Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson, committed lifelong activists and educators, were in town last Saturday to host the 17th annual dinner tribute for political prisoners and their families at Midtown’s Martin Luther King Labor Center. Two days later, they stopped by Sister’s Uptown Bookstore (1492 Amsterdam Ave.) to promote the autobiographical book “An Unlikely Warrior: Herman Ferguson,” as well as to address the importance of self-determination.
After witnessing the brazen Feb. 21, 1965, execution of Malcolm X, Herman Ferguson “came away from the Audubon Ballroom that day knowing that he has to–we have to–destroy this system,” stated Iyaluua. “He now understood clearly that Black folks, if they were to survive, had to separate from this racist system or destroy it. They had no resources, no wealth, no identity and no army to repel and overcome the genocidal war that was being waged against them.”
As an assistant school principal in South Jamaica, Queens, Herman Ferguson was in an influential position to mold hundreds of young minds, to build an effective teaching staff and to implement his philosophy of “education for liberation.”
“He would always lecture on the legitimacy of Black folks establishing a separate nation here in the U.S.,” reflected his wife. “It is the only viable way to bring about freedom and equality for the former slaves, Herman argued.”
The 92-years-young ex-political prisoner explained: “A nation is a group of people having a common language, common culture, sharing common experiences. Black people in America are an African people with a common culture, language and gene pool; and they have shared, and are sharing, a common experience that binds them together and sets them apart from those people so-happening to call themselves Americans.”
Iyaluua Ferguson adds: “His life has been one of really challenging this racist regime. What Herman was trying to do is to find a vehicle to unite us into an [instrument] that would become a weapon of liberation.”
According to Herman, “There are only two answers to self-determination: You are either an integrationist and you want to join the system, or you’re a Black nationalist and want to form your own nation and empower your people. Once you make that decision, you don’t get led astray by leaders. I was always a Black nationalist, believed in nationalism and felt that Malcolm had the answer to our problems. Therefore, I was clear when I got involved with anything that it was for, and by, Black people, and there was nothing else involved.”
“We are the people that have the least amount of power … and the only way we’re going to get any power is if we, in some way or other, have a nation that represents us, and that we can stand up among the community of nations as human beings, and can demand the respect that we have earned and that is our right. Once we can do that, we’ll go a long way towards ending all the shucking and jiving and getting caught up in false moments that mean nothing for/to us, and get involved only in those movements that are going to give us power and be meaningful to us.”