborhoods and things. So, the thing that Kenny did a lot, he knew what organizing was, and he knew how change could be made, revolutionary change.

One more thing is I happen to be one of the organizers of Chicago Newsreel, so I know a little thing about Newsreel too. And although this film was a little divorced from Newsreel, you have an incredible amount of knowledge about it. All that stuff about Morrison is supposed to be secret! How do you know about it?

AS: If you notice the credit, he’s listed as a political prisoner.

Peter Kuttner: They don’t say he was selling dope or anything! How do you know all this stuff?

AS: I looked at the paper. When Detroit Newsreel reported back to New York Newsreel, like, “Sorry all our equipment’s gone,” they wrote a letter, and I’ve seen the letter. It’s at Wayne State, and it’s pretty interesting. It’s like the title of the letter is “The Rip-Off,” and then it kind of details what happens. And they say things very specifically, like, “Nope, they were right. It was their film, their equipment. We’re going to hand it over.” And I wished that happened more often in this world.

Peter Kuttner: But the fact is that Newsreel sort of got taken over in a similar situation. Newsreel started as “Rich White Guy Newsreel.” And then it went to Women’s Newsreel, and then it became Third World Newsreel.

AS: And it still exists today.

Peter Kuttner: And it stays Third World Newsreel. That’s the one that really stayed and existed. But I just wanted to talk about the filmmaking and the format. As much as it got divorced and divorced itself from Newsreel, it does a lot of the same stuff Newsreel did. The soundtrack is total Newsreel, along with the cuts, where there’s a lot of drum beats and bells and all of that. Hardly any sync sound. Most of the film—I mean, there are interviews in it—but most of the film, if you were to look at it again, is voice-over. But they do it in a way that you think that the people there are talking about it, so you don’t really notice that. And finally at the end, I would say that the end of that film is an homage to the famous first Black Panther film, where they sent people from New York out to San Francisco. It was early 1968. Eldridge was out…

AS: Was it Off the Pig?

Peter Kuttner: Yeah, that’s the film that’s known as Off the Pig. And they, Third World Newsreel, markets it as Black Panther now. But the end of it is Bobby Seale reading the Black Panther Party ten-point program as the camera moves through the neighborhoods of Oakland. And I was reminded of it when I don’t know whose voice—I don’t know if it was John Watson or General Baker—seemed to be reading the precepts or the mission statement of the League of Black Revolutionary Workers. Sorry, I just kind of remembered that.

AS: Thank you. In many ways, from my knowledge and studying of it, the filmmakers who made this came to Detroit wanting to make films like that about the Revolutionary League of Black Workers. Although there are some—which you can probably tell from the film—very big differences, and one of which is that it’s between the Black Panthers and the Revolutionary League of Black Workers. And that’s mostly because the Revolutionary League of Black Workers did not want to—They wanted to make sure that they emphasized the lumpenproletariat. That it wasn’t about ritualistic marching or kind of uniformed public parades in the way that the Panthers really wanted visibility. The League of Revolutionary Black Workers were kind of cautious of having too much visibility because their emphasis was on organizing the community and trying to get all the local black citizens involved in the struggle and then, from there, they hoped that white citizens would follow too and create their own struggle that supported it. So there was some differences in the ideology between the Revolutionary League of Black Workers and the Black Panthers, but they also clearly borrowed a lot of the black nationalist rhetoric from it and some of the filmmaking strategies you see in this film.

Floyd Webb: Wait a minute—black nationalist rhetoric? You know…

AS: I mean, it’s true.

Floyd Webb: No, we’re talking about a black nationalist tradition.

AS: Tradition, correct.

Floyd Webb: It’s not rhetoric, right?

AS: No.

Floyd Webb: I mean, I would be real careful with this language.

AS: Okay, I apologize.

Floyd Webb: This tradition we come through—You know, the first labor riot in Detroit was in 1943, when white workers reacted to the black workers who came in the Great Migration, in the first wave of the Great Migration. Those kids’ consciousness was, like, forged in that struggled. You know, 50 people killed. [UAW leader Walter] Reuther just pushed it all to the side. The UAW let that happen, right? That’s where these kids came from. That consciousness grows out of blood, it grows out of blood and sacrifice. So when I hear somebody say “black nationalist rhetoric”—You know, the struggles of Marcus Garvey, the struggles of all those people who passed this ideology on to us, you know, to the point that when I left here—I left to get to Tanzania, because we were very serious about this. So I don’t consider it rhetoric, because a lot of us were putting these things into action. We were activated, we were activists, and we did stuff. You know, this wasn’t about talk. I’m sorry to be passionate about this, but—

AS: You’re right. I used the wrong word. And I think you’re right when you said “blood,” and it almost feeds right back to what John Watson said, that it’s converting black blood, sweat and tears—it’s what they were using in the factory to create things. And these revolutionaries were just pushing that against that. And so I apologize. That was not the best word for it. I was mostly just thinking about it, you know, they were dividing themselves from what the Black Panthers were saying at the time. They saw it slightly differently.

Floyd Webb: I appreciate that.

Michael W. Phillips Jr. [SSP director]: I have a question for Mike. So bring us up into the present. You spent much of the 40 years since this film as a UAW organizer. How does this film inform what’s going on today in the factories?

MSE: When you look closely at those folks marching on the street, demanding justice because the police had killed this kid, it looked exactly like the Black Lives Matter movement today, you know, with the same kind of demands. I first started protesting around police stations when I was 17. And you know, I’m still doing that. The shit has not changed, it’s gotten worse and far more sophisticated. So, I would say today’s labor movement is far more passive than it was before. My particular union, which had so many radical thinkers at one time, is the most passive union in the nation, in my opinion. United Auto Workers. They’re like, hands off of everything. We don’t hear about them being involved in nothing.

There is a slow build-up of workers who are coming out of the Black Lives Matter experience that are now factory workers, and those folks are starting to push the leadership of their local unions to do things. You know, I see more of that happening, and I work very closely with those folks. I’m a member of the Black Lives Matter Chicago chapter myself, but you know, my role as the chair of the labor committee of the Chicago Alliance is to work with labor unions and also the Black Lives Matter movement and other youth movements. So I have a chance to interact with folks who are pulling me to the side or calling meetings about what they can do to get their local union more active. And it’s been an experience of activists around the nation, because of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is one they’re going to get a hell of a lot of credit for changing the narrative in this nation. People are experiencing more and more young workers—of color, in particular—pushing their local unions to get involved in social justice issues, which was once the norm.

When I grew up to be a union activist, it meant that you were a community activist. There was no separation. A union activist was a community activist. It was your job as a union member to get involved with your community. That’s not true today, but there are a lot of conscious workers now who are rising up and starting to demand that their unions get involved in the issues that are faced today. I can say probably that, you know, the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression and the work that we’ve done through our labor committee, we’ve been able to receive the… So we’re fighting for an all-elected civilian police accountability council, which is the most radical proposal for police accountability in the nation. There’s no other city in the nation that has an all-elected civilian police accountability council. All of the councils and bodies that deal with police are appointed. They’re appointed. So they’re beholden to the people that appoint them; that’s why they’re never successful.

But we’ve successfully gained the support of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, of the SEIU, which is the Service Employees International Union, Local 73, and their healthcare local union. It’s SEIU healthcare union. And some AFSCME locals, and you know, various locals of the electrical workers’ union. So it’s slowly changing for the better. It’s slowly changing in terms of labor unions using their leverage and their voices to bring about social justice and, you know, to lean on politicians and also to educate their members and the community about what’s happening in the social justice movement. So I see a change gradually coming, in answer to your question.

Audience Member #5: Say I wanted to be an activist or I was involved in activism, and I understand the economical format in which I operate in a capitalist society. Is it my job to dissertate or to educate the people that I represent around the ramifications of what may happen? Like, for example, what has happened with certain unions, like, for example, the steel company in Garfield or Oak Park. It’s a disaster. Detroit is a disaster because of certain things that happened within the unions and that happened at the capitalistic foundation. Is it my job to kind of educate what may happen in the ramifications of moving forward?

MSE: More importantly, it’s your job to organize. So, your single voice is not going to have much weight. But if you can organize other people that agree with what you’re fighting for, then you’ll be much more effective. So, it’s important to call meetings with groups of folks to discuss and get their ideas and have them understand what exactly the issue is. The Black Lives Matter movement understands that very well, and they’re organizing with all kind of communities right now. They’re expanding the movement. You know, they’re staunch supporters of what’s happening in North Dakota and, you know, in the Latino communities. There’s black and brown coalitions that are growing in Chicago and other cities, because people are realizing that we’re facing the same kind of issues, and the only way we can fight them is by fighting them together. So, you know, organizing is the key, and then your voice will be amplified. That’s my advice.

AS: Just to add a question. So one of the things that happened with the Revolutionary League of Black Workers is, after the film was made, John Watson went, traveled around with the film and so did other members of the League. And they were saying that the more they went away from Detroit, the less strength the League of Revolutionary Workers had, because they needed to be located in the community and located where the point of production was. And so I’m wondering, do you think it’s—with Black Lives Matter, it’s interesting because it’s all over the country, but how important is it to make sure that the struggle is also local and that it’s really centered around what’s happening in the place, in each different city?

MSE: Well, if you use Chicago as an example, the Black Lives Matter movement is extremely focused locally. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most effective Black Lives Matter movements in the nation. It’s right here in Chicago. And so, you know, there’s constant organizing going on, there’s just really some community-based building going on. So, yeah, they’re taking up their call, and definitely they’ve learned and they’ve studied the past. And so they’re taking advantage of that.

I just wanted to add, there’s a few little tidbits. So General Baker was, like, my personal hero, and some of the things that he shared with me about, like, where they would meet to organize was called the Ghetto Cafe. It was on Grand River Avenue. And in the Ghetto Cafe, they would always have African drummers. African drummers would always be playing. You know, they would play chess, they’d meet, they’d do everything, but the drummers would always play. And so, they really loved the fact that they could name their organization DRUM, because they always had drummers with them. So at their demonstrations, they had drummers, and it was the guys that played in the Ghetto Cafe.

Michael W. Phillips Jr.: Were they the ones playing over the intro?

MSE: I’m not sure.

AS: Actually I don’t know either. I know the song, the “Please Mr. Foreman,” is by Joel Carter, who’s a Detroit native too. So that song they picked specifically because it’s from Detroit, but I don’t know about the drumming. That’s something I need to look into.

MSE: I always loved that. General Baker himself had to leave the city. They had a warrant out for him. The lawyer Kenny Cockrel called him and said “The police woke the judge up in the middle of the night and got a warrant for your arrest.” So he was like, “Well Kenny, what should I do?” And Kenny said, “If I was you, I wouldn’t be around tomorrow.” [laughter] So General Baker left the city for a year and stayed in Cleveland, and he was on probation at the time for carrying a gun. But his probation officer was so cool that he would mark him present every week, like he had visited his office every week. And you know, Kenny said that when he was gone, the organization really started to lose some power. And I guess while he was gone, Watson was traveling and people were doing other things, and by the time they came back to Detroit, you know, the movement had really dwindled.

But it lives on. I mean, you can talk to folks in Detroit and they’re proud to talk about DRUM and League of Revolutionary Workers.