By Leroy Shabazz
Feb 9, 2010
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) - Angel, a 34 year old unemployed resident
of Spanish Harlem, stood in 26 degree temperatures enjoying a plate
of food doled out by volunteers from the People Survival Program.
Their presence in his high poverty neighborhood made the remaining
line of hungry men and women smile in warm appreciation for their turn to eat.
This was Angel's first hot meal since the day before, he said.And,
like most of the nation's unemployed, he wants to work but cannot
find opportunity."This feeding program is key," he explained, "I see
lots of hardship, homelessness while top execs scam the government
and leave the little people in need."
The presidential election of 2008 was the triumphant culmination of
year-long rallies that brought tens of thousands of White and Black
Americans to the rallying cry of, "Yes We Can!" It was another
pivotal moment when a Black person was pushing America's moral
potential to correct a perilous plummet into war, unemployment,
foreclosures, loss of industrial capacity, unparalleled debt and loss
of respect among the world's nations.
This volunteer food program in Harlem reflects a growing realization
that the hoped for change from the top must give way to people saving
themselves and their communities.
The People Survival Program is gaining the attention of government
funded and non-profit organizations because the successful six month
experiment by the New Black Panther Party has pulled 14 groups
together for the common interest of feeding and clothing the
needy.The task was made easy for the party because of its ongoing
food program that brought it into contact with other groups on the
same mission, said Shaka Shakur, New York chairperson of the party
led by Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz.
"This is the first time in my experience where Black people see Black
people doing for one another without interference from others," said
Mr. Shakur. "In fact, the working together to feed and clothe our
people is a humbling experience and you don't have big egos getting
in the way when you see the needy close up."
The New Black Panther Party members are a youthful group attempting
to recapture the energy of self-pride and community action indicative
of the 1960s and 1970s. Towards that end they have actively sought
the knowledge of original Black Panthers and even the Young Lords,
the Puerto Rican activist group that upset the status quo in Spanish
Harlem.Mr. Shakur explained that the veterans of struggle have been
very forthcoming about the strengths and weaknesses of that earlier period.
"Both the Panthers and Young Lords have told us that feeding our
people is key and that you must have a spiritual base of ethics and
morals to guide the membership," Mr. Shakur continued."Therefore,
areas where we set up food tents have the greatest concentration of
need which means that our good deeds will have that greater impact,
like this area on Lexington between 124th and 126th Streets which is
filled with men and women who need motivation and hope."
The presence of the food program every second Friday draws an
immediate line where hundreds of men congregate before getting on
city buses that take them to Wards Island, a complex of homeless
shelters that can accommodate 800 people.
"Imam Jamil Al-Amin has clear words of wisdom for activists," Mr.
Shakur said while nodding to the line of hungry people, "and, that is
a hungry man's revolution is food and a naked man's revolution is
clothing.Furthermore for anyone undertaking coalition building they
need to pay attention to the Mission Statement of The Million Man
March and the ministries concept of the Millions More Movement."
As the food ran out other volunteers came forward to give out winter
coats to another line of men and women, some with children.One of
these volunteers, Brother Yoda, said they could serve food all day;
they just need more people to step forward to offer food."What warms
my heart is the appreciation spoken and the smiles," he said,
"because we're repeating a successful time in history of the original
Panthers and Young Lords feeding the poor and conveying self-respect
and this time we've added our own flavor, coalition building with
other groups and therefore our efforts have a more powerful and
According to Shaka Shakur, the 14 groups brought together under the
People Survival Program are: the Almighty Universal Zulu Nation, The
Fraternal Order of Black Spades, Black Law Enforcement Alliance,
Street Corner Resources, Harlem Single Stop, Harlem Tenants Council,
Church of El Barrio, Black Student Union of City College, Safyia
Bukhari and Albert Nuh Foundation, Black Panther Commemoration
Committee, United Muslim Alliance, Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, Dr.
Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theater, and the New Black Panther Party.