Today, May 11, 2019 marks one year since the death of Ana Luz Lopez Betancourt, the woman whom I grew to love, respect, cherish and from whom I learned tremendously. After having a stroke months before many had hoped that Ana would heal. What resulted instead was an unexpected heart attack which eventually claimed her life. Being a witness to her suffering in those final moments became the greatest trauma that I have ever experienced.
Ana was a beautiful human being who had earned the respect and affection of many people, especially fellow poets and her students, many of whom were immigrants from various countries. She was a teacher of creative writing and assisted these students in the use of the English language for job applications. But her humanity was not strictly in her profession, Ana’s premise was selflessness on every level. If Ana were to see someone in need she would immediately step in to help.
Ana was a Buddhist who consciously practiced her spiritual beliefs by always making an extra effort to help others in need. Her humanism was undeniably expressed through her poetry. Ana wrote about love, sorrow, pain, joy, as well as poetic renditions of political themes in both English and Spanish.
Ana was very proud of her Puerto Rican heritage as well as for being an Afro-Boricua. She would always challenge the influences of white supremacy with individuals who demonstrated to be impacted when they would express anti-Black notions by tending to deny or downplay the African blood among Latino people.
And having been born in Puerto Rico, suffering the consequences of colonialism, Ana’s steadfast became inseparable from her contempt for the U.S. colonization of her homeland, especially in the last days of her life when it became apparent how U.S. colonial policy welcomed the destructive forces of Hurricane Maria, in order to intensify their rule. Ana lived with the hopes of living long enough to see Puerto Rico as a free and independent republic.
Surviving the trauma of Ana’s death was very difficult, especially with the death of my very best friend Andy McInerney who died six months later. But I was very fortunate to have many friends who came to my support at a moment when I needed it the most. The people whom I shall forever be grateful to were members of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, most especially Johanna Fernandez, Sophia Williams, Gwen Debrow, Robyn Spensor, Rebekah McAlister, as well as Xen Medina, Mariana McDonald and my beloved dear friend Andy McInerney.
Ana shall always be remembered by many who grew to love her. And being that her convictions and morality also impacted me, which helped to strengthen my resolve in political struggle as well as making me a better man, Ana shall always have a very special place in my heart.
It saddens me to announce that on the evening of Monday, December 10, 2018, long time revolutionary activist Andy McInerney passed away after losing a long battle with cancer. As if it wasn’t enough losing my sweetheart & love of my life, Ana Lopez Betancourt, in the month of May 2018, I now grieve another major loss, my very best friend, brother and comrade, Andy McInerney.
Andy was a professor at Bronx Community College in New York. He will surely be missed by the many whom he taught as well as his colleagues who partook in struggles for bettering college level education and for increasing the benefits and salaries of professors.
Andy was a communist. He was always fascinated when learning about the liberation struggles of oppressed people. He was adamant about white progressives today requiring to have the same disposition John Brown once had against African chattel slavery, if they sincierely claim being anti-racist. I always had respect for Andy, since I envisioned him fighting alongside John Brown if he were to live during the 1859 attack on Harpers Ferry.
As a person of white origin himself, Andy was critical of white leftists who tended to show inconsistencies of conviction, by being soft and evasive of criticizing white privilege and white entitlement. He viewed that kind of behavior unforgiving and a not-so-hidden expression of white supremacist ideology.
Andy and I became good friends during our mutual experience in Workers World Party and in the Party for Socialism & Liberation. It was in our experiences in these entities where our collaboration first grew to the finest pitch, which later on continued.
Wherever Andy found himself, whether organizing events on campus or mobilizing for mass demonstrations, he always sought ways to promote and apply Marxist-Leninist theory. He recognized that his moral obligation was to build in the present in preparation for the future battle for socialism in the United States.
Andy was indeed a revolutionary who also contributed to my own political development. In 1991 when I first met him the world revolutionary movement went into disarray, resulting from the impact the collapse of the Soviet Union was having everywhere.
He was an optimist, even under dim circumstances. He always told me that the collapse of the Soviet Union was only a temporary victory for imperialism and that we should maintain our course in building for revolution in this country regardless.
Andy understood that throughout history such phenomenon also occurred with other social & economic systems. It was Andy who told me “not to worry” and enlightened me to how the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in France was equivalent to the restoration of capitalism in Russia. Bonaparte restored the political power of the monarchy that was defeated by the 1789 French Revolution.
Andy was of Irish descent. He demonstrated the utmost respect to me when he discovered that I was a Young Lord and a Puerto Rican revolutionary nationalist. In our exchanges we strengthened each other’s understanding of the Irish-Puerto Rican connection. It was Andy who first made me aware that Irish revolutionary James Connolly had asked Puerto Rican Nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos to draw up a draft for the Constitution of a free Irish republic.
There is much more that can be said about Andy McInerney. He touched the hearts of so many people. His greatest trait which describes his finest qualities as a human being was his incredible love and respect for teaching and learning, a fundamental requirement for what it takes to be a revolutionary. Andy’s disposition came with an eagerness to learn and pass the knowledge on to others.
I will miss you my dear brother and comrade, Andy McInerney. You were always there for me during the thick and thin. There is much about you that I will cherish and feel honored that you were in my life. And above all, I shall eternally be grateful to you for helping me strengthen my resolve to keep fighting until this social system of oppression is finally smashed by the will of the vast majority of oppressed and exploited people.
On May 9, 1800 one of the greatest representatives of oppressed and exploited people was born in Torrington, Connecticut. His name was John Brown.
John Brown did not perceive himself as a revolutionary, but was instead, according to him “doing the work of God”. However, his resolute stance against the widely accepted and legally sanctioned system of slavery made him in every sense a revolutionary.
Brown was a very religious man who saw the enslavement, torture and rape of Black people as an abomination of Christian beliefs and doctrine. The slave owning class used religion as an ideological pillar to justify their cruel practice, while most of organized religions were silent or supported slavery outright.
The exemplary acts of courage as well as the humanity John Brown exerted has secured him an eternal place of honor in the archives of the class struggle in the United States. His militant disposition towards the practices of this system contrasted tremendously from other abolitionists who tended to be non-threatening with their passive, reformist approach towards slavery.
John Brown sincerely believed that since slavery was upheld with violent force it was absolutely necessary to overthrow it with the same intention. He led a number of attacks such as the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie, in which slave owners and supporters of slavery were confronted for their heinous actions.
On October 16, 1859, Brown and a large group of men, that included two of his sons and former slaves, launched a raid at the U.S. Army Harper’s Ferry armory in Virginia. The site became known later in history as “John Brown’s Fort”. The plan was to capture the large stockpile of weapons and distribute them to Black people throughout the region in preparation for battle.
The legendary Harriet Tubman, who had intricate familiarity with the Harper’s Ferry region, provided Brown with detailed information about the armory. Harriet Tubman and John Brown had become friends and had great mutual respect for one another. Tubman eventually helped to recruit brave and willing men for Brown’s planned raid at Harper’s Ferry. As a ode to her leadership skills, Brown gave Tubman the nickname “General Tubman”.
Tragically, due to many tactical mistakes made by the liberators, the local militia of white citizens was allowed time to galvanized forces in response to the attack. Under the leadership of then U.S. Army Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee, they surrounded the armory. Soon after a bloody gun battle ensued for two days. Due to Robert E. Lee’s skills in military tactics and the superior weaponry of the U.S. Army, John Brown and his men were over taken and arrested despite many casualties on both sides.
John Brown’s eventual execution by hanging ultimately proved to be the beginning of the end for slavery in the United States. Brown succeeded in legitimizing the use of armed force as a viable option to end slavery. The story of John Brown and the Battle of Harper’s Ferry become a critical point in U.S. history, in which the country came to the opening gates of the Civil War.
Similarly, this courageous act was arguably mirrored by Cuba in the 1953 Attack on the Moncada Barracks led by Fidel Castro. Although both battles ended with the loss of many courageous fighters, each of these events ignited the flames of a revolution.
To this day, John Brown’s persona continues to be the target of vilification and ridiculed by bourgeois historians. Many historians depict Brown as fanatical and unstable. John Brown’s life is often distorted to seemingly discredit his passion for the abolitionist cause and dilute his relevance to American history, especially the circumstances of race relations today.
The ruling class in this country fear more than anything the prospect of mass rebellion. The Black struggle has inspired every oppressed and exploited sector of the population. It is no wonder why the Black Panther Party and other African American political expressions were targets of repression whenever they became recognized among broad sectors of the population.
It makes sense why those with power and wealth today would continue to dread the memory of John Brown as they would the contributions of revolutionaries such as Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Harriet Tubman, Lolita Lebron, Fidel Castro or V.I. Lenin.
John Brown was never critical nor was he defensive about the emancipation aspirations and self-identity of Black people. These sentiments which later on developed to become the ideological pillars of Black nationalism were deeply rooted in the horrific experiences of slavery. By all historical accounts, John Brown did his part to defend and enhance these sentiments.
Brown set the bar for White people to embrace their obligation to the fight for Black self-determination if they were to honestly consider themselves revolutionaries or socialists. White privilege also existed during John Brown’s lifetime in the form of slavery. Although conditions have somewhat changed from that era, the obligations of white progressives to fight white supremacy has not.
Claiming to be anti-racist is not enough if there is not action to match. In other words, being ‘anti-racist’ today means engaging in an uncompromising struggle against all forms of white privilege. Because of historical circumstances, there cannot be equal responsibility among the races.
In order for the first steps to be taken against racism in the U.S., the white population must raise the anti-racist banner as their very own. This disposition is precisely what John Brown was committed to live by. The standards required for white progressives in the struggle for fundamental change do not have to be re-created but updated based upon the blueprint established long ago by John Brown.