Celebrating the life of Baba Obalewa ‘Brother Oba’ Abileye
AUTODIDACT 17 | 4/10/2014, 10:52 a.m.
Going home services for community activist Obalewa “Brother Oba” Abileye were conducted on the evening of March 11 at Brooklyn’s House of the Lord Church, 415 Atlantic Ave. A legion of admirers, cultural comrades, family members and friends packed the place, paying respects to his legacy.
Abileye joins the great revolutionary ancestors he always honored annually: Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Carlos A. Cooks and Marcus Mosiah Garvey, just to name a few.
He was born on Sept. 27, 1945, in New Brunswick, N.J. He was named Chris Robert Scott by his parents, Earl Scott and Ethel Hill, who had 12 children together. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army in 1964. Two years later, he began his career in traditional theater at the legendary Negro Ensemble Company. The following year, he created the role of the slave ship captain in Amiri Baraka’s play “Slave Ship,” which earned him an Obie Award.
His curiosity led him to tour Europe in 1971, then establish the African American Cultural Center Inc., a land-based, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. In 1973, he moved to Ghana in search of his roots, remaining there for almost a year. In 1979, the Society of African Family Associations was founded as the cultural division of the African American Cultural Center.
Throughout the 1980s, the Society of AFA achieved historical accolades in African history, bringing together the first elders council of North America and introducing the AFA Medal of Honor to persons who distinguished themselves in internalizing their African culture for over 25 years. AFA hosted traditional leaders from Africa, as well as top entertainers from the motherland, to the African community here in the Western Hemisphere.
From 1979-1991, he helped lead an independent merchants society, with over 300 merchants displaying their arts and crafts at the General Grant National Memorial in Harlem every Wednesday. Throughout 1991-2014, Abileye joined the Afrikan International Merchants Agency, founded by his wife, Yaa Asantewaa, to continue building Black businesses and promote economic control in our neighborhoods. It was one of the key organizations that advocated saving the 125th Street vendors’ marketplace in Harlem. He was also a co-founder of the National Black Family Food Industry Project.
For the past 13 years, Abileye was a co-organizer of tributes honoring Muhammad, with whom he soldiered in the New Black Panther Party. He was also the co-administrator of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, founded by Carlos Cook, with whom he also had alliances. He also led the annual Marcus Garvey Day “Black Power” parade, which was established by Cooks in 1940 and is celebrated throughout Harlem on Aug. 17.
Abileye leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Asantewa, aka Rachel Clarke-Scott; his children Kayode Penn, Larry Allen Coke, Ebony Clark, Ugochukwu Anekwe, Isis Clark and Thutmose Scott; his grandchildren Nia Clark, Jelyska Pemberton, Kalila Anekwe, Anaya Anekwe and Audreanna Anekwe; his brothers and sisters Millie Brown Earl Scott, Walter Scott, Ethel Scott, Arlene White and Richie Scott; a host of in-laws, nephews and nieces; and the Pan-African and Black Nationalist family.