Sonny Carson (111896)

The nation is in a mobilized, anti-police violence uproar.

First the outrage, then the marching, and now all of the above—plus the analysis.

Dec. 20 marks the 12th anniversary since the passing of legendary activist Sonny Abubadika Carson, founder of the Committee to Honor Black Heroes, the December 12th Movement and the Black Men’s Movement Against Crack. Long-time activists and prominent “race” men and women are remembering his powerful impact on this city and, in the wake of the current mass mobilization, are asking once again, “What would Sonny do?”

“He was one of our greatest grassroots leaders,” said Andree Penix Smith, long-time comrade and member of Carson’s Committee to Honor Black Heroes. “He never left his position and worked from sun up to sundown for our people. He could save lives, avert a person’s pending arrest, find housing, take it to the face of abusive cops, throw drug dealers off the block and get a word to the mayor and police commissioner—all in a day’s work. That was Abubadika—A.B., Sonny Robert Carson. He would be in the streets today with those young people, rallying for justice.”

In the wake of last month’s non-indictments of the police shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the police choking death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y., hitherto unlikely allies have linked arms and channeled their collective energies to speak against the national epidemic of police killings of unarmed Black men and women. From Nigeria to Ireland, Delhi and San Francisco, voices and banners have been raised with the now familiar slogans, “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and “I Can’t Breath”—Garner’s last words before he expired on internationally seen cellphone video.

The failure of two grand juries to hold police accountable for the killing of Black men comes in the wake of the police-action deaths of victims such as Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Yvette Smith, Victor White III, Miriam Carey, Shantel Davis, Rekia Boyd, Shereese Francis, Tamon Robinson and Lennon Lacy.

Carson, 78, passed away Dec. 20. 2002, after been hospitalized at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manhattan for several months and slipping into a coma after suffering two heart attacks.

Carson was an atypical Brooklyn native. Street as all-get-out but sophisticated, articulate, uber-intelligent and able to traverse the streets and the corridors of New York City political power centers to get results for his in-need community. So much so that he, the father of Lumumba, aka Professor X of the legendary X Clan, had a book and cult-status film titled, “The Education of Sonny Carson.”

He rolled with some of the great New York City “race” folk of the time. He worked with Herman Ferguson, Jitu Weusi, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Elombe Brath, Rabbi Bill Tate, Charshee McIntyre, Grandad Norman Reid, Hampton Rookard and Al Vann. With Vann and Weusi, he fought for community control of schools in the historic Ocean Hill-Brownsville struggle, beginning in the late 1960s.

“Abubadika was one of the great men who literally died fighting for his people,” said activist Caleef Cousar. “When we laid him to rest, there was a week of honoring him. And when we took his horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Bed-Stuy, all the way from downtown Brooklyn, the people came out. Elders, young people in so-called gangs, clergy, politicians and everyday people, they lined the streets and bid him an honorable farewell. We loved that man, and his spirit is still with us today, inspiring us forward ever, backward never. All power to the people!”

Brath, the late spokesperson for the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, once told this reporter that despite the mainstream media’s reporting, this anti-police violence activist, “was an institution, a Black nationalist who truly loved his people. He possessed a strong sense of loyalty, and he often taught by example.”

It was he who stopped the digging in downtown Manhattan, leading the movement with men such as Dr. John Henrik Clark and Dr. Ben Jochannon to ensure the recognition of the African cemetery that was once there and the creation of the African Burial Ground near Foley Square.

A member of the Congress of Racial Equality during the 1980s, Carson helped found the anti-drug organization Black Men Against Crack to kick in the doors of crack houses in Brooklyn.

Viola Plummer, a close friend of Carson and head of the December 12 Movement, previously told this reporter, “He never took a break from the fight against oppression. Vacation was not a word in his vocabulary. Black self-determination was a constant in his life, and on this he was uncompromising. Sonny was the quintessential nationalist, who sincerely loved his people.”

In his younger days, he ran with some of the city’s toughest gangs, knew the Tomahawks and the Bishops, but he grew into the go-to community guy, who the people loved and city authorities dreaded to get a phone call or a visit from. And the NYPD knew his anti-police violence rhetoric, marches and actions too well.

The South Carolina-born, Brooklyn-raised activist renamed many Brooklyn streets and schools after Black heroes such as Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. He led many marches, protests, boycotts and grassroots organizations. The district judge for the Republic of New Afrika, aka Mwlina Imiri Abubadika, always referred to himself as a “kidnapped African” living in America. He had a 50-year history of struggling in the streets for the community, from fighting police brutality to community control of schools.

And now back to the future. Atiim Ferguson, longtime comrade of Carson and vice chairman of the Committee to Honor Black Heroes, told the AmNews, “What is happening here now and across the nation is something Sonny was fighting for all his life. Everything is coming home to roost. One thing he would be pleased to see is the level of protest coming from the youth.

“The torch has been passed. This is about economics and politics. What would Sonny do? He would call for an all-out boycott, especially in this holiday season, to affect Wall Street and all those big corporations. When they feel the pinch in their wallets, they will ask what is it all about?

“The answer is, it is about all those police walking around with militarized equipment and tanks focusing on tax-payers who pay their salaries. It is about how they police white neighborhoods to protect that community, but patrol our community like we are all criminals. Sonny’s legacy is that history will repeat itself unless the politicians whom we elect and the authorities make sure that there is equal and fair policing. That they address the fact that some police operate from a premise of fear, and a scared person authorized to carry a weapon is a dangerous individual.”

Ferguson concluded, “Sonny would say we have to start policing our own communities. Sonny would have been in the streets with the young people, encouraging them to raise the issue of police accountability and prosecution in the cases of police violence. These marches are all a part of his legacy. We will not accept that we are looked at as criminals just because of the color of our skin. The youth have heard the cry, and they are fighting for our rights. Long live Sonny Abubadika Carson!”