Happy Birthday Kwame Ture (June29, 1941 – November 15, 1998)
Although the self-determining phrase – “Black Power” – has remained type popular within quite a few grass-roots liberation movements for decades now, many people do not know its origin.
Fearless Freedom-Fighter Dr. Kwame Ture (Born Stokely Carmichael) challenged the United State Of America’s exploitive system of capitalism, and advocated Amerikkkanized-Afrikans to be their own self-governing people when he popularized that moniker.
Physically manifesting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in the Caribbean on June 29th 1941, he eventually moved to Harlem, NY, 11 years later to be with his parents who had previously relocated. A few years later they again moved, settling in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, where he attended the prestigious Bronx High School Of Science – which turned out to be the foundation for his political experiences.
“They were all reading the funnies while I was trying to dig Darwin and Marx,” Ture explains to legendary photographer Gordon Parks, during a October, 1967 Life Magazine interview.
In 1960, Carmichael attended a historically Black college – Howard University – after rejecting offers from numerous Caucasian-dominated institutions. There, he expanded his political horizons, organizing various student sit-ins, voter-registration drives, as well as anti-police-terrorism demonstrations.
While there he convened with the Non-violent Action Group (NAG), an affiliate of the organization which eventually birthed the Black Panther Party – SNCC: Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee). The Lowndes County, Alabama branch utilized a large, attacking Black feline for its logo, which the founders of the BPP adopted as its own. He also worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s organization as well.
“Black Power can only be realized when there exists a unified socialist Afrika,” advocated Ture. He advocated the importance of Afrikan unity for their cultural, economic and political liberation.
During his time in Alabama, Carmichael learned first-hand just how savage the descendants of slave-makers are. He witnessed the abusive conditions Amerikkkanized-Afrikans endured there and was arrested numerous times.
While the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party was established by Brothers Dave White, Eddie Ellis and Sam Anderson in June 1966, and the Oakland chapter began later that year, in October, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, Carmichael was one of its most ardent advocates.
In June of 1966, Carmichael said- “We been saying ‘Freedom’ for six years. What we are going to start saying now is… ‘Black Power!’ Thus, the term was popularized.
Carmichael continued his community activism, being one of the primary liaisons between the Black Panther Party members on the East and West Coasts, during and after they were COINTELPROed.
In 1968, he adopted the attribute ‘Kwame Ture’, an adaptation of the 2 great Afrikan leaders – Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Tou’re, only to move to the Motherland to live for the remainder of his life. Upon leaving he said, “Amerikkka does not belong to the Blacks,” and advocated for his fellow Afrikans to follow his lead.
This non-compromising Black-militant message was in stark contrast to the passive, integrationist, non-violent speeches and sermons of Dr. King, shocking many. Instead of singing, almost begging, ‘We shall over come’, the dis-satisfied were now pumping their fists while wearing black berets and chanting “Black Power!’, evoking fear in Caucasoids.
Ture supported the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party (AARP). He often appeared at Amerikkkan college campuses to lecture and recruit.
He maintained that… “continued progress for Black Amerikkkans could be made only through “mass political organization on a Pan-Afrikan scale.”
He spent most of the last three decades of his life in Guinea, advocating a revolutionary Pan-Afrikan agenda. In his later years he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, saying it… “was given to me by forces of Amerikkkan imperialism and others who conspired with them.”
Gordon Parks wrote that watching him made him believe that the young man could “stroll through Dixie in broad daylight using the Confederate flag for a handkerchief.”
In his book, “Black Power,” which Carmichael wrote in 1967, he states, “When you talk of “Black Power”, you talk of building a movement that will smash everything Western civilization has created!”
During an interview in Havana, he warned. “We are preparing groups of urban guerrillas for our defense in the cities,” he said. “It is going to be a fight to the death.”
Kwame Ture made his transition on November 15, 1998 but the struggle continues and so does “Black Power.”
For books and videos by Kwame Ture: