[10/27/2014] In the Spring of 2013, my friend and comrade James Simmons approached me and asked me if I would be involved in an effort to hold Mischa Culton, who calls himself General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalsts Out) accountable for alleged crimes against members of his own organization, the Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP), and others in the Black and Brown community. This was not the first time I had heard about T.A.C.O.'s alleged crimes against Black people; I had heard them years earlier. And this was not the first time that James had approached me about some form of accountability for T.A.C.O. in 2013, but this time it looked like something was actually going to come of it. He told me that he and Dedon Kamathi were in the process of interviewing people who told them of the crimes that T.A.C.O. had committed; these people were finally speaking on it and allowing themselves to be audio recorded and were answering questions, and giving the names of others who could corroborate their stories. My answer to James at the time was to let me know when he was ready, and I would be a part of it.
When James was finally ready, what I became a part of was the Afrikan Peoples' Liberation Tribunal (APLT), which met over Memorial Day weekend 2014, at the Watts Labor Community Action Center on Central Avenue. I joined with James, Jitu Sadiki, Dedon Kamathi and Billion GODSun to hold this public event where testimony was given in person and via audio tape by former members of the Black Riders Liberation Party and one married couple that operates a business in South Los Angeles. In excruciating detail, those in attendance heard how T.A.C.O. had stolen merchandise from this business, sold it and kept the money; how he attempted to use some of it to entice former members back into the organization; and how some of those former members later came to the business and apologized saying that they did not know what T.A.C.O. had planned and/or they had no parts in it.
Attendees heard how a former member who is HIV positive was told that she would become part of T.A.C.O.'s “family” (as in wife) so he could use her as a biological weapon for “niggas he didn't like.”
Attendees heard how members of the organization would, either by T.A.C.O. himself or under his direction, beat and torture other members of the organization as a form of discipline known as “DP.” They told us how members, under T.A.C.O.'s “orders” or under T.A.C.O. himself, would be:
tied up and placed in a tub of water with a live wire:
beaten and their heads, necks and backs were jumped on, literally jumped on, with both combat-booted feet, as they laid on the floor
how young female members were socked in the jaw as if they were grown men
how one female member was drugged and raped
how one male member was beaten and ended up in a coma;
how T.A.C.O.'s own young asthmatic son, was socked in the chest as if he was a grown man
how T.A.C.O. attacked one member who had been arrested (for political reasons) for falling asleep in the back of a police vehicle
how T.A.C.O. kicked and stomped one female member's teeth out.
How T.A.C.O. used one particular female member as, in the words of those testifying, his personal punching bag. This member is said to be one of T.A.C.O.'s “four wives.”
Attendees were also told that T.A.C.O. was never, ever, DP-ed.
Witnesses who testified told us later that what was revealed at the Tribunal was not the worst, there was more, and those allegations are part of an on-going investigation.
What the attendees at the Tribunal did not hear about was how T.A.C.O. and other members of the BRLP had taken over a Chicana sister's home; a recruit into what T.A.C.O. had wanted to develop into the Brown Riders Liberation Party. This Chicana was jumped on for criticizing T.A.C.O. for using monies donated to the BRLP for their programs as his personal cigarette and marijuana stash; she would later be jumped on and beaten for criticizing T.A.C.O.'s plans to keep the Brown Riders under his leadership and not under the leadership of any Chicano/Mexicano people. This sista was beaten so badly she suffered a broken sternum; she feared for her life to the point that she asked comrades from other political movements to help her leave the state of California. All she took was her backpack, her cell phone and the clothes on her back. She left everything else behind in the apartment that T.A.C.O. and the BRLP had taken over and destroyed, never paying or helping to pay any rent or utilities or buy food.
The attendees at the Tribunal did not hear about this Chicana sista's experience for two reasons: 1) at the time of the tribunal we were unable to locate her, and 2) we felt the people she told this information to would be seen as simply spreading something they had heard but not personally witnessed. After the Tribunal, we located one person who says it was he who took the Chicana sista to the hospital after the last beating and he was the one who helped to get her out of the State of California.
Prior to the Tribunal, T.A.C.O. was informed that we would rather meet with him about these allegations than have a Tribunal; he was informed that if he refused to meet the Tribunal would be called and that he was welcomed to tell his side of the story at that time. In fact, T.A.C.O.'s presence at the Tribunal was eagerly awaited so that we would be able to once and for all put all of the “rumors” to rest and move on. That did not happen. T.A.C.O. engaged in a campaign of name-calling and threats and refused to show his face at the Tribunal. He has also recruited others into his name-calling campaign like Oya Kali, a young Black woman with her own disturbing history here in Los Angeles and who currently resides in the Bay Area, riding hard for T.A.C.O...Now.
It is at this point that I must be honest about the real reason why I decided to participate in the Afrikan Peoples' Liberation Tribunal. That reason has nothing to do with such lofty purposes as “Black people exercising self-determination in their communities,” or, “alternatives to calling in the state/law enforcement in our affairs.”
No. My reason is more personal and it is more vain.
I decided to participate in the Tribunal because I was embarrassed and ashamed.
Approximately 6-7 years ago, the BRLP was targeted by the LAPD and T.A.C.O., along with two other members, were arrested. A federal agent had entrapped them into attempting to purchase an assault weapon to be used against the police. When this happened, I was approached by Bilal Ali who asked me to help with a media campaign in support of the BRLP. I accepted the request. I approached a sista I knew who worked at one of the Black newspapers. This sista is my colleague in media but I have never known her to be political. Certainly not nationalist or radical in her politics. We didn't run in the same social or political circles. We were (and still are) simply colleagues in journalism. When I approached her with the story idea about the Black Riders Liberation Party she said to me, “is that that group that be beatin' up women?”
I was surprised. And I was embarrassed.
I was surprised that she had heard the same “rumors” that I had.
I was embarrassed because there I was, attempting to solicit help and support for T.A.C.O., when I should have known this nigga wasn't shit.
People I had known for years and greatly respected for their work in my community told me about T.A.C.O., and instead of believing them on the strength of that, I told myself they were “rumors.” As a journalist, fact-checking is paramount. No newspaper or news organization, Black/ethnic or mainstream, would or could or should move forward on anything without verification and confirmation. But I should have known the people that I trusted any other day of the week were telling the truth and that T.A.C.O. wasn't shit.
James did provide me with the phone numbers of two of the sistas who would eventually testify against T.A.C.O.. At the time I reached out to them we played a brief game of phone tag and I did not hear back from them. I decided that perhaps it was not for me to verify their accusations.
I should have tried harder to contact those sistas.
When my colleague who didn't/doesn't run in my circles told me of the “rumors” I had heard for years; when people I know and respect had told me these same things at the same time, I should have done like my colleague did – I should have basically said “hell naw I ain't helping that piece of shit muthafucka.”
I was embarrassed for even coming to her, another Black woman, with the request.
And so, I became a part of the Tribunal as a way to atone (I hope) for dropping the ball 6-7 years ago.
Throughout this entire process, my comrades and I have been called CointelPro, agents, feds, cops, pigs, etc., because we dared to question what a pseudo revolutionary leader does in “his” organization which is said to exist for Black Power and Black Liberation.
You gaht damm right we gon question that shit. All day err day.
And then today, I was called these names again. I was called these names by Oya Kali who said that not only was I “slandering” T.A.C.O.'s name, but I should be (instead) attacking JR Valrey for the assassination of Malcolm Shabazz.
JR Valrey, a grassroots journalist in Oakland/SF, first put me in touch with Kevin Weston who hired me to cover the trial of Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant. I always let people know of that hook-up. I give credit where credit is due. This past September, I was honored, by both the San Francisco Bayview Newspaper where JR is an editor and by the Block Report Radio Show that he founded, with an award during Black Media Appreciation Night, an event JR founded. When it comes to Black Media, few ride harder than JR.
But I have also heard “rumors” about JR. Many, many “rumors.” About Malcolm Shabazz. About Chauncey Bailey. About various organizations that JR has either been apart of or around. What is the difference? For one, neither I nor my comrades in the APLT live in Oakland, CA. We are not there in the same community where JR is. If there is beef in Oakland with/about JR, then people in Oakland need to address that, not us down here in Los Angeles. We ain't Tribunals R Us. We ain't taking no show on no road. Secondly we, specifically my comrades James, Dedon and Jitu, were approached by former members of the Black Riders Liberation Party; my comrades were told something needed to be done; their help was requested. The answer to that request was the Afrikan Peoples' Liberation Tribunal.
If the people who live in Oakland/SF feel that strongly about JR, they should do what we did down here in LA – gather witnesses, statements and evidence, ask him to meet with them about it, and if he refuses, call a Tribunal. That way, all sides can air out all of their concerns at one time, in one space, the community can make up its own mind and it can be over with.
But some folks, like Oya Kali and T.A.C.O., would rather “Facebook fight” and call names from the safety of a computer screen.
This is the reason I was called a “key operative,” a Fed, on the government payroll and an agent on October 27, 2014.
I could have ignored this, as many suggested I do.
I could have written a ratchet ass, cuss word-filled retort because that's what Oya Kali understands best (it was suggested I do that as a first draft, then cross it out and write the real piece).
I decided to take this seriously because calling people Feds and agents are very, very serious charges. People have been killed by the use of those words. This is nothing to play with, to take lightly, or to carelessly utter.
With that said, let me make it perfectly crystal clear that I, Thandisizwe Chimurenga, do not now, nor have I ever worked with or for the police, the sheriffs, the highway patrol, the FBI or any other local/state/federal law enforcement agency against my people.
And I will not do so in the future.
But that's easy to say on Facebook, so here's what else I say. What T.A.C.O. should have said if he were the revolutionary he purports to be.
Bring me before a Tribunal of Afrikan people in the community, with your evidence, with your witnesses, and let's do tha damn thang.
People who are sincere and serious don't run FROM Peoples' Tribunals, the way T.A.C.O. ran from Los Angeles to Oakland. People who are sincere and serious run TO them.
I got arthritis in botha my knees so, I cain't really run. But call a Tribunal on me and watch how fast I can get there.
You go run and tell that and then get back to me.
You know how to find me.--
- The reason Oya Kali called me an Agent, Thandisizwe Chimurenga, 10/31/2014