The National Black United Front Revisited
It was my intention to follow Councilman Charles Barron’s article on the memorial for Afeni Shakur with my article. But Charles Barron’s article reference was made to NBUF and, strangely, I was looking in my files and I saw an article written by Earl Caldwell. The article entitled “His dream of a Black United Front is now a reality” again underscores our church’s role during that time period. I know that there have been references and even articles written about NBUF. However, there was always more to be added for any major event. NBUF was no different.
New York, Monday, June 30, 1980
His dream of a Black United Front is now a reality
He dreamed about it. Nobody knows just how long it had been in his mind but it was his idea. He nursed it. He worked at it. And finally, it happened and in the morning yesterday when he came into his church on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry knew that the dream was real.
"I’m excited,” he said. " I'm grateful and humbled and honored to have had some in the process." “What was most important?" he was asked.
“Just the conference," he said. "The conference itself." Not much was about it in the newspapers. No television crews dashed about in the big hall. But quietly, through and Friday and Saturday, out in Brooklyn at the old Sumner Ave. Armory, the Rev. Daughtry's dream of building a national organization became real.
THE SUMNER AVE. ARMORY IS a huge, fortress-like building of red brick that covers most of the block along with Sumner between Jefferson and Putnam Aves. It sits in the heart of Brooklyn's black belt.
In the morning on Thursday, the armory was alive. The red, black, and green flag of black liberation flew from the roof. And out front crowds gathered on the sidewalk. It was the kind of coming together that was a part of the 60s, like the black power conference of Newark in 1967. People came wearing dashikis, jeans, and T-shirts, in sports jackets and business suits. They came from Brooklyn, Mississippi, and Chicago, from St. Louis, and Ohio, and from as far away as Portland. On Thursday, when the founding convention for a National Black United Front began, 500 people registered. Except for a few Asians, all of them were black. On Friday the number swelled and by Saturday, when the meeting began at 8 am (it did not end until 3 a.m. Sunday) more than 1,000 delegates had been registered.
THE OFFICIAL PAPERS said that there was to put together a broad-based organization. In the armory in Brooklyn, there was a bit of everything.
“Glad to see you all,” Amiri Baraka (formerly Leroi Jones) said in his address to the convention. "Haven't seen some of you since the last time we tried this."
Baraka, now with a Marxist-Leninist group called the League of Revolutionary Struggle, was in Newark in 1967 when the effort was made to build a national grass-roots organization to deal with the problems facing blacks. He was in Atlanta in 1970 when the Congress of African People attempted to build on that effort. And in Gary, Indiana, when yet another effort was made in 1972 to create a National Black United Front.
“Meeting here to form a National Black United Front is a historical event of great significance,” Baraka said. “Black people have done it before, and if we fail they will have to do it again. But it will be done. Either we do it, or our children will have to take care of it. But it must be done and it will be done.”
Baraka asked the question, why? Then he answered it himself. “Because a Black United Front, composed of all those horses in the black nation and oppressed nationality willing to fight against black oppression, and fight for it black self-determination, such a front is the key instrument necessary for Black Liberation."
Through the weekend in Brooklyn, the pieces for a National Black United Front – time a constitution was drafted. Priorities were established. Temporary officers were installed. And by yesterday, when the closing session was taking place at the house of the Lord Church on Atlantic Avenue, nobody talked about an idea. The organization was real.
The coming together on a national scale in Brooklyn was reminiscent of the 60s in so many ways. The black power conferences came out of crises. In 1967, it was the riots that swept the country that prompted thousands of blacks to flock to Newark. The meeting this weekend in Brooklyn had Miami as a backdrop, along with the growing discontent in black communities across the country.
The issues discussed over the weekend involved unemployment, housing, police brutality, education, electoral politics, community organizing, and down the line. They are old issues but the idea now was to put new thought, new strategies, and new energies into finding solutions.
The founding convention of the National Black United Front was filled with promise. It was a rallying of the troops. It was saying to one another, let's put aside our old differences, the ones that separated us the last time, and let's try again. And through most of three days, in the old armory in Brooklyn, that is what happened.
Just before 2 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, the Reverend Daughtry was elected chairman of the national organization that was established and has the ambitious idea of placing chapters in every state in the nation.
“What does it mean?" the Reverend Daughtry was asked.
When he replied, he began to talk about the 60s, about the wide range of black organizations that existed then. He mentioned CORE and SNCC and SCLC, and he took off the names of several others. "They kept the oppressor off-balance,” he said, "but those groups, many of them, they've been captured and now there is only the NAACP and the Urban League. We needed something else. There was a vacuum. We went into the “70s limping from the many-sided attacks against us. But now we are ready to enter the 80s with people surfacing, charging, and reasserting under a progressive umbrella."
The Reverend Daughtry said that the creation of the National Black United Front makes it possible for serious efforts to be aimed at what he called "a radical rearrangement of the social order." He called the front "a link that has been missing for a long time." And he added: "Now we have another black organization, one that is pan-African in scope, mass-based in-depth, and totally and completely committed to liberation in its thrust."
The rap against Reverend Daughtry is that he tries to do too much. And ambulance chaser, that's what he is, a critic said. But the Reverend Daughtry is determined and he has victories. A year ago, in the summer of 1979, the idea of building a National Black United Front was an idea. Yesterday it was real and now the Reverend Daughtry is on the national scene.
To be continued…