Onaje Mu'id 

MSW and CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) with the Practitioners Research and Scholarship Institute (PRASI)

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: Like any other revolutionary struggle, it's going to take being connected to people around the world so they can see it and they can participate in it, but unfortunately, Martin Luther King said, "Riot is the language of the unheard." It's unfortunate that people have to get to that level of desperation, but that's how it works. You read about this all through human history, people get to a point where it goes beyond their tolerance and then it breaks out and now it's a problem. It was a problem all along but people wouldn't solve it until it became emergent. So it's going to take either intellectual recognition or it's going to take social violence. But it's going to get to that point eventually, there is just no other way, it's not going to go on forever.

Q: Yeah, there are some theorists who talk about maturity or ripeness. People won't deal with a conflict until it's ripe and a conflict is only ripe when parties feel the pain of that conflict. So if only one side is feeling the pain and the other side is not feeling the pain, they're not going to sit down and talk.

A: That's exactly how it works. But what's encouraging is that people are joining and linking hands in different ways. When I went to Durban, South Africa I met a lot of people from around the world and people are saying, "Wow, people around the world are still struggling." So you know that you're not alone in your struggles and it gives you energy and it gives you inspiration to keep going. And more and more we're going to continue to make those kinds of lines. One example is that from the World Conference Against Racism, the UN created what is called the Working Group on People of African Descent in the Western Hemisphere. Never before have they looked at Africans in the western hemisphere as one group, there were always looked at as citizens of particular nation-states, so you really lost the big picture and now the big picture is starting to emerge.

There is a conference in Paris in December looking at the mental health consequences of slavery. These sorts of big macro-questions have never been looked at before, that's going to take place. So you see that historical traumas are coming to the forefront, post-traumatic stress syndromes come to the forefront, the consequences of oppression over centuries, these types of concepts and conversations are emerging and are giving us more realistic ways of understanding that which we're dealing with. In so doing, it is also inspiring minds to take that analysis a step further. So even though it's not visible or not very much visible it's still happening. There is still a certain kind of genesis taking place that's very encouraging. I've seen it evolve over my life and I'm 51 years old, and I've seen some wonderful things emerge. Oppression is still happening. When I was a young man, African Americans might have been 10-20% of the prison population and now it's like 50%. You know out of two million people in prison, we are one million and that count is going up. So even though I talk about some good things going on, the real objective conditions are worsening. I think that some way people are going to come together and struggle harder and get involved. Because people have been victimized by state terrorism, people being shot for carrying a wallet, Amadu Dialo, Rosario in the Bronx. So people who were never political before are now seeing how the system works and they are getting involved so fortunately there is a sort of activism that is taking place as a result of these heightening levels of oppression.