Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 4

This is the concluding part of this article except for a short reading list I will post next.

Black Nationalism:

There is a long history of Black Nationalistic movements. One that is often referred to in African American history began in Jamaica in 1914 and was founded by Marcus Garvey. 'The Universal Negro Improvement Association' became a large and important movement among African Americans in the United States.19 Garvey's movement gave many African Americans a sense of dignity and hope. While Garvey pushed for equality for African Americans, his main goal was to free Africa from all other nations and establish it as a nation for all African peoples including those living in the United States. Garvey wrote:

"I asked, `Where is the black man's Government?' “Where is his King and his kingdom?' `Where is his President, his country, and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?' I could not find them, and then I declared, `I will help to make them.'"20

Garvey was a separatist, to be precise, he felt that there should be neither intermarriage nor intermingling of the races. And he was eccentric to say the least. He agreed to interview and be interviewed by the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

One of his reasons was that he felt the KKK was behind the United States Government. Another reason was he felt that he and the Grand Wizard held the same view points about their own people's needs. In a speech he stated:

"So you realize that the Universal Negro Improvement Association is carrying out just what the Ku Klux Klan is carrying out-the purity of the white race down South-and we are going to carry out the purity of the black race not only down South, but all through the world."21

A sad part of the history of Garvey is his extreme views on race and nationalism. But it is a lesson and should be noted. The Editor of Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey, Bob Blaisdell, writes:

"His [Garvey's] hard, long-standing, and narrow adherence to, and belief in, nationalism now led him to identify and sympathize with such European tyrants as Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, and Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, of Germany. In March 1934, in Garvey's magazine, The Black Man, he recommended that his readers peruse Mein Kampf, expressing his hope that one day the black race would produce its own Hitler: “Hitler has a lesson to teach and he is teaching it well.' To a long-time U.N.I.A. supporter in 1937, Garvey boasted, `We were the first Fascists. We had disciplined men, women and children in training for the liberation of Africa. The black masses saw that in this extreme nationalism lay their only hope and readily supported it. Mussolini copied fascism from me, but the Negro reactionaries sabotaged it".22

Strangely, Garvey, who fought with compassion for his own people's equality, failed to grasp the essential evil and destructiveness of any kind of racism. The problem continues.

Many Black Nationalists, not unlike the white Neo-Nazi movement leaders, believe they are at war with the United States government. They view any prisoner connected to such groups as the Black Panthers as political prisoners. Likewise much of their rhetoric is fed by conspiracy theories. For instance, one theory is that the United States government used the Mafia as spies during the Second World War. Therefore after the war the government, allowed the Mafia free rein in the ghettos to sell drugs to young black men.23

These views become scary when they blend with the Black Nationalist's concepts of homeland and black unity. They believe they must work toward a united Africa and/or for an independent nation within the United States for those who live in Diaspora.

In the sixties, the push for an independent land for African Americans within the United States was part of the call for reparations within a document entitled the “Black Manifesto.” The document was directed toward Churches and Synagogues at the Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit in 1969. The Black Manifesto among other quests asked for five-hundred million dollars from the mainline religious bodies for the African American community. James Forman, at one time the executive director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, wrote and presented the preamble to the Black Manifesto at the conference. Gayraud S. Wilmore, Professor and Presbyterian Pastor in his book, Black Religion and Black Radicalism writes of the presentation:

"The preamble was a caustic indictment of black accommodation and white racism. It called for the identification of black America with Africa and the repudiation of capitalism and imperialism. `We are dedicated,' said Forman, `to building a socialist society inside the United States …led by Black people …concerned about the total humanity of the world.' He broadly hinted at the seizure of state power and guerrilla warfare and declared the control of the conference was being justly seized by virtue of `revolutionary right.'"24

And indeed, some groups that are nationalistic are willing to turn to violence in order to procure their demands. For instance, a contemporary black nationalist organization, the Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, states on their web site, “we are building a network of Black/New Afrikan activists and organizers committed to the protracted struggle for the liberation of the New Afrikan Nation - By Any Means Necessary!"25

They also have as their goal a nation within the United States; referring to a part of their movement known as New Afrikan Independence Movement, they write:

“The NAIM, is part of the Black liberation Movement in North Amerikka [a supposedly African way of spelling America] that wants independent Black Nation on land in north amerikka. The land identified by the New Afrikan Independence Movement is primarily known as South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, as well as other areas of what is now called the Black-Belt South, where Afrikan people are in the majority or have a historical/economical/socio-cultural relationship to.”26

But now the water gets very murky and troubling. There are under-currents of connections that exist between some Radical Afrocentric Churches, Black Liberation Theologians and Black Nationalist groups such as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Nation of Islam.

All see civilization emerging out of Africa. Likewise they see all concepts of a monotheistic God, as in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, emerging out of Africa's indigenousness religions. All three groups insist that all African people are ethnically inter-connected and therefore should be referred to as Africans or Africans in Diaspora. They work together on the same projects, few denouncing the other's racism or heresy. They honor as well as give and accept awards from each other irrespective of the racism and violence promoted by their separate organizations. And most of them believe that Evangelical, orthodox and/or Reformed Christianity is a white religion and alien to their own black faith.

The King and His Kingdom: God's Gift

White Americans have sinned in their racism and their disregard for African Americans. White Christians have sinned in their failure, in the past and today, to denounce slavery and discrimination. African Americans, like Israel before them, have sinned in their disregard for the biblical Lord who has been with them in all of their sorrows and despair. They have also sinned by turning to the same kind of racism that white America has been infected with for so long. But the two kneel before the same Lord. They are one body. They must be one body. “Now you are Christ's body and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:27)

And unlike Garvey who sought for a king and a kingdom for his people, this one body the Church, black, white and every ethnicity from every tribe on earth have a King and a Kingdom. Neither African American Christians nor white Christians can atone for all of these sins but they have a Redeemer, the work of redemption was His. It is now done. The Church needs to gather at that cross making common cause, in the faith, with one another and with Him, the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ.

And they sang a new song, saying,
Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

19 Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey, Editor Bob Blaisdell, “Introduction,” (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications: 2004), iii-v.

20 “The Negro's Greatest Enemy,” Current History Magazine, September 1923, found in, Ibid, 3.

21 “Hon. Marcus Garvey Tells of Interview with the Ku Klux Klan: The Ku Klux Klan is the invisible government of the United States of America.” Liberty Hall, New York City July 9, 1922, found in Ibid, 81.

22 Ibid, “Introduction,” x, Editors footnotes, The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Volume 7. 580-581. & J. A. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color (1947) quoted by Tony Martin in Race First, 60., “Garvey's most fervent admirers have not been able to explain away these deplorable alliances and sentiments.”

23 For all of this information read, “A brief History of the New Afrikan Prison Struggle,” by Sundiata Acoli at"

24 Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans, tenth printing, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books 2006), 235; See also “A Black Manifesto,” Time 1969, at,,9171,902585,00.html.

25 See

26 See

27 See “Activist James Forman being remembered as change agent for the Church” PNS,

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