By Ronald Horton 2-24-2014 Originalpeople.org
A portion of individuals involved in the black conscious community tend to have strong views and opinions about black Greek letter fraternities / sororities, and the impact they have, be it negative or positive, on people of African descent. You can go to youtube and pull up hundreds of videos about black Greeks with topics ranging from Illuminati conspiracies, to satanism, selling out the black community to the worship of pagan gods, and all types of things. Me, being a member of a fraternity founded by black men (KAPPA ALPHA PSI Fraternity Ink.), and also an individual that promotes unity and upliftment of the GLOBAL black community, I find myself at times in the middle, refereeing these debates between my friends in the conscious community, and my friends that are members of black fraternities and sororities.
Some of my conscious friends say black Greeks are all about creating a class system within the black community, turning a blind eye to social issues in order to personally advance their careers and lifestyles, along with other members of their organizations. Some of my black Greek friends look at people in the black conscious community as loud, ignorant, stuck in the past, and out of touch with current society. Now, before a lot of you start making hundreds of comments about how ALL conscious people, or ALL black Greeks don’t view the opposite side that way, let me just say that I am already fully aware of that. However, this post is mainly directed toward those individuals who do choose to label each other in the manner I mentioned above. Below I have listed some examples of members of black Greek letter organizations who had major impacts on the black conscious movement in America, and abroad. The point I would like to make with this post is to show those of you who promote black consciousness, that black Greeks have played a major role in staring and promoting this movement. Also, to my black Greek friends, I want to remind you that some of the leaders that have been labeled socially radical, were a part of black Greek letter organizations. Hopefully both sides of this debate will find common ground, and a mutual understanding and respect after viewing the information provided in this post!Please feel free to leave your comments and opinions on this topic below, and pass this along to your friends!!!
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (Kappa Alpha Psi)
Perhaps the first great black researcher, and promoter of the study of black / African history was Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, also known as Arthur Schomburg (January 24, 1874 – June 8, 1938), He was an Afro-Puerto Rican historian, writer, and activist in the United States who researched and raised awareness of the great contributions that Afro-Latin Americans and Afro-Americans have made to society.
While Schomburg was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes or accomplishments. Inspired to prove the teacher wrong, Schomburg determined that he would find and document the accomplishments of Africans on their own continent and in the diaspora. Schomburg was educated at San Juan’s Instituto Popular, where he learned commercial printing. At St. Thomas College in the Danish-ruled Virgin Islands, he studied Negro Literature.
Schomburg immigrated to New York on April 17, 1891, and settled in the Harlem section of Manhattan. He continued his studies to untangle the African thread of history in the fabric of the Americas. After experiencing racial discrimination in the US, he began calling himself “Afroborinqueño” which means “Afro-Puerto Rican”. He became a member of the “Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico” and became an active advocate of Puerto Rico’s and Cuba’s independence from Spain.
In 1911, Alfonso Schomburg co-founded with John Edward Bruce the Negro Society for Historical Research, to create an institute to support scholarly efforts. For the first time it brought together African, West Indian and Afro-American scholars.
In March 1925 Schomburg published his essay “The Negro Digs Up His Past” in an issue of the Survey Graphic devoted to the intellectual life of Harlem. It had widespread distribution and influence. The historian John Henrik Clarke told of being so inspired by the essay that at age seventeen he left home in Columbus, Georgia to seek out Mr. Schomburg to further his studies in African history.
By the 1920s Schomburg had amassed a world-renowned collection which consisted of artworks, manuscripts, rare books, slave narratives and other artifacts of Black history. In 1926 the New York Public Library purchased his collection for $10,000 with the help of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The collection formed the cornerstone of the Library’s Division of Negro History at its 135th Street Branch in Harlem. The library appointed Schomburg curator of the collection, which was named in his honor: the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Schomburg used his proceeds from the sale to fund travel to Spain, France, Germany and England, to seek out more pieces of black history to add to the collection. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Schomburg to his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
Huey P. Newton(Phi Beta Sigma)
Huey P. Newton, born in Monroe, Louisiana, on February 17, 1942, helped later in 1966 to found the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The organization was central to the Black Power movement. Unlike many of the other social and political organizers of the time, they took a militant stance, advocating the ownership of guns by African Americans, and were often seen brandishing weapons. A famous photograph shows Newton—the group’s minister of defense—holding a gun in one hand and a spear in the other.
The group believed that violence—or the threat of violence—might be needed to bring about social change. They set forth their political goals in a document called the Ten-Point Program, which included better housing, jobs, and education for African Americans. It also called for an end to economic exploitation of black communities. Still the organization itself was not afraid to punctuate its message with a show of force.
For example, to protest a gun bill in 1967, Newton and other members of the Panthers entered the California Legislature fully armed. The action was a shocking one that made news across the country. And Newton emerged as a leading figure in the black militant movement.
The Black Panthers wanted to improve life in black communities and establish social programs to help those in need. They also fought against police brutality in black neighborhoods by mostly white cops. Members of the group would go to arrests in progress and watch for abuse. Newton himself was arrested in 1967 for allegedly killing an Oakland police officer during a traffic stop. He was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to two to 15 years in prison. But public pressure—”Free Huey” became a popular slogan of the day—helped Newton’s cause. The case was eventually dismissed after two retrials ended with hung juries.
Carter G. Woodson (Omega Psi Phi)
Carter G. Woodson was born in 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. One of the first African Americans to receive a doctorate from Harvard, Woodson dedicated his career to the field of African-American history and lobbied extensively to establish Black History Month as a nationwide institution. He also wrote many historical works, including the 1933 book The Mis-Education of the Negro. He died in Washingtong, D.C., in 1950.
After finishing his education, Woodson dedicated himself to the field of African-American history, working to make sure that the subject was taught in schools and studied by scholars. For his efforts, Woodson is often called the “Father of Black History.”
Woodson also formed the African-American-owned Associated Publishers Press in 1921 and would go on to write more than a dozen books over the years, including A Century of Negro Migration(1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History (1922) and Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). Mis-Education—with its focus on the Western indoctrination system and African-American self-empowerment—is a particularly noted work and has become regularly course adopted by college institutions.
Woodson lobbied schools and organizations to participate in a special program to encourage the study of African-American history, which began in February 1926 with Negro History Week. The program was later expanded and renamed Black History Month. (Woodson had chosen February for the initial week long celebration to honor the birth months of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.)
Betty Shabazz (Delta Sigma Theta)
Betty Shabazz, also known as Betty X, was born Betty Dean Sanders. Although her birth records have been lost, she was likely born on May 28, 1934. Shabazz was an American educator and civil rights advocate who married Nation of Islam spokesman Malcolm X in 1958.
Shabazz grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where her foster parents largely sheltered her from racism. She attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where she had her first encounters with racism. Unhappy with the situation in Alabama, she moved to New York City to become a nurse.
During her second year of nursing school, Sanders was invited by an older nurse’s aide to a dinner party at the National of Islam temple in Harlem. She enjoyed the evening but declined to join the organization at that time. During her next visit to the temple, Sanders met Malcolm X, who was her friend’s minister. Sanders began attending Malcolm X’s services. She converted in 1956, changing her surname to “X” to represent the loss of her African ancestry.
Betty X and Malcolm X were married on January 14, 1958, in Michigan. The couple eventually had six daughters. In 1964, Malcolm X announced that his family was leaving the Nation of Islam. He and Betty X, now known as Betty Shabazz, became Sunni Muslims.
After her husband’s assassination in 1965, Shabazz went on to a career in university administration and activism.
Khalid Abdul Muhammad (Omega Psi Phi)
Khalid Abdul Muhammad (born Harold Moore Jr.; January 12, 1948 – February 17, 2001) was an African-American activist who came to prominence as the National Assistant to Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam (NOI). After a racially inflammatory 1993 speech at Kean College Muhammad was condemned and removed from his position in the Nation of Islam by Louis Farrakhan. He was also censured by both Houses of the United States Congress.
After being removed from the Nation of Islam he served as the National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party until his death in 2001. Despite the controversy that followed him, his strong denunciations of white power gained him the support of some in the black community.
In 1970, while attending Dillard, Muhammad joined the Nation of Islam, which was then under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad. He changed his name to Harold Smith, became Minister Louis Farrakhan’s protégé, and was active as a recruiter within the organization. In 1978, Smith was appointed Western Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam and leader of Mosque #27. In 1983, Minister Farrakhan named him Khalid after the Islamic general Khalid ibn al-Walid, a follower of the prophet Muhammad, calling him the Sword of Allah.
By 1984, Muhammad had become one of Louis Farrakhan’s most trusted advisors in the Nation of Islam. He traveled to Libya on a fund-raising trip, where he became well acquainted with that country’s leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi. Muhammad’s dedication to Farrakhan and to the message of the NOI eventually secured him the title of national spokesman and he was named one of Louis Farrakhan’s friends in 1981. He served at Nation of Islam mosques in New York and Atlanta throughout the 1980s. A federal court convicted him in 1987 of mortgage fraud and sentenced him to nine months in prison. After his prison term he returned to the Nation, becoming Farrakhan’s national advisor in 1991.
Bobby Rush (Iota Phi Theta)
Bobby Rush was born on November 23, 1946 in Albany, Georgia. After his mother and father separated when he was 7, Rush, his siblings and their mother moved to Chicago, Illinois.
In 1963 after dropping out of high school, Rush joined the U.S. Army. While stationed in Chicago in 1966, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1968, he went AWOL from the Army and co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. He later received an honorable discharge from the Army.
Throughout the 1960s, Rush was involved in the civil-rights movement and worked in civil-disobedience campaigns in the Southern United States. After co-founding the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers in 1968, he served as its “defense minister”. After witnessing fellow Black Panther Fred Hampton being killed in a police raid, Rush made statements saying “We needed to arm ourselves” and referring to the police as “pigs”. Earlier that same year Rush stated the philosophy behind his membership in the Black Panthers saying, “Black people have been on the defensive for all these years. The trend now is not to wait to be attacked.
We advocate offensive violence against the power structure.” Despite the group’s engagement in violence, Rush nonetheless worked on several non-violent projects that built support for the Black Panthers in African-American communities, such as coordinating a medical clinic which offered sickle-cell anemia testing on an unprecedented scale.
Rush’s own apartment was raided in December 1969, where police discovered an unregistered pistol, rifle, shotgun, pistol ammunition, training manuals on explosives, booby traps, an assortment of communist literature, and a small amount of marijuana. Rush was imprisoned for six months in 1972 on a weapons charge, after carrying a pistol into a police station.
Kwame Nkrumah (Phi Beta Sigma)
Kwame Nkrumah, (21 September 1909 – 27 April 1972) was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1951 to 1966. Overseeing the nation’s independence from British colonization in 1957, Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana. An influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.
In 1935, Nkrumah sailed from Takoradi, Gold Coast, to Liverpool, England, and made his way to London, England, where he applied and received his student visa from the American Embassy. It was while Nkrumah was in London in late 1935 that he heard the news of the Invasion of Abyssinia by fascist Italy, an event that outraged the young Nkrumah. This prompted him to set his sights on a political career.
Portrait photograph of Nkrumah
In October 1935, Nkrumah sailed from Liverpool to the United States, where he enrolled at the Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939, and then he completed his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree in 1942. Nkrumah also earned his Master of Science degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942, and then his M.A. in philosophy in 1943. While he was lecturing in political science at Lincoln University, he was elected the president of the African Students Organization of the United States and Canada. As an undergraduate student at Lincoln University, he took part in at least one student theater production, and he published an essay on European government in Africa in the student newspaper, The Lincolnian.
During his time in the United States, Nkrumah also preached at black Presbyterian churches inPhiladelphia and New York City. He read books about politics and divinity, and tutored students in philosophy. Nkrumah encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey and in 1943 met and began a lengthy correspondence with Trinidadian Marxist C. L. R. James, Russian expatriate Raya Dunayevskaya, and Chinese-American Grace Lee Boggs, all of whom were members of an American-based Trotskyist intellectual cohort. Nkrumah later credited James with teaching him “how an underground movement worked”. Nkrumah’s association with these radicals drew him to the attention of the FBI, and he was placed under surveillance by the early part of 1945.
Nkrumah returned to London in May 1945 with the intention of studying at the London School of Economics. After meeting with George Padmore, he helped organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England. Then he founded the West African National Secretariat to work towards the decolonization of Africa. Nkrumah served as Vice-President of the West African Students’ Union (WASU). Nkrumah’s association with left wing radicals meant that he was watched by the Special Branch while he was in England between 1945 and 1947.
In the autumn of 1947, Nkrumah was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) under Joseph Boakye Danquah. This political convention was exploring paths to independence. Nkrumah accepted the position and sailed for the Gold Coast. After brief stops in Sierra Leone,Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, he arrived in the Gold Coaston 10 December 1947.
On 28 February 1948, police fired on African ex-servicemen protesting the rising cost of living, killing and injuring sixty eight. The shooting spurred riots in Accra,Kumasi, and elsewhere. The government suspected the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was behind the protests and on 12 March 1948 arrested Nkrumah and other party leaders. Realizing their error, the British released the convention leaders on 12 April 1948. After his imprisonment by the colonial government, Nkrumah emerged as the leader of the youth movement in 1948.
After his release, Nkrumah hitchhiked around the country. He proclaimed that the Gold Coast needed “self-governance now”, and built a large power base. Cocoa farmers rallied to his cause. He invited women to participate in the political process at a time when women’s suffrage was new to Africa. The trade unions also allied with his movement. On 12 June 1949, he organized these groups into a new political party: The Convention People’s Party (CPP).
The British convened a selected commission of middle-class Africans to draft a new constitution that would give Ghana more self-government. Under the new constitution, only those withsufficient wage and property would be allowed to vote. Nkrumah organized a “People’s Assembly” with CPP party members, youth, trade unionists, farmers, and veterans. They called for universal franchise without property qualifications, a separate house of chiefs, and self-governing status under the Statute of Westminster 1931. These amendments, known as the Constitutional Proposals of October 1949, were rejected by the colonial administration.
Nkrumah with Egyptian EgyptologistPahor Labib at the Coptic Museum, 1956
When the colonial administration rejected the People’s Assembly’s recommendations, Nkrumah organized a “Positive Action” campaign on 1 January 1950, including civil disobedience, non-cooperation, boycotts, and strikes. That day the colonial administration immediately arrested Nkrumah and many CPP supporters, and he was sentenced to three years in prison.
Facing international protests and internal resistance, the British decided to leave the Gold Coast. Britain organized the first general election to be held under universal franchise on 5–10 February 1951. Though Nkrumah was in jail, his CPP was elected by a landslide, taking 34 out of 38 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly. Komla Agbeli Gbedemah is credited with organizing Nkrumah’s entire campaign while he (Nkrumah) was still in prison at Fort James. Nkrumah was released from prison on 12 February and was summoned by Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, the Governor, and asked to form a government on 13 February. The new Legislative Assembly met on 20 February, with Nkrumah as Leader of Government Business, and E.C. Quist as President of the Assembly.
A year later, the constitution was amended to provide for a Prime Minister on 10 March 1952, and Nkrumah was elected to that post by a secret ballot in the Assembly, 45 to 31, with eight abstentions on 21 March.
He presented his “Motion of Destiny” to the Assembly, requesting independence within the British Commonwealth “as soon as the necessary constitutional arrangements are made” on 10 July 1953, and that body approved it.