Tribute To A Legend: Elombe Brath

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Elombe’s writings, forums and radio program “Afrikaleidoscope” on radio station WBAI (regular weekly unpaid volunteer host), was a leading source of information and support for the struggle for Africa’s liberation and a leading organizer for numerous demonstrations against the illegal regime in South Africa

[Tribute To Legend]

Just so you know a little about him, I’ll try to be brief, which is not easy when considering his 53 years of assistance to African American, African and Caribbean people.

Elombe has been the leading historian and speaker in this area of the Black Consciousness Movement, African Liberation and Black arts and culture.

He became the leading figure in bringing African liberation groups and their leaders to Harlem and giving them a voice to tell of the woes of their life under colonialism and Apartheid, and their quest for freedom. Elombe impressed these young representatives of the liberation groups and became someone of a confidant of some, who later became presidents of their liberated countries, who invited him to their countries on several occasions, including the Inauguration of President Sam Nujoma in Namibia, and an invitation to be an election monitor for the elections in South Africa.

He was also one of the top organizers for the Harlem Welcome for Nelson Mandela which drew over 200,000 people to welcome him to Harlem in 1990.

In 2007, Elombe suffered a series of mild strokes, which were not readily detected. In January of this year, he suffered a stroke that led to hospitalization and is now in a rehab center. His insurance and monies received from his more than 30 years working in television as a graphic artist (and a unpaid Advisor for African Affairs to Gil Noble’s “Like It Is”) has just about run out. His eight months at Amsterdam House (nursing home) shows no real signs of improvement, it seems that they are just feeding and bathing him, with no plan for rehabilitation. A fundraiser is being planned to raise funds for specialized care and rehabilitation, possibly abroad.

Organizations, celebrities and individuals from around the country and around the world (Africa and the Caribbean) are seeking to take part in this fundraising tribute to this fighter for our liberation for the past 53 years.

Elombe Brath is acknowledged as one of the most well informed activists in the current history of the Pan-Africanist Movement, as a result of his long-time involvement in the cause for African Redemption and the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey as taught by the Carlos A. Cooks a Garveyite and the first Administrator of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM).

Garvey’s influence set the standards for racial pride and material support for the liberation movements. Just prior to the African cultural revolution of the '60s, an event took place that actually opened the stage for the most intense period of Black consciousness since the Garvey era. On August 16, 1959, Carlos Cooks issued a call to convention by the ANPM to abrogate the term “Negro” as the official racial classification. Instead, he argued for the use of "Black" when speaking in terms of color (irrespective of complexion) and in relationship to the so-called white, yellow, brown, and red races.

Likewise, and even more important, the term "African" would be used when speaking in relationship to land or origin (regardless of one’s own “native” birthplace), heritage, and culture.

That convention also gave birth to the establishment of an African standard of beauty that could be institutionalized nationwide, thereby enhancing Black consciousness worldwide and making our women proud of their own beauty.

Elombe was one of the founders, and the lifetime president of the African Jazz-Arts Society & Studios, (AJASS) a cultural group which had been founded during the summer of 1956 in the South Bronx but moved to Harlem in 1961. The group was a collective of Black artists, photographers, performers, and students (including Kwame Brathwaite, Robert Gumbs, Chris Acemendeces Hall, Frank Adu, Jimmy Abu and others) who gathered to promote Black Arts and Culture. This was the beginning of what became “The Black Arts Movement” which many believe started in 1965, nine years later.

Influenced by the ANPMs Garvey Day celebration and their “Miss Natural Standard of Beauty” contests formed to install pride and confidence in Black women, who at the time were looked upon as less than beautiful by the mass media, the fashion world and by Black people themselves. After the 1961 contest, AJASS formed the nucleus of a group of models to explicitly promote the African standard of beauty, The Grandassa Models under the direction of Elombe. The image of darker women had been long overlooked by such magazines as Ebony, Jet, Tan, contradicting their very names.

Thus the “Naturally” series of “cultural extravaganzas designed to restore our racial pride and standards” was born, beginning with the production of “Naturally ‘62” on January, of that year.

Another critical idea that came out of the 1959 convention was the establishment of material aid committees in the Black community which would assist in the then embryonic liberation struggles in Africa to throw off the yolk of colonialism and Apartheid. In 1960, Elombe met Sam Nujoma, the President of South West African People’s Organization, (SWAPO), who came to the U.S. to petition the United Nations on behalf of the people of South West Africa (Namibia), when he was presented in Harlem by the ANPM.

This drew support from the community and they formed The South West African Relief Committee, making an appeal to Black people to get involved in support work sending several tons of clothing and supplies that had been collected and sent to Namibia on a ship called the African Rainbow, initiating a material aid project that would be a prototype for others to follow.  They raised money and essential material for SWAPO. Elombe also drew support for The African National Congress of South Africa, (ANC), The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and later The Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) which combined to form today’s ZANU-PF. In 1961, The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Elombe was one of the leading promoters of this effort. This type of project reached its zenith after 1972 and the founding of the national African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC).

Elombe’s writings, forums and radio program “Afrikaleidoscope” on radio station WBAI (regular weekly unpaid volunteer host), was a leading source of information and support for the struggle for Africa’s liberation and a leading organizer for numerous demonstrations against the illegal regime in South Africa, and the Portuguese governments control of Mozambique and Angola. These demonstrations were successful in countering the millions of dollars a month that the Apartheid regime and the Portuguese Government spent for Public Relations in the U.S. newspapers, radio and television. This proved that even without monetary funds, if people are united for a cause, the people united can never be defeated.


Editor’s Note: There will be a “Giving Thanks” event for Elombe Brath on Saturday.

Co-Operative Ventures, The Ministry of Education of The Riverside Church, & The Elombe Brath Tribute Committee present Giving Thanks to A Cultural Warrior Elombe Brath. One of the leading forces of Black Consciousness in the 20th Century Pan Africanist, “Grandfather of The Black Arts Movement” (1956).

A Tribute & Fundraiser:  to assist in medical care after suffering a stroke Saturday, November 21, 2009. 4-9:00 PM. The Riverside Church - South Hall 91 Claremont Avenue between 120 & 122nd streets, New York, NY
Best Entrance on Riverside Drive. Gil Noble, Melba Tolliver, Councilman Charles Barron, Craig Harris, Dr. James McIntosh, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Dr. Rosalind Jeffries, Atiba Kwabena, Viola Plummer, Jitu Weusi, Omowale Clay, George Edward Tait, Louis Reyes Rivera, Bob Law, Layding Kaliba, Askia Toure, Brother Shaka,  Rene McLean, Kimati Dinizulu, Dr. Clenora Hudson-Weems, Camille Yarbrough, Playthell Benjamin, Frank Adu, Tribute to The Grandassa Models “Black Is Beautiful” natural hair and Africentric fashion showcase;  w/ Amandla Models and Fashions by Brenda Brunson-Bey -Tribal Truths and Moshood.  National Conference of Artists New York- Black Art Auction + Silent Auction Tribute Committee: CEMOTAP (Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive To African People), The December 12th International Secretariat, The National Conference of Artists NY,  AJASS, The Patrice Lumumba Coalition, Brooklyn Jazz Consortium,  Rev. Dr. Arnold Isadore Thomas, Jeremiah Kyle Drake: The Theatre of the Oppressed and Friends & Family of  Elombe Brath.

Admission by Admission Card $25 For Information or Admission Cards: Kwame Brathwaite/NCA - 212.410-7892, 646.355-6530 – Sistas’ Place 718.398-1766 kwamebrathwaite@aol.com

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