“Finish the Gig”

Thank you and Farewell, Matriarch Viola Plummer! By Nayaba ArindeEditor-at-LargeOn Saturday, January 27, 2024, It was like a Who’s Who of grassroots activists and community organizations attending this past weekend’s Queens wake and Brooklyn funeral of December 12th Movement Matriarch – Viola Plummer. From Brooklyn to Zimbabwe the accolades came in thick and fast.From Bed […]

“Finish the Gig”

Thank you and Farewell, Matriarch Viola Plummer!

By Nayaba Arinde
On Saturday, January 27, 2024, It was like a Who’s Who of grassroots activists and community organizations attending this past weekend’s Queens wake and Brooklyn funeral of December 12th Movement Matriarch – Viola Plummer. From Brooklyn to Zimbabwe the accolades came in thick and fast.
From Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, to St. Albans, Queens, NYC, all the way to the African Continent and Cuba, too. Hundreds of people came out to both services this past weekend.
The December 12th Movement hosted the services for their core co-founder of the organization, which just celebrated 36 years of existence. Some of Ms. Plummer’s colleagues had known her for up to 50 years. At the wake and the funeral, December 12th Movement (D12) co-founder Omowale Clay got emotional as he spoke. Folks caught their breaths. They told him to take his time, as they, too, fought the urge to break down with grief. It has been like this since news of her passing on January 15th. She was 86 years old.

The wake was held on Friday, January 26, 2024, at the J. Foster Philips Funeral Home in St Albans. Coaches, buses, and dozens of cars were parked around the building, where perhaps a hundred people milled around while Man Up! Inc and December 12th Movement members kept everything flowing smoothly.
The same was the case at the Brooklyn funeral at Rev. Herbert Daughtry’s House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn on Saturday.
It was a heavy weekend.

While Man Up! Inc. helped manage the crowds and hosted the repast; the December 12th Movement organized and hosted both services. Steadfast and working through the pain of the loss of their long-term leader, Attorney Roger Wareham, and Omowale Clay used some humor through the sadness to send their ‘Vi’’ home. Of course, political theory was delivered, a call to action sounded, and rallying cries were heard to continue. Ms. Plummer’s lifelong mission was, of course, to have Black people fight deep-rooted local, national, and global institutionalized racism, oppression, subjugation, and injustice against Black people. She was unapologetic about her mission of seeking Black liberation and self-determination. That mission would not change, said December 12th members and speakers like Rev. Karen Daughtry, Pam Africa, Bob Law, and Chairman Fred Hampton.
Rev. Dr. Karen Smith-Daughtry blessed the funeral with impassioned recollections of Ms. Plummer – her work and her dedication to the community, which she implored must continue.
“This is a hard one…Viola was my friend.” Rev. Daughtry told of her long history with Ms. Plummer and of some of the notable visitors to the historic House of the Lord church, including Winnie and Nelson Mandela, Rev. Jesse Jackson when he first decided to run for president, former NYC’s two Black mayors – David Dinkins and current mayor Eric Adam; as well as a host of groundbreaking grassroots organizations such as the National Black United Front.

Fired up, the Reverend said that 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.”
“Stay strong,” Rev. Daughtry told individual December 12th members present in the sanctuary, as she called them by name. To the audience, she said to emphasize the commitment of Ms. Plummer, “We didn’t even know she was sick…There’s a job to be done…She has left a sacred assignment. Finish your gig.”
Original December 12th member Loretta Vaughan told Our Time Press that Ms. Plummer’s legacy is intact.
“There are no words to describe the impact of sister Viola. I developed clarity of thought and focus that allowed me to bring out the Dragon when necessary. Mad love for her love of Black people.”
Many organizations came through with bountiful respect. It was heartwarming and impressive. The panoramic cross-section of local and national groups who came out to actively support and participate in the homegoing services would have delighted Movement Matriarch Viola Plummer. She always worked to unify the many community advocacy groups. In death, she once again succeeded in the assignment. To quote her, she ‘Finished the Gig.’
The Nation of Islam with Daleel Jabir Muhammad , East Coast Regional Protocol Director, and cure violence community advocacy groups such as A.T. Mitchell’s East New York-based Man Up Inc. and Queen’s Life Camp came through with many members. Philadelphia came out in full effect with grassroots Pam Africa, Razakhan Shaheed, and the United Negro Improvement Association was represented by Basiymah Bey.

With what seemed like a thousand people, the House of the Lord Church was literally packed to the very rafters. It was the epitome of how to send a beloved, world-renowned activist home. Bed Stuy Brooklyn Assemblywoman Stefani Zineman thanked the family, dressed in white, for “sharing her with us. It was an honor and a privilege to live in the time of the age of Viola Plummer. She was just fearless…and she taught us how to love one another and to continue the fight for freedom and liberation.”
Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel y Bermúdez sent word through Amb. Yuri Gala, and praised Ms. Plummer’s “pursuit for social change,” whilst December 12 also fought against “the unjust and inhumane US blockade of Cuba.” He reminded the audience of the D12-coined phrase “When Africa called – Cuba answered,” in terms of the support in the anti-imperialist struggles in the Continent.
In a message delivered by Fortune Z. Charumbira, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke of the “sense of shock and loss…Ms. Plummer was a committed and dedicated activist…Her voice echoed around the world in the fight against racism and apartheid.”

Cinque Brath, son of another worldwide respected activist, Elombe Brath, read a letter from the government of Namibia, thanking Ms. Plummer and D12 for all their consistent contributions to their anti-colonial fight for complete liberation.
At the wake, to the quiet surprise of many, without addressing the people at all, Mayor Eric Adams quietly stood at the open casket with some of Ms. Plummer’s family members.
Longtime activists told their Viola stories, and many shed tears as their voices cracked.
It was respectful, emotional, and an oft-repeated pledge to ‘Finish the gig,’
Activist judge Lionel Jean Baptiste stood before the open casket and praised Ms. Plummer and concluded that the work’s not done because we’re still doing it.
The number of young people who came out to honor her was a testimony within itself. “I thought she would be immortal,” a young speaker Nas, said at the wake.
“I never thought she would leave,” said Erica Ford, founder of Life Camp, the Queens-based cure violence organization, and longtime family friend.
National social justice advocate Tamika Mallory told Our Time Press that one of the attributes that she so admired was how Ms. Plummer “never let the boys think they could win! She always let them know that women were equal to the task , were strong, and were formidable partners to do this work that needed to be done.”
It was the tone set for the weekend.

The ‘People’s Republic of Brooklyn ’ gave international activist Viola Plummer a head of state-style 5-hour funeral home-going.
Ms. Plummer, a local, national, and global Black community activist – modest, yet honest as she was would have approved. Government representatives from Cuba and Zimbabwe were present, and there was a letter from Namibia – all thanking Ms. Plummer for her unwavering support and contribution to their national struggles turned international.
Elected New York State and NYC City Council officials came through to show their respect. Proclamations and official acknowledgements came from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and New York State Senate Cordell Cleare. State Senator Jabari Brisport praised Ms. Plummer’s fortitude, and City Councilmember Yusef Salaam read a poem and expressed gratitude for all the unwavering support he received from D12 as a member of the Central Park Exonerated 5. Founder of the African Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yetshitela also sent a message of condolences. Urging the continuation of the fight to free political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, whilst the recently-freed Sundiata Acoli looked on, an impassioned Pam Africa lauded Ms. Plummer and the December 12th Movement with respect for, amongst other things, their support for incarcerated Black Panther and Black Liberation Army people who had been imprisoned for over 50 years.
From the wake to the standing-room-only funeral, she was honored over and over again as the virtuous and courageous Black Power ambassador, with the pursuit of Black politically-economically and culturally-empowered self-determination as the singular goal. Black liberation in all its forms was her agenda. Pushing through institutionalized racism-imposed walls and smashing confining glass ceilings was a regular and obvious concept that Ms. Plummer taught by doing.

“We didn’t always agree, but our church was always open,” House of the Lord’s Rev. Herbert Daughtry told Our Time Press. The emeritus and National Bishop added. “What was driving us is that we have a fire in our belly , so to speak, is to see the freedom of our people as soon as possible and as extensively as possible.”
The accolades were heartfelt and relentless, spoken -sometimes tearfully so, over the open casket at the wake and just as impassioned at the funeral the next day.
Many people struggled to maintain their composure as they recalled their Viola interactions and gratitude. Some let the tears flow. Others let their grief do the talking.
With “Culture as a Weapon” as their mantra, the December 12th Movement began the homegoing services with drumming from Baba Neil Clarke.

Minister Akbar Muhammad put aside his own physical challenges to attend the funeral, bringing condolences and words of praise and commitment from Minister Louis Farrakhan.
“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 struggle of the people around the world and the need to get rid of fear. “So we can have better days as Africans…Stand up like Viola.”
It would be left to former Assemblyman/City Councilman Charles Barron to state that his “beloved friend for 40 years,” Ms. Plummer, would approve of his use of the occasion to berate “hypocritical” elected officials, whom in spite of all the disparate issues negatively affecting the Black community, he said, decry conditions that lead to families having to hold funerals, then pass budgets and policies that gentrify Black neighborhoods that create harsh quality of life issues, ultimately leading to going to more funerals.
The House of the Lord sanctuary audience stood up as they applauded.
He said that Ms. Plummer, who helped write his reparations resolution, would expect him to speak on it. He slammed politicians who now have some power but no cohesive Black agenda.
“Viola was a revolutionary. She would not settle for the traitors or the sellouts in our leadership,” Charles Barron told Our Time Press shortly after the wake where he said goodbye to his “dear friend.”

Continuing, he said he had cried a lot over her loss, but now he was completely focused on staying on course with the plan. “Viola called out people in power who betrayed the community, and we should continue to do that. As she would say – that is the gig.”
It can be conversely empowering and heart-wrenching to witness stoic men crying openly for a real-life, modern-day icon – who people could – and did – reach out, touch, and talk to.
Brothers got caught with feelings in their throats and were unafraid to show how they felt about this powerful woman who inspired thousands of people. Sisters held each other and understood that if one cracked, it would have been an avalanche. That was the energy at both the wake and the funeral. During the services, the accolades were heartfelt and relentless, spoken -sometimes tearfully so, over the open casket at the wake and just as impassioned at the funeral.
The sanctuary, seating hundreds, had no room for folks eager to enter, the overflow room had no seats left, and the lines of people trying to just get into the church stretched down the block for hours, late into the evening.
Reminiscing on her loyal and dedicated friend, who never veered off her Black empowerment focus, former Brooklyn Assemblywoman/Councilwoman Inez Barron spoke of Ms. Plummer’s work ethic. Her Raison d’être was to encourage people to “advocate, agitate and organize – that’s the gig.”

Her continued fight was for the young. Political education, letting the youth hear alternative ideologies to the narrative of the status quo was her strategy.
NYC Public Advocate Jumaane William said, “Viola did amazing civil rights work lifting Black people up in the cause.”
Speaking to Our Time Press in the sanctuary, he continued, “She had no problem telling them they weren’t doing right. She cut her eyes at me a couple of times – probably deserved. But, she did so much work. Job well done. We are going to miss her.”
Activist attorney Michael Tarif Warren went online to say, “Viola, my beloved sister, I will forever miss your principled spirit and deep love for African People! I pray that continued journey be imbued with light and peace. Much love and respect to you forever!”
Man Up! Inc., founder and CEO A.T. Mitchell told Our Time Press, “We are the children of the movement, and Mother Viola is one who taught us, and kept us focused on our community, to push us forward, and achieve equality, safety, justice and greatness. We are heartbroken by her passing, but we know that she would not accept us grieving for her to the point that we stopped the work. Even through our great pain and sadness we must continue the task moving towards stable, thriving and successful Black communities.”

Milton Jemmott said that he joined the December 12th Movement in his youth. “During the late 80’s the then Black Men Movement used to have call-out-and-response saying ‘No Justice…No Peace,’ ‘Who Streets…Our Streets?’ and ‘Freedom or death,’ he told the paper. “Some people responded to our call out, but one…’Freedom or death.’ I raised that to Vi as to say that we shouldn’t use that call out at this time. Vi’s response to me was, ‘If you don’t tell them, how would they know?’ I say to the Black Nation ‘FREEDOM OR DEATH!’”
The services brought out movement heavyweights such as representatives of the Nation of Islam’s Min. Louis Farrakhan Black-community-focused talk radio hosts Bob Law and Bernard White.
Government representatives from Cuba and Zimbabwe were present, and there was a letter from the Namibian government – all thanking Ms. Plummer for her unwavering support and contribution to their national struggles turned international.
Ms. Plummer, a local leader with national and global Black community impact – modest, yet honest as she was–would have approved.
She was a disciplined organizer of thousands of rallies, demonstrations, community meetings, and protests, from the neighborhood avenues to the United Nations and local, national, and international government chambers. Her reputation preceded her. Fueling her take-no-prisoners, sometimes-harsh approach was a love for– and commitment to her community.
She was close to world-renowned leaders such as Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe and the Nation of Islam’s Min. Louis Farrakhan, Cuba, but she was also really close to the streets where everyday people walked.
She spoke of it often – whether it was at street corner rallies or in legislative halls – for the disenfranchised and the put-upon, she wanted freedom from oppression, redress for historic racist injustice, and the rebuilding of Black families and subjugated communities.
With hundreds of members and associates throughout the decades, the December 12th Movement has garnered a reputation for not politely nor quietly objecting to injustice. They are loud, and brash, with intellectually considered arguments and reasoning for their position. They are the epitome of what the young people say with ‘debate me.”
The people said. Pushing through institutionalized racism-imposed walls and smashing confining glass ceilings was a regular, was the obvious concept.

“I knew Viola Plummer for 51 years,” Omowale Clay told Our Time Press. “She was the last of the five original core founders of the December 12th Movement: Abubadika Sonny Carson, Coltrane Chimurenga, Elombe Brath, and Father Lucas; they are all gone now.”
The power of the love shown, spoke to the high regard in which Ms. Plummer was held. It was a magnificent display by any standard. While her mission was completed now, the constant refrain during her homegoing services was “finish the gig.” And the gig speaker after speaker reminded the audience both physically present and watching the livestream. “The marching orders” were given ; Movement Matriarch Viola Plummer had sounded the alarm for 60 years; the community should fight to gain justice, equality, and reparations for the continued racist-inspired injustices.

“I joined the December 12th Movement because I studied them first. Not only what they said, but what they did,” December 12th Movement member Amadi Ajamu told the paper. “Although there was a collective founding leadership including Sonny Carson, Coltrane Chimurenga, Elombe Brath, and Father Lawrence Lucas; the day-to-day leader and master teacher was our Chairperson Viola Plummer. She saw and focused on developing all the talents that we didn’t even know we had and nourished them patiently. She was a political theoretician who could make it plain and clear. She was active, courageous, unrelenting, and demanded your best. She was my mentor on a whole other level. She believed in our people and our struggle for freedom or death. She gave every ounce of her being toward our liberation until the end. We will continue to do our work. Long live the essence of Viola Plummer that resides in everyone she touched worldwide. One of a kind. I thank you and love you.”

Cultural activist, singer, author and multimedia performer Nana Camille Yarborough told the paper, “What and when I think of Viola Plummer– the first thing that comes to me is the word VICTORY. In the meaning of the word – I see Viola. In the energy of its vision – I see Viola. In the impossibility of failure. I see Viola. In the ultimate success of its long-sought goal. I see Viola. In its mission, in its fearless – verbal and visual presentation on the battlefield for justice for people of African ancestry, I will always see, hear, speak, shout, and sing the magnitude of the VICTORY of my Sister-in-Struggle Viola Plummer. In truth and victory.”
The name December 12th Movement is synonymous with avant-garde, anti-status quo activism.
With hundreds of members and associates throughout the decades, they have garnered a reputation for not politely nor quietly objecting to injustice. They are loud and brash, with intellectually considered arguments and reasoning for their position. They are the epitome of what the young people say with ‘debate me.”
They are ready to defend their position on academic, historical, cultural, economic, and political levels. It may be: 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 Founding Meeting of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, the Stop Ethnic Cleansing Campaign, the current stop the Killing Campaign, or the United Front Against Fascism Campaign.
Arguably, these are events from which movie plots, jazz songs, conscious rap lyrics, barber shop tales, and urban legends are created.

December 12th co-founder Omowale Clay explained how the organization got its name after defending three Black Men’s Movement activists–the Goshen Three: Majid Barnes, Abdul Hack, and Viola Plummer’s son Robert Taylor, who he said were targeted by law enforcement. “We were formed around a number of issues that converged at the time, including the Tawana Brawley case – where she was found with feces on her and KKK written on her. We held the protest in Newburgh in 1987. Chimurenga Coltrane said that we were going to march on December 12th because that was just the date that was chosen. That is how we became the December 12th Coalition.”
The most energetic person in the room at 86 years old, many young people praised how Ms. Plummer embodied that vibrant, fierce, always-respected mother-figure-leader.
Utilizing strategy and tactics was her strong point. The bravest, ready-to-rumble, or intellectually-debate anyone from the hallowed halls of political office to the grimy Brooklyn streets. She was at home in any arena.

Those who knew her would say, that whether it was meeting with President Mugabe to discuss breaking U.S sanctions on Zimbabwe; or making a nice hot cup of tea for visitors to Sista’s Place on a cold winter’s afternoon, Ms. Plummer was comfortable, and at ease.
She was humble. She understood the mission. You cannot lead if you cannot follow. You cannot require service if you cannot serve, was at least one of her mantras.
A founding member of the Harriet Tubman- Fannie Lou Hamer Women Collective, Ms. Plummer stayed active, whether it was: shutting down the ‘Scottsboro Boys’ musical in 2009, closing down retail stores on 125th Street in Harlem in honor of Malcolm X’s May 19th birthday; bringing awareness and demanding justice for U.S. political prisoners; successfully campaigning to get rid of inexperienced Schools Chancellor Kathy Black in 2011; and mainstay fighting against police brutality, the influx of drugs and guns, and gentrification also known as ‘ethnic cleansing,’ in the Black community.

She was intuitive. She was a connector of people and a builder of careers and character as she recognized and helped develop individual skill sets of young people who did not even recognize or believe in their own abilities. Tough love, mother love was her superpower.
As tears were fought back, the words of the December 12th Movement’s first lady came to mind. When she went to the February 2022 funeral of Atiim Ferguson, Chief of Staff in Abubadika Sonny Carson’s Committee to Honor Black Heroes, Ms. Plummer stated, “Atiim knew there were no issues other than, ‘We have to fight to win!’ I know your hearts are broken, but we still have a war to win.”