Black opposition to war in Iraq exists

By Shari Logan, NNPA Special Correspondent, Frost Illustrated

WASHINGTON (NNPA)- More than 313 African American soldiers have died in Iraq, while black enlistment has declined by 50 percent. But, still there is an absence of mass protests by outraged African Americans who want the war to end.

Ron Daniels, founder of the Institute of the Black World, who spoke at mass peace rallies during the early days of the war, said there is not a lack of concern on behalf of African Americans. But, he said, there is no targeted funded effort to mobilize African Americans.

"Our problem will always be our lack of wealth," he said. "The white community will always have a Lesley Cagan."

Cagan is co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war coalition of 1,300 local and national groups.

Polls clearly reflect the black community's opposition. According to the Pew Research Center 69 percent of black people believe that the U.S. made a wrong decision in going to war against Iraq.

In the early stages of the war, one organization representing the opposition of the black community. Black Voices for Peace, founded by activist Damu Smith was entrenched in the anti-war marches, drawing thousands of African Americans from around the country to march in Washington.

Smith's death from cancer a year ago, however, largely silenced the African American voice on the national level. At press time, e-mailed interview requests to the group's new leader went unanswered.

Although there are no large protests by African Americans, there are organizations that are dedicated, in part, to ending the Iraq W

"Many black organizations have to incorporate Iraq along with everything that is affecting us," said Daniels.

Lawrence Hamm, founder of the People's Organization for Progress in Newark, N.J., has voiced opposition to the war. But, the group also calls for an end to racial inequality, discrimination, and for more jobs.

Hamm said that he has been against the war from the beginning because he knew it was based on false pretenses, including the alleged "weapons of mass destruction" that President Bush spoke of, which were never found. Hamm's group leads and participates in protests, marches, vigils, and educates people on the facts of this war.

"There was no connection between Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and most of the [Sept. 11] hijackers were from Saudi Arabia not Iraq," Hamm said.

POP held a protest against the war in April that drew a crowd of more than 400 people according to Hamm.

"There is a stereotype that the anti-war movement is this white, hippy crowd," he said. "But, this effort is a true representation of this population."

Hamm believes that mainstream media decides not to show the black opposition because "they don't want to link the development of the black freedom struggle and the peace movement."

He said, "This is what King died for. He was openly against the Vietnam War and was shot right after he said his famous 'I Have a Dream Speech' at the March for Jobs and Freedom. They want to keep our struggle and the need for peace separate so that [the opposition] could be weaker," he said.

That's why last June, Hamm said he formed the Peace and Justice Coalition, an organization with 100 other community, religious, labor, social, and educational groups in New Jersey. In January, around Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the coalition held a symposium at Essex Community College, which drew over 500 people, he said.

One sponsor of the coalition is the Rev. William Howard of the Bethany Baptist Church, the oldest black Baptist church in Newark.

"Our financial support for this peace effort is based on the negative impact that this war has had on domestic needs," Howard said. "With the billons of dollars we spent on this war, we could've given over 257 million children health insurance for one year or 20 million scholarships at a four-year university."

Howard was reading numbers from, a website by the National Priorities Project that educates citizens on how their tax dollars are spent. NPP analyzes data on the national, state, congressional district and local levels.

On Aug. 25, POP and the Peace Coalition will hold another rally in Newark to voice opposition to the war and to petition the US to redirect war funding to solve social problems at home. Hamm is confident that his protests, along with others across the country, will absolutely get the troops back home.

"Never has an opposition for a war developed so quickly. With Vietnam, it took until 1975 for troops to be pulled out," Hamm said.

He predicts that "by 2009, US troops will be back home."

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