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Elombe Brath Legacy

Posted by sjaugu on June 22, 2016 at 9:45 AM

Elombe Brath Legacy 


Sept 30, 1936 - May 19, 2014


In today's contemporary world, Africans everywhere (those at home and abroad) are bombarded with so many distraction's sometimes past heroes, and heroines are forgotten. One such individual is Elombe Brath, although he was widely known among many of his constituents. Most importantly, his name should be known to Africans all around the world.

  He was impressed by his cousin Clennell Wickham, who was exiled from Barbados in the 1930s for writing about socialism. Elombe had an early interest in political affairs by listening to conversations his family would have about his cousin as well as, Marcus Garvey’s activities in Harlem in the 1920s. He got a first-hand account of the Garvey movement because his parents were both members.

The uniqueness of Elombe accomplishments was that he fought for descendants in America as well as maintaining major contact with leaders in Africa during colonialism. Simultaneously, he was a major catalyst in Gil Nobles television program “Tell it like it is.” He persuaded historians like John Henrik Clarke, Ivan Van Sertima, Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Cheikh Ada Diop to appear on Gil Noble shows. Even more amazing he raised a family of seven, at the same time. 

Elombe was a dedicated student of the late Honorable Carlos A. Cooks and Professor Ray Williams, two dynamic teachers of Garvey’s African Fundamentalism. Mr. Cooks annual Miss Natural Standard of Beauty contest is when young women would compete with their hair natural and no makeup. He    was very impressed with this event. Mindfully, back in those days wearing your hair natural was taboo and to be called black was fighting words. 

Carlos Cooks Convention to Abolish “ the term “Negro”

On August 16, 1959, Carlos Cooks issued a call to the convention by the ANPM to abolish the term “Negro” as the official racial classification. Instead, he argued for the usage of “Black” when speaking in terms of color (irrespective of complexion) and in relation to the so-called white, yellow, brown and red races. Likewise, and even more important, the term “African” would be used when speaking in relation to land or origin (regardless of one’s own “native” birthplace), heritage, and culture.

  Elombe was an active participant of that convention. Which also gave birth to a standard of beauty that could be institutionalized nationwide and was a catalyst to consciousness worldwide. It was in those days as a young Garveyite member of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement that Elombe initiated the “Naturally” shows that led to the spread and promotion of “Black is Beautiful.” Those who associated with Elombe or attended one of his numerous lecture series at the Harriet Tubman School in Harlem remember his detailed knowledge of Garvey and Carlos Cooks.   

Elombe showed a talent for art. Following in the footsteps of his father, himself a gifted painter, he attended the High School of Industrial Art (now Art Design), later winning a college scholarship to the School of Visual Arts. In 1956, Elombe Brath along with his brother Kwame, Robert Gumbs, Chris Acemendeses Hall and others founded the African Jazz-Art Society Studios (AJAZZ) to reclaim jazz as music of contemporary cultural traditions that should be controlled by its  musicians and artists.

The First “Black is Beautiful Show”

His brother Kwame said, while promoting the show, the comments were mixed. Someone told Elombe, “you mean you’re gonna put some nappy headed Black 'bitches on stage to model? " I’m going to be right there in the first row laughing.” Elombe replied, just buy a ticket and come to the show. By now, the word had gotten out, and people in the community were taking sides, pro and con. Some of the Harlem beauticians were up in arms, saying that the trend, if allowed to take hold, would take away a lot of their business. We booked a ballroom on 125th Street called the Sunset Terrace. If memory serves me right, this would be the first event at the new renovated space. 

His brother Kwame recalls his brilliance in the development    of the Grandassa models in 1962. Whom were a group of youthful African men and women (again, back then they were Negroes) whom wore their hair in its natural state, sparking the “Black is Beautiful” shows in and around New York City. Sadly, these women would have to straighten their hair the next day because of peer pressure.   

To put his accomplishments in a proper context, that time period has to be described. It was fashionable to straighten your hair as well as using bleaching crème to lighten your skin color. Notably, all of Africa was colonized with the exception Ethiopia. 

This is when Africans everywhere were conditioned to hate their physical characteristic along with anything associated with Africa. Mindfully, in that era when Africa was mentioned it was persona non grata. Profoundly, people would be ready to fight over that word, and on some occasions led up to physical altercations. Despite all odds the first “Black is Beautiful” show almost never happen.

The Sunset Terrace Burn Down

Ticket sales were brisk for    April 1, 1962, and we were sold out before the show. The morning of the show, we got a call from Jimmy Abu who was in Harlem, and he told us that “the Sunset Terrace is on fire” and the firemen were chopping the place up. We rushed to the scene on this rainy “April Fools Day” and sure enough. The place was destroyed. Not to be outdone, I went to first the Hotel Theresa, at 125th on 7th Avenue, which had a top-floor ballroom and inquired, but to no avail, the room was booked. I went to the Celebrity Club, further east on 125th, which was also booked.  



Then I rushed up to Small’s Paradise, the venue of our first show eight years earlier, and asked what was going on in the ballroom that evening. They said “nothing” and I said I wanted to book it. They asked, “for when?” I said, “for today!” They freaked out. I was the treasurer and had the receipts for the sold out event with me, and paid them on the spot. We stationed someone outside the burned-out ballroom and someone on the phones at our studios as the phone kept ringing with people thinking. The fire story was an “April Fool” joke. 

 As people came in cabs to the Sunset Terrace we told them, “don’t turn off the meter, go to Smalls. “Miraculously, we started the event only about one-half-hour late, as the crowd came to the new location, in the pouring rain and our “fired up” crew gave a show even greater than we had expected. By now, we had added some satirical skits, “Fantasy in a Barber Shop” being one of them, where actor David K Ward comes into the barber shop to get his hair " conked, " i.e. straightened. This pantomimed skit was hilarious, and thus we successfully combined, art, music, fashions, dance, acting, poetry and comedy into political “edutainment.”

The show featured Clara Lewis, Black Rose, Nomsa White (now Brath), Priscilla Bardonille, Wanda Sims, Marie Toussaint, Esther Davenport and Beatrice Cranston, and male models Jimmy Abu, and Frank Adu, and actor Gus Williams opening the show with the models as he recited Marcus Garvey’s poem “Black Woman. " The show drew a standing applause and when the show was over, and we looked outside, the crowd that couldn’t get in, was still there. We cleaned up the space and gave a second show that same day. Moreover, Abby Lincoln could not sing because of her contract, and as a last resort, one of the Grandassa model's performed instead. Nevertheless, the show was such a success. It inspired all of us, and we planned for a follow-up show at a larger venue. This was over a span of almost two generations.

He magnificently utilized the    “Black is Beautiful Shows” to serve many purposes. Just think of his genius. First, he replaced Negro with Black along with having his models wear their hair natural. Then he would have actors, and actresses perform entertaining skids depicting different forms of brainwashing. Which explains how western culture dominates their daily lives. These shows were embracing African ethnicity in the form of humor and entertainment. Slowly, but surely wearing an Afro was totally accepted everywhere in a little over a decade. Elombe, knowing or unknowingly was a genius. 

The Road Shows

During their travels, Max Roach (drummer) and Abbey    Lincoln (singer)    contacted progressive brothers and sisters in Detroit and Chicago and helped us book the show in those cities. We arranged a show in New York at The Audubon Ballroom for January 17, and shows in Chicago at Roberts Show Club on February 22 and one at Mr Kelly’s in Detroit on February 23, 1963, and took the show on the road. In Detroit, LeRoy Mitchell and Omar Shabazz, two art students at Wayne State University, were absolutely fabulous. They decorated Mr. Kelly’s with replicas of the Grandassa Model logo, a silhouetted black head in profile, with a Nefertitti-like hairstyle. Both Mitchell and Shabazz went to live and teach in Ghana.

In Chicago, the beauticians were far more progressive than those in Harlem. I went to Chicago after our January Show, to promote the upcoming event. Beauticians invited me to come to their school and show the slides of the performance and the hairstyles, and they began to add our natural hairstyles to other products they offered. I received such a welcome, and help from all areas of the Black community. I went into bars and was allowed to set up my slide projector and show images of the shows and the models, fashions and hairstyles. I would never have the opportunity to do that even in our home base in Harlem.

Needless to say, both shows were successes, but sparked more controversy. That was the first of our road shows, that later took us to Lincoln University where a Black student group which included by Sam Anderson and Gloria Dulan-Wilson; Cornell University where Brother Makaza (a.k.a. Herbert Callendar) sponsored the show; North Babylon for the National Council of Negro Women, among other places, spreading the art that traversed the globe.

To put his accomplishments in a proper context, that time period has to be described. It was fashionable to straighten your hair as well as using bleaching crème to lighten your skin. Most importantly, Elombe brilliancy had Africans, whom were Negroes at that time. It not only wore their hairstyle's natural.      However, at the same time embracing “Black is Beautiful." 

Even more astounding is a short time afterward James Brown song “I am Black and Proud” took communities by storm. Again, all of these activities occurred. Because of who? Elombe Brath!  Just think of his intellect and vision, he utilized beauty with an audience of Negroes, whom were taught to hate their physical characteristic of nappy hair and their skin color to wear their hair natural at the same time saying, “Black is Beautiful” along with dressing in African attire.   

He magnificently utilized the    “Black is Beautiful Shows” to serve many purposes. Just think of his genius. First, he replaced Negro with Black along with having his models wear their hair natural. Then he would have actors, and actresses perform entertaining skids depicting different forms of brainwashing. Which explains how western culture dominates their daily lives. These shows were embracing African ethnicity in the form of humor and entertainment. Slowly, but surely wearing an Afro was totally accepted everywhere in a little over a decade. Elombe, knowing or unknowingly was a genius. 





African Parade Magazine

In 1963, Herbert Manangatheri, an editor of eleven African newspapers and African Parade Magazine, publications that were printed and distributed in the still colonized countries then known as Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) and some neighboring territories, visited our 125th Street studios with Max and Abbey. He interviewed us, and I gave him photos of the Grandassa Models and some of our brochures and press material. Soon after he ran three successive cover stories in African Parade Magazine about the show, the first and third of the issues featured Grandassa Models on the cover, and the issue in-between them featured Abbey Lincoln, on the inside cover.

  We read an article describing how they copied the show in Lusaka (Zambia), and a campaign began to replace the images that were coming from what they saw from Black publications in the US, that featured black women wearing blonde and red wigs, "candy' lipstick and 'hot pants," with a natural image like the Grandassa Models and our fashions. In the magazine, they reported that bands of Black youth were snatching wigs off of the heads of the girls who were adopting what we called the “Congo Blondes and Zulu Redhead” styles, and wiping their lipstick off with sandpaper. 

And also in in 1963, AJASS formed The Black Standard Publishing Company, which created two books, The Naturally ’63 Portfolio and the now collector’s item, “Color Us Cullud: The Official American Negro Coloring Book," written and illustrated by Elombe Brath. The book targeted the weaknesses of the civil “rites” movement and their non-violent, turn the other cheek, integrationist policies. The last thing that Malcolm X said to me directly was “tell your brother, he’s a genius," referring to Elombe’s analysis in the book.   

  Elombe life as full of countless lessons from heroes such as Marcus Garvey, Carlos Cooks, Malcolm X, Martin Delaney, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Jomo Kenyatta and others.  He was engaged on both fronts an assortment of activities on behalf of communities in America as well as countries on the motherland. In the process, he engaged in numerous activities by creating organizations, pardoning with prominent leaders with a like mindset, creating organizations and traveling back and forth to Africa to meet and befriend solid    contacts.

  Following are stellar examples of his great work exposing the atrocious conditions and injustice imposed upon Africans in Peru and Venezuela. This is together with revealing the truths about the Panama Invasion. Elombe's put forth a tremendous effort to educate us on the injustices of Central America by providing platforms for representatives of Guatemala, Belize and Costa Rica.

He presented a History of the Bombing of Move in Philadelphia and Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Organizing Campaigns to Free Political Prisoners a Prisoner of War, including Tremendous work for Mumia Abu Jamal, Geronimo Jaga Pratt, Mutulu Shakur, Eddie Ellis, Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Herman Ferguson, Gary Graham and countless others. He was exposing the truths and corruption of the case against Adam Abdul-Hakeem (also known as Larry Davis).

Elombe fought for the establishment of a Historical District of the African Burial Ground in the City Hall area of Manhattan, New York. Elombe pin pointed the facts, that impacted as well as, the history of our slain leadership by hands of US Covert Action and COINTELPRO.. He campaigned, organized and mobilized for the Central Park 5 cases.

Abby performed with us until the fall of ’64 when she left to go to Hollywood to star with Ivan Dixon in “Nothing But A Man” one of the most important Black films at that    time. By then, with her and Max’ help, the production was very popular. We could book the largest ballroom in Harlem, Rockland Palace, which held 4,200 people. We set is our shows' banquet style, to sit 1,500 or more people and used the rest of the floor for our show. We packed it each time up to 1978, performing usually two large shows in New York each year, while AJASS entertaining in other theatre productions, “Caste Life Revue” and “A Portrait of Patrice Lumumba. " The 'Naturally' shows drew many of the top artists. Even Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba came to one of the events together.

A Summation of Elombe's Accomplishments

In 1960, Elombe joined the South West African Relief Committee to assist SWAPO President Sam Nujoma in getting aid to the country of Namibia, which was then suffering under the yoke of the racist apartheid regime. This marked the beginning of his numerous relationships with African freedom fighters, struggling to liberate their country from colonial and White minority rule. They included leaders such as Samora Machel of Mozambique, Thomas Sankora of Burkina-Faso, Kanyama Chiume of Malawi, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe among many others.

We shall continue in 1973, when he was awarded the Croix de Chivalry by President Ahmed Seke Ture of Guinea for continuous work toward the African Democratic Revolution, as well as, in 1974 met Angolan's freedom the MPLA fighters while in Zaire for the Ali vs. Forman in the “Rumble in the Jungle." And In 1987, he co-founded the December 12th Movement in response to police brutality following the 1986 murder of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach. In 1989, he organized mobilized for the Central Park Five, believing in their innocence decades before the truth came to light.    His keen insight into domestic and international affairs earned him a Revson Fellowship at Columbia University, where he taught for several years despite never having done formal academic graduate work. 

Emeritus's historian John Henrik Clarke referred to Elombe as “the Foot Soldier and the General of the African Nationalist Movement” There was no more fitting tribute to him than his being selected by fellow activists to host and emcee the first visit by Nelson Mandela to Harlem upon Mandela’s release from prison. Mandela made two additional stops in New York City – at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn (hosted by Brooklyn based activists), and Yankee Stadium, in the South Bronx. Nevertheless, it was upon the insistence of Elombe and fellow activists that Mandela’s most significant and celebrated speaking engagement had to be with the people who fought first for his freedom. 

That venue was on the streets of Harlem – 125th St and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans came to greet Mandela in Harlem. And that program was run by activists and chaired by Elombe Brath. I recall the experience like it was yesterday, having served on the Nelson Mandela Welcoming Committee with Elombe and others. Former Black Panther Party Leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad had recently been released from prison after serving 19 years. He greeted Mandela on that stage as a representative of African American political prisoners and prisoners of war in the US. Being on that stage with Mandela still remains the proudest moment of my life and a memory I will have forever. 

Elombe's Global Reach

  Uniquely,  Elombe is among the very few who could make an impact in both aspects of descendants of slavery along with    those victimized by colonialism, as well as, the anti-slavery movement of the Sudan and Mauritania, together with the fight against the atrocities of Shell oil and the Abacha regime in Nigeria. The great work with General Aidid in Somalia, and also, against the atrocities of the Mobutu regime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Anti-Apartheid movement led by the ANC in South Africa, (which he was very instrumental in the divestment efforts to free Nelson Mandela). A long amazing work he accomplished in Benin, Tanzania, Ghana and many other African countries. Work with freedom fighters of China, Vietnam, and other Asia's nations. 

While working at ABC, Elombe emerged as a key figure and co-founding the Patrice Lumumba Coalition in 1975 with the late Irving Davis organizing protests against the South African government. He  was also involved in the anti-slavery movement of the Sudan and Mauritania, the fight against the atrocities of Shell oil and the Abacha regime in Nigeria, along with    the fight against the atrocities of the Mobutu regime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

WBAI-FM 99.5 for over 30 years

He used his platform at WBAI-FM, 99.5 for over 30 years, broadcasting his show AfriKalidescope to make people aware of injustices around the globe. He exposed the truth about the Sandinistas’ struggle in Nicaragua, the atrocities committed in East Timor, and provided platforms for representatives of Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Cuba, who were fighting for freedom in their countries.

  His dedication of fighting for cause of descendants as well as,  Africa's struggles is documented in history and  life time experiences for those that remain.

The “former Revolutionary Government of Grenada led by Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement”. “Jamaica (during the early Manley administration)”.    Endless efforts to support the “Haitian Struggle For Freedom”.    He garnered support for the Garifuna in Belize and Honduras. The Sandinista struggles in Nicaragua. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador. Fretilin in Timor, 1976 .

Elombe's Wit and Charm

Elombe    was a man of enormous wit and charm, won you over with a quiet intensity, rather than bombast in his telling of the Diaspora experience. His encyclopedic knowledge of the history of peoples of African descent, based on his involvement in struggles around the world from the Caribbean and South America to the countries of Africa and, of course, the United States, was astounding.    He has received over 200 congratulations and awards for his work. In May of 2013, and he was immortalized in the history of America when he was enshrined with a Congressional Record by the 112th legislature.

  Counted among his many friends and admirers were jazz greats such as Miles Davis, political and cultural greats such as the late Amiri Baraka, and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure). A committed and courageous fighter to the end, Elombe eventually succumbed to illness on Monday, May 19, 2014.

My Personal Thoughts

My final personal thoughts on  a   fellow member of the African Nationalist, as well as a friend.  

I first met the Brath brothers (Elombe and Kwame) in 1960. When we were members of the ANPM (African Nationalist Pioneer Movement).   I am   truly blessed to have been able to watch  Elombe back then known as Cecil    grow from an African nationalist student of Carlos Cooks fifty years ago. Grow and developed   into a  a highly respected  World Leader    in the global African communities. 

A final word of his genius can best be described b his brother, Kwame.


"His life has been a marathon of causes here and around the world on behalf of our brothers and sisters who needed their struggles to be voiced and recognized, whether in South Africa, Namibia, Congo, Ethiopia, Grenada, Burkina Faso or in the United States."
 

              Kwame Brath 

Elombe's Passage into the Ancestral World

*  "Elombe Brath was raised from birth under the influence of the Honorable Marcus Garvey, together with the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) led by Carlos Cooks. Afterward, he then spent his full life fighting for the decolonization of Africa and other oppressed nations of the world. 

*  In addition to organizing and spearheading African liberation support committees, the tireless Brath helped to co-found several key organizations including the Patrice Lumumba Coalition PLC), the December the 12th Movement (D-12) and the World African Diaspora Union (WADU)."

* In line with Elombe activism, he popularized the slogan “Africa called, Cuba answered.” As well as, in 1992, was an endorser of the “Peace for Cuba” rally that packed New York City’s Javits Center.

* Consequently, Elombe Brath was invited to Cuba by Fidel Castro, who described how the Angolan and Cuban soldiers, along with fighters from SWAPO and the ANC [the African National Congress], destroyed the apartheid army at Cuito Cuanavale in Southern Angola in March 1988, the army of apartheid South Africa was defeated by a Pan-Africanist alliance that included tens of thousands of Cuban volunteers. Their victory forced South Africa's racist rulers to enter negotiations that led to the dismantling of anti-apartheid organizations, the release of Nelson Mandela, the independence of Namibia, and ultimately freedom for South Africa.

* All aspects of the global African communities were represented at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem New York on May 31, 2014. Although, there were hundreds in attendance and thousands or perhaps millions mourn his passing. However, those are also millions who is unaware of Elombe's existence. Above all, his life of activism should be known throughout the global African communities.

* Nothing would have pleased Elombe Brath than to have been invite to Dr. Hage Geingob inauguration on March 1, 2014 when he was sworn in as Namibias third president.

On many occasions, Dr. Geingob, as representative of the South West Africa People’s Organization, was a speaker at Brath’s weekly rallies of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition at the Harriet Tubman School on 127th Street. Brath and the members of his organization played a vital role in keeping the struggle alive around the world.

His legacy still lives because Dr. Geingob sent invitations to his family members, which were Brother Kwame (brother) , and two of his sons Elombe Jr. and Cinque.

Most importantly, there was a symbolic empty seat left open in his cabinet for Elombe. That empty seat represents appreciations that goes back almost two generations. To 1960, that is when Elombe joined the South West African Relief Committee to assist in plotting independence of Southwest Africa (present-day Naimbia), which was then suffering under the yoke of the racist apartheid regime.


Most certainly, his life of activism is worthy of a book along with a DOCUMENTARY.

Long Live ELOMBE's Memory

Edited by:

Sabamya Jaugu: African Manifesto

  “Thank You Elombe”

Sources:

We must give special thanks Elombe’s brother Kwame together with his son Cinque whom graciously  shared their personal records.                                                                 

Other Sources:

http://www.wadupam.org/president-mbeki-calls-brath-%E2%80%9Ca-general-of-the-pan-african-movement%E2%80%9D

http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/06/10/tribute-elombe-brath-pan-african-revolutionary-teacher/

http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/seen-up-north-paying-homage-to-freedom-fighter/

http://www.blackstarnews.com/us-politics/justice/tribute-elombe-brath-pan-african-who-championed-africa-dies.html#sthash.MEJTMo9T.dpuf

http://blackleftunity.blogspot.com/2014/05/elombe-brath-presente-1936-2014.html

http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/12/grandassa-models-birth-of-black-is.html

http://www.wadupam.org/africa%E2%80%99s-great-freedom-fighter-makes-passage-into-the-ancestral-world





Categories: Africa History and Culture Black men Civilization, Global Africa Network, United State

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