TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Reconciliation meeting ends contentious public dispute between journalist, Mark Thompson and activist, Afrika

in Politics & Social Justice by

Weeks after an ideological-wrangle-turned-physical at a town hall that left two Black activists at odds and their reputations damaged, they quelled a highly publicized quarrel at a reconciliation meeting in Newark, New Jersey.

The city’s mayor, Ras Baraka, organized and facilitated a sit-down discussion between community organizer, Thomas Afrika Ibiang, and veteran journalist, Mark Thompson, at a cafe in the Ironbound section.

“Today was an historic day, we were able to talk about these things. We were able to squash whatever negative energy existed between these two … [a]nd people who want to see progress for our people will support this and agree with this,” said Baraka, who has decades-long history of activism in Newark and is the son of poet-activist, Amiri Baraka.

Also in attendance was Afrika’s wife, Patience Roberts. As well, Thompson came to the meeting with hip hop artist and social justice advocate, Mysonne NY General and a woman who is unknown at press time.

During the session, Thompson apologized to Afrika, whom he punched in the face at a gentrification town hall in Newark on April 5, 2019. “We’ve come too far, even in this climate, to be divided. Our common enemy is white supremacy,” expressed Thompson.

Afrika expressed that he wanted to settle their dispute outside of law enforcement intervention, thus he agreed to the meeting that Baraka called. In a social media post, he explained:

I wonder what Dubois would have said, if asked about his battle with Garvey and Booker T Washington. I may be wrong but I doubt he would hold the same sentiment he held in his younger days. I am not for sale nor is my soul for sale. Whatever disagreement we have as black people, I truly believe we can deal with them without involving the American judicial system. These are not merely words but principles I live by. I had a constructive dialogue with my elder, Mark Thompson. I wish him the best. The time for fighting amongst ourselves is over. It is time to strategically move our people past the clutches of white supremacy. That is my/our daily struggle. I like to thank Mayor Ras J Baraka for bringing us together to have a constructive dialogue about where we are and where we go from here.

Although prevailing heads have cooled between Afrika and Thompson, the fallout caused a social media battle between the supporters of the two. For the activists, the consequences have been far deeper.

In the case of Thompson, a regular on MSNBC’s, “AM with Joy Ann Reid,” he’s been visibly absent. Added, he was taken off of the air at Sirius XM satellite following the incident. Now his job there and subsequent show, “Make it Plain” is in jeopardy.

On the other hand, Afrika was served with papers to appear in court on May 15. To date, he does not know the charges or if they are related to the incident. However, he surmises that because he has been outspoken about the event and his hardcore activism, he has become a target.

WATCH: Community organizer assaulted by veteran journalist, Mark Thompson of ‘Make it Plain’ says he wants an apology and a police report, but no firing

The squabble between Afrika and Thompson was supposed to be an impromptu interview at the National Emergency Summit on Gentrification, a community gathering hosted by Baraka under the City of Newark, but initiated by Ron Daniels of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century. Taking place at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the town hall’s purpose was to discuss a rapidly changing Newark with longtime residents experiencing gentrification.

Thompson was there to moderate the summit’s panel which included local activists and political officials, including economist and former university president, Julianne Malveaux and celebrated actor and campaigner, Danny Glover.

While there, Afrika, a Newarker, asked Thompson for an interview he said would go on his Instagram page, in which the veteran journalist agreed. The talk took place after the summit, but turned contentious shortly into the conversation.

Before the assault, Afrika and Thompson were in the midst of a heated debate. After stating disagreeance on what issues Thompson should cover on the “AM with Joy Ann Reid” show, Thompson attempted to end the conversation. Afrika insisted that he finish and stepped into his pathway so that Thompson could not walk away. Then finger-pointing and words transpired. Thompson said Afrika was disrespectful. At some point, Africa called Thompson an “Uncle Tom” and “coon,” words that have been historically attached to Blacks who pander to white supremacist agendas.

Afterwards, Thompson grabbed Afrika’s face with his left hand then punched him with the right. Chaos ensued.

Afrika and Mark Thompson at gentrification summit before Afrika was punched.

Afrika says that he attempted to file a police report with NJIT police who directed him to go to a Newark police department. When he went to the Franklin station, he was told by police that NJIT law enforcement were responsible for taking the complaint. Now, he says that he will not move forward if contacted by authorities.

The day after the melee, Thompson went on “AM with Joy Ann Reid” and said that he was attacked by a Newark organizer who was also a member of a reparations movement called, American Descendants of Slaves or ADOS. This same movement has been identified as hostile and Russian robots on the Reid show which have caused issues with ADOS founders, Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore. Afrika, who has a Nigerian father and Liberian mother who comes from Garveyites that relocated from Kentucky to Africa in the early nineteenth century, is not an ADOS affiliate.

To heighten tensions, Thompson made similar claims on his Sirius XM show. Plus, he alleged that Afrika was an agent provocateur, as well as, an operative of a the CIA’s highly controversial, counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO.

Subsequently, Afrika was attacked by Thompson supporters and those who do not agree with the ADOS platform. In turn, Afrika responded with footage from his wife who recorded the incident that night.

Momentary support ran slim for Thompson when footage revealed him as the attacker. After he was removed from Sirius XM, activists in support of Thompson changed their disparaging remarks against Afrika to making pleas for Thompson to not be fired.

According to Black Press USA, a little over two weeks following the incident, the Congressional Black Caucus called Sirius XM to task for its lack of Black visibility in the organization.

In a letter by CBC Chair, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) it reads:

“We write to express our deep concern about the lack of African American representation in the C-suite and on the board of Directors at SIRIUS XM Radio. In February 2019, Sirius XM announced the finalization of its acquisition of Pandora Media for $3.5 billion, forming the world’s largest audio entertainment company,” the letter from the Congressional Black Caucus began.

“We believe a media company of this size and reach should be much further along in ensuring diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership and agree that Sirius XM has a great deal of work to do.”

As well, in the article, Black Press USA brings up Thompson’s absence. “Mark Thompson, who hosts the popular show Make It Plain, was inexplicably taken off the air during the second week in April,” they reported.

Overwhelmingly, the reconciliation last Thursday has been received well; however, both, Afrika and Thompson face uphill battles.

Kaia Shivers covers diaspora, news and features.

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1 Comment

  1. This is the best and accurate article that I have seen written on this ordeal. I’ve seen biased pieces written from both sides. I’ve folllowed this story on twitter as I am a supporter of ADOS. Unbiased, truthful article. Thank you!

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