Passing of the Giants of the Human Spirit
Minister Clemson Brown
Written: August 11, 2023
It was on Monday 8/7/23 at 5:41pm when my wife asked me, “Did you hear the news? She continued, “did you talk to Councilman Charles Barron?” She had that sad look in her eyes and her face tilted downward. I have seen that look many times before; suddenly a pall seemed to engulf the room. Then she said, “Minister Brown has made his transition.” I had no immediate response as I pulled myself together, softly I mumbled something, “Wow, is anybody left? Am I the only one still around. He gave it his best shot.” So often of late a stanza in Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard written by Thomas Gray :
“What are the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deepest in the brow,
To view loved ones blotted from life’s page
And to be alone as I am now.”
Minister Clemson Brown was a multi-talented, eager to use any of his talents to advance our people. I met him in 1976. It was the year Americans were preparing to celebrate its 200-year anniversary. A brother by the name of Dr. Chester Williams approached me with an idea of a quadricentennial, 400 years for people of African Ancestry, starting with the transatlantic slave trade. I thought it was a great idea. We began to organize the people that we knew. As a professor he organized primarily students and professionals. From somewhere came Minister Clemson Brown. At the time, his primary occupation was making different ceramics.
We proceeded for the rest of 1976 organizing and educating regarding our history. Near the end of the year in November, a 15-year-old youth of African Ancestry, Randy Evans was shot in the head for no reason by police officer Robert Torsney. The following year almost to the date of the shooting, the killer cop was given a light sentence, two years of psychiatric treatment with weekends home. The community was furious.
I’ve told this story before. There were four of us, Assemblyman Al Vann, Professor Sam Pinn, Educator, Cultural Crusader and Cultural builder Jitu Weusi and I had been meeting for months earlier. When the exoneration of the cop happened, we stepped forward with a plan to organize our community. Our first action was to call for Black Christmas 77’, a citywide boycott. By the end of 1976, Clemson Brown had become a member of our church. When we announced the protest, I told him that he should go and get a camera for we were going to make history. We were going to turn things upside down. He bought (some of y’all might remember) the Zoom camera and from that day until the day he died he videoed major events and personalities for nearly 50 years. I ordained him in 1978, after which he was given the title of Minister. We travelled together across America and many countries abroad. On two occasions we attended the Organization of African Unity (OAU as it was called then, now it’s the African Union –AU.)
Nairobi, Kenya was the first OAU conference we attended and then in Tripoli, Libya when al-Gaddafi was the President. We attended many meetings in the Caribbean. Trinidad at the height of the demonstration led by Makandal Akhenation Daaga. I recall Daaga analyzing events in various countries. He said that the apartheid regime in south Africa was going to fall and the South African leaders would come to the Caribbean to find a safe haven. He was courageous, brilliant and strategically sound. He was well read and did a review for us of Eric Williams monumental book Capitalism and Slavery, which book I have used in my argument for reparations. Also, annually we would attend the yearly conference in Cuba sponsored by the Cuban government. (Significantly at one of the conferences I was asking to prepare a paper on the Nationalist Community in the USA. I sought the assistance of Dr. Cornel West. We together prepared the paper, I gave the speech which was well received. See Daughtry files.)
On one of our visits to Cuba we decided that we would ask the Cuban government to reciprocate. We had been supporting, now they should show some support to our struggle in the USA. (Diplomatically correct of course. We would not want to heighten tension between Cuban government and the US government.)
We suggested two things: one, that there be a national holiday in Cuba recognizing a leader or a person of distinction of African Ancestry in the USA. Second, that they give scholarships to student, especially in the area of medicine. They agreed to the first one, the question rose whom shall we recognize in the USA, our delegation was shocked when they said, they’d like to honor Dr. Martin Luther King! The reason we were shocked, after all NBUF which I headed was the preeminent Radical revolutionary, Nationalist, Pan-Africanist organization in America at the time. Cuba, being a revolutionary government, I think I would be far within the mark to say that the members of our delegation thought it would be Malcolm X. One of the key members of our delegation, Oba T’Shaka inquired why Dr. King? The response was, (and I shall never forget the words) “Dr. King has more tendencies around him.” It was clear to us what they meant. Dr. King was an organizer of all of the movements around the world. He wanted to bring all of the global community together to change the world. While Malcolm X, no disrespect to him or marginalizing him as if anyone could, but Malcolm clearly stated in words and deeds. He was concentrating on people of African Ancestry. The Cuban government and any government I think has to deal with all kinds of people and nations of the world.
Well, when our delegation recuperated, we got to the question of scholarships. They agreed as I forestated, that they would offer the scholarships. This program has been going on ever since. After our involvement I understand it continued with Rev. Lucius Walker and other medical professionals.
To be continued...