Voting plus boycotting and activism equals revolution | Michael Coard

October 20, 2020 6:30 am

(Image via the Philadelphia Tribune)

By Michael Coard

When Gil Scott-Heron first told America in 1970 that “the revolution will not be televised,” after having written it in 1968 at the young age of 19, he just as well could’ve added, “And that revolution will result from strategic voting, targeted boycotting, and progressive activism.”

Here in Philly, a recently formed movement called the November 3rd Coalition is sparking that revolution.

As made crystal clear on its website at

“[This movement consists of] a diverse group of grassroots organizations that prides itself on its ability to pull off large events without major corporate support. Last year, under the banner of The Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival, we, the organizers, produced the largest Juneteenth parade in the country, attracting over 25,000 persons, and helped make Juneteenth a state holiday in Pennsylvania. While we are grassroots, we have membership and support from local elected officials, labor leaders, and the religious community. Because we are grassroots and without corporate dollars, we have major credibility with people ‘in the streets.’”

That website lists the Coalition’s impressive revolutionary goals, which are to do the following:

  • Abolish the Electoral College
  • Increase the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Make Election Day a national holiday
  • Grant statehood to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico
  • Recompense Blacks with reparations
  • Dispense Medicare for all
  • Allow women to make decisions concerning their body
  • Forgive all student loans
  • Increase minimum wage
  • Provide equitable school funding
  • Defund/Defang the police
  • End mass incarceration

Some of the more than 10 key facilitators of the November 3rd Coalition are Michael A. Rashid, Ali Salahuddin, Paula Peebles and yours truly.

While preparing to write this article, I reached out to Rashid, Salahuddin and Peebles to get comments regarding their involvement in the Coalition.

“I’ll never forget the first time I voted. I felt like ‘This is my city, and here is my vote.’ It’s a great feeling to vote. And it really does count,”Rashid, current president of The Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival, and past president of AmeriHealth Caritas, said. I’m ecstatic that the November 3rd Coalition highlights the critical importance of connecting Black votes to Black dollars. No more letting others harvest our dollars and control our lives. No more excuses.”

Salahuddin, chief operating officer of The Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival and general manager of African Genesis Institute, stated: “I have always thought that scheduling Election Day on a Tuesday (or any other day during the regular work week) — when people have to go to their jobs and struggle to squeeze in some time to try to get to the polls before, during or after work is the greatest form of voter suppression. I am grateful to the November 3rd Coalition for encouraging our community to treat this Election Day like a holiday by not buying, by not going to work (if possible), and by just concentrating on voting.”

Paula Peebles, founder and chairwoman of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Action Network, explained that “the November 3rd Coalition is a critical undertaking at this moment in the movement for social justice to assure that our young people are taught the importance of longevity in the fight for freedom, economic parity and self-sufficiency. Transformational change is not prompt. It is protracted. It began with our ancestors. It continued with our elders. And it is being followed up by us. But it can’t stop there. We must teach our youth to stand on the foundation of ancestral strength. And getting them to vote is the launch.”

Peebles is right about that launch. And I’ll add to her great insight by pointing out that there are three main reasons why young Black adults (and all Black adults) must vote.

The first is that the fundamental rule of warfare is to find out what your enemy doesn’t want you to do and then you do that very thing.

If your enemy doesn’t want you to attack by air, then you send your air force. If your enemy doesn’t want you to attack by sea, then you send your navy. If your enemy doesn’t want you to attack by land, then you send your army. Racists in America did not and do not want Blacks to vote. Therefore, we must vote.

The second is our Black ancestors didn’t merely die in their selfless crusade for voting rights. Instead, they were murdered by racists in that crusade.

The third is potential jurors are called for duty in part as a result of being on registered voter lists. Jury duty puts Blacks in a position to impose justice upon an unjust system. As jurors, Blacks can stop racist cops, racist prosecutors, and racist judges in their tracks.

That’s exactly why Blacks must vote and must do so strategically. But that’s only one step.

Another step is targeted boycotting, which begins on Nov. 3. That is when the coalition is asking everyone not to spend money anywhere for anything and (if at all possible) to take a day off from work.

And after Nov. 3, the coalition will identify the most racially discriminatory businesses in Philadelphia and — in the words of Public Enemy — “Shut ‘Em Down!” until they do the right thing.

In other words, the coalition will do precisely what our ancestors did in their “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” boycott campaign initiated by the New Negro Alliance, founded in Washington D.C. in 1933, that lawfully and successfully used boycotts to protest white employers in that city who refused to hire college-educated Blacks in professional positions.

The final step is progressive activism, which means resisting, protesting, demonstrating, petitioning and otherwise rebelling “by any means necessary.”

For more information about how you can — and must — immediately volunteer and become a member of the November 3rd Coalition, call 215-247-1545 or send an email to [email protected].

By engaging in strategic voting, targeted boycotting, and progressive activism, we’ll finally achieve that long overdue revolution.

And there’s no need for us to be afraid of revolution because, as The Last Poets made very clear way back in 1970, Black folks “shouldn’t be scared of revolution because revolution is nothing but change …”

And we need change. So let’s start changing on Nov. 3.

Michael Coard, an attorney and radio host, is a columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this column first appeared. 

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