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August, 2006

Minister Speaks about Fight for Justice in Fresno, Calif.

By Sandy Reid

Editor's note: The People's Tribune recently interviewed Rev. Floyd D. Harris, Jr., California State President, National Action Network, about the struggle for justice in Fresno, California.

Rev. Harris leads a march.
Rev. Floyd D. Harris, Jr., leads a Madera, Calif., march last year protesting the shooting of Brother Everardo Torres, who was shot to death while handcuffed in a police car. The officer was not charged.

People Tribune: What have you learned in the fight for justice?

Rev. Harris: That you can't fight the "power structure" -- the government -- without a plan. Once you attack them, they attack you. People living in the twenty-first century dealing with injustice can't let their emotions get in front of them. Knowledge is Power. We need to think ahead. The government wants the American people to be clueless. We must train our youth and everyone to become liberators. We must understand that everything is political. For example, Bush's faith based initiatives allow police to go into poor communities and hold monthly meetings with the pastors, and con the people into giving information by bringing hot dogs and a bounce house. This is how we get co-opted.

I travel to different cities across America and ask people, who is your Senator? Assemblyman or Assemblywoman? Governor? Mayor? City Council? County Supervisor? and Chief of Police? and I get, "Who is that?" Until we build an education foundation on how local government operates in each community, we will never be successful in getting liberation. If I'm dealing with a racial profiling or police shooting case, I do an investigation and analysis. We have to educate the people on who their representatives are and how they vote. Then you can intelligently hold them accountable. Today, I see people hollering, but not a lot of grassroots education.

People Tribune: What's new about the struggle today?

Rev. Harris: We have to understand there are certain economic classes of people. For example, I'm the only African American ministry in Fresno on the front line fighting for the liberation of people. We have hundreds of churches more concerned about having pastor's appreciations, usher board meetings, or two week convocations. We have Black pastors who don't live in the community they serve and who feel the need to build a church in a white community. They aren't worried about racial profiling, affordable housing, environmental racism, quality education or air and water pollution. Black and brown people are being shot in the back, but they are not concerned about that, or a living wage, because they are living good. Do you expect them to come to the poor community and fight for justice? Hell No! We have to come together and fight like Hell to keep the flame lit. Living in the twenty-first century "scared" should not be in our vocabulary

My generation is suffering from a lack of leaders willing to take a bold stand against injustice. Civil rights organizations, young and old, are concerned with having banquets and giving out awards, but will not bust a grape for the move against injustice. What happened coming out of the 1960's? Why did people get comfortable? These groups use the past struggles to punk corporate America into giving them money. Individuals like Rev. Edward Pinkney and myself and others, are not in this fight for fame. We are dealing with the root of the problem in the community, not the surface. We are here for the liberation of our people.

Rev. Harris is available to speak through Speakers for a New America. Call 800-691-6888. Contact Rev. Harris at www.nancal.org.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
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