|Father of 'Black Power' Remembered
By Tim Sullivan
CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) -- Radical leftists and advocates of African unity
paid tribute Sunday at the funeral of Kwame Ture, the 1960s revolutionary
who spread the cry of "Black Power" throughout the United States and the
Ture, who changed his name from Stokely Carmichael after moving from the United States to Guinea in 1968, died last Sunday of prostate cancer at age 57.
He was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and a man whose shifting politics took him from advocating nonviolence to urging armed revolt and eventually to calling for pan-African unity. Ture spent most of his life preaching socialist upheaval, living for what he called "the movement" long after he had moved to the political fringes and his radical contemporaries had abandoned the cause.
"Kwame is a struggler. He struggled all his life, he struggled until the last second of the last minute of the last hour of the last day," Bob Brown, a longtime friend of Ture, told 400 cheering people at a memorial service held earlier Sunday at Conakry's Gamal Abdel Nasser University.
Speakers, some of them aging radicals in graying dreadlocks, lauded Ture beneath a banner that read: "The CIA gave me cancer. Kwame Ture."
Conrad Worrill, chairman of the U.S.-based Black United Front, recalled his early efforts at fostering pride in African heritage.
"Kwame Ture made us realize we were no longer just Negroes, we were African. We now know that even if we were born American, we are all African," he said, ending his speech with Ture's own motto: "Ready forthe revolution!"
Leftist rhetoric suffused the memorial service, with Guinean politicians
and American activists invoking rallying cries from the 1960s. Again and
again they decried capitalism and reactionary
"We send our revolutionary condolences to the family of comrade Kwame Ture," Macheo Shabaka, a member of Ture's All-African People's Revolutionary Party, said in a typical statement.
No prominent figures were visible at the ceremony, although Cuba's Fidel Castro, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Ture's first wife, the South African singer Miriam Makeba, had been invited.
Instead, about 400 people -- including Libyan and Cuban diplomats and a number of former comrades from Ture's activist days in the United States -- assembled in an outdoor pavilion.
Ture's coffin lay on a table adorned with pictures of Ture and his self-chosen namesakes -- deceased African leftist heroes Ahmed Sekou Toure, Guinea's former president, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana.
An ambulance with its sirens blaring led a 15-car procession to the funeral. Behind it followed Ture's own automobile, an unpretentious black and red Citroen Deux Chevaux.
He was buried in a public cemetery, where his 17-year-old son, Bocar, sobbed as the red clay was shoveled onto the coffin.
"I know that today my father is very happy -- happy because he will remain in Guinea," Bocar said.
Ture, who was born in Trinidad but raised in New York, began his political
career as a college student in the 1960s, helping to integrate public transportation
in the American South as a freedom
He headed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a center for leftist activism in the '60s, and later became the honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party.
Angered when the Panthers tried to ally themselves with white radicals,
Carmichael left the group, changed his name and moved to Guinea in 1968,
at the invitation of brutal Marxist dictator Sekou
Ture quickly became a fringe figure and a man largely forgotten except for his '60s activism. He spent the rest of his life lecturing and writing, preaching black power and championing socialism and pan-African unity.
Lost amid Sunday's political speeches was the human side of a man known for his gentleness toward his friends.
In the audience, Beverly Sylla, an American teacher married to a Guinean, said privately that Ture often called to cheer her up after her son died of brain cancer early last year.
"He wasn't just about politics. He was caring, he was human. And they
need to say that," she said, gesturing towards the speakers on the podium.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press