Skip to main content

By Nayaba Arinde, Our Time Press —

A snowstorm swept through New York City on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 15th, 2024, as news broke of the passing of the Movement Matriarch Viola Plummer, 86, co-founder of the Bed Stuy, Brooklyn-based civil rights organization The December 12th Movement.

It was fellow member, Attorney Roger Wareham, who made the announcement; “This evening, it is with a heavy heart that we announce the Black Liberation Movement’s loss of one of its most resolute and determined leaders, Comrade Viola Plummer, Chairperson of the December 12th Movement. Funeral arrangements will be announced in the next few days.”

“My heart Is heavy, and my tears are soaking my soul! My beloved friend of over 40 years has gone,” former Assemblyman/City Councilman Charles Barron told Our Time Press. “But, 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.”

Viola Plummer

Viola Plummer 1937 – 2024 (Photo credit: Solwazi Afi Olusola)

‘It snowed heavily because this is how the strong ones leave their mark,” said Divine Allah, Youth Minister of the New Black Panther Party. “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 already missing her. We are thankful that we knew her though, and we are grateful that we were able to be led and taught by her.”

An activist from her teenage years, Mrs. Plummer became a stalwart of staunch grassroots community advocacy. She was known for her love for the people, whether it was in Brooklyn from her headquarters at Sista’s Place, to anywhere in the USA where support was needed, or in the Caribbean or on the Continent of Africa when the call was raised. She organized thousands of meetings, protests, rallies, and community actions. She was forever on the front lines. The mainstream would cite her as being a member of the (ultimately acquitted) New York 8, who beat several charges in 1985. Viola Plummer stated “We are eight people who were doing nothing more than organizing and fighting for freedom.”

Taking on big topics was her favorite space, like arguing against racism at the United Nations, fighting for the people of Zimbabwe, Haiti, South Africa, or Venezuela; getting into the minutiae of law and politics in Albany or City Hall as chief-of-staff for both Assembly/City Councilmembers Inez and Charles Barron.

“I didn’t just want to be a witness; I wanted to be a part of the movement,” she said. And she was, leaving an indelible mark.

And then there she was fighting overt racism in housing, education, and police brutality , and against drugs, gun violence, gentrification, and poverty alongside colleagues Sonny Abubadika Carson, Elombe Brath, Coltrane Chimurenga and Father Lucas – Viola Plummer had an impact. All the while she stood on the Harriet Ross Tubman stance of “‘I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves,’ what change we could have if we all united in great numbers.”

Perhaps the last victory she saw of sorts, was the signing of the Reparations Bill last month, when New York State finally agreed to at least look into the demands she, the December 12th Movement, N’Cobra, and the NAACP, and others had been making for decades to look into the impact of slavery on the Black people in New York.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of a great Movement Matriarch Viola Plummer, co-founder of the December 12th Movement,” State Senator Cordell Cleare told Our Time Press. “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.”

A flurry of phone calls. There were tears. And wailing.

The People’s Republic of Brooklyn is in mourning. And this just one day after the Janazah and burial of political prisoner advocate Sekou Odinga.

“We just love her,” said A.T. Mitchell, community organizer and CEO of Man Up! Inc. Her legacy will live on through all of us who she embraced and showed the way of dedication to our people. If Sister Vi loved you, she showed you she did that. And we will continue her work, I promise you.”

“Inez and I are deeply saddened by the transitioning of our dear friend, Sister Viola Plummer. Our relationship with her spans more than four decades of battling on issues impacting the Black communities here in New York, in states across the nation, and in countries across the world. Viola Plummer was a forthright, unyielding, undeterred, bold, outspoken, unequivocating warrior-leader who stood flat-footed and did not retreat. Her strident voice was a clarion call that challenged and motivated our people to get involved and take a stand. She thought no issue was too big, too strongly entrenched, or insurmountable.

“She was not fearful, could not be intimidated, and refused to be silent. The countless battles that she waged on behalf of Black people are innumerable. Her legacy is broad and deep. Her leadership effectiveness is a model to be emulated, and her accomplishments are testimony to her mantra, ‘Do the work.’ We will miss our dear friend, but we are pleased to join the many voices who pay tribute to her life and her work. To our beloved comrade and “real” close friend, our hearts are heavy, and tears are soaking our souls. We’re going to miss you, Vi! Rest in peace and power, our sister, for a job well done. Viola, we love you forever.”

Source: Our Time Press


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.