January 30, 2024,
Reprinted from The Final Call – January 30, 2024.
By Nayaba Arinde, @NayabaArinde1.
NEW YORK—The “People’s Republic of Brooklyn,” sent New York-based international activist Viola Plummer home as if she were a head of state, with a grand four-hour funeral with hundreds of family members, friends, and colleagues celebrating her life’s works.
Ms. Plummer was a local leader—with national and global Black community impact. Government representatives from Cuba and Zimbabwe were present, and there was a letter from the Namibian government read at the Queens, New York wake held on January 26th and the Brooklyn funeral, held at House of the Lord Church on January 27, 2024.
Elected officials from New York State and NYC City Council came through to show their respect. At the wake, New York City Mayor Eric Adams quietly stood at the casket, flanked by some of Ms. Plummer’s family members. There were proclamations given at the funeral by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and New York State Senator Cordell Cleare.
“I thought she would be immortal,” a young speaker named Nas said at the wake, and tearfully the crowd nodded in agreement.
“I never thought she would leave,” said Erica Ford, founder of Life Camp, the Queens-based cure violence organization, and longtime family friend.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the Black Liberation Movement’s loss of Comrade Viola Plummer, Chairperson of the December 12th Movement,” declared Attorney Roger Wareham of The December 12th Movement on January 15.
Friends and family gathered at her acclaimed Sista’s Place jazz and community venue in Brooklyn, to simply celebrate her. Spending over six decades in civil and human rights activism, Movement Matriarch Viola Plummer, was 86 years old when she passed.
“Over the past 50 years of my life, I have had the privilege and honor to be tutored and learn and follow the lead of my comrade Sister Viola Plummer in struggling to make fundamental change in the quality of life for the people,” said Omowale Clay, co-founder of the Bed Stuy, Brooklyn-based civil and human rights organization. “My legacy to her is to continue the struggle. Viola Plummer was the last of the five original core founders of the December 12th Movement: Sonny Abubadika Carson, Coltrane Chimurenga, Elombe Brath, and Father Lucas, they are all gone now.”
On Friday, January 26 to Saturday, January 27—from the packed wake to the standing-room-only funeral, she was praised repeatedly, as the virtuous and courageous Black Power ambassador. Black liberation in all its forms was her agenda. Ms. Plummer taught by doing, the people declared.
Activist Lionel Jean Baptiste reminded everyone that Ms. Plummer would say that the work still needs to be done, and we have to do it by doing it.
It was the tone set for the weekend.
Rev. Dr. Karen Smith-Daughtry blessed the funeral with impassioned recollections of Ms. Plummer, and her dedication to the community work—which she implored must continue.
“This is a hard one,” Rev. Karen Daughtry said after telling of her long history with Ms. Plummer; and mentioning some of the notable visitors to the historic House of the Lord Church; including Winnie and Nelson Mandela, and Rev. Jesse Jackson when he first decided to run for president.
“Viola was my friend,” continued the reverend. They were there to celebrate a “life committed to the causes of our people … The life of a revolutionary, a woman full of fervor and no-nonsense … . Fear was not in her vocabulary … she spoke truth to power.” And now, “There’s a job to be done. She has left a sacred assignment … finish the gig.”
Health challenges notwithstanding, Minister Akbar Muhammad, the International Representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam attended the funeral bringing condolences.
In ‘the Movement,’ Minister Akbar Muhammad said, despite any differences of opinion, “When it came to this ‘struggle’ with our brothers and sisters—Minister Farrakhan was right there. His love for Viola was the kind of love that people don’t feel all the time, but he loved her.”
He spoke of the “the struggle,” of the people around the world, and the need to be involved. “All the young brothers and sisters …who are struggling for you, struggling for tomorrow, so we can have better days as Africans. So be that. Have no fear.
Be a strong struggler. Fear is your biggest enemy,” whether it is concern for the consequences of doing the right, but uncomfortable thing; or just being bold. “Fear is your worst enemy,” he said. “Stand up like a man or woman. Stand up like Viola.”
Community advocate Charles Barron spoke of crying for days, but now was fired up. He said as well as being a close personal friend to himself and his wife Inez Barron, Ms. Plummer had served as chief-of-staff to both during both their recent stints as City Council and State Assembly representatives for East New York.
“My heart is heavy, and my tears soaked my soul! My beloved friend of over 40 years is gone. It is significant that Viola Plummer transitioned on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. It is fitting that two people who loved our people will now be forever linked in history. My sister Viola Plummer was completely committed to our community.” Ms. Plummer, he said, “told me to bring President Mugabe to City Hall,” he said, referring to Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
He told The Final Call, “Viola was a revolutionary, and she called out people in power who betrayed the community, and we should continue to do that. As she would say— that is the gig.”
The sanctuary and the overflow room, seating hundreds, had no room for folks eager to enter, and the lines of people stretched down the block for hours, late into the evening.
“In the movies, they have a saying that; bravery means you ride to the sound of the gun, wherever the battle is,” said Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the National Presiding Minister Emeritus of The House of the Lord Churches. “Wherever the cannons are booming, that’s where you want to go. Viola Plummer would be present where the issues were. She would ride to the sound of people debating the issues.”
Beloved talk radio host Bob Law braved his own medical challenge to pay a salute to Ms. Plummer. Always carrying the need to release political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, as recently-freed Sundiata Acoli looked on, Philadelphia-based activist Pam Africa got emotional and passionate, talking about the focus Ms. Plummer and the December 12th Movement maintained in bringing justice for the activists who had spent decades in jail for their Black Panther and Black Liberation Army commitments over 50 years ago.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., brought that on-the-ground energy that Ms. Plummer so embodied.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa sent a message read at the funeral for “a gallant liberation fighter, a true pan-Africanist who stood by Zimbabwe throughout her illustrious life … Zimbabwe will forever remain grateful and indebted to the great sacrifices that Comrade Plummer made for the country.”
President Mnangagwa said that “After realizing that their fight for freedom and justice in the U.S. was not going to be completely fruitful without going back to the roots, Comrade Viola, Comrade Chimurenga, and others decided to scan for brotherhood and solidarity with fellow Africans and other global citizens fighting for the freedom of all humanity, and the eradication of the system of racism.”
To that end the December 12th Movement, the president said, established “solid relations not only with the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, but also in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Venezuela, and Cuba, to mention a few.”
“She was the beloved. We lose Viola’s ubiquitous presence. We lose her voice, her passion and vigor, and her articulation of the causes that Vi espoused. We miss her. She was always on the case,” said Rev. Daughtry. “She was fearless, and forceful with fire in her eyes and fury in her voice, and an absolutely loyal comrade. I’m glad that she’s coming home in our church.”
Born and raised in Queens, Ms. Plummer had been an activist since her teenage years.
She was a community advocate, who went beyond the local issues concerning; housing, worker’s rights, police brutality, education disparities, and the impact of institutionalized racism. She was well-versed in international issues, including; the effects of Western foreign policy in nations like Zimbabwe, South Africa, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, Niger, and Namibia.
The December 12th Movement has fought against injustice in New York City and beyond since its formation in 1987, organizing protests such as: the 1991 Korean market boycott; they successfully protested against and shut down the 2010 Scottsboro Boys musical; every year they close down retail stores in Harlem in honor of Malcolm X’s birthday; they have stood outside multi-billion dollar condos appearing all over Black neighborhoods, that priced-out the traditional residents; and they have demonstrated against police killings of unarmed Black people for decades; and inner city killings.
“I didn’t just want to be a witness,” Ms. Plummer once said. ”I wanted to be a part of the movement.” And she was a local, national, and international leader on so many issues over her 50 years of people-centered activism.
December 12th Movement attorney Roger Wareham said, “We became the December 12th Coalition—around a number of issues, and that was just the date that was chosen. It was the first time Minister Louis Farrakhan had ever protested with us because the Nation of Islam was already looking into some issues upstate.
Several statewide issues converged at the time—the Tawana Brawley case—a young girl found with ‘KKK’ written on her, and we held the protest in Newburgh in 1987. Back in 1985, Viola Plummer had been a part of the New York 8. We had been fighting and were acquitted finally in the case; where prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani falsely accused eight revolutionaries of an armored conspiracy and charged us with RICO. A charge he is now facing incidentally.”
“We were eight people who were doing nothing more than organizing and fighting for freedom,” Ms. Plummer said at the time.
With hundreds of members and associates throughout the decades, the December 12th Movement formed many groups. They include: the Citywide Mobilization Committee Against Police Brutality, the Black Men’s Movement Against Crack, the African Peoples Farmers Market, the Million Youth March, the Durban 400 to the UN Conference Coalition Against Racism, the Katrina Support Coalition, the Freedom Party, the Founding Meeting of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, the Stop Ethnic Cleansing Campaign, the stop the Killing Campaign, the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Campaign, the Cuba Youth Conference, or the United Front Against Facism Campaign.
The last victory—after a protracted struggle that Ms. Plummer witnessed, was the signing of the Reparations Bill in December 2023. Then, New York State finally succumbed to the decades-long demand to look into the impact of slavery on the Black people in New York, made by the December 12th Movement, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, the Institute of the Black World, and the NAACP.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of a great Movement Matriarch Viola Plummer, co-founder of the December 12th Movement,” said State Senator Cordell Cleare, co-sponsor of the Reparations bill. “Viola Plummer was a community organizer for the majority of her 86 years of life. With her no-nonsense approach to advocacy, Viola was a fighter until the very end. My sincerest condolences to her family and friends and everyone who knew her at home and abroad.”
“Queen Viola is a legend,” said community organizer Divine Allah. The Youth Minister of the New Black Panther Party told the Final Call, “We have lost a true fighter. But we have the blueprint she gave us. She was a bold, fearless, uncompromising Black woman. She was our sister, our mother, our grandmother, our aunty—our Powerful Black Warrior Queen. We are thankful, and we are grateful that we were able to be led and taught by her.”
Ms. Plummer was the mother of four—two preceded her in death—Lisa and Robert Taylor and was the grandmother of 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Nayaba Arinde is an Editor-at-Large, award-winning reporter and activist. Follow her on https://instagram.com/NayabaArinde1.