Elombe Brath: 70 Yrs Young

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His knowledge of the history of African people has caused him to be a favorite of students, journalists and world leaders alike, including Presidents Sekou Touré of Guinea, Dr. Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Robert Mugabe among others

(His friends call him Elombe...)

This Saturday, September 30th, the Black Studies Program of City College New York, the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive To African People (CEMOTAP) and the Pan-African community will pay tribute to veteran Pan-African activist, historian and artist Elombe Brath his 70th birthday and his 50 years of Pan-African activism.

The event will take place at City College’s NAC building on Convent Avenue at 137th Street, beginning at 4 PM. This tribute will re-start the African Internationalist Forums that many are demanding to keep the community apprised of developments internationally and how they impact on Black people on a day-to-day basis.      

When it comes to Africa and the history of Black struggle in the US or elsewhere, Elombe has been considered, as originally deemed by Rev. Herbert Daughtry, “The Walking Encyclopedia�. His knowledge of the history of African people has caused him to be a favorite for information for students, journalists and world leaders alike, including Presidents Sekou Touré of Guinea, Dr. Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe among others.       

Elombe, the Chairman of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, (PLC) since it’s formation in 1975, has been active in the struggle since 1956 when he “discovered� the “Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey� and the teachings of Carlos A. Cooks, administrator of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM). That same summer, he co-founded the Jazz-Art Society, an organization of young artist and jazz lovers that were concerned with the disparity of how the Black jazz musicians, the creator of the art form, were paid and treated in the industry as opposed to how the white musicians that drew to the music were paid and treated for parroting the music.

The Jazz-Art Society brought together artists, musicians, dancers and poetry that gave rise to the Black Arts Movement nine year later. With Garveyism at its core, the Jazz-Art Society soon became the African Jazz-Art Society promoting under that name until the moved their operations from the Brathwaite household, to a newly opened studio on 125th Street next to the Apollo on October 1, 1961, and officially became the African Jazz-Art Society & Studios (AJASS). They made that move after attending the ANPM’s Marcus Garvey Day Celebration, Parade and Eulogistic Mass Meeting at which one of its components, “The Miss Natural Standard of Beauty� contest was a feature. The contest brought young Black women together to compete in a beauty pageant in which they had to wear the hair in its natural state and compete without make-up as well as answer questions about our history.

Members of the ANPM would recruit the girls and convince them to wear their hair in its natural state for the competition. The contest, had been held since 1943 on August 17th Garvey’s birthday, and the cash prize was given to the winner on the following Sunday night meeting. Usually, by the Sunday meeting the winners had straightened their hair again to go to school or work.

This gave Elombe the idea to form a group that would promote our natural standard of beauty. AJASS, who had been involved in various fashion shows, including ones promoted by Harlem tailor shop owned, Lou Borders with mostly light skinned girls (the order of the times), and his Continental Male Models began recruiting models the had a more African look, dark and more voluptuous and who felt proud wear their hair natural. That was the beginning of the Grandassa Models and the “Naturally� shows that promoted and spread the idea of  “Black Is Beautiful.�      

Elombe’s work for the African liberation struggle, holding panels, rallies and speaking at colleges and universities and community forums, for the independence of Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia and his anti-apartheid work for the release of Nelson Mandela and for majority rule of South Africa (years before the 1986 campaign that brought popular politicians to the cause), is well known around the globe.

His support of Guinea in their struggle to maintain their independence despite the war waged against them by the former colonial invaders, Portugal, earned him the Croix de Chivalry from President Touré and the government of Guinea. His work with Unity In Action (which he headed) and the African Liberation Support Committee is greatly responsible for countering the millions of dollars spent by the illegal regime in South Africa to get to the minds of the American public and keep them silent to the injustices that were perpetrated on the majority population of South Africa and Namibia. 

This earned him the right to be the master of ceremonies at the 1990 tribute to Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Harlem, where more than 200,000 people gathered to salute one of the greatest “Freedom Fighters� of modern times, four months after he was released from a 27 year term in prison, where he might still be today if not for the struggle of the masses around the world and the crushing defeat of the South African army by the forces SWAPO’S People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) , Angola’s Angolan People’s Liberation Armed Forces (FAPLA) and Cuban International Army Volunteers at Cuito Cuanavale.      

For these, and many other actions in support of Black people, including the many struggles here in the U.S., (Mumia Abu Jamal, MOVE, the New York 8 Case, and other Black and Puerto Rican political prisoners as well as the Cuban Five), and he was one of the loudest and most consistence voices in defense of the falsely accused youth charged and incarcerated in the Central Park case. The community will come out and celebrate this Living Legend of African Liberation—Elombe Brath.

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