Celebration of Dr. Ben and Dr. Clarke’s immeasurable contributions

AUTODIDACT 17 | 1/7/2016, 2:22 p.m.
The lifetime efforts of two legendary African scholar warriors were acknowledged on New Year’s Eve at Harlem’s National Black Theater.
Dr. John Henrik Clark with Dr. Yosef be-Jochannan FILE

The lifetime efforts of two legendary African scholar warriors were acknowledged on New Year’s Eve at Harlem’s National Black Theater. Having known each other since the mid-1930s, this is the first time that the physical days of Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan, b.k.a. “Dr. Ben,” and Dr. John Henrik Clarke are observed while both are in the ancestral realm. Dr. Ben transitioned last March 19, while Dr. Clarke passed July 12, 1998.

“Both of these brothers have made major contributions to what I call ‘the explosion of information about African people’ … establishing African primacy,” explained their colleague, Dr. Leonard Jeffries. “They documented it, then partnered with others to share it with the masses.”

Each man migrated to Harlem during the 1930s (Clarke from Georgia and Ben from Puerto Rico) and aligned with renowned African factologist Arthur Schomburg, whom they credit as a significant influence in their cultural quest. They established the Harlem History Club at the YMCA on 135th Street, and for the next couple decades they organized other local study groups, which nourished the minds of eager activists. Additionally, they also agitated the mentally dead while speaking from atop step-ladders on various Harlem streets.

“Their contributions and books are something that has no parallel, and we have the responsibility to organize study groups and review their books—over 50—to go over that information so that our families and children learn it,” suggests Dr. Georgina Falu, president of the Falu Foundation. “Eventually the mission should be that their content be a requirement in the curriculums in schools, colleges and universities throughout the world.”

The two revolutionaries were consistent speakers at Harlem’s progressive platform, African Square, during the late 1950s and 1960s, where they aligned with other proactive activists. The two also fed info about Africa to a constantly evolving Malcolm X as he transformed into El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, then Brother Omowale.

“They represent the psycho-spiritual and intellectual vanguard of Black revolution worldwide,” contends their comrade, professor James Small. “They gave us much of the psychological and spiritual tools that’s necessary for victory through the information they gave us on the history and culture that comes from their research.”

As educators at Harlem Prep, an alternative college-bound high school, during the late 1960s and 1970s, they taught many at-risk youth information that was not part of the curriculum in public schools then.

“One thing I learned from both Dr. Ben and Dr. Clarke is that they did not live just for themselves … they lived for the future of their people, for those who are unborn,” Small added. “So the contributions of those two men are immeasurable, you can’t truly describe all that they did.”

Jeffries added, “You use the knowledge to transform the society, so that’s what these brothers have done. They analyzed it in a deep way, they described it, then they prescribed what you do about the circumstance and situation. They had in their great works, a sense of mission, purpose and direction; for us to follow … so we give thanks.”

Small concluded, “Those are great men whose love for Africa, its peoples and love for the way of life in Africa that our ancestors had set down allowed them to be committed to the type of research that would bring the light of our ancestors that had been put into darkness by Europeans into our consciousness so that we could make that light shine for the future generations of people to come, those from African descent.”