by Student Minister William Muhammad
On December 29, 1967, the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper published an article entitled ‘Black Boycott Guarantees No “White Christmas” in Milwaukee’. Some of the highlights of the articles are as follows. ‘A Negro group calling themselves the – Deacons for Defense, but not connected with the militant black Deacons for Defense and Justice – were charged here with being “super Uncle Toms” in their attempt to break a black boycott of the city’s white central business district.
The boycott calling for a “Beautiful Black Christmas” was launched against the influential white merchants to force improvements to the near-subhuman living conditions black people endure in Milwaukee. The Huntly-Brinkly television recently highlighted the so-called “Deacons” denunciation of the boycott, however local black leaders, assert that the so-called Deacons are in the employ of the white business community.
“Downtown merchants admit the black boycott and other demonstrations have cost them several millions of dollars.” said Mrs. Vel R. Phillips, the only black member of Milwaukee’s Common Council. ” This city’s failure to deal with the problems of the Negro community has created a frightening tension throughout the city” Alderman Phillips said. She said “The Uncle Toms may have some affect but it’s hardly noticeable. The spirit and unity of Milwaukee’s black population is amazing.”‘
On January 5, 1968 the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper ran another article entitled ‘Why They Declared “Black Christmas” in Milwaukee. “Father James Groppi, adviser to the militant NAACP Youth Council, recently reported that the “Beautiful Black Christmas”, planned here by the black community was a complete success.
Groppi said black people did not buy Christmas trees, exchange gifts or engage in the economic part of the holiday at all. “We know the merchant in any community of America has tremendous power over the political structure of that community. Keep the dollars away from the white businessman and you’ll make him give–and go to bat for you. We all know that Christmas has lost it’s real meaning in America and becomes a business venture.”‘
Father Groppi was also quoted saying “The white man will not heed what the Black man has to say, until you can keep him awake nights and keep the dollars away from him.
In 1967 the black community in Milwaukee understood the principle of redistributing our pain through the power of economic withdrawal. This current boycott of Christmas spending resonates in the black community in 2015. It has already been reported nationally that sales on Black Friday were down by 1 billion dollars.
But as it was in 1967, so it is today. There are those among us who attempt to break our unified front by speaking publicly against our effort. Our dear sister, Vel Phillips referred to them as “Uncle Toms”. Why did the fake Deacons for Defense speak against the boycott in 1967? Because they were bought and paid for by the business community to discourage our people from participating in a unified action fighting for justice.
There will always be sellouts and gatekeepers, masquerading as pro-black, who work in the interest of a racist status quo. This is not to say that all who disagree with the economic withdrawal campaign are sellouts. Some people sincerely oppose the boycott because they doubt it’s efficacy. However most opposition is to curry favor with our oppressors, driven by inordinate self- interests and envy.
We must remain focused and vigilant until January 2, 2016. We are already victorious. Continue to withhold your dollars. As our legendary sister Vel Phillips said in 1967, “The spirit and unity of Milwaukee’s black population is amazing.” Make the business community feel the pain we feel for the murders of Dontre Hamilton, Larry Jenkins, Corey Stingley, Derek Williams and countless others, who families have been denied justice in Milwaukee.