On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of revolutionary Black nationalist El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, aka Malcolm X, the December 12th Movement launched the campaign for a plebiscite for African people in the United States. The House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn was filled, despite the raging snowstorm.

In the spirit of Malcolm X, the forum examined African peoples’ resistance in the U.S. since the transatlantic slave trade and centuries of forced systemic political and economic exploitation, the Black codes, Jim Crow segregation and the persistent racism Black people face today. The burning question: “How do we get free?”

Viola Plummer, chair of the December 12th Movement, led the discussion. “Black people in the U.S. have never been asked what we want,” she stated. “So we want to discuss the plebiscite. What is a plebiscite? Why do we need a plebiscite? Let’s put it on the table and have a dialogue amongst ourselves. We have a right to raise the question.”

A plebiscite is an internationally recognized means to allow a people to decide by ballot how and by whom they should be governed. Black people have a right to self-determination.

“Here we are, 50 years after the assassination of Malcolm X,” Plummer continued. “He taught us that we must decide the method of our struggle for liberation for ourselves. Our struggle is for human rights, self-determination and self-defense. Those of us here in the United States have never made a choice for ourselves as to how or by whom we should be governed. Not my mother, grandmother, nor my great grandmother. This campaign for a plebiscite for Black people will put forward a national referendum for the 2016 election. We have a right to a choice!

“Heretofore, we were told we were slaves, three-fifths of a human being, second-class citizens, underclass, underprivileged, criminal, etc. At any point in time, any or all our rights are subject to arbitrary denial by this or that racist toeing the U.S. policy of white supremacy. Every social indicator puts us at the bottom—education, health, employment, housing, judicial, infant mortality and overall death rates.”

During Reconstruction after the Civil War, Blacks obtained some modicum of political and economic power. These gains were quickly and systematically destroyed by both the Ku Klux Klan and government policy. The lynchings, massacres and destruction of independent Black towns in Tulsa, Okla., Rosewood, Fla., and Slocum, Texas, are a few examples. Black peoples’ right to vote was undermined by Jim Crow laws, which imposed exorbitant poll taxes, grandfather clauses and trick tests, effectively denying Blacks a voice. The political gains made during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Nationalist Power Movement of the 1960s and ’70s have proved to be ineffective.

“Today, we have more Black politicians than ever, including the presidency, but the quality of our lives continues to deteriorate,” Plumber said. “We are fighting a system of racist political and economic exploitation. As we struggle to deal with the current national and international economic crisis, we must begin to work in our own interest. To get a referendum on the ballot in November 2016, we need thousands of Black people to join the plebiscite campaign. Let’s begin the discussion with our families and in our communities today.”

Plummer then opened the floor for discussion. Audience responses focused on clarity of the definition of a plebiscite, if they agreed or disagreed, and why.

A woman immediately stood and said, “Well, I agree, nothing’s changed. We are still having the same fight we had in the ’60s. I’m 56 years old now. So we have to do something different, or our children will go through the same things.”

“I’m glad I came out today,” said Koran, a 25-year-old man. “I am going to challenge the young people here to bring more young people to take part in this very serious struggle.”

Two African women from Senegal voiced their interest and support. One said, “We as African people need to have these conversations. To educate our children and ourselves, we must first have the conversation and decide together why and how.”

Jazz vocalist Lil Phillips said, “Our culture and our music must be integrated in this struggle. I am going to begin a discussion with other musicians, so we can compose music for the plebiscite. We all should do our part.”

For more information on “The Plebiscite Campaign,” contact the December 12th Movement by calling 718-398-1766, or emailing D12M@aol.com.