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Fighting for Us

Fighting for Us

Scot Brown
Foreword by Clayborne Carson
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Fighting for Us
    Book Description:

    In spite of the ever-growing popularity of Kwanzaa, the story of the influential Black nationalist organization behind the holiday has never been told. Fighting for Us explores the fascinating history of the US Organization, a Black nationalist group based in California that played a leading role in Black Power politics and culture during the late 1960s and early '70s whose influence is still felt today. Advocates of Afrocentric renewal, US unleashed creative and intellectual passions that continue to fuel debate and controversy among scholars and students of the Black Power movement.Founded in 1965 by Maulana Karenga, US established an extensive network of alliances with a diverse body of activists, artists and organizations throughout the United States for the purpose of bringing about an African American cultural revolution. Fighting for US presents the first historical examination of US' philosophy, internal dynamics, political activism and influence on African American art, making an elaborate use of oral history interviews, organizational archives, Federal Bureau of Investigation files, newspaper accounts, and other primary sources of the period.This book also sheds light on factors contributing to the organization's decline in the early '70s - ;government repression, authoritarianism, sexism, and elitist vanguard politics. Previous scholarship about US has been shaped by a war of words associated with a feud between US and the Black Panther Party that gave way to a series of violent and deadly clashes in Los Angeles. Venturing beyond the lingering rhetoric of rivalry, this book illuminates the ideological similarities and differences between US's cultural nationalism and the Black Panther Party's "revolutionary" nationalism. Today, US's emphasis on culture has endured as evidenced by the popularity of Kwanzaa and the Afrocentrism in Black art and popular media. Engaging and original, Fighting for US will be the definitive work on Maulana Karenga, the US organization, and Black cultural nationalism in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3941-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Clayborne Carson

    I first talked with Maulana Karenga in 1966, when I conducted a long interview with him for aLos Angeles Free Pressarticle. He was already widely known in the Los Angeles area as an influential young Black nationalist. At UCLA, where he was a graduate student in African linguistics and I was an undergraduate history major, his powerful orations, peppered with sardonic humor, always drew crowds. He had created a tightly organized and loyal group of followers called US—“Anywhere we are, US is.” I had been suspicious of those Black nationalists who stood on the sidelines of the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    The history of the cultural nationalist organization called “US,” founded by Maulana Karenga and a handful of others in 1965, is, for most students of Black nationalism, an untold story. The Southern California–based organization experienced a high point in its activism during a great resurgence in African American nationalism, popularly known as the Black Power movement, roughly from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. During these years, US, a relatively small group, established an impressive network of alliances in the Midwest, in the South, and on the East Coast. As a result, US’s brand of cultural nationalism influenced a...

  6. 2. From Ron Everett to Maulana Karenga: The Intellectual and Political Bases for the US Organization
    (pp. 6-37)

    Black nationalist ideologies have historically maintained that people of African descent share a common history and life chances in a White or European-dominated political, economic, and social order. Studies of Black nationalism have made use of varied typologies and categories to distinguish the disparate, and sometimes competing, tendencies within nationalism. In broad terms, different Black nationalisms have been defined by a relationship to a dominant or notable area of emphasis: politics, economics, culture, and religion—to name a few.¹

    Black cultural nationalism has been broadly defined as the view that African Americans possess a distinct aesthetic, sense of values, and...

  7. 3. Memory and Internal Organizational Life
    (pp. 38-73)

    In the fall of 1965, Maulana Karenga, Hakim Jamal, Dorothy Jamal, Tommy Jacquette-Mfikiri (Halifu), Karl Key-Hekima, Ken Seaton-Msemaji, Samuel Carr-Damu (Ngao Damu), Sanamu Nyeusi, and Brenda Haiba Karenga were among the early members a newly formed organization called “US.” The term “US” was chosen as a dual reference to the organization and the community its members pledged to serve:us Blacks as opposed to “them” Whites.¹ According to Jamal the organization was not formed in one singular meeting. It grew out of a study group called the Circle of Seven, led by Karenga, which had met regularly at the Black-owned...

  8. 4. The Politics of Culture: The US Organization and the Quest for Black Unity
    (pp. 74-106)

    The lifestyle of the US advocate was not thoroughly consumed by internal organizational dynamics. The parochial new world inside the Hekalu reinforced a political mandate to function as organizers of organizations in the thrust toward cultural revolution. Specifically, US sought to “programmatically influence” political and cultural projects within the Black community in a nationalist direction—leading interorganizational caucuses (e.g., Temporary Alliance of Local Organizations and Black Congress); working for self-determination, regional autonomy, and Black representation in electoral politics; agitating against United States military aggression in Vietnam; and organizing a series of local and national Black Power conferences to spread Black...

  9. 5. Sectarian Discourses and the Decline of US in the Era of Black Power
    (pp. 107-130)

    By 1969, US and the Black Panther Party had grown to become certain about their respective standings as leading Black Power organizations. US sought to lead a cultural revolution transforming Black consciousness, group identity, purpose, and direction—which would lay the foundation for a collective African American political decision.¹ The Black Panther Party defined itself as the vanguard party in the national liberation struggle to free the “Black colony” and simultaneously to unite with other progressive forces to combat racism, capitalism, and imperialism.² Actually, the broad objectives of both organizations were complementary. The Black Panther Party’s goal of bringing about...

  10. 6. In the Face of Funk: US and the Arts of War
    (pp. 131-158)

    Maulana Karenga’s essay “Black Art: Mute Matter Given Force and Function,” originally published in 1968 as “Black Cultural Nationalism” inNegro Digest, was an influential treatise on the role of Black art in the “revolutionary” struggle during the era of Black Power. Using concepts introduced by Leopold Senghor, Karenga sought to explicate a criterion for evaluating Black art. “Black Art” captured resounding themes articulated in the cultural renaissance known as the Black Arts movement—often considered the artistic corollary to the Black Power movement. The Black Arts inspired many African American musical, literary, and visual artists with its emphasis on...

  11. All illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 7. Kwanzaa and Afrocentricity
    (pp. 159-162)

    Internal strife and repression from various law enforcement agencies ultimately led to a series of crises in the US Organization, whose sum total effectively ended US’s flourishing as a powerfully influential vanguard force in the era of Black Power, from 1965 until 1971. US’s influence, as expressed through other cultural nationalist organizations and sympathizers, persisted well into the late 1970s and received a major boost in the 1980s and 1990s through the Afrocentric movement and the Kwanzaa holiday.

    US’s participation in the Black Power movement coincided with an expanded popular interest in Africa that was due, in part, to a...

  13. Glossary of Kiswahili and Zulu Terms
    (pp. 163-164)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 165-202)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-216)
  16. Index
    (pp. 217-227)
  17. About the Author
    (pp. 228-228)