The first time I'd ever got on a plane was to go to a lecture by this giant of a man. I didn't know who he was; I was sent to represent his friend and protege, Dr. (Sister) Sonja Hayes Stone, who was chair of the newly forming African and African Studies Program (AAS) that would become a department at UNC-CH.
|Sonja Hayes Stone|
When I showed pictures from my trip which included pictures of clouds under the wing of the plane. She said: "That was your first flight, huh?" She laughed. Then we got down to what I learned from Stuckey. She told me stories of their work together in Chicago. I became a Stuckey-ite for life. I threw myself into understanding the National Negro Convention Movement and Black Nationalism of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Years before, my mother had moved me away from the New York just before my teenage years where I would have been engaged with the burgeoning cultural nationalist movements in NY like The East or the NOI, or the Panthers. Winston-Salem had significant and relatively little Black Panther Party activity. Fayetteville, NC - where I turned 15 years old - had none.
It was a military town known to insiders as "Fayette-Nam." Nelson Johnson and SOBU reached us from Greensboro via the Fayetteville State University chapter of the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU). From them, our newly formed high school movement learned about Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham, NC. I celebration of Malcolm and in protest against our racist high school - Terry Sanford, Ron George, Jabulani (Larry William) and I skipped school to find Malcolm X Liberation University. My '64 Pontiac Star Chief was more than up to the task. Unfortunately, we were a little late. The University had closed its doors.
A few years later I was to get reconnected to the precursors to the power Black Power and Black Nationalist movements through the seminal work of Brother Sterling Stuckey. At the otherwise boring historical presentation, I was riveted to his every word. His portrayal of H.H. Garnet, David Walker, Martin Delany, Alexander Crummell ushed me into a world of Black nationalist ideology that I couldn't have imaged. It also corrected a major misconception - that because our times were "modern," we were more advanced.
Not! The clarity and courage of these 19th Century brothers and sisters were instructive and humbling.
While my formal academic work at UNC-CH was under the auspices of the Speech-Communications Dept, I was working as the first graduate student assistant under Sonja in AAS. It was perfect. My focus in Speech-Communication was attitude development and change; in AAS it was OurStory. This is the combination that guides my work today. The first course that I taught as a graduate student in AAS was based on the Stuckey's dissertation - The Ideological Origins of Black Nationalism. The course shared the title. Today, AYA (www.AYAED.COM) youth and adults learn about his works through courses like "Economic Conundrum" where we use his book "Slave Culture."
To Sister Sonja and Brother Sterling Stuckey I'm forever indebted. I pay that debt the only way I know how - by living out and passing on their works, discoveries, insights, and love for our people and African redemption.
Travel well, my brother, travel well.