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Monday, June 2, 2014

A Tribute to the People's Scholar - Elombe Brath (1936 - 2014)

By Charles Brooks

UPDATED October 1st, 2017:
On September 30th, 2017 there was a ceremony held in Harlem, New York to recognize the extensive legacy of Mr. Elombe Brath by co-naming the southwest corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.Blvd as Elombe Brath Way.  Since his passing, the Elombe Brath Foundation was established to archive  his incredible body of work to inspire future generations of Pan-African leaders. 
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On May 31st, Elombe Brath was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery after services were held at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  The day started with a mass community tribute to Mr. Brath – a walking procession through the streets of Harlem in honor of his incredible body of work - “Morning Walk Through Harlem Retracing Our Brother’s History.” The people walked freely in the streets of Harlem, sharing stories and their memories of Mr. Brath who was active in so many struggles within the movement such as his work against the oppressive South African apartheid, supporting African nationalist movements, the movement to free Mumia-Abu Jamal, and all political prisoners, the reparations movement, the Hands off Assata Shakur campaign, the Central Park 5 case and his participation in the United Nations World Conference against Racism, to name a few.

Mr. Elombe Brath, was born on September 30th, 1936 and made the transition to join the ancestors on May 19th at 77 years old.  Over two thousand people came out to pay their respects to Mr. Brath and his legacy. Mr. Brath stood tall in Black activist circles not just in New York City but in the Caribbean and Africa as well.  He was indeed a revolutionary – a committed activist in the Pan African and Black Liberation Movements. There is no doubt that Mr. Brath’s legacy is solidified in the annals of Pan African and Black Liberation history and activism - branded with his reputation as a tireless and relentless activist in pursuit of Black Liberation.  

For a moment or two, take a collective breath and slowly consider some of Mr. Brath’s work that his legacy is built upon: There was his work with the Federation of Pan-African Nationalist Organizations or FOPANO that eventually led to the formation of African Liberation Support Committee and to what we know today as African Liberation Day.  As the founder and chairman of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition – he kept Mr. Lumumba’s name alive and legacy relevant by linking it contemporary developments in Africa.                                           

                    
He also worked to mobilize support against apartheid forces in South Africa, and built relationships with African revolutionary leaders, foreign ministers, ambassadors and other noted dignitaries. When the New York State Senate honored Mr. Brath in May 2013, they had this to say: "The PLC came at a most propitious time when there was much confusion about which liberation movement to support in the war  against colonial  domination  in Africa; it was a matter of separating the truly progressive organizations from the  reactionary  ones,  and  Elombe  and members of the PLC were indispensable in providing the correct guidance and understanding of the often fractious and  contentious  forces  vying for control; and  for  more  than a generation Elombe, as the chairman of PLC, helped to coordinate hundreds of forums with the  purpose  of  educating the  masses,  not  only  about the struggle in Africa but also about the conditions oppressed people faced all over the world." 

Photo Credit: sondjataolatunji
https://www.flickr.com/photos/12027110@N06
He also served as program host and producer of Afrikaleidoscope – a radio program providing analysis and commentary related to African news, politics, culture and history as well as critical developments throughout the Diaspora. Mr. Brath also worked for 37 years at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a Graphic Artist and Videotape Librarian, 10 years as Shop Steward for graphic arts, and 17 years as the African affairs consultant on "Like It Is," a popular public affairs program with the black community. Mr. Brath also found time to travel to over 20 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, South and Central America. In a 2009 tribute, The Black Star News noted : “… Elombe Brath helped to raise funding for SWAPO, drew support for The African National Congress of South Africa, (ANC), The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and later The Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) which combined to form today’s ZANU-PF”.  Also consider for a moment that he played such a pivotal role in bringing Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, and Robert Mugabe to Harlem – an example of his work as a committed Pan Africanist – building bridges throughout the Diaspora to the streets of Harlem. When you spoke with someone who knew Elombe they will cite his knowledge – “a walking encyclopedia”, is how he is most often described – a testament of his dedication to learning…and teaching.

Rest in Peace Elombe...The People's Scholar will never be forgotten.

Further Reading:

Elombe Brath's legacy from the Elombe Brath Foundation

Photo Gallery of the September 30th street co-naming ceremony from Mr. John Brathwaite.

The New Jersey Video Collective presents: The funeral of a Pan-Africanist: Farewell to Elombe Brath