KWAMÉ TURÉ (a.k.a.) STOKELY CARMICHAEL:
A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE TO A GREAT ANCESTOR
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (June 16, 2006)
As we prepare for the Twenty-seventh Annual National Convention of the National Black United Front to be held in Baltimore, Maryland on July 13-16, 2006 at Morgan State University, we are honored to commemorate the birthday of our great ancestor, Kwamé Turé, who was born in Trinidad on June 29, 1941.
Kwamé moved with his family to New York at the age of eleven. Upon graduating from Bronx High School of Science, he enrolled in Howard University earning a degree in philosophy while beginning his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
On the morning of November 15, 1998 in Conakry, Guinea, Kwamé Turé made his transition into eternity (died).
Primary source documents reveal that, “In the Winter of 1960, Black college students in dozens of communities across this country conducted sit-ins to secure the desegregation of lunch counters in drug and variety stores.” These sources go on to explain that, “Arrests numbered in the thousands. On every major college campus in this country, students organized groups such as NAG (The Non-Violent Action Group) at Howard University to continue the Sit-In Movement.” Kwamé was a founding member of NAG and was one of its early leaders.
Out of this student activism, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed at Shaw University in April of 1960. SNCC and its student base provided ground troops for almost every major Civil Rights Demonstration and Campaign during the 1960s period of the Movement. Kwamé was one of the three hundred “Freedom Riders” that were arrested “in Mississippi and Alabama during the Spring and Summer of 1961.” From that point on, Kwamé participated in every major campaign that emerged.
Kwamé Turé came to the public’s attention on November 16, 1965 when Look Magazine featured an article titled “Freedom Road,” that mentioned Kwamé’s role as an organizer and leader in SNCC.
Several months later, in June of 1966, Ebony Magazine historian and writer, Lerone Bennett, Jr. wrote an article featuring Kwamé. Brother Bennett observed in this article that (a.k.a. Carmichael) Kwamé like, “No other young man, with the exception of Martin Luther King, Jr. has risen so fast so quick. No other young man has sparked such an avalanche of hope, fear, anger, and public concern.” Bennett asked the question, “Who is this young man? What does he want? What does he mean by Black Power?”
Again, primary source documents explain that, “In April, 1966, at the Kingston Spring SNCC staff meeting (a.k.a. Stokely) was elected chairman, ushering in a new level and direction for both the organization and the larger movement of which it was an integral part.” These same sources indicate that, “In June, after James Meredith was gunned down on a highway in Mississippi, (a.k.a. Stokely) sounded the new Black mood.” This is what Kwamé said, “The only way we are gonna stop them white men form whippin’ us is to take over. We been saying freedom for six years and we ain’t got nothing. What we gonna start saying now is BLACK POWER!!” Mp> The National Black United Front (NBUF) is honored to participate in the birthday celebration of Brother Kwamé. It was, in part, his living inspiration that caused the National Black United Front to come into existence in 1980. His leadership in helping form the Black United Front in Washington, D. C. in 1968 was the model NBUF utilized in keeping the idea alive of building a Black United Front.
Kwamé, we as African people are indebted to you for your thirty-eight years of consistent, dedicated and tireless efforts to free African people from the yoke of oppression and white supremacy throughout the world. Kwamé’s pronouncement of the idea of “Black Power” provided a historical shift in our movement in 1966 that led us back to accepting our African ancestry and caused us to reconnect with Africa like many of our ancestors had called for in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries.
Kwamé’s call for “Black Power” put us back in touch with the contributions of Richard Allen, David Walker, Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, Martin Delany, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Amy Jacques Garvey, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Osagyefo Kwamé Nkrumah, Ahmed Sekou Turé, Patrice Lumumba, and many, many more.
Kwamé Turé’s “Black Power” pronouncement helped revitalize the Pan African and Nationalist struggle that we are continuing as we celebrate his birthday. His “Black Power” pronouncement helped our people break the chains of being Negroes with no land that we belong to except America.
Fortunately, this contribution has helped most of our people understand that Africa is our home— not America.
Also, Brother Kwamé taught for a long time that African people should strive for self- determination and independence. In organizing the Black United Front in 1968, he understood what we still must understand as a people, that a great unity is needed among us to save African people in America who appear to be doomed if we fail to wake up!
Brother Kwamé taught repeatedly that African people must understand that we can no longer rely on the deeds of one individual, nor one organization to solve the problems of the race. He taught for many years that we must rely on the collective efforts of all our organizations that support what Dr. Anderson Thompson calls the “African Principle— The greatest good for the greatest number of African people wherever we are.” Kwamé Turé taught by example and understood what Dr. John Henrik Clarke always pointed out— that is, powerful people never have to prove anything to anyone. And by extension Dr. Clarke exclaimed powerful people never apologize to powerless people for the actions they take in order to remain in power.
Brother Kwamé, we truly appreciated your traveling and lecturing throughout the world and organizing African people to understand the need to struggle around the idea of Pan Africanism as the only solution to our problems.
Brother Kwamé, as we all know, had been struggling with prostate cancer for two years prior to his transition. As Kwamé’s good friend Bob Brown observed, “His spirit is high, and uncompromising and he will continue to struggle until the last second of the last minute, of the last day.” During the last days, Brother Bob, along with many other people, including his family, assisted Kwamé with his medical, personal, and organizational needs.
In fact, Kwamé did struggle right to the very end. But in our tradition of African Spirituality, Kwamé’s death is not the end it is a transition into eternity! The spirit and life work of Brother Kwamé will live on in the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. Ready for the revolution?!!
National Black United Front (NBUF)