Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Untold Story of the Black Radical Tradition in Canada
BY Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali

The Afro American Progressive Association (AAPA) was one of the first
Black Power organizations in Canada. It was organized by Jose Garcia,
Norman (Otis) Richmond and D. T. in Toronto in 1968. Their first
public event was a commemoration of the assassination of Omowale
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X). The meeting took place on
Bathurst Street (Toronto’s Lenox Avenue) the Home Service. Guest
speakers were Jan Carew, Guyanese-born scholar/activist who later
would write:” Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England,
and the Caribbean” and Ted Watkins. A year before ancestors like
Austin Clarke, Howard Matthews and others started the ball rolling in

Watkins (1941-1968) was an African born in America who played Canadian
football. Watkins played wide-receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and
Ottawa Rough Riders. He won the Grey Cup with Hamilton in 1967. He
previously played college football at the University of the Pacific in
Stockton, California. Watkins was killed in 1968 allegedly robbing a
liquor store.

This is a direct quote from a Canadian daily: “STOCKTON, Calif. (AP)
-Ted Watkins, Negro professional Canadian football player, and a
leading Black Power advocate' in Canada, was shot dead in an attempted
liquor store holdup Sunday, police said.

The Black Youth Organization (BYO), the Black Action Defense Committee
(BADC), the Biko Rodney Malcolm Coalition (BRMC) and Black Live
Matters spring from the AAPA. The AAPA’s newsletter was called
Harambee (Swahili) for “Let’s pull together”. Harambee preceded
Contrast, Share, Pride and the Caribbean Camera.

Chris Harris has been one of the few attempting to keep the untold
history of the Black Radical Tradition and the AAPA alive. Harris’
article, “Canadian Black Power, Organic Intellectuals of Position in
Toronto, 1967 – 1975” in the Sixties in Canada” was published quietly.
He is quoted extensively in David Austin’s 2014 Casa de las Americas
Prize winning book in Caribbean Literature in English or Creole, “Fear
of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal”.

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report talks about how a Black
miss-leadership is high jacking the African liberation struggle in the
United States. Ditto for Canada.

The untold story of the Radical Black Tradition in Canada is beginning
to unfold. A new autobiography, “Burnley “Rocky” Jones Revolutionary”
by Jones and James W. St. G. Walker gets the ball rolling in this
work. Jones gives credit to the AAPA in this volume
for keeping the radical Black tradition alive in the Great White North.

Jones discusses how tribalism ruled during the late sixties and early
seventies in Toronto’s history. Africans born in Canada organized as
Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Barbadians or Black Canadians. He talks about
a rally that took place at the Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education on Bloor Street in Toronto.

Says Jones: “The chair was José Garcia, of the Afro American
Progressive Association, a Marxist, and Black Nationalist organization
in Toronto. Although that organization was Canadian, its name
reflected the interaction with the States; there was continual
movement back and forth across the border with Detroit and Buffalo,
with Panthers and CORE and various Black Nationalist associations.
Many of these people were also at the conference, in particular a
group known as the Detroit Revolutionary Union movement, DRUM,
extremely militant and connected to the Panthers.”

Jones was incorrect on the name of DRUM; DRUM is an acronym for the
Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement. The Dodge Revolutionary Union
Movement was an organization of Black workers formed in May 1968 in
the Chrysler Corporation‘s Dodge Main assembly plant in Detroit. While
I was a co-founder of the AAPA I was also a member of DRUM which later
would blossom into the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

The term Afro-American had nothing to do with Black America. It was
inspired by Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).The
group was a Pan-Africanist organization founded by (Omowale) Malik
Shabazz in1964. The group was modeled on the Organization of African
Unity, which had impressed Malik during his visit to Africa in April
1964. The purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of
Africans in America and in the Western Hemisphere who speak English,
French, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento. One of the co-founders of the
AAPA Jose Garcia could speak Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, French and
English better than me. We were internationalist from the get-go.

While we were moved by Malik, he was influenced by a person who if
imperialism has anything to do with it will be written out of history
– Carlos A. Cooks. Cooks. Cooks was a Caribbean man who used the term
African-American to unite Africans in the West. He was born in Santo
Domingo, Dominican Republic. His parents were from the nearby island
of St. Martin. Robert Acemendeces Harris author of “Carlos Cooks and
Black Nationalism” pointed out: “It was Carlos Cooks who first defined
the difference between the terms Black and/or African as opposed to
"Negro" and fought to have the latter word abrogated as a racial
classification. You can even ask Richard Moore a foundation member of
the African Blood Brotherhood and (author of The Word Negro And Its
Evil Use) about this. Or you can read the documentation of this in
"BLACK NATIONALISM: A Search for Identity in America" by Prof. E. U.
Essien-Udom of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

I was blessed to have heard Richard B. Moore speak in Montreal in 1967
and met and work with Elombe Brath a disciple of Cooks. Moore spoke at
a Black community meeting that I attended during Expo 67. When I first
went to Detroit and met General Gordon Baker Jr. I found a copy of
Brath’s comic book “Color Them Colored” where he ridiculed everyone
from Harry Belafonte to Malcolm X for not being “Black” enough. Baker
explained to me how he had for a brief moment associated with Cooks
African Nationalist Pioneer Movement.

There are aspects of Cooks philosophy I united 1000 percent behind. At
their convention called in 1959 the ANPM called for the abrogation of
the word Negro as the official racial classification of black people
and replace the term with African when speaking of land origin,
heritage and national identity (irrespective of birthplace )
and the proud usage of black, when dealing with color (in spite of complexion)….

There are others aspects of his views that I totally disagree with. I
have always united with Huey P. Newton’s statement.”Blackness is
necessary, but not sufficient”. I was never down with Cooks
anti-communism. When Fidel Castro visited Harlem in ----- Cooks
refused to meet him. Malik took the opposite view.

Brath is quoted in Rosemari Mealy’s book, “Fidel & Malcolm X: Memories
of a Meeting”. Says Brath, “While Malcolm as an individual was
developing as an anti-imperialist champion, he boldly met with Premier
Fidel Castro when the Cuban leader stayed at the Hotel Theresa in
Harlem, arguing a class analysis in non-Marxist terms, that is, the
field Negro versus the house Negro.

Cooks however, took a completely different position. U. Essien-Udom a
Nigerian who wrote “Black Nationalism: A Search for an Identity in
America” published in the early 1960s discussed Cooks and Malik, Udom
points out: “Nearly all of the present-day black nationalist groups
are anti-communist. Recently, Mr. Carlos Cooks (African Nationalist
Pioneering Movement) in a 4th of July speech in Harlem
self-righteously explained how in the thirties they (the nationalist
were having street fights with the communist and they do not welcome
“the regime of Dr. Fidel Castro’s Cuba.”

“Instead, Mr. Cooks expressed some admiration for ex-President
Bastisa. He said that under Batista Negroes had a “fair deal” in Cuba
and that Premier Castro’s regime was a returning to “white
supremacy.”For a brief moment in my history I did have a problem with
Cuba. This was because of the anti- communism propaganda we were
taught from the womb to the tomb in the USA where I was born.

For a brief moment I supported Jonas Savimbi‘s The National Union for
the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Founded in 1966, UNITA
fought alongside the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola
(MPLA) in the Angolan War for Independence (1961 – 1975) and then
against the MPLA in the ensuing civil war1975–2002). UNITA received
military aid from the imperialist USA and apartheid South Africa
while the MPLA received support from the Soviet Union and other
members of the Socialist block at that time. We apologize to Africa
for this error in judgment.

In the 21st Century Africa, Africans and the oppressed generally must
be anti-imperialist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist and be for socialism-period.
As Fred Hampton used to say, “If you are afraid of socialism you are
afraid of yourself.”

Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana,
and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight
in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the
United States were colonial subjects. After leaving Los Angeles in the
1960s Richmond moved to Toronto, where he co-founded the Afro American
Progressive Association, one of the first Black Power organizations in
that part of the world. Before moving to Tronto permanently, Richmond
worked with the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers.
He was the youngest member of the central staff. When the League split
he joined the African People’s Party. In 1992, Richmond received the
Toronto Arts Award. In front of an audience that included the mayor of
Toronto, Richmond dedicated his award to Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assata
Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, the African National Congress of South Africa,
and Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba. In 1984 he co-founded the
Toronto Chapter of the Black Music Association with Milton
Blake.Richmond began his career in journalism at the African Canadian
weekly Contrast. He went on to be published in the Toronto Star, the
Toronto Globe & Mail, the  National Post, the Jackson Advocate,
Share, the Islander, the Black American, Pan African News Wire, and
Black Agenda Report. Internationally he has written for the United
Nations, the Jamaican Gleaner, the Nation (Barbados), and Pambazuka
News.Currently, he produces Diasporic Music a radio show for Uhuru
Radio and writes a column, Diasporic Music for the Burning Spear

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