Black Power is the coming together of black people to fight for their liberation by any means necessary. Now we want to talk about violence. Because I understand that some of your so-called Negro leaders have been saying that we violent. I won't deny it. Yeah, I'm violent. Somebody touch me, I'll break their arm. But the problem isn't one of violence, see. The problem is one of hitting back white people when they hit you. That's the real problem 'cause we’ve never done that all our lives. They've been able to walk over us, bomb our churches, beat us up, shoot into our houses, lynch us, and do everything they wanted to do and we would just sit there and whisper about it behind closed doors.
Excerpt from a speech by Kwame Toure at Garfield High School, Seattle, Washington on April 19, 1967
Kwame Toure, born Stokely Carmichael, on June 29th, 1941 in Port of Spain, Trinidad is credited with leading the call for African Americans to recognize/acknowledge their “Black Power.” His parents immigrated to New York and he joined them in 1952. Like many Africans in the Diaspora, Toure at birth carried a name that came from the European enslavers. He choose the names Kwame Toure after moving to Guinea with his wife Miriam Makeba in 1969. The names he choose expressed his admiration for Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sékou Touré.
Kwame Nkrumah (1909 - 1972), led his country, Ghana, to independence from British colonization and exploitation. Nkrumah was an admirer and a protege of Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey. On March 5th, 1957, Ghana’s Independence Day, Nkrumah said; “We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity. We again rededicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate other countries in Africa; for our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.” A jubilant Ghanaian nation named their venerated leader “Osagyefo” (the victorious one.) Ghana’s independence was celebrated in the African Diaspora, from New York in North America to New Amsterdam in South America. Nkrumah set the example and led the struggle for Africans to gain independence from white colonial rule. Ghana’s independence intensified the call for freedom from colonization on the African continent. Whether they were colonized by the French, the Germans, the Portuguese, the Belgians, the Spanish, the British or any other white tribe, Africans were encouraged to fight for their independence because of the success of “Osagyefo.”
Ahmed Sékou Touré (1922 - 1984) was one of the many African leaders who led their countries to independence following the lead of Nkrumah. On October 2nd, 1958 Sékou Touré led Guinea to independence from French colonization and exploitation. Sékou Touré was the great grandson of Almami Samori Touré (1830 - 1900) who fought to keep Guinea free from French colonization during the 19th century.
Kwame Toure, the immigrant child from Trinidad, was an academically gifted student and attended the Bronx High School of Science in New York. Graduating from the school that has been described as academically elite he was offered scholarships to elite white universities. He chose to attend Howard University which is one of the 105 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU's) in the USA. While attending university he became active in the Civil Rights movement as a student activist. First as a member of the Non-violent Action Group, he later became a member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and was eventually elected its national chairman. In 1964, Toure graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Philosophy. Participating in the Freedom Summer initiative during the summer of 1964, seeking to register African Americans to vote, Toure was subjected to the brutality of white supremacist police and white southern citizens.
He eventually came to the realization that non-violence had taken the movement as far as it could go and that it was time for African Americans to stop “turning the other check.” There were daily images of African American men, women and children being subjected to brutal beatings and various indignities by white police and white citizens. It is not surprising that many of the younger people, especially those like Toure who had not been born in the Southern United States eventually decided that they had taken enough abuse in the name of non-violence.
Toure recognized that education was an important part of African liberation. In his April 19th 1967 speech at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, he advocated African centred education. He advised his audience; “We need for our kids when they go to our school, to learn a number of things. They need to learn about Africa! It should be included in their curriculum. We don't want them teaching our kids German, they should teach then Swahili! You should learn Swahili so you can talk to your African brothers and the white man won't know what you are talking about. We need to know who our heroes are. Our books must have Frederick Douglass. They must have Denmark Vesey. They must have Nat Turner. They must have Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. They must have Richard Wright. They must have J.A. Rodgers. They must have Lerone Bennett. They must have Countee Cullen. They must have Leroi Jones. And when you get the guts, when you get the guts, tell them you want to learn about brother Malcolm X!”
Shortly after his speech at Garfield High School, in June 1967, Toure resigned as chairman of SNCC and became honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party. In 1969 he moved to Guinea in West Africa where he lived until he transitioned to be with the ancestors on November, 15th 1998. Like many African American freedom fighters before and after him, Toure’s work, his efforts to advance the cause of Africans was sabotaged by the FBI and the CIA. In a letter dated 5 November, 1998 Toure claimed: “In 1967, U.S. imperialism was seriously planning to assassinate me. It still is, this time by an FBI induced cancer, the latest in the white man's arsenal of chemical and biological warfare, as I am more determined to destroy it today than in 1967.” On June 26th 2007 the Washington Post published an Associated Press article entitled “Some examples of CIA Misconduct” where previously secret documents revealed that Toure was one of several African American activists living outside the USA who had been under constant CIA surveillance since 1968. Toure’s claim that an American government agency (FBI) had introduced cancer into his body in an assassination attempt may be one step closer to being proved.
Written in April 2008