The Uhuru Movement (pronounced /ʊhʊrʊ/, the Swahili word for "freedom"[1]) is an American-based socialist and African internationalist movement founded in 1972 and led by the African People's Socialist Party (APSP),[2] whose chairman is Omali Yeshitela. It is centered on the theory of African internationalism, which it says provides a historical materialist explanation for the social and economic conditions of African people worldwide.

Political views and history

The Uhuru Movement's political theory is African internationalism, which states that capitalism was born parasitic through the attack on Africa and its people.[3] African Internationalism holds that capitalism is imperialism developed to its highest stage,[4] not the other way around, as theorized by Vladimir Lenin.[5]

This belief derives from Karl Marx's 1867 book Capital, in which Marx wrote of the condition essential to the emergence of capitalism which he called the "primitive accumulation" of capital.[4] African Internationalism is not a static theory that only refers to past conditions, it refers also to the conditions that African people are faced with today. It refers to African people who live inside what it views as imperialist centers, such as the United States and Europe, as an "internal (or domestic) colony".[3] The Movement has called for the release of all African prisoners in U.S. prisons, described as "concentration camps", and has described U.S. police forces as an "illegitimate standing army". They have called for the withdrawal of police forces from exploited and oppressed African American communities.[6]

In the 1990s, tensions between the police in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Uhuru Movement were high. Members of the Uhuru Movement frequently protested against the police's treatment of African Americans, usually after the murders of African Americans by police. On October 25, 1996, violence erupted after a white police officer shot and killed a young black man driving a stolen car.[7] Cars and buildings were torched, protesters shouted, and rocks, along with other items, were tossed at the police officers at the scene of the shooting. At least 20 protesters were arrested. The next day, a large group of Uhuru members went back to the scene and called for the release of the arrested protesters. Sobukwe Bambaata, one of the Uhuru members, stated that the rioting would have never occurred "if the police did not come into our community and treat us like dogs".[8]

Although violence broke out in 1996, most of the protests organized by the movement remained peaceful.[9][10]

Organizations and media

Controversy and criticism

In 2004, Uhuru Movement's leader Omali Yeshitela tore down a Halloween display in St. Petersburg, Florida, which depicted "a stuffed figure hung by the neck on a homemade gallows". Subsequent opinions[12] and letters[13] to the St. Petersburg Times regarding the incident were critical of both the Uhuru Movement and Yeshitela's conduct.[13]

The Uhuru Movement came to national attention during the 2008 Presidential campaign season when they interrupted Barack Obama at a town hall meeting in St. Petersburg and asked the candidate "What about the black community?",[14] alleging that he was not speaking out for Africans on issues such as police brutality, high unemployment, predatory lending, and Hurricane Katrina.[15]

The group was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for engaging in demonstrations on January 3, 2009, in St. Petersburg which the ADL claims encouraged anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rallies.[16]

In 2009, the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement organized a march in support of Lovelle Mixon and against the Oakland Police Department. Mixon, an Oakland, California, resident, who had killed four Oakland police officers and died during a shootout after a traffic stop, coincidentally just blocks away from the local Uhuru headquarters.[17][18]

At the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, the General Students' Committee (AStA) broke apart in April 2015 as a consequence of internal dispute over purported antisemitism after having organized an information event about the Uhuru Movement on JGU campus in January.[19] The AStA distanced itself both from the Uhuru Movement, African People's Socialist Party and its leader Omali Yeshitela stating that "the struggle against racism and the consequences of colonialism should not blind us to other reactionary ideologies" and regretted providing a platform for this movement.[20]

Russian foreign influence controversy

The Uhuru Movement has been accused by state prosecutors of collaborating with alleged Russian foreign agent Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov to sow social divisions in the United States.[21] Members of the group have traveled to Saint Petersburg, Russia, to attend an anti-globalization conference, and the group has also acknowledged that it supports Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.[22][23] On July 29, 2022, the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg, Florida, was raided by the FBI due to an indictment by a grand jury alleging a conspiracy between Ionov and the Uhuru movement to spread Russian disinformation under the guise of domestic political movements. An FBI Tampa Special agent said that "The facts and circumstances surrounding this indictment are some of the most egregious and blatant violations we've seen by the Russian government in order to destabilize and undermine trust in American Democracy."[24][25] On December 23, 2022, the Uhuru Movement organized an emergency meeting via Zoom, stating that the APSP expected new indictments by the FBI and the Department of Justice "in early January 2023 and possibly sooner", for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.[26] On April 18, a federal indictment was unsealed alleging that the Uhuru Movement, including the founder of the African People's Socialist Party, worked on behalf of the Russian government to spread pro-Russian propaganda and influence local elections.[27][28]

See also


  1. ^ Standard Swahili-English Dictionary, Frederick Johnson. Oxford University Press (1951), pp. 138, 491.
  2. ^ "African People's Socialist Party-USA - History". Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  3. ^ a b "African People's Socialist Party-USA Constitution". Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  4. ^ a b "War abounds! Break the Silence! Join the Black is Back march on Washington Nov 3rd". Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  5. ^ "Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  6. ^ "Platform – The African People's Socialist Party". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  7. ^ ROCHEMONICA DAVEYAMY WIMMER, TIM (October 25, 1996). "Violence, fires erupt after police kill driver". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  8. ^ Landry, Sue (October 26, 1996). "Uhurus protest police treatment of blacks". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Jackson, Mike (October 13, 1991). "Group protests handling of man's death at jail". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  10. ^ Tubbs, Sharon (November 17, 1996). "Marchers attempt to heal the rifts". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  11. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  12. ^ "Uhurus vs. Halloween display". St. Petersburg Times. October 23, 2004.
  13. ^ a b "Uhurus went too far in destroying holiday display". St. Petersburg Times. October 23, 2004.
  14. ^ "Protestor Tells Why He Heckled Obama". NPR. 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  15. ^ Miller, Sunlen. "Protesters: "What About The Black Community, Obama?"". ABC News.
  16. ^ "Israel's Action in Gaza Spurs Anti-Israel Rallies". Anti-Defamation League.
  17. ^ "Dozens march for Mixon, against police", San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2009.
  18. ^ "Calling him a 'true hero', mourners hold vigil for suspected Oakland cop killer Lovelle Mixon", New York Daily News; accessed June 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Schmidt, Carina (April 30, 2015). "Jusos und CampusGrün: Knatsch im AStA, Zusammenarbeit geplatzt/Streit um Referentin eskaliert". Allgemeine Zeitung. Archived from the original on September 17, 2015. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  20. ^ "AStA distanziert sich von der Uhuru-Bewegung". General Students' Committee at the University of Mainz. Archived from the original on September 17, 2015.
  21. ^ "Russian charged with using US groups to spread propaganda". AP NEWS. 2022-07-29. Retrieved 2022-07-30.
  22. ^ Mazzei, Patricia (2022-07-29). "Russian National Charged With Spreading Propaganda Through U.S. Groups". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-30.
  23. ^ "FBI investigating Russian interference possibly linked to St. Petersburg Uhuru Movement". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2022-07-30.
  24. ^ "DOJ alleges Russian national used St. Pete-based Uhuru Movement to spread propaganda". July 29, 2022.
  25. ^ "Florida political group defends its ties with Russia after FBI alleges they teamed up with Kremlin agents in a 'brazen' attempt to interfere with US elections".
  26. ^ Don Fitz (29 December 2022). "Two Barrels Aimed at African People's Socialist Party". CounterPunch. ISSN 1086-2323. Wikidata Q116213685.
  27. ^ "US charges 4 Americans, 3 Russians in election discord case". AP NEWS. 2023-04-18. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  28. ^ "St. Petersburg Uhuru members indicted in Russian influence case". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2023-04-18.