Since we already started with the Black United Front (BUF) I thought it would be a good idea to continue a photo-bio series. Before we get into the actual photo bio part of our series. It is necessary to further elaborate on the beginning of the BUF. In my book, No Monopoly on Suffering Blacks and Jews in Crown Heights, published byAfrica World Press.In the fourth chapter, Creating A Movement, Perpetuating A Vision that records the beginning on the history of BUF.
Creating a Movement, Empowering a People, Perpetuating a Memory
In the summer of 1977, Sam Pinn, Albert Vann, Jitu Weusi and I began to meet. At that time, Pinn was chairman of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Vann was Assemblyman in the 56th AD, and Weusi was founder and leader of The East, a cultural and educational organization that generated some of the most innovative and progressive programs in the city. All three were educators. Pinn later became a professor at Ramapo College in New Jersey. Vann and Weusi taught in the New York City public schools, both having played prominent roles in the struggle for community control in Ocean Hill-Brownsville. In fact, both taught at P.S. 271, one of main schools in the Ocean Hill- Brownsville school complex. Both Vann and Weusi had been smeared by the charge of anti-Semitism, as was anyone who played a leading role in the struggle. Over the years, the four of us had been politically involved with one another in various ways but never in the way that we were then. At that time we were particularly concerned about the deplorable state of people of African Ancestry in Brooklyn and throughout the country.
In Brooklyn, despite our numbers, Blacks were relatively powerless, a frustrating situation pervasive throughout the city and the nation. We four decided to set aside one morning a week just to analyze and evaluate our political situation and to plan for better conditions.
Brooklyn has the largest concentration of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. Over 1.5 million of our people call Brooklyn their home today. We have come from many lands and have various stories to tell about our lives. The truth of our condition today is that while our population is vast, we are a powerless people and cannot effectively control the factors that influence our lives.
We want to stop the terror by the police and Hasidic in our community. We want to end the state of oppression and exploitation that ravage our embattled population. We want to create a living memorial to the memory of Arthur Miller and declare that NEVER AGAIN will we allow our people, especially our youth, to be brutalized and murdered without an adequate response.
But we must come together and do more than just talk. We must educate and organize our community. We must agitate and petition for change. We must develop the facility to protect ourselves, our families and community. There is much WORK to be done.
Join the people’s movement for JUSTICE!
As we compared our knowledge and analyses, we realized that we were learning a great deal about and from each other, that we were becoming more knowledgeable about the true political and social conditions, issues, and personalities of our community. In meeting together, putting out collective heads together, we became far more politically aware. While other individuals and groups were wondering what to do, we had already formulated our strategies. In addition, we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We could build upon our strengths and improve upon our weaknesses, and in the process we learned to trust each other. This is so very important in all ventures but especially in political and social ventures, where powerful people and systems will be challenged; where leaders must take risks, in spite of threats to themselves, to their families, or to their friends.
Each of us played a vital role in the group. Sam Pinn was reflective and analytical. Al Vann was thoughtful and theoretical. Vann was to receive the political credibility and power generated from our movement, and he, in turn, agreed to serve the people. Jitu Weusi, a quick, sharp thinker and a long-time activist and organizer, had wide-ranging contacts and credibility within the grassroots and nationalist communities. I was chosen as point man, the spokesperson who would argue our case in public, articulating our direction and policy.
In November 1976, a police officer named Robert Torsney killed a 15-year-old Black youth named Randolph Evans for no apparent reason. A year later, almost to the day, the jury rendered a decision to place Torsney under psychiatric treatment and to allow him weekends at home. The Black community was incensed. Once again, a White policeman had unjustly killed a Black youth, and again there was neither recompense nor apology. There had been others: 11-year-old Ricky Borden from Staten Island; 11-year-old Clifford Glover from Jamaica, Queens; and 14-year-old Claude Reese from Brooklyn. Various kinds of demonstrations followed the Evans killing.
The four of us, calling our movement the Concerned Leaders and Citizens to Save Our Youth, began to plan an appropriate response that would not only express our anger but would at the same time promote something positive to perpetuate the memory of Randolph Evans. We vowed to build a movement that would eventuate into the political and economic empowerment of our community. We decided on a three-prong attack: Economic Boycott, Legal Action at the Federal Level, Comprehensive Youth Programs.
Look forward to the next article on Thursday, January 19, 2023
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