This morning – perhaps born of my own “self-remembering” – I have been thinking about the late Kwame Ture.
With all of the events that have occurred in my life recently, I should not be surprised that today commemorates the 8th anniversary of his death in Guinea – or that my intuition brought me to thoughts of his legacy. Kwame Ture died from complications due to prostate cancer on November 15, 1998. I will not recount his many political, social and activist efforts here. Of course, while known as Stokely Carmichael, he was credited with popularizing the term Black Power and inspiring the formation of the Black Panther Party. I will provide a link or two – but in this instance, I prefer to recall more personal interactions.
The first I met Kwame Ture was at after a lecture (he was not the speaker, but was in attendance) in Harlem at City College. It must have been about 20 years ago. The topic of the lecture, I do not specifically recall, but was most likely related to some Africentric discussion of politics and education. It most likely addressed the international element of the fight for economic and social justice waged by Africans in different places around the diaspora and on the continent. After all, these were the principal topics of concern for Elder Brother Ture.
I recall standing outside of the lecture hall and the thinning crowd. He was off to the side, alone, but always willing to greet and engage a younger brother in dialogue. I remember the tone and rhythm of his voice – it was wrapped in the soothing feel of his Caribbean home. His accent was distinctively Trini (Trinidad & Tobago). It’s a different accent than other Caribbean accents – like Jamaica or Barbados. Whenever I hear his name or see his face, I can always clearly hear his voice. And his words were like a mantra – “Organize!”
I was fortunate to run into him, every once and awhile, in places as far apart as Ann Arbor, Michigan and Brooklyn, New York. His words were always the same: “Organize.” At the bottom of his clarity was a thoughtful, intellectual, and passionate pursuit of an empirical truth. Kwame Ture may have branded many things by his opponents – and hailed as many things by his admirers, but I felt that his capacity to concisely and clearly state the nature of any problem was among his best qualities. He was a superb debater. His analytical skills and capacity to tease out connections between political, economic and social events was among the finest in the world. His mind, however, was never divorced from his action.
Kwame Ture distinguished himself as an international defender of freedom in the tradition of Martin Delany. He was a true man of the Diaspora. I am choosing to remember, on this day – 8 years on, the kindness and warmth of his words meshed with the clarity of his prescription. “Organize!”
Interestingly, I hit Google for news related to Kwame Ture (today) and there was nothing. On these most important issues: ancestral reverance and remembering – and gratitude – we have a long way to go. Ten days before his death, Kwame Ture wrote, as he expressed gratitude for services rendered to him by the heads of state in Cuba and Libya, that: “We know that one of the greatest crimes an individual can commit is that of being ungrateful.” Remember and celebrate one who lived to say and do what was required of the time in which he lived.
Looking back through the spirit.