Few political activists and Pan-Africanists advocated the ideas of Carlos Cooks more passionately and consistently as the late Elombe Brath. Memories of both redoubtable freedom fighters were evoked last week when the northeast corner of W. 166th Street and Broadway was co-named Carlos Cooks Way.
For the uninitiated Cooks, which Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and a number of notable Uptown elected leaders and residents made abundantly clear, was a Black man born in the Dominican Republic who during a lifetime of commitment to Black pride and liberation provided an important link between the ideas of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X.
“Carlos Cooks,” Rodriguez stated, “remains an inspiration to the Latino and the Black community. It was an honor to have a street co-naming in the Heights to cement the legacy of Carlos Cooks. We must learn from his accomplishments and continue the fight against racism and for the socio-economic empowerment of people of color in this country and I thank my colleagues in government Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Assembly member Carmen De La Rosa, and all of the community leaders and residents for joining us today.”
Among those in attendance was Brath’s son, Cinque, giving the event a living connection to the memory of his father and Cooks. “There had long been rumors that a street would be named after Carlos Cooks,” he told the Amsterdam News, “but that rumor suggested it would in Harlem nearby where he lived. Either way, I am happy that it’s done to commemorate his life.
“In addition,” Brath continued, “the Washington Heights community can stand to leverage the history with its youth although knowledge of Cooks’ life and activities can’t be simply assigned to age-related ignorance.”
Had Cinque’s father been there—and he certainly would have been, if not in the forefront—he might have expressed some of the same heartfelt feelings he wrote in many articles on Cooks, including this one from his collected writings and essays. He wrote that “Garvey’s death…left behind an embittered Carlos Cooks. However, it was an even more determined and enlightened Carlos Cooks, an orthodox African Nationalist deeply indebted to Garvey and committed to pick up the baton of Black liberation from his fallen mentor and to carry it as far as he possibly could…against a myriad of racist, imperialist, and even reactionary forces within the African community if it was to be won.”
Cooks left behind a remarkable legacy that included his organization the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, a call to arms and “Buy Black,” and a resurgence to the red, black and green flag that like the street sign stands as a reminder of an undaunted and often unsung soldier for freedom and total liberation of African people.
As Rodriguez and his colleagues noted, “Cooks launched the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) in 1941 with the goal of making it ‘an educational, inspirational, instructive, constructive and expansive society… composed of people desirous of bringing about a progressive, dignified, cultural, fraternal and racial confraternity among the African peoples of the world.’”
And these would be his watchwords, his motto until the end of his eventful life on May 6, 1966.