What’s so Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?

Six years ago Denis O’Reilly – one of Black Power’s four surviving OG’s (Original Gangstas) from 50 years ago, wrote this about 64 Shots:

Change happens on the edge and it is at Aotearoa’s social edge that my efforts are deployed. I’m going to use 64 Shots as epistles for change. Like an evangelist I’m going to target every Maori leader, both formal and informal, every Maori entrepreneur and social activists I know and say brother, sister, let me share this with you. Let us build a business-based self-liberation movement in Aotearoa.  Let’s create the big ideas to enthuse and motivate ourselves and each other and then let ‘er rip”.


To kick off 2022, here’s a message he just sent me on bringing the Black Power community together to combat the common enemy of all of us – Covid.


“When I say I’m going to do things I mean it. I’ve been distributing books individually to street leaders and prisoners. It resonates. Last year in October we had the 50th anniversary of the Black Power in NZ. I’m one of four remaining ‘OG’s’ (Original Gangsta) from the founding era. (One is in a wheelchair, another has a colostomy bag.) 


I was tasked with passing on knowledge to the next generation of leaders. We came together in May of this year at Ngongotaha on the shores of Rotorua. This was possibly the most significant meeting of the Blacks in 20 years. There had been a lot of division driven mainly I think by methamphetamine and the various ‘for’ and ‘against’ stances adopted by the membership. I think the relentless harm minimisation campaign I have run since 2004 has come to fruition – my Nga Kupu Aroha blog charts it – and the BP have moved out of what I describe as the “Valley of lamentations” and into a more progressive place. Yes meth is still a pain in the arse but most have moved beyond it. The “Whanau of the Fist” then describes the collective of Black Power and Mangu Kaha chapters throughout NZ. If you wear the fist regardless of what’s on your top and bottom rockers you are part of the “Whanau”


You will recall that you sent me some words for our initial waananga and a few cartons of books. We used 64 Shots as our primary text (Supplemented by Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ and Maslow’s ‘Theory of Eupsychian Management’. 


I was meant to have 25 young leaders. I ended up with 50. We had our second waananga three weeks ago again in Taranaki. Because of Covid we had face to face event with 50 at a marae in Patea, 100 members from the central north island by Zoom in Rotorua, and another 50 members by Zoom in Auckland. It seems that I’ve grown the parish. We reaffirmed the values and vision and concluded that our immediate mission was to tackle Covid.


The little handbook I sent you for the event yesterday is titled “He Maro mo te Pakanga Mate Korona” A ‘maro’ is the flaxen loin cloth that a warrior wears into battle. Pakanga is war. Mate Korona is Covid. So more or less ‘here’s your loincloth for the battle against Covid’. I held it in the Taradale Town Hall rather than on a marae. It will have freaked out the good citizens of the village to see 70 or so patched gang members in this classic ‘art deco’ venue but my subliminal message was a civic one – “we are all in this together”. 


So as you see we repeated our values and contextualised them within the fight against Covid. We are determined not to be split into vaccinated and non-vaccinated. We worked people through the change process citing VUCA, The Four Agreements, and the Four Rooms of Change. There were some very strong anti-vax anti-compliance views in the room but the shift started to occur when we got to page 6 and workshopped ‘Forcefield Analysis’. With ideas assembled I then brought in Prof Michael Baker by Zoom. Michael fielded scientific/medical questions. I then brought in Debbie Ngarewa Packer MP co-leader of the Maori Party. Debbie is pro-vax, anti-mandate. Her succinct message is that the anti-vax campaign is a right wing, supremacist strategy designed to dissuade people from vaccinating.


That was pretty much the point where the room changed and we had people lining up to be tested and to be vaccinated. 


Arohanui. Denis”

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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