[News] Black Liberation leader Robert Williams remembered
News at freedomarchives.org
News at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 31 08:46:20 EDT 2005
New audio documentary
Black Liberation leader Robert Williams remembered
By J. Marquardt
Published May 28, 2005 8:53 AM
Hundreds of people packed an Oakland church May 20 to celebrate the release
of a new audio documentary about civil-rights leader Robert F. Williams.
The documentary is titled Robert F. WilliamsSelf-Defense, Self-Respect &
Self-Deter mination (as told by Mabel Williams).
Organized and funded by several foundations, including the Paul Robeson
Fund for Independent Media and the Freedom Archives, the event brought
together at least three generations of progressive activists and artists,
primarily from the Black communities in the San Francisco Bay area.
In the late 1950s, Williams became president of the Monroe, N.C., chapter
of the NAACP. At that time, the African Amer ican neighborhood of Monroe
was sometimes attacked by groups of Ku Klux Klan. When North Carolina Gov.
Luther Hodges did nothing to stop the attacks, Williams and the local NAACP
chapter formed a National Rifle Association chapter and trained their
members in using firearms.
In the summer of 1957, when a Klan motorcade attacked the home of NAACP
member Dr. Albert E. Perry, an armed defense squad drove them off. Klan
night riding came to a sudden stop in Monroe.
This famous incident electrified many Black people and identified Williams
with armed self-defense for Black people.
Mabel Williams, who had been together with Robert Williams for almost 50
years when he died in 1996, spoke eloquently of the historic struggle in
Monroe in the late 1950s and through the 1960s. The governments phony
charges for an alleged kidnapping, but really for their militancy, forced
the couple into exile in Cuba. There they became de-facto representatives
of the oppressed and working class people in the United States.
She said that everywhere they wentCuba, China, Vietnam and African
countriesWilliams told her that he did not want to represent the ugly
America but be a good ambassador for our people and for the whole human
The Williams son, John C. Williams, told the audience what it was like to
be raised by his activist parents. Forced into exile in Cuba, the Williams
family saw firsthand what a socialist government can do for its citizens
John Williams also recalled the struggle to integrate a public swimming
pool back in Monroe. Black people were forbidden in the pool because the
white racists spread the lie that Blacks would leave an untidy discolored
ring on the sides of the pool. By contrast, Williams said, the public
schools and recreation areas were integrated in Cuba.
Other speakers included world-renown ed activists and artists Amiri Baraka
and Amina Baraka, and Yuri Kochiyama. Kochiyama spoke about Black freedom
fighter Assata Shakur, herself now living in exile in Cuba, and the $1
million bounty the FBI recently place on her life. Quoting Cuban president
Fidel Castro, Kochiyama said, Nothing will happen to hershe will be
Amiri Baraka recalled his many years of friendship with Robert Williams,
whom he first met in Cuba in the early 1960s. He pointed out that Robert F.
Williams was an advocate for armed self-defense before Malcolm X became
known and before the emergence of the Black Panther Party.
Baraka also talked about the Mont gomery, Ala., bus boycott, reminding the
crowd how truly correct Williams was in promoting the idea of treat people
as they treat you. Racist White Citizens Councils and KKK membersalso
known as the state policeburned and bombed homes and shot dead or beat to
death Black people. Baraka compared these acts of terror to the present
international activities involving the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles
attacks on socialist Cuba.
All the participants shared the sentiment of Robert F. Williams words on
the banner hung in the front of the church: We are going to have justice
or set the torch to Racist Amerika. Let our battle cry be heard around the
worldFreedom, freedom, freedom now or death.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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