top of page

Traveling and Thinking out Loud with the People's Pastor

“Twenty-three years later, on February 6, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also stepped up to the pulpit to warn against the use of nuclear weapons. Addressing the second mobilization of the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV)” I remember the first time in April 1967 when Dr. King spoke for CALCAV at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, NY. I was there. Pastor Dr. William Sloane Coffin had been one of the founding organizers of CALCAV. As I have written, I like to feel that maybe I had something to do with Dr. King’s participation with CALCAV. At the mass weekend rally and sit-in in Washington, D.C. in 1965, the leadership was all white. I complained to one of the organizers, Dr. McAfee Brown of Stanford University, “Why are there no National Black leaders involved?” He looked surprised and said something like, “I really don’t know but we gotta fix it.”

In his speech at the second mobilization of CALCAV, Dr. King spoke passionately to end the war and claimed that if the USA used nuclear weapons in Vietnam the earth would be transformed into an inferno. Dr. King made it abundantly clear that the Black Freedom Struggle in America and the need for nuclear disarmament were inextricably linked together. He said, “These two issues are tied together in many, many ways. It is a wonderful thing to work to integrate lunch counters, public accommodations, and schools. But it would be rather absurd to work to get schools and lunch counters integrated and not be concerned with the survival of a world in which to integrate. And I am convinced that these two issues are tied inextricably together and I feel that the people who are working for civil rights are working for peace; I feel that the people working for peace are working for civil rights and justice.”

Almost fifteen years later, Dr. Intondi continues to write, “June 12, 1982, nearly one million activists and concerned citizens gathered in New York City for what would become known as the largest antinuclear demonstration in the history of the United States and as far as I know anywhere in the world.”

“A large contingent of minority groups organized under the Reverend Herbert Daughtry’s National Black United Front was among the thousands of protesters. Marching through Harlem, these activists, including prominent African Americans Harry Belafonte, Chaka Khan, Toni Morrison, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, demanded an end to the nuclear arms race and a shift from defense spending to helping the poor. When asked why they were marching, Dick Gregory responded, “to write the unwritten page of the Constitution, dealing with the right to live free from nuclear terror.”

Professor Intondi, made the bold statement, “The black freedom struggle cannot be properly understood without exploring anti-nuclear campaigns. African Americans' views of nuclear weapons directly influence their response to other international issues. Therefore, examining the African Americans' response to the nuclear threat will not only add to the rich body of scholarship dedicated to African Americans and global affairs but will alter the way we discuss these subjects.”

“By 1981, the Reagan administration had continued to perpetuate the nuclear arms race by cutting programs that really benefited the poor. Around the world, countries that already possessed nuclear weapons were adding to their arsenals and more nations were seeking to join the nuclear club. At the same time, lifelong activists and concerned citizens mobilized into what was known as the “Nuclear Freeze” campaign. The goal was not to propose any new, elaborate solution to the Cold War. They simply called for a “freeze” on the production, testing and deployment of all nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles.”

On the West Coast, a massive We Have a Dream Rally was held in Pasadena, CA. The event was sponsored by the Alliance for Survival, the Interfaith Committee for the Year of Shalom, and the SCLS, among others. African American Mayor of Pasadena Loretta Glickman, actors LaVar Burton, Mike Farrell, and Donna Mills, James Lawson, and President Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis addressed the crowd. Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joe Walsh, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and Graham Nash performed. Addressing the 100,000 in attendance, Jesse Jackson declared, “We shall march until there is no more war and no more weapons. The world faces a critical choice – to freeze weapons or burn the people. We’re not the only nation who ever made an atomic bomb, but we’re the only nation that ever dropped one. We must wake up and tell the world, we must have peace now.” Jackson urged the crowd to “choose life and choose a new president.”

“On the day of the rally, June 12, 1982, fifty percent of the leadership was Black.” The other day Charles Barron and I were rehearsing the events of June 12th. He, and Michael Amun Ra I called him “Seed”, were assigned to the daily struggle with the leadership of the demonstration. They tried to eliminate or exclude NBUF. Some of the white leaders had used their considerable influence and money to persuade even some of the black leaders to their cause. But we had secured the territory. They wanted to have the rally in front of the UN and then march to Central Park. We had secured legally the right to have the rally at the UN. They had to eventually open the leadership to allow us full participation. We organized the so-called Third World People and we insisted that we would have one-third of everything – everything meaning, one-third promotion, one-third of the program, one-third of monies to be used for the event, etc. I was one of the few if not the only speaker who spoke in front of the United Nations and at Central Park. On the stage at Central Park there was a person who for whatever reason thought he was in charge. Charles Barron and “Seed” threatened to throw him off the stage. It was unnecessary to do so. He quietly took himself to a corner and there he sat and nothing more.


bottom of page