Dr. Lenora Fulani: Et, Tu, "Sister?"

By Marina Ortiz

On August 24, I was asked to serve as a panelist at a candidates’ forum in Brooklyn.  The format was simple:  one question per journalist per aspirant.  The event was rolling along rather staidly; as such an approach usually provides little opportunity for concrete inquiry.  Candidates came and went without revealing so much as a whisper.  “Ho, hum,” or so I thought, until I spotted perennial New Alliance Party candidate Dr. Lenora Fulani making her entrance.

I nudged my colleague, Daily Challenge writer William Pleasant, and quickly scribbled out a run-on question concerning her group’s record of exploitative cultism, political opportunism, and graft.  We go way back, you see, and I’d been aching to finally deliberate face-to-face.  When her turn came, however, Fulani decided it was best to denounce us as “police agents,” refuse to answer questions, and then storm out of the forum.  Me? I asked the question anyway.

Her response came three weeks later, in the form of a September 20 letter faxed to the Daily Challenge, where she dismisses me as Pleasant’s “cohort” and “an amateur radio journalist ...  occasionally given broadcast time on WBAI Radio.”  In listing my meager credits, Fulani conveniently forgets to mention that I am the first ex-member of her group willing to confront them publicly here in New York City (with virtually no support), as well as the first reporter able to uncover the fact that her 1992 presidential campaign listed a number of supporters as paid campaign workers, when in fact, they had never been paid, nor had they even been informed that their names were listed in records filed with the Federal Elections Commission (see The New York Planet, March, 1993).

In her letter, Fulani claims that she “welcomes investigations” of her political and financial records because she has “nothing to hide,” nor does she have any problem “answering questions and responding to allegations” from people with whom she disagrees.  Fulani, who now likens criticism of her group’s political integrity to “black, male sexism,” has, in fact, largely ignored my work over the past two and one-half years, and has refused repeated invitations to dispute my claims. Also among them, is the 1992 attempt to jail and sue African American activist, Morning Sunday, for protesting the party’s white hierarchy and their exploitation of her community by withholding campaign petitions gathered during her tenure as NAP’s chairwoman in Maryland (see The Shadow, September, 1992).

“Sister” Fulani, in fact, has never even breathed my name in public--until now.  But, that’s alright, because it ain’t even about her, and what I’ve been speaking out on is not really the New Alliance Party, which is merely a front organization, but the International Workers’ Party (IWP), a totalitarian pseudo-Marxist cult led by one Fred Newman.  (My criticism, in fact, has primarily been directed at Newman.  But, as the cult wizard has once again chosen to hide behind a circuitous curtain of public spokespersons, I am hereby obliged to respond to Fulani.)

Fulani wrongly credits Pleasant with “popularizing the slander that NAP is a political cult,” a charge which she dismisses as “science fiction.”  In fact, the description had been used since at least 1974, when Newman led 40 followers into a fleeting alliance with fellow cultist, Lyndon H. LaRouche.  (Newman then went on to form the IWP and to apply his own brand of totalitarian psychotherapy to lure and maintain cadre as slave labor, while mimicking LaRouche’s use of transient front groups, as well as his clever habit of accumulating millions of dollars in federal matching funds through pretentious presidential campaigns.)

Newman’s use of “Social Therapy” to manipulate and coerce IWP members into accepting his Machiavellian and inhumane psychology and lifestyle is chillingly real.  I should know, because Fred Newman was once my guru too.  Like Fulani, I once thought that Newman would lead us to the “promised land.”  But, I never went so far as to say (let alone believe), as Fulani has, that “Fred Newman has done more for the black community than any black man alive.”  Nor did I ever allow Newman to publicly call me his “greatest achievement,” or to blame me (or my community) for the cult’s failure to build permanent, and genuinely community-based, political and cultural institutions (which is primarily why I left).

And whereas he once called me a “revolutionary ...  with an honesty ...  that is shockingly pure; an uncompromising honesty that sniffs out even a hint of disingenu­ousness ...  reacting viscerally to the very first signs of bullshit,” he now sends out an admitted subordinate in a feeble attempt to publicly discredit me.  Fulani says, “I have serious objection to people doing the police-like work of spreading misinformation, distrust, and disunity in the Black community, as Pleasant and Ortiz have been doing ...  while hiding behind the mask of ‘objective’ journalism.”  But, if the “independent network of investigators and journalists” Fulani cites as sources were themselves credible (let alone competent), they would have thought to provide concrete evidence before allowing her to make such a malicious and patently false statement.

The real problem, as Newman knows, is that I have tons of dirt on this cult (we’re talking solid, mind-polluting, foul substance here, folks), and I write what I know.  As to my objectivity?  I have never made any pretensions to objectivity about my experience in this group (that does not mean, however, that I have not taken the time to document my work, and to be in a position to prove that what I have to say is true), just as I have never alluded to being impartial about any politician who exploits minority communities--especially those who would capitalize off of the color of their skin without actually delivering the campaign goods.  I have interviewed dozens of elected officials and political candidates, black and white and gay and straight, and have always applied the same progressive standard to them as I do to Fulani.  But, you are hardly brother Malcolm, my dear, and you can no longer dodge the issue at hand.

Contrary to what Newman may claim, my intention is not to discredit the values of any individuals who genuinely desire progressive social change.  There are many intelligent and decent people, Fulani once among them, who support and have even dedicated their lives to issues which this cult purports to represent.  However, I think that people have the right to know who their so-called leaders are and what they really stand for.  And I think they would want to know the degree to which Newman controls this multi-million dollar movement.

The IWP’s attempts to silence journalists and defame community activists are legendary.  Witness their 1986 legal suit against the Jackson Advocate, a black-owned Mississippi newspaper, the continual challenge of petitions held by primarily black and Latino insurgent candidates throughout the country (among them, Brooklyn activists Joseph Mack and Jitu Weusi, Tim Evans of Illinois, and NYS Assemblyman Roger Green), and their pesky obsession with infiltrating and/or attacking progres­sive organizations such as California’s Peace & Freedom Party, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, ACTUP, Local 1199, the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, the National Welfare Rights Organization, and New Jewish Agenda.

Or, just ask the myriad of former supporters who have likewise suffered the wrath of Newman’s lawyers and propagandists, among them Morning Sunday (whose meager assets were ruthlessly investigated for potential “damages,” and whose family and co-workers were unlawfully harassed), Atlanta-based community activists Alvin Munson and the Rev.  Calvin Peterson (labeled “sellouts” because their public demonstrations were covered by the media), Denise Gums of California (vilified as “crazy”--replete with the most demeaning personal trivia the cult could find), Jim Retherford (an early IWP defector labeled a terrorist agent by Newmanites during a visit to the FBI’s New York office in 1974), and NAP’s 1984 presidential candidate, Dennis Serrette (whose affairs with Fulani and others were unsparingly chronicled in the cult’s National Alliance and other publications when he refused to cooperate in their suit against the Jackson Advocate).

Fulani also attempts to link me to a band of renegade deprogrammers (kidnappers), because I spoke at a forum sponsored by the Cult Awareness Network, a national watchdog organization which Fulani claims sponsors such practice.  What Fulani neglects to mention, however, is that I have also produced several WBAI Radio specials on cults, one of which includes CAN’s executive director publicly denounc­ing said kidnappings, as well as the FBI’s 1992 fire-bombing of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.  (I had also invited Fulani and Newman to elaborate on their conspiracy charges against CAN, but they, of course declined.)  As an aside, Fulani describes CAN as “mostly Jewish.”  But the desperate “slip-of-the-tongue” baiting fails miserably in light of her own “mostly Jewish” IWP mentors.

Fulani goes on to describe my participation in numerous television and newspaper interviews as “an attempt to “sell my former ties ...  to make a fast buck,” quite an interesting fabrication considering that I have never been paid for any interview, and that I barely meet my rent each month (thanks, in large part, to said former ties).  And, what a fascinating comment from someone whose efforts have mostly served to enrich not her community, but rather Fred Newman, who lives in a million-dollar townhouse in the West Village with four paramours (the real IWP “leadership”).

Fulani also cites journalist Maria Hinojosa, host of WNET’s “Informed Sources,” who mentioned claims that “NAP members ...  engaged in weapons training.”  After dismissing Hinojosa’s charge, she then wrongfully names me as the “likely source” in a letter that was faxed around in New York City without ever having bothered to ask me if it was true.  It doesn’t take a journalism degree (although I do have one) to figure out why someone in her position would resort to making such slanderous, and potentially life-threatening statements, in a dispatch directly targeted to members of the black and Latino community.

Fulani ends her letter with an amusing directive:  “The days when such vile misinfor­mation could be spread without consequence are over,” she writes, “Those who peddle slanders against our Black leaders are now being asked by our people:  Who are you? What is your political agenda? Who pays you? Where did you get that fact? What makes it a fact? What makes you credible?” Amazing, considering these are the very same questions I am still waiting for Fred Newman to answer.

I, on the other hand, have always been of the opinion that the strongest position for people of color to hold is to remain true to our word, to be willing to lay our cards on the table, and to be willing to go the distance.  As someone who has braved Ku Klux Klan rallies and all varieties of political corruption and treason, who routinely lends an ear (and a microphone) to political prisoners and progressive community efforts (“hack” journalism, according to Fulani), and who is owned and controlled by absolutely no one, I remain offended and appalled.

 

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