Mike Siviwe Elliott – Fighter for Black liberation and the working class
Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR).
The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, with heavy hearts, celebrates the fighting life and spirit of Mike Siviwe Elliott, who succumbed to kidney failure last Tuesday, May 25, 2021. His spirit lives on in all of us who continue his struggle for the liberation of Black people and the end of the capitalist system that enslaved and branded them through the lie of white supremacy. Mike’s adopted middle name, “Siviwe,” is a Xhosa word conveying hope, unity, and spirit in the fight for the future.
Mike was Labor Secretary of the CAARPR for a decade or more. He came to the Alliance via the movement to Free South Africa in Chicago and the campaign against apartheid South Africa. There he met Alliance activists and supporters Mildred and Willie Williamson, Lisa Brock, Otis Cunningham and Harold Rogers. Mike was also a member and leader of the Chicago Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, chaired by Rogers. In 1993 Mike was part of the union group that brought Nelson Mandela to Chicago, where he spoke to a huge overflow crowd in the Plumbers Union Hall on the West Side. He was featured in the recently aired PBS special, “Mandela in Chicago.”
In Chicago, as the Chairperson of the Alliance Labor Committee, Mike was instrumental in working to bring major unions into the campaign for community control of the police, most importantly the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees Union Locals 73 and HCII.
Mike was born on October 4, 1952 to Zelma Davis and Samuel Elliot in Detroit, Michigan. He grew up and matured as a worker in the Dearborn Assembly Plant (DAP) of the Ford River Rouge Complex, the centerpiece of the Ford Motor Co. auto empire. Mike transferred in the early 2000s from DAP to Ford’s Torrence Ave. Assembly Plant in Hegewisch at 130th St., where he worked until he retired. His ability to relocate and retire at a relatively young age after 30 years on the auto production lines at Ford was made possible by the hard-won contract between the United Auto Workers and Ford, for which Mike fought.
Mike was a rank-and-file leader of his union brothers and sisters at Ford, heading up the UAW Local 551 Unions Solidarity Committee and focusing on the work of its local’s Committee on Ergonomics, Health & Safety. Mike saw the struggles on the shop floor as part of the broader struggles in the community. When Stephon Watts, the son of his union sister, Danalene Watts, was murdered in her home by Calumet City Police, Mike and the Alliance immediately organized a community fightback, demanding the removal and prosecution of the cop who had killed him. Although they did not succeed in that demand, legislation named after Stephon Watts – the Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA), known as “Stephon’s Law” – is expected to pass the Illinois Legislature this session. CESSA, HB2784 and SB2117, requires that 911 operators dispatch trained mental health social workers in response to mental or behavioral health emergencies, instead of armed police.
In his time in Detroit, Mike met and was heavily influence by James Boggs, Luke Tripp, John Watson and General Baker, activists in the Chrysler Detroit auto plants and founders of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) and the Eldon Avenue Revolutionary Union Movement (ELRUM). Mike often spoke warmly of Boggs and his widow, Grace Lee Boggs, as his mentors as he was learning the class struggle in the auto plants.
We in the Chicago Alliance convey our deepest condolences to Mike’s family, his wife, Ralnah Denise Elliott, his son and daughters, Malik Cabral Elliott, Maya Ayanna Elliott, and Makeba Robin Elliott, and his surviving sisters, Marjorie Elliott and Donna Jean Parrish. His brother Samuel Gregory Elliott preceded him in death.
A non-sectarian service for Mike will take place at the Leak and Sons Funeral Home. 18400 Pulaski Road, Country Club Hills, IL 60478. Visitation will be Saturday, June 5 from 4 to 7 p.m., and there will be a wake Sunday June 6 from 1 to 2 p.m.. The funeral will be Sunday at 2 p.m. Condolences and flowers may be sent to the funeral home for delivery Friday or Saturday. There will also be a livestreaming link announced at a later date.
The Chicago Alliance will host a People’s Memorial for Mike Siviwe Elliott, at a date, time and location to be announced.