Jitu Weusi and Kwame Ture: Two of my Heroes Maybe some time in the not too far distant future, the truth of history will get a hearing and these two giants will get their rightful place in the pantheon of great freedom fighters and institution builders and initiators of great movements.. They are gone now and I just believe that wherever they have landed there will be a reception committee and they will get their reward. I still miss them very much. I reckon one of the reasons is that the photos some large some small pervades my home, my offices and church. After the Greek and Trojan war and the heroes of the Greeks Achilles and Hector of the Trojans were killed along with other highly regarded leaders; in the movie that I saw or video I can’t remember which, a narrator came on to describe the war and the life and times of these heroes. Then he said, “I lived in the time of Achilles and Hector. Men rise and fall like the summer wheat, but there are some names which will live forever. I walked with giants." I can say that I am blessed to have lived in the time of giants of the human spirit. I walked with Jitu Weusi, Sam Pinn, Al Vann, Dr. Betty Shabazz, Winnie and Nelson Mandela, Shirley Chisholm, Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, Roscoe Brown, Kwame Ture, and of course Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and too many others to mention. I will paraphrase the old Spiritual, “if you miss me down here I’ll be gone up to join the ancestors, God the Father of us all, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and all the Heavenly Hosts" what a time! what a time! What a glorious reunion that will be! Returning back to Black Power Revisited..
When the marchers approached Yazoo City, near Jackson, on the anniversary of the murders of Andrew Goodman, James Cheney and Mickey Schreiner in Philadelphia, Mississippi, it was decided that some of the marchers would go to Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Mississippi is where Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for the president of the United States). There, Dr. King would lead a march through the black community to the court house steps. Kwame would organize and lead a march through the black community to the courthouse. It was a horrifying experience in the town.
White racists heckled and threatened the marchers as well as interrupted the ceremony. That night, carloads of white racists went through the black community firing their weapons. However, it was different this time, as the community returned the fire. At the usual rally that evening, the debate heated up on self-defense. It was the first time one of the Deacons for Defense, Ernest Thomas, spoke from the platform. He issued a warning that if anybody interfered with the marches, they would be putting their lives on the line.
In Greenwood, Mississippi another confrontation occurred. Greenwood was the home of Byron De La Beckwith, murderer of Medgar Evers. In addition, word had leaked out that present was one of the state troopers who had beaten Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and others in a Winoa jail, the night Medgar Evers was murdered. Kwame insisted to the police commander that the officer had to be removed. The commander complied with the demand.
A confrontation occurred when the marchers, with the permission of the black school board, sought to set up their tents on the schoolyard. The police officers insisted that they were not going to allow it to happen. They were wrong. The tents were erected. During the confrontation, Kwame was jailed. He was released in time for the rally that evening. During the rally, the crowd was angry and defiant. It was at this rally that Kwame made the call for Black Power. Of course, it was nothing new. During their years of organizing in the Delta, they had constantly talked about Black Power. As Kwame rose to speak, Willie Ricks said to him, “Drop it now. The people are ready. Drop it now.”
Cleve Sellers relates what took place:
“Stokely, who’d been released from jail just minutes before the rally began, was the last speaker. He was preceded by McKissick, Dr. King and Willie Ricks. Like the rest of us, they were angry about Stokley’s unnecessary arrest. Their speeches were particularly militant. When Stokely moved forward to speak, the crowd greeted him with a huge roar. He acknowledged his reception with a raised arm and a clinched fist.”
“Realizing that he was in his element, with his people, Stokely let it all hang out. “This is the 27th time I’ve been arrested-and I ain’t going to jail no more!’The crowd exploded in cheers and clapping.”
“The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin’ us, is to take over. We’vebeen saying freedom for six years and we ain’t got nothin’.What we gonna start saying now is BLACK POWER!”
“The crowd was right with him. They picked up his thoughts immediately.”
“BLACK POWER! They roared in unison.”
“Willie Ricks, who is as good at orchestrating the emotions of a crowd as anyone I have ever seen, sprang into action. Jumping to the platform, he yelled to the crowd ‘What do you want?’ “BLACK POWER!”
“What do you want?”
“What do you want?”
“BLACK POWER!!! BLACK POWER!!! BLACK POWER!!!”
“Everything that happened afterward was in response to that moment. More than anything, it assured that the Meredith March Against Fear would go down in history as one of the major turning points in the Black Liberation Struggle.” - Sellers, The River of No Return.
Kwame said they left Greenwood with more new black voters on the rolls in a couple of days than they had been able to achieve in four hard difficult, bloody years.