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Race, Class, & Immigration

The intersectionality of racism, classism, and immigration policy is as pertinent today as in the past. Who is deemed legal and illegal, afforded full citizenship rights or not, is almost always determined by master-class politics and race.

On Possibilities and Organizing: An Interview with Labor Activist James Thindwa

By Alice Kim, Editor, Praxis Center

James Thindwa is a long time labor and political activist who is currently the Great Lakes Community Engagement Coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Prior to that, he was the Executive Director of Chicago Jobs with Justice, a labor-community coalition.Here, he talks to Praxis Center about the possibilities of organizing for workers’ rights and a more just world.

Alice Kim: First let’s get some background on you. Tell us your political history. How and when did you become politicized?

James Thindwa: My early political experiences were really almost by osmosis, growing up in a politically charged environment in Southern Africa. I grew up in Zimbabwe and at the time there was an anti-colonial struggle going on with major political parties – black political parties – taking on the struggle to dislodge the colonial rulers. The short history is that Zimbabwe was Rhodesia and it was under British rule. In 1965, the British were in the process of liberating, of conferring independence to its colonies, and the white people in Zimbabwe decided they didn’t want that, they didn’t want to give up the country so they declared their own independence from Great Britain, which essentially made them the new colonial masters. So it became this white ruled country outside of Great Britain that declared the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

I was 10 years old when UDI was declared. Almost immediately a black liberation struggle was formed. All the political parties that had heretofore tried to engage in contact and dialogue to gain independence, they felt they had no choice but to declare war. So there was a war from 1965 to1979. These were formative years. I saw black leadership step up to take on the struggle for independence. I watched, as a kid, a lot of the violence aimed at political leaders, assassinations, and police firing into crowds of people who were peacefully protesting. It was very difficult to avoid being affected by those events. So I would say that more than anything else put me on a course to become active. (more…)

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