“I believe that organizing and education are the most powerful weapons in the war to break the cycle of poverty in any community, but especially in the low-income communities where I live and work.”––Kali N’doye
Hajja Kali Marcia Fonville N’doye was born in Brooklyn, New York on Sept. 3, 1953, to Lillian Audrey May and Hubert David Fonville. She was the sixth born of seven children. Her parents, both children of the American South, migrated north from North Carolina seeking a better life. They met, married in Brooklyn, New York and raised their family in Coney Island.
Her life-long love and commitment to family and community started early in life, which allowed her to transcend her humble beginnings in one of the poorest communities in Brooklyn. Her mother “Grandma Billie” was a source of wisdom and deep matriarchal strength.
Marcia Fonville escaped Coney Island on the “Oba Train” at the tender age of fifteen, and reclaimed her African identity by taking the name Kali Oyo. Fired up by the vision of revolution and the promise of a liberated African people, Obaba, Kali and Naaja Oyo together laid the foundation of the Oyo family as a model for Pan-African nation building. Knowing economic power is critical to nation building, they were artist-entrepreneurs and sold their creations as vendors across the nation. During this time Kali was a master jeweler, she loved to share that she created earrings for Nina Simone and all of Nana Dinizulu’s jewelry. As a master market woman, Kali spent many hours working in Greenwich Village at The Merchants of Oyo (aka The Village Store) with her mother in-law, Fatima Mary York.
Kali had a birthday tradition of returning to Coney Island to spend her birthday in reflection of her personal journey and the collective journey towards Pan African liberation. She would start at the water and walk the streets of her youth looking for familiar faces.
The Oyo family grew over the years and is known as one of the foundational families of Pan African Brooklyn. These families built institutions and a community that promoted love of Africa and its people—both on the continent and in the diaspora—for over 40 years. Working in collaboration with the East Family, the Dinizulu Family, and the Ishangi Family these committed individuals came together and created a new African-centered world. This birthed a powerful generation raised knowing and loving Africa, its culture, history and armed with the knowledge that the key to our liberation as a people lies in each other. UBUNTU
Haaja Kali Ndoye was exposed to the Islamic faith during the Civil Rights Movement. She used her faith in the creator as another tool in her toolbox to wake up the African American community and break the chains of mental slavery. Her faith informed her organizing with the African Islamic Mission and she used it as a guiding principle to leave the world better than she found it.
During a trip to Senegal in December 1996, Kali met and fell in love with Mbaye N’doye. Their love evolved into a rich extended family life with the N’doye clan, furthering and deepening Kali’s love of Africa. Kali loved inviting people to come and experience Africa. Everyone was welcome to stay at their home in Yoff and experience the Senegalese tradition of “terenga”…even if she had just met you. She is a respected and loved elder of the Yoff Lyon community in both Senegal and metropolitan New York.
Professionally, Kali was a beloved community organizer, urban planner, housing development specialist, and international activist for women’s rights and economic empowerment. She began her career in community organizing in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the same community where she was born almost 70 years ago.
Kali’s love and respect for her community and family fueled her passion and inspired her to keep pushing community residents and community-based organizations to reach their full potential. She traveled the world, organizing, participating in international conferences, seminars, and peer learning to stay abreast of current trends in community development. She even presented at several U.N. Women’s Conferences. Her travel-study has taken her around the world: to Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Haiti, the Bahamas, and most recently Israel and Palestine.
Kali was motivated by the belief that an organized community of families in support of each other is a formula that can be used to encourage low-income communities to recreate themselves in a balanced, healthy mode. “A balanced community is one where government, private-sector business, nonprofits and human capital interact in the best interest of the community, in a shared vision. A decent, safe vibrant community can be achieved when the residents are organized to see such a vision as achievable. Currently, many low-income urban communities lack cohesiveness, which makes it difficult if not impossible to achieve a healthy balanced community.”
Kali’s never ending passion project was her work in the international arena with the Concerned Cultural Women’s Collective (CCWC), a grassroots organization of women working with women at home and abroad. CCWC coordinates educational and cultural family-centered programs, financial literacy workshops, and training programs both in Africa and the USA. The battle cry from the South African women’s resistance movement to apartheid, “You have touched a woman. You have struck a rock. You have dislodged a boulder. You will be crushed,” was one of her favorite quotes on the power of women!
Kali Marcia Fonville Oyo Muhammadu N’doye will continue her work, she has joined the ranks of our esteemed ancestors and will always walk alongside us and guide our steps. She has raised powerful daughters and sons trusted to carry on and realize the vision of a LIBERATED AFRICAN PEOPLE! She leaves this work in the hands of all those who passed through 1390 Bedford Avenue, especially the children she helped to raise…Nilaja, Dara (d.), Ife (d.), Kaaba, Odiya,
Buddah “Earl,” Yemaya, Tondo, Mazi, Enilolobo “Malika,” Naima, Nzingah, Jamila, Yasmine, Ibn “Happy,” Yaji, Agaja, Adashima, Afifiya, Asadallah, Ahmadu, Kotoko, Afalalu, Yaka, and Saduda, Jirkita.
She also leaves behind her husband Mbaye Nodye, her sister Anna “Olubumni” Fonville, two brothers Carl Fonville and Hubert Fonville Jr., countless nieces, nephews, grandchildren, in-laws, extended family in US and Senegal and her soul brother number one Steven Flax and his family!