Declaring that a tribute to Elombe Brath is long overdue, state Sen. Bill Perkins is calling for all the hero’s friends, colleagues and comrades to join him and members of Brath’s family on Saturday, May 11, at 4 p.m. at Harriet Tubman School in Harlem.
And for that tiny minority of folks who may not know who Brath is, let the following words provide you with at least a sketch of his remarkable life in the service of the downtrodden and oppressed.
In his autobiography, “Ready for Revolution,” the acclaimed revolutionary Stokely Carmichael, aka Kwame Ture, referred to Brath as the “dean of Harlem nationalists.” While such a tribute from Ture is admirable, Brath’s Black Nationalism and his Pan-African thoughts, as many will attest, extend well beyond Harlem, possessing a special resonance among freedom fighters around the globe.
Brath’s political commitment evolved in the late 1950s almost simultaneously with the struggle to eliminate “Negro” as the nomenclature of African-American people. From this moment of Black consciousness, it was an easy and logical step for him to lead the way in the “Black is Beautiful” campaign and the subsequent creation of the African Jazz-Arts Society and Studios with his brother Kwame and a cadre of other local activists.
Removing “Negro” from the lexicon, insisting on the beauty of Blackness and refusing to accept the Eurocentric worldview, Brath and his cohorts were in the vanguard of change as they launched the Grandassa Models, featuring Black women in all their natural-born loveliness.
All of these activities were the foundation for his total involvement in African affairs, including his association with the Federation of Pan-African Nationalist Organizations, which eventually set the stage for African Liberation Day and the development of the African Liberation Support Committee that played such a critical role in educating and organizing thousands in the fight against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism on the African continent.
One of the pivotal moments in Brath’s constantly evolving political philosophy, an outlook grounded in the ideas and actions promoted by Marcus Garvey and Carlos Cooks, was the formation of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition (PLC) in 1975. The PLC came at a most propitious time when there was much confusion about which liberation movement to support in the war against colonial domination in Africa. It was a matter of separating the truly progressive organizations from the reactionary ones, and Brath and members of the PLC were indispensable in providing the correct guidance and understanding of the often fractious and contentious forces vying for hegemony.
For more than a generation, Brath, as the chairman of PLC, helped to coordinate hundreds of forums with the purpose of educating the masses, not only about the struggle in Africa, but also about the conditions oppressed people faced all over the world. To list just a few of the revolutionary leaders who found the PLC a refuge of political camaraderie and a platform to express the challenges they faced would require a book.
Despite his total immersion on the international front as well as countless battles against racism at home, Brath was employed at WABC-TV, where as a graphic artist–using skills he had acquired in high school and at the School of Visual Arts–he was a vital consultant, particularly on African affairs, to Gil Noble, the esteemed host of “Like It Is.” “Elombe was instrumental in facilitating the presence of many of the African leaders on the show,” said Robert Van Lierop, an attorney and filmmaker formerly affiliated with the show.
None of these activities, however, detracted Brath from taking care of his family, and along with his wife, Nomsa, they raised six very successful young men, all of whom are endowed with their parents’ spirit for freedom and justice.
Many of Brath’s followers and comrades admit missing their leader, who was always burdened with the books, magazines and newspapers, always ready to dispense with the latest information on social and political matters, both at home and abroad, and always ready to stand his ground against backwards, counterproductive theory and practice.
Harriet Tubman School is located at 250 W. 127th St., between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. boulevards. For more information on the tribute, call Perkins’ office at 212-222-7315, attention Cordell Cleare. Admission is free.