Scholar, revolutionary Pan-Africanist the legendary C.L.R. James visited us at the old armory which housed programs eliminating from the East including an independent SASAA school.
Another legend Jitu Weusi was the founder also a founding member of the NBUF. It was there in the Sumner Ave Armory that we held our founding convention in 1978.
CLR James who was one of the earliest Pan-Africanists who worked hard to bring unity to the Africans in the Diaspora as well as on the continent. He was a brilliant author the Black on this occasion Kwame and I were awestruck.
It is well known that the call for Black Power did provide the opportunity for enemies, non supporters and misguided friends to vent their criticism and hostility of Black Power advocates and the amazingly productive work they were doing.
Dr. Martin Luther King, who was never opposed to Black Power - it was the use of the word at that time that he questioned - made a prediction that came true. They, the Black Power words would open the gate for misunderstanding, confusion and criticism. They would provide fodder for the cannons of our enemies. Even Kwame had to admit that Dr. King was right regarding the reaction to just the public utterance of Black Power. But, Black Power advocates never wavered, in spite of everything, it was time for Black Power and all that it to be declared and embraced.
At the time, I was enthusiastically with the Black Power advocates. Looking through my files, I discovered some writing that I had done which expressed my thinking. The writings were never published in the form that I had written them. It is my habit to clarify my thinking by putting in writing the problem or challenge or the debate and my reaction. It was Carl Rowan's article that angered me and set my mind a racing and my hand writing.
Here is my reaction to Rowan's article just as it was written 40 years ago. Of course the temptation is to alter or change or modify what one has written so long ago. But I have left it just as written. It has been interesting and educational for me. I hope it will be for my readers.
In the November 1966 issue of Ebony magazine, Carl Rowan raises a question relative to Black Power. "In the weeks that followed," Rowan had mentioned in prior paragraphs that the phrase was used at a demonstration led by civil rights leaders after the Meredith shooting, "those words, 'Black Power' showed up in screaming headlines on front pages throughout the nation. They had become the slogan of Carmichael the volatile, provocative, young, new leader of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Floyd McKissick, the militant but less flamboyant leader of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).
"But what did the slogan mean? Millions of white Americans listening to this unprecedented outpouring of Negro anger and emotion were filled with fear. 'Black Nationalism' some call it. 'Black Racism' others said. Carmichael, the 25 year old prophet of 'Black Power' seems to have a hundred definitions. In his milder moments, he said the term meant only 'black people have to politically get together to organize themselves so that they can speak from a position of power and strength rather than a position of weakness.' In more provocative times, he told Negro youth that "we have to bring the whites to their knees and black power is what will do it."
Mr. Rowan went on to say, "The entire nation was caught up in a debate punctuated by confusion, contradiction and efforts by half the politicians and conmen in sight to use the controversy to their advantage. With confusion at a peak with the polls showing a sharp decline in white support for the civil rights movement, Carmichael confessed on Aug. 21st that 'two days ago SNCC decided we are not going to define the term 'Black Power' anymore.' Very possibly, Carmichael and his colleagues had concluded that it was a colossal public relation blunder to throw out this slogan whose meaning was so obscure, whose intent was so subject to misinterpretation, whose impact was so abrasive that it divided Negroes, alienated whites and confused everybody."
But, really is black power a new concept?
Did it really confuse everybody?
Did it really divide leadership?
Is it 'Black Nationalism; or 'Black Racism'?
What is Black Power all about?
My purpose is to interpret what I perceive Black Power means, what Black Power protagonists are really saying even in their most provocative moments; and also touch on the reason for Black Power emergence and wide acceptance among the black masses. I shall also answer the other four questions. In the process, I will deal with the riots-or revolts- the non violent philosophy of Dr. King and conclude with what I believe should be the stand of Black Pentecostal religionists.