3018 West 48th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90043-1335; (323) 299-6124; (323) 299-0261 fax


Volume 2.8-2.9, August and September 1996 Double Issue
Us Celebrates 31st Anniversary

Harambee Notes - Aug 1996, Sept 1996; Volume 2.8 - 2.9

Us: A History of Service, Struggle and Institution Building

National Us/NAKO Leadership at NAKO Symposium, Brooklyn, NY in July.

The 31-year history of The Organization Us clearly reveals its role as a vanguard organization in the Movement. Under the motto of "service, struggle and institution-building." It has continued since its inception to make important contributions to the intellectual and practical history of African people. Below is a summary of the history of Us and the development of Kawaida Theory within this context. This is excerpted from a forthcoming book, Kawaida Theory: A Communitarian African Philosophy by Dr Maulana Karenga, the founder and chairman of Us and the author of its philosophy, Kawaida. Kawaida is the philosophy which guided the work of The Organization Us and out of which Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba, Rites of Passage programs, the Simba movement and other Us projects were created

Us is built in the context of the ideological and practical struggles of the 60's having been founded September 7, 1965 and Kawaida is developed- as its fundamental way of seeing and engaging the world. Us emerges out of the aftermath of the Watts Revolt and is shaped by its efforts to build institutions, serve the people and challenge the established order. It joins other emerging and established organizations sustained efforts to organize, mobilize, politically educate and rebuild the African community. Focusing first in the Los Angeles area, Us expands to establish a national agenda and practice which stresses cultural revolution, institution-building, service and struggle. Introducing the concept of operational unity, Us moves nationally to co-plan and co-host the three National Black Power Conferences of 1966, 1967 and 1968 which were designed to construct an ongoing national forum and a national agenda of liberational practice. Moreover, Us, under the same principle of operational unity, establishes Black united fronts in several cities, i.e., Los Angeles, San Diego, Newark and Dayton. It also trains Black and Brown organizers, builds Third World alliances, and establishes a disciplined youth organization, the Simba Wachanga (The Young Lions) which has become a model for rites of passage programs and youth organizations across the country, some of whom even use their name. Us also played an important role in the founding of Black Studies and the Black Student Movement, and in the development of the Black Arts Movement, the Black Independent Schools Movement and the "Peace and Power" campaign for Black political power in Newark.

Us also participated vigorously in the anti-Vietnam War Movement, resisting the war and the draft, demonstrating and educating against both, and cultivating Us formations among Black soldiers in Vietnam. From these experiences serious lessons were learned about the demands of organization, the power and potential of the masses, the strengths and weaknesses of vanguard and mass organizations, the importance of alliances and coalitions, and eventually, the naked and suppressive power of the state.

In the late 60's, Us, and other activist groups, are confronted by increased attacks from the state thru the FBI's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) in collaboration with the local police. These moves, as defined by the COINTELPRO, are designed to "disrupt, discredit, destroy and otherwise neutralize" all real and potential Black nationalist and activist leadership and leadership groups (Senate Hearings, Church Report). Also, even army intelligence in coordination with local police developed programs of suppression titled "Cable Splicer" and "Garden Plot" in order to deal with "civil disturbance" and the groups most likely to be involved in it (Los Angeles Times, 8/26/75, p.1). Citing Us among its targets, Cable Splicer III identifies Us under the thinly disguised label of the organization "We" under the leadership of "Don Rakenco."

Us/Panther Conflict
This suppression is heightened thru fostering movement rivalry, especially between the Organization Us and the Black Panther Party which, under the leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, had in late '67 and early '68 begun to move away from its early nationalist character and adopt a Marxist and more integrationist posture. As part of the COINTELPRO, agents of the state provoked violent confrontations between the groups, shooting at Us and claiming it was the Panthers, and shooting at the Panthers and saying it was Us. Using cartoons, phone calls and attacks on persons, homes and organizational sites, these state operatives are able to convince each group the other is a threat. Finally, there are fatal shootouts between the groups, and this makes both groups more vulnerable to suppression. This state of things is facilitated by the planting of agent provocateurs in the process. In fact, the Senate Intelligence reports that the FBI had more agents in the Black Panther Party than any other organization bedsides the Communist Party. Although a serious study of police penetration and disruption of Us has not been done yet, it is only logical to assume that some agents penetrated Us and helped fan the flames of group clashes. Moreover, there is evidence in the Senate Report of an operative inside Us who worked to disrupt the organization and to discredit and frame the leadership.

It is one of the successes of the COINTELPRO that it established character assassination as a substitute for political analysis in many quarters of the Movement. This, added to left and liberal group favoritism, has produced a series of texts on government suppression that gives the impression that no one but the Panthers suffered real suppression and that their rivals were either irrelevant, misguided or collaborators. But both civil rights and nationalist organizations suffered attacks and Us, as a significant organization of the Movement, was a clear target of government suppression, as the records show. Indeed, Us members were put in captivity on trumped-up charges, harassed, driven into exile and underground. Many of their families and friendships were disrupted; their employment terminated and their capacity to move freely was ended or greatly restricted.

Complimentarity of Men & Women
But out of this experience, new practices and new thoughts emerged. As the men of Us were forced underground, in exile and put in captivity on trumped-up charges, the women of Us emerged as soldiers (Matamba) and increased their roles as administrators and organizational representatives in expanded ways. This, of course, begins to change the way male/ female roles are conceived in the organization and the community. It provokes rigorous discussions which lead to a clear position of equality in complementarity of men and women in life, love and struggle (see "In Love and Struggle: Toward A Greater Togetherness"). Likewise, the experience compels a reassessment in the organization of the nature of oppression in society, the requirement and the protracted nature of the struggle to end it.

By the mid 70's, Us goes underground, emerging publicly as the New African American Movement (NAAM). It works with Black and Brown groups, builds coalitions with leftists, nationalists, liberals and Progressives as in the Gary Tyler Defense Coalition, and conducts conversations with ex-Panthers to assess relations in the 60's and to evolve a new way of relating in the future (see Us/Panther Conflict).

In the late 70's the advocates of Us decided to lay the groundwork for Us' public reemergence from underground and to call the interim organization the Kawaida Groundwork Committee. Again, reaching out nationally, Us gave lectures and held meetings across the country and wrote articles and published books laying out the basic contentions of Kawaida Theory and undoing the character assassination and efforts to suppress its work by the state and other opponents. Us also continued local and national organizing efforts and made trips in 1977 to Nigeria as chair of the African American delegation to The Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) and to the People's Republic of China as spokesperson for the Black Independent Schools Educational Delegation. To further define and communicate its position and methods of thought and practice, Us initiated the Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies' annual Summer Seminar in Social Theory and Practice in 1978.

In the 80's Us begins to use its own name again in public projects and continued its organizing, mobilizing and political education work. This involved work to build the National Black United Front, the Free South African Movement, and other community and organizational support formations for African liberation on the continent, African Liberation Day, cooperative economic structures, the Black Leadership Family, the International Committee to Free Geronimo Pratt, the Jesse Jackson Campaigns of '84 and '88, the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC), the Black American Political Action Committee of California (BAPAC), and joint projects and work with various Latino groups, including Committee in Solidarity with Cuba, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, the Farabundi Marti Solidarity Committee and the Guatemalan Information Center. Us was also invited to Cuba to discuss race relations, African American life and struggle, the Organization's role in the Movement, as well as to the International Festival of Pan-African Arts and Cultures (FESTPAC) in Dakar Senegal, 1986 to continue the work of FESTAC; and to London to give the inaugural lecture to initiate Black History Month in England in October 1987.

This activity on the local, national and international level culminated in the 90's with work to build the National African American Leadership Summit and the Million Man March/Day of Absence project. Us, along with other activist groups, calls for a reassessment of early conceptions of the MMM; the move from exclusion to inclusion of women; the expansion of the MMM to include the Day of Absence (DOA) as a joint project which women would lead in parallel with men's leadership of the March; the establishment of operational unity as the guiding principle of cooperative work on the MMM/DOA; the writing and issuing of a mission statement of the MMM/DOA and the establishment of an executive committee to coordinate the project. Moreover, the Senut Sisterhood of Us issues a solidarity statement on the MMM/DOA project reaffirming the principles of equality, mutual respect and shared responsibility in love, life and struggle. Us works cooperatively to build an executive committee for the National Organizing Committee of the MMM/DOA, and is given primary responsibility for writing its Mission Statement (1995) which has become a fundamental document for projects and organizing within and outside the local organizing committees of the MMM/DOA thruout the country.

Us and its guiding theory, Kawaida, then, evolves in the crucible of practical and ideological struggles of the 60's, struggles not only directed toward the established order, but internal struggles to establish ideal and achievable goals, define the most appropriate "road to revolution" and to build the local and national African American community in the process.

News of the World African Community

The Black community has begun to organize to deal with recent revelations that the CIA pushed drugs and guns in Black neighborhoods in order to obtain money to wage an illegal counter-revolutionary war against the legitimate government of Nicaragua. Investigations called for by Cong. Maxine Waters and others have already begun. (see analysis on p.4)

Sworn in September 3 as the chair of Liberia's six-member Council of State, former Senator Ruth Perry became Africa's first female head of state. Elected unanimously by Liberia's warring factions at a meeting in August in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Chairwoman Perry will be tested severely in her efforts to bring her troubled nation to peace after six years of civil war. The meeting at Abuja was a Summit of the Economic Community of West African States Committee of Nine in Liberia and represents a positive example of Africa engaging in the difficult and unavoidable task of internal resolution of conflict and self- reliance.

The social activist minister Rev. Al Sharpton has announced that he plans to run for mayor of New York City next year. Declaring his candidacy in a sermon at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, Rev. Sharpton said that he would focus his campaign on issues of community power, quality education, police brutality and racial intolerance. Known mostly for his constant organization and mobilization efforts, Rev. Sharpton has also run for public office, and contested U.S.Senate seats twice. He is also a strong ally and co-worker of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Escaping the civil war in Sudan, thousands of southern Sudanese have come to the refugee town of Kakuma in northwestern Kenya to rebuild their lives and prepare for return. Although it resembles other refugee camps in many ways, what is so striking and newsworthy about Kakuma is the stress on education and professional training by the people. The mostly young refugees are so dedicated to learning and preparing to return to rebuild their homeland once peace comes that many walk hundreds of miles to Kakuma to go to its free schools. Recounting how the British actually prevented the southerners from going to school and favored the northerners, many students noted how this led to a situation where the northerners controlled the government, economy and the educational system. And it is around this imbalance of power and the related issues of oppression that have fueled the liberational war to correct the situation.

The esteemed former President of Tanzania Mwalimu Julius Nyerere continues to lend his skills and prestige as an international mediator to the task of ending the civil war in Burundi. African leaders have taken noteworthy initiative in not only engaging Pres. Nyerere as mediator, but also posing stringent economic sanctions, stopping fuel supplies and cutting air and road links to force negotiations and end the army coup which provoked this new round of violence. This positive intervention by African states recalls intervention in Liberia also to stop its civil war and brings hopes that the OAU and its member states are moving away from their former posture of non-intervention and non-action regardless of the situation.

Million Man March/Day of Absence Statewide Conference

MMM/DOA Statewide Conference.

San Diego, CA--Local Organizing Committees (LOC's) of the Million Man March/ Day of Absence from throughout California met here Saturday, August 10, for a Statewide Organizing Conference. Taking direction from the MMM/DOA Mission Statement, the theme of the conference was "Advancing the Struggle for an Empowered Community." The San Diego LOC, which organized the conference, set the following goals for it: 1) to develop a Black agenda around issues of political economy, health issues, education, the justice system and the Black family; 2) to develop a blueprint for action to contribute to the defeat of the so-called California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) or Proposition 209; and 3) to develop a statewide network of LOC's and supporters to communicate, coordinate and facilitate statewide activities.

The conference opened with libation, drum calls and the National Black Anthem. A welcome was then given by San Diego City Councilman George Stevens in whose Fourth District the conference was held. After the welcome, a Leadership Roundtable on Critical Issues was held. Chaired by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chair of The Organization Us, and the National Association of Kawaida Organizations and author of the MMM/DOA Mission Statement, the Roundtable included: Dr. Conrad Worrill, chair, National Black United Front; Mr. Kwame Ture, All African Peoples Revolutionary Party; Mr. Mark Thompson, chair, National Political Mobilization Committee of the Million Man March; Councilman George Stevens; Dr. Shirley Weber, member of the San Diego School Board and professor of Africana Studies, SDSU; Ms. Fay Kennedy, chair, Sacramento Black Caucus; Ms. LaWana Richmond, president, African Students Union, SDSU; Min. Christopher Muhammad, Nation of Islam, San Francisco; and Mr. Ivory I. Johnson, director, Children Services, San Diego County. Mr. Robert Tambuzi, member of the San Diego LOC and chair of the San Diego chapter of The Organization Us and Seba Subira Kifano, co-vice chair of The Organization Us and director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Institute emceed the proceedings. Mr. Ture stressed the need for organization and consciousness saying that "all the revolutionary brothers and sisters in history belonged to organizations" and that we must continually organize and educate the people. Dr. Karenga spoke from the MMM/DOA Mission Statement and reaffirmed the need for a concept and practice his organization Us introduced in the 60's, "operational unity - unity in diversity, unity without uniformity; unity in principle and in practice." He also stressed the need for self-determination saying "We are our own liberators. And a people that cannot save itself is lost forever."

In a show of unity of people of color, the Latin Leadership Summit and the National Latino Unity Council came together on stage to offer statements of solidarity and to urge continuing and expanded unity to defeat Proposition 209 and build the good society. In the afternoon the conference broke into workshops on 209 and the Ballot Initiatives of political economy, the justice system, education, health issues and the Black family. From these, resolutions were passed as part of the formation of a Black Agenda.

The conference closed with a recommitment to the continuing projects outlined in the MMM/DOA Mission Statement and an urging of the audience to continue the struggle and attend the Black Political Convention in St. Louis, September 27- 29. The members of the conference committee included: Greg Akili, Herb Blackman, Laini Busara, Ken Caesar, Marchetta Caesar, DeDe McClure, Penny McNeil, Sherman McNeil, Mshinda Nyofu, Louis Petway, LaWanna Richmond, Reggie Sibley, Norman Sloan, Robert Tambuzi and Intef Weser.

Kawaida Analysis on Critical Issues -- Position Statements
By Dr. Maulana Karenga

  • THE CIA, DRUGS AND GUNS: The Challenge of Struggle
    The recent revelations of the CIA's pushing drugs and guns in the Black community confronts us with an important challenge. And we must avoid the tendency to engage in episodic anger with the system and use the issue as another ground of struggle. To do this we must pose three sets of challenges, a challenge to ourselves, to the government and the lumpen, i.e., the criminal class. [More]
    The recent revelations of the CIA's pushing drugs and guns in the Black community confronts us with an important challenge. And we must avoid the tendency to engage in episodic anger with the system and use the issue as another ground of struggle. To do this we must pose three sets of challenges, a challenge to ourselves, to the government and the lumpen, i.e., the criminal class. [More]

The Organization Us: Philosophy, Principles, Program

From the beginning, the essential task of our organization Us has been and remains to provide a philosophy, a set of principles and a program which inspire a personal and social practice that not only satisfies human need but transforms people in the process, making them selfconscious agents of their own life and liberation. Such a transformative practice will, of necessity, also lead to the building of moral community and to the constant becoming of the best of what it means to be both African and human in the fullest sense. [More]

Ongoing Programs of Us

Mary McLeod Bethune Institute
An independent educational institute for chidren ages 3 - 11 which stresses cultural values, critical inquisitiveness, social responsibility, respect for human diversity and community service.

Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies
Annual national summer Institute on Leadership for Social Change which teaches critical thinking skills from an Afrocentric perspective and leadership training.

Rites of Passage Program
Collective instruction and support to aid young women and men in becoming morally and culturally grounded, educationally capable and socially committed.

Senut and Senu Sisterhood/Senu Brotherhood
A Sisterhood and Brotherhood of the World African Community which is dedicated to brotherhood and sisterhood, community service, social action and study.

Mateka Support Program
Provides books, lectures, correspondence and counselling to prisoners.

Soul Sessions
Weekly lecture/discussion series by local, national and international speakers on critical issues.

Black and World News Forum
Weekly alternative analysis of the local, national and international news from an Afrocentric perspective.

Timbuktu Book Circle
An engaging and informative reading and discussion of major and minor works in African American literature.

Swahili Language and Culture Class
Instruction in the most widely spoken African language in Africa and the national language of African Americans.

August/September Soul Sessions -- Selected Audio Tapes Available

August Soul Sessions

August 4
"African-Centered Thinking:
The Liberational Logic of Kawaida"
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Chair, The Organization Us;
Professor and Chair, Department of Black Studies, CSULB; Author, Kawaida Theory: A Communitarian African Philosophy
August 11
3:00 pm
Participation in the Watts Summer Festival:
A Commemoration of the Watts Revolt, August, 1965 - forums, exhibits, performances, reunions and reaffirmations.Us put forth its definition of Black Power as the collective capacity and practice of self-determination, self-respect and self-defense.
August 18
Us' Retreat - preparation for the major six-month retreat during September, the founding month of Us, i.e., September 7, 1965
August 25
3:00 pm
Support of community activities, namely the African Marketplace forums, performances, exhibits, reunions and reaffirmations.

September Soul Sessions

September 1
AKIKA: A Kawaida African Rite of Passage.
The cultural rite of bringing into community, Taraja Jasiri (Audacious Hope), a woman-child of the House of Mshinda and Ajabisha Nyofu.
Officiant: Seba Dr. Maulana Karenga, Temple of Kawaida (Maat)
September 8
3:00 pm
Us' 31st Anniversary Open House:
Reunion, Reaffirmation, Recommitment, Refreshments, Music, Film clips, Art, Good Exchange
September 15
September 22
Us' Semi-Annual Retreat
"It is good to work for the future. Those who plan for the future are not forgotten. And those who look ahead do not stumble and fall nor wreck their ship on the rocks."
September 21
12:30 pm
Mary McLeod Bethune Institute
Saturday School for children ages 3-11
Director: Subira Sekhmet Kifano
September 25
7:00 pm
Timbuktu Book Circle, an engaging discussion of African American Literature.
Facilitator: Dr. Roy Garrott
September 27
7:00 pm
Day of Dialogue
On Violence in Our Community

Conducted in cooperation with Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, and the Eighth District
Facilitator: Dr. Maulana Karenga
September 29
3:00 pm
"Towards A Politic of Possibility: Service, Discipline, Sacrifice and Struggle"
Dr. Maulana Karenga, Chair, The Organization Us; Professor and Chair, Department of Black Studies, CSULB; Author, Kawaida Theory: A Communitarian African Philosophy

Selected Audio Tapes Available

For more information on the Organization Us
and the African American Cultural Center,
please call (213) 299-6124.

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Reproduction in full or part is prohibited without permission

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Last updated: 11/21/99