The Committee’s Response to Michael Novick’s Self-Criticism Regarding His Relationship with General T.A.C.O./Mischa Culton and The Black Riders Liberation Party
What follows is the response of The Committee of the Afrikan People’s Liberation Tribunal (The Committee) to the self-criticism of Michael Novick published in the January 1, 2018 edition of Turning the Tide (Vol 30 #1, Jan-March 2018). The self-criticism can be accessed online at https://ara-la.tumblr.com/post/169434294415/self-criticism-rectification.
While the general tone of the self-criticism appears positive in Novick’s renouncing of his errors for supporting Mischa Culton aka General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out) of the Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP), its intent is undermined and compromised by an apparent failure to respect the process that led to the sanctions against him and Culton in the first place, as well as several critical misstatements of fact and fabrications.
BACKGROUND TO THE TRIBUNAL
Before we get to the actual response some background is necessary. The Afrikan People’s Liberation Tribunal (APLT) was officially born in 2014. The Tribunal came about as a result of the investigation of a number of disturbing and alarming allegations including rape, torture and theft, by or under the direction of Culton, a founder and leader of the BRLP. Both the allegations against Culton and the attempts to investigate them spanned a number of years. Once enough evidence had been assembled – primarily in the form of live and recorded testimony by community members and former members of the BRLP – a decision was made that the allegations were serious enough that Culton should be brought before the Afrikan community in the form of a Tribunal. The investigation; procedures; structure; format; and tribunal were formulated by long-time revolutionary activists based on revolutionary principles. As we publicly stated on January 2, 2015:
“A MODEL FOR A PEOPLES COURT” from Safiyah Bukhari’s book “The War Before” influenced the creation of the Afrikan Peoples Liberation Tribunal. Bukhari was a founder of the Jericho Movement, a former prisoner of war/political prisoner, a former member of the Black Panther Party, and a veteran of the Harriet Tubman Brigade and the Amistad Collective of the Black Liberation Army.”
Prior to setting up the Tribunal, The Committee made at least two attempts to discuss the allegations with Culton to give him the opportunity to respond to them in a non-public forum.
The BRLP considered itself a revolutionary, para-military organization; it sometimes referred to itself as a “New Generation Black Panther Party,” comprised of former gang members and other lumpen-proletariat, children of activists and revolutionaries, and militant college students. The BRLP has been a documented victim of governmental surveillance and frame-ups, and false operations for its work and its espousing of revolutionary, anti-capitalist theory and practice amongst active gang members and others in Los Angeles. Many of the members of the Tribunal (The Committee and the Panel) had been supporters of the BRLP in one capacity or another over the years. This insured that the BRLP’s history of work in Los Angeles’ Afrikan community was known and understood. A listing of the Tribunal members is at the end of this document.
At that time, the Tribunal consisted of: 1) a committee of individuals (“The Committee”) who investigated the allegations against Culton and helped to organize the Tribunal with logistics (securing a location, publicity, etc.) and recruiting members of the Panel; 2) A panel of members of the community consisting primarily of trustworthy activists known to have exhibited good judgment and courage in difficult situations which was a cross-section of individuals from the Black community of Los Angeles – former members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Nation of Islam, formerly incarcerated individuals/re-entry workers, gang intervention workers, Revolutionary Nationalists and Pan Afrikanists. The Panel would listen to the testimony and ask questions of the accusers and of Culton. Most of the The Panel members were considered Elders in the community; and 3) an Okyeame (pronounced Ahh-Chee-Ahh-May), a judicial administrator who insured the ground rules of the Tribunal were understood and adhered to. The Tribunal’s procedures facilitated the process of open questioning of witnesses by members of The Panel and the Okyeame.
It was after much deliberation that the decision was made to publicly issue allegations against Mischa Culton and not the BRLP as an organization. Culton’s leadership over the BRLP is akin to that of a cult leader who has sole authority over his members. When we informed Culton that the Tribunal would be based on the allegations against him and not the BRLP, the response from both Culton and the BRLP was – and has remained – “we are one and the same.” While there have been many defections from the BRLP since the Tribunal, the remaining members of the BRLP have steadfastly refused to distance themselves from their leader. So be it.
Summaries of the allegations against Culton; testimony of former members of the BRLP; the findings of The Panel; a statement on the process of the Tribunal, and the decision of The Panel to impose sanctions on Culton are available at the link at the end of this document.
The mission of the Tribunal was and continues to be to end the harm Culton was inflicting on 1) the cadre in his organization; 2) the community; 3) BRLP supporters; 4) the children who were at risk for harm, and 5) the Movement itself. It is in this spirit that the APLT stated that all those who support Culton or help him to subvert the sanctions did so at their own risk and could have the sanctions extended to them. The Tribunal itself was held in Watts, California in May, 2014. In June, 2014, the Panel issued findings that Culton had committed various offenses against members of the BRLP, supporters, and the Black Nation. On November 1, 2014, the Panel, The Committee, and the Okyeame issued the sanctions against Culton that would eventually be extended to Novick.
BACKGROUND TO THE SANCTIONS ON MICHAEL NOVICK
Michael Novick is a white anti-imperialist and anti-racist organizer who has been based in the Los Angeles area for decades. Novick’s history of work includes support for New Afrikan, Puerto Rican and Native American political prisoners/prisoners of war, as well as white anti-imperialist freedom fighters and eco-warriors; solidarity with all oppressed peoples/nations; anti-Zionism and anti-fascist work. He has been a political and material supporter of the Black Riders Liberation Party under the leadership of Culton for several years.
As a member of Anti-Racist Action and as publisher of Turning the Tide newsletter, Novick’s publications and uncritical material and political support of Culton’s leadership over the BRLP allowed Culton’s lies about his crimes and his lies about the Tribunal to be promoted to those who were and are imprisoned, as well as other comrades throughout the world who are isolated from the truth. On July 15, 2015, The Committee initiated contact with Michael Novick regarding his continuing support of Culton in spite of the sanctions issued by the Tribunal. After numerous email communications to resolve the blatant disregard of the Tribunal’s decision by Michael Novick, the sanctions against Culton were extended to Novick on December 13, 2015 at the Jackson/Freeman Black Panther Party Alumni Breakfast in Los Angeles.
Most recently, The Committee received an email from Novick in May of 2017 asking if the sanctions could be reconsidered; we replied they could not. Mind you – at no time did Novick adhere to the sanctions and continued to give political and material aid to Culton and the BRLP under Culton’s leadership without any explanation. It appears that the impetus behind Novick’s email request was his concern about exclusion from White People for Black Lives (who were initially unaware of the sanctions against him but honored them once they found out) and not being able to contribute to the group’s political development. At no time did Novick express an understanding of the reasons behind the sanctions or offer an explanation for his continued support of Culton. After requesting a face-to-face meeting with Novick on this question a conversation was held with him at Chucos Justice Center on July 16, 2017. Novick was asked at this meeting if his reasons for not adhering to the sanctions against Culton and the BRLP were due to threats to his physical safety or that of his family; his answer was no. Novick did not give a coherent answer for his refusal to honor the sanctions. When given a hard copy of the Tribunal documents (allegations against Culton, findings of the Tribunal, etc.) Novick’s response was that he “had to think about” his abandoning support of Culton and recognizing the Tribunal sanctions and that he would get back to us.
When Novick finally got back to us, in December of 2017, he informed us that he had notified the BRLP that he would be ending his support of them.
What Novick neglected to tell us is that his decision to finally end material and political support of the BRLP under the leadership of Culton came about after pressure to support the sanctions was put on him by white and other anti-racist/anti-imperialist comrades in the Torch Anti-Fascist Network that he is a part of. Due to a Xicano anti-fascist comrade’s alerting the Network that Novick was under sanctions, the Network did their own investigation and informed Novick that they were withdrawing their support from him for his failure to honor the sanctions.
Let us state for the record: Michael Novick’s decision to issue this self-criticism and honor the sanctions of the Afrikan Peoples’ Liberation Tribunal came only after the pressure placed on him by euro-american and other comrades; which comes after liberal democrats in the U.S. empire led their own campaign to oust sexual abusers from their seats of power. It is truly a sad commentary on the concept of anti-imperialist solidarity, and shows a lack respect for the leadership and self-determining efforts of Afrikan people.
THE COMMITTEE’S RESPONSE TO NOVICK’S SELF-CRITICISM
The first paragraph of Novick’s self-criticism states, “I incorrectly allowed my personal loyalty and indebtedness to the BRLP, because they had had my back repeatedly around threats from white supremacists.” The BRLP are not the only ones who have ever ensured Novick’s physical safety.
This statement by Novick ignores the efforts of Committee member Jitu Sadiki in helping to provide security for him when he was threatened by Greek fascists and ignores the collective security organized by Committee member James Simmons to protect Novick and his anti-nazi organizing when threatened by the National Socialist Movement.
We find it incredible that Novick saw the self-determining efforts of The Committee and the Tribunal as a “dispute within the Black Liberation Movement which I wanted to avoid intervening in.” In reality, Novick did intervene by actively providing Culton with the means to attack the comrades and supporters of the Tribunal process who were attempting to protect the cadre of the BRLP and the community from Culton’s crimes.
Novick’s self-criticism fails to deal with the explicit and implicit death threats against Culton’s critics by Culton’s persistent spreading of the potentially deadly lie that his critics were part of a Cointelpro operation, particularly those defecting from the BRLP and those associated with The Committee and the Tribunal. These threats do not require Culton to order a hit or lift a finger to kill: all it requires is that ignorant and non-critical thinking sisters and brothers move on their own to eliminate “snitches” and “agents” of Cointelpro in order to protect the movement. Fortunately, no one has attempted a physical assault against Culton’s critics as far as we know.
Novick also did not address the status of the BRLP’s African Intercommunal News Service paper, the printed source of much of the lies and propaganda in support of Culton. In order to comply with the sanctions, Novick must cease all material and political support to Culton and any organization that supports him. As recently as February 3, 2018 there was a report that a person selling Turning the Tide at an event at a Baptist Church in Venice stated that in spite of Novick’s self-criticism, the charges against Culton were “Cointelpro.” Incredibly, Culton’s primary internal supporter, Laa Laa Shakur, was observed selling Turning the Tide near Crenshaw and Manchester Sunday afternoon on February 11, 2018, just as she and other cadre have been doing to support Culton for years in spite of the sanctions. Novick must address this apparent continued material support of Culton.
Novick published several misstatements of facts and/or fabrications relating to the “procedures or findings of The Committee and the Tribunal” in his self-criticism. In paragraph eleven of his self-criticism, Novick spuriously stated, “I don’t think the Tribunal should have considered the BRLP’s silence as proof of guilt.” The Tribunal only considered allegations against Culton and did not consider any charges against the BRLP. Culton’s silence was not used against him and was cited only for the purpose of noting that he had not presented either a factual or any other defense. There was one allegation and several sub-allegations that the Panel found insufficient evidence on and thus, could make no findings of Culton’s culpability. This included the horrendous torture of Meztli of the Brown Riders who we could not locate to take her statement as she had fled the state in fear that Culton would kill her.
Neither The Committee nor the Tribunal alleged that the BRLP was enriching itself at the peoples’ expense, only that Culton did. By enriching we meant using the monies raised for support of BRLP programs, or BRLP members who were imprisoned, for his personal income. This was borne out by testimony from several individuals including progressive community merchants who had thousands of dollars of merchandise misappropriated by Culton, as well as testimony from former BRLP cadre who expressed remorse for participating in the illegitimate taking of that merchandise and eventually returned some of it. Culton’s bad intent was shown by his declaration of “jack-rider” at the outset, signifying he was intending to steal the merchandise all along. He then reneged on an agreement to pay back half of the money after intervention by comrade and Black Panther Party member Roland Freeman and a council of elders by only making one payment of $200 and ignoring the remaining $2000 he had agreed to pay back. There was also testimony that tens of thousands of dollars came into the organization based on the labors of BRLP cadre soliciting donations from the public. This money was then turned over to Culton who made decisions to spend it without any accountability. According to testimony, Culton apparently spent a good portion of the money on food, weed, and other luxuries for himself as the cadre subsisted on “zoom-zooms and wham-whams” while squatting in housing taken over from comrades and supporters. Further, according to testimony at the Tribunal, “survival” programs received little, if any, funding from money donated by supporters, except when Culton was in jail for an extended time.
In paragraph 11 of his self-criticism, Novick wrongfully infers that The Committee believed that it was incorrect “to defend Mecca and Etana Shakur of the BRLP against state charges brought against them in Inglewood for defending themselves against a racist, sexist assault by a cop…” or to “denounce LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the LAPD’s deputy chief for Homeland Security for targeting the BRLP.” The Committee received a request for support of Mecca and Etana while the jury in their trial was deliberating; we decided to issue a statement of support but did not due to the late notice given to us.
The Committee has always supported the cadre of the BRLP against attacks from the state; supported them on a personal level; and have had discussions with cadre even as many of them remained within the BRLP. The Committee never attacked either the cadre within the organization or those supporting Mecca, Etana, or others. As individuals, members of The Committee (and possibly the Tribunal Panel) have in fact provided material support to BRLP cadre who were (and are currently) members of the BRLP. We did this surreptitiously to prevent additional violent retribution by Culton. The problem was and is with Culton, not those cadre who hustled to make a better world under the harsh conditions imposed on them by society, the state, and by Culton.
It can also be inferred from Novick’s statements in paragraph 16 that The Committee propagated “false rumors, such as of pimping and drug-dealing… first raised, falsely, regarding the solidarity with the BRLP of ‘white’ members of the Inter-communal Solidarity Committee, some of whom were independent radical queer sex workers.”
The “rumors of pimping and dope dealing” have nothing to do with the allegations against Culton and were not alleged as separate offenses at the Tribunal. The Committee considered, then rejected, separate allegations of pimping prior to the start of the Tribunal and The Committee was unaware of any allegations of dope dealing at the time. There was ample evidence that Culton benefitted from prostitution by members and supporters of the BRLP, as there was both testimony from several former cadre at the Tribunal, but no evidence of pimping. Numerous witness statements since the Tribunal point to funds generated by prostitution being used to support the BRLP with the money going directly to Culton. In an interview recorded in 2016, a family member of a former BRLP cadre informed The Committee that her brother entered the organization looking to make revolution but wound up learning how to pimp and deal dope within the BRLP, which eventually led to his being jailed for those state crimes.
The Committee has not publicized rumors of pimping, and Novick’s self-criticism is the first time we have seen any public discussion of this lumpen conduct unbecoming of a revolutionary. Whether or not the state would arrest Culton or other members of the BRLP is not germane as to whether they are or were engaged in such conduct, as the state has a history of allowing criminal conduct if it serves its ends. The Findings of the Tribunal made clear that Culton was and is “engaging in unprincipled, criminal conduct, provoking indignation and contempt against revolutionaries by the masses and supporters and bringing the revolutionary movement as a whole into disrepute”.
LIFTING THE SANCTIONS
Prior to the Sanctions being lifted from Novick, The Committee expects the following:
= That the Committee’s response to Novick’s self-criticism will be distributed to the same places as Novick’s self-criticism itself, and those places that have been reached by Turning the Tide and the Black Riders African Intercommunal News.
= That Novick will detail all the support he has provided to Culton and the BRLP from the beginning of the sanctions to date, including those material aid connections he is in the process of extricating himself from.
= That Novick will verifiably cease all material and political support of Culton and the BRLP as long as it is under the control of Culton. This includes, but is not limited to, providing issues of Turning the Tide to the BRLP and ending the publication of the African Intercommunal News Service for fundraising for Culton and the BRLP as long as it is under the control of Culton.
This entire process has been long, sometimes tiring and occasionally disheartening, but absolutely necessary. It is incumbent upon activists who lay claim to a tradition of revolutionary struggle and consider themselves to be part of that trajectory to stand on revolutionary principles and the integrity of their words. It is in that spirit that we, the remaining members of The Committee of the Afrikan Peoples’ Liberation Tribunal, state that the sanctions extended to Michael Novick on December 13, 2015, are lifted following his adherence to the aforementioned expectations.
Furthermore, it is because we stand on revolutionary principles and the integrity of our words that we make it known: Michael Novick’s initial refusal to honor the sanctions of the APLT caused harm not only to the members of the Tribunal, who were labeled as snitches and agents, but to community members who saw it as their duty to honor and enforce the sanctions. Recently, we were informed that, unbeknownst to us, Michael Novick engaged in a campaign of slander and threats against several individuals for their attempts to hold him accountable on these sanctions. Novick’s plans to repair the harm that he has done to these individuals and redeem himself in their eyes is not known to us; he will have to deal with these individuals directly on that matter.
In Unity and Struggle,
Thandisizwe Chimurenga Jitu Sadiki James Simmons
THE TRIBUNAL PANEL
= Muriel (Jones) Shabazz: co-founder/owner, Shabazz Restaurant, a fixture in South Central Los Angeles for over 40 years.
= Ronald “Baba” Preston: long-time community activist; served eight years in prison in the early 1970s for his underground political work
= Assata Umoja: veteran of the Black Liberation Movement in general and the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) in particular.
= Shareef Abdullah: member of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party in the 1970’s and Minister of Defense for the New Panther Vanguard Movement where he helped oversee CULTON’s development after his time in the California Youth Authority. CULTON had requested that Shareef help mediate with The Committee in order to avoid a tribunal on the allegations against him. Comrade Shareef joined the ancestors in April of 2015 at the age of 59.
= B. Kwaku Duren: co-founder of the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA) with former Panther Michael Zinzun; former chair of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party in the 1970’s; former chair of the New Panther Vanguard Movement, of which CULTON was a member; former chair of the L.A. Chapter of the National Conference of Black Lawyers; and former Chair of the Board for the Peoples College of Law. Duren was the “foreperson” of the Tribunal Panel. CULTON also requested that Kwaku help mediate with The Committee in order to avoid a tribunal.
= Tasha Thomas: raised in the Black Liberation Movement as a child. She initiated and maintains the JOKO, a panel/group discussion series that “examines the veracity of selected concepts, and their effects on our bid for the empowerment of African peoples.”
= Minister Abdullah Shabazz: a minister for the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. At about 71 years old, he was one of the elders of the Tribunal Panel. He is a proficient martial artist and is known to have engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a group of LAPD officers in his youth.
= Fanya Baruti: a community organizer and former prisoner who brings 17 years of organizing experience to the table. While incarcerated in California prisons, he organized other prisoners to fight for better conditions, educational and self-development opportunities, and pre-release programs.
= Tehuti Kambui: an educator with over 20 years of experience; a lecturer; musician and activist who cares for elder Dr. Earl Grant, a comrade of Malcolm X and former member of the Organization of Afro American Unity in New York.
= Souljah De’Niece Williams: a community organizer; activist; and veteran of several decades of community work with female gang members in South Los Angeles.
= Donna Graham: member of the Executive Board of the Cease Fire Committee; one of the “first Criplettes in California,” has been a gang intervention worker with male and female gang members for several decades.
= Jabari Jumaane: a founder of African Fire Fighters in Benevolent Association (AFIBA). He runs the A.F.I.B.A. Center, which is the home base for many community, revolutionary, and African cultural organizations and events.
= William “Billion GodSun” Campbell: Was the sole member of The Committee who was also a former BRLP member and was a Field Marshal for the organization. He remained a Culton loyalist until he was made aware of some of the worst charges including torture, rape, and child abuse. Billion operates the Blaction 365 website and is a founding member of the Africa Town Coalition. Billion left The Committee in 2014.
= Thandisizwe Chimurenga: Has been active in the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) for decades. Former Editor of By Any Means Necessary, the organ of the New Afrikan Peoples’ Organization; a founding member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in Los Angeles; and a community journalist.
= Dedon Kamathi: An internationally known Pan Africanist organizer and radio show host/journalist for KPFK in Los Angeles. He was a member of the Black Panther Party under Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal and a decades-long activist in the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) headed by Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Baba Mukasa (Willie Ricks) and others. Comrade Dedon joined the ancestors in August 2015 at the age of 64.
= Jitu Sadiki: A founder of the first Black August Resistance while inside the belly of the beast at Soledad Penitentiary’s O-Wing in 1979. He is an activist in the movement to bring peace to the warring factions in our communities and a founder of BACDO (Black Awareness Community Development Organization).
= James Simmons: A long time activist in the Black Liberation/NAIM Movement and the National Conference of Black Lawyers; has provided legal assistance to Mutulu Shakur and Sekou Odinga as well as being the attorney for the BRLP for close to a decade. Simmons represented Culton and other Riders in criminal and civil court cases and on the streets until 2005 when Culton’s reactionary tendencies began to manifest.
= Nana Gyamfi: Pan Africanist; human rights activist; professor of Pan African studies; and attorney dedicated to advocating for and protecting the Black Liberation movement in the tradition of Chokwe Lumumba and the National Conference of Black Lawyers. Nana is the founder of Justice Warriors for Black Lives which trains members of the community in the fundamentals of legal observing and de-escalation tactics in the spirit of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Links to Tribunal documents including the allegations against Culton, his responses, findings of the Panel, the sanctions, and other reading material related to the Tribunal can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/The.Committee.Black.Law/notes