There were hundreds of people in attendance, to mourn the memory of Elombe Brath, at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem New York on May 31, 2014. Among them were dignitaries, activist, government officials, plus a plethora of individuals who came to give their condolence to his family.
Concluding the historic rites of passage ceremony, Elombe’s dear wife Nomsa said she was happy that she married her husband and that “he struggled all his life to uplift Africa.” Brath is also survived by his seven children, grandchildren, brothers and other relatives.
Below are some of the many condolences, tributes and article’s published on the internet that describe Elombe Brath life of activism.
Elombe Brath was a “foot soldier and a general of the Pan African Movement” declared former South African President Thako Mbeki in a letter of condolence read to the hundreds gathered in Harlem with foreign emissaries from afar as the African Union to Cuba.
The letter from President Mbeki was read by Malcolm Omowale X Shabazz’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz. The letter also called for a new movement similar to Brath’s work for a “Titanic struggle… to pursue the renaissance of Africa.”
Elombe Brath played a key role in the liberation of South Africa and was the host for President Nelson Mandela in Harlem during his first visit to the United States.
In the opening celebration of the life of Elombe Brath at the packed historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, Reverend Calvin Butts quoted the 68 Psalm proclaiming “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out its hands unto God”.
This Psalm is one of the premier scriptural verses of the early African Diaspora Church tradition and is especially most promoted by African nationalist and early Pan African leaders starting in the 18th century to remind Africans in the Diaspora of their profound spiritual and enduring bond with their Motherland, Africa. This Psalm was a beacon of hope for the longing of returning to Africa and the search of African dignity, humanity and redemption, during the worse of chattel slavery. The African liberation theologian and activist Reverend Dr. Herbert Daughtry followed with the opening remarks stressing that no one “can talk about African freedom without thinking of Elombe Brath.”
From Harlem, Minister Haseez read a letter from Minister Louis Farrankan that gave condolence from the Nation of Islam to the Brath family.
Ambassador Tete Antonio, United Nations Representative from Angola spoke on behalf of the African Union Chair Dr. Madame N.D. Zuma stating that Elombe Brath was a consistent key advisor on the Organization of African Unity and then to the African Union affairs. In announcing the African Diaspora as the 6th region of Africa, Tete urged that the significant contributions of Elombe Brath to the liberation of Africa must be now translated in the “making of the vision of the African Diaspora 6th region a reality, for the future, and the renaissance of the African Continent.” Tete is also a representative of the African Union to the African Diaspora.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba and former President His Excellency Sam Nujoma of Namibia sent a special delegation with His Excellency H. P. Asheke to participate in the funeral service of Brath. The condolence letter from the former SWAPO leaders announced that the “Namibian nation honors an unwavering freedom fighter and tireless Pan African”. It further declared that Brath was a great “Pan Africanist who was shaped by Marcus Garvey to fight for the freedom, independence and nation-building is deserving recognition for his contribution, and steadfast work for the dignity of African people.” Brath was the primary advisor for SWAPO representatives and other freedom fighters at the United Nations during the height of African liberation struggles from the 1960’s through the 1990s.
Former Councilman Charles Barron pointed that Elombe Brath legacy and work must not falter and that all Africans must continue struggling to “stop imperialism and neo-colonialism in Africa.” Also former Black Panther Party leader and student of Brath, Bin Wahad Dhoruba brought condolences from the political prisoners for whom Brath fought with and for. Dhoruba called for actions to stop the recolonization of Africa and urged the community to establish an Elombe Brath institute to continue his legacy.
Dr. Leonard Jeffries, President of WADU reminded those in attendance that they are part of the 6th Diaspora region of which Baba Elombe Brath worked to create when he helped to establish WADU in Jamaica in 2007 as his final mission for African people. He emphasized that Braths creation of WADU was due to his relentless pursuit of victory by all means.
[A Tribute to Elombe Brath,
Pan-African Revolutionary Teacher]
Among the assembled was a delegation from Namibia. Elombe Brath fought for decades in supporting SWAPO’s [the South West Africa People’s Organization] armed struggle to win Namibia’s freedom from apartheid slavery. Elombe did everything he could to support SWAPO leader Sam Nujomo. Like Amilcar Cabral — the leader of the liberation struggle in Guinea-Bissau — Elombe Brath told no lies and claimed no easy victories.
He was the loving father of seven children and beloved companion of Nomsa Brath, who survives him. It was ironic that Elombe Brath died on May 19, the birthday of Malcolm X. On May 19, 1990, Elombe Brath came to a Workers World Party meeting that was being held to honor the birthdays of both Malcolm X and another former resident of Harlem — Vietnamese communist hero Ho Chi Minh.
Like Malcolm X, Elombe Brath was a truth teller. His weekly radio show on WBAI — Afrikaleidoscope — was an educational weapon that reached thousands weekly with the latest news of struggles in Africa and the Diaspora.
Afrikaleidoscope was also filled with beautiful music by African and African-American artists. Elombe Brath was a lover and collector of music, particularly of jazz.
Along with his beloved friend and comrade, the late Samori Marksman, Elombe Brath formed the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, which fought against apartheid and every form of colonialism. Elombe and Samori were the vanguard in fighting not only for South Africa’s freedom, but also for the MPLA [the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola] in Angola and FRELIMO [the Mozambique Liberation Front] in Mozambique. Elombe Brath also supported revolutionary Ethiopia. The overthrow of Ethiopia’s revolution was a tragic consequence of the Soviet Union’s destruction.
As one of the founders of the December 12th Movement, Elombe popularized the slogan “Africa called, Cuba answered.” Two thousand Cuban soldiers are buried in Africa, where they died defeating the Nazi armies of apartheid South Africa. Elombe always defended Cuba. In 1992, he was an endorser of the “Peace for Cuba” rally that packed New York City’s Javits Center while 15,000 counter revolutionaries were forced to freeze outside.
Elombe Brath was invited to Cuba to listen to Comrade Fidel Castro describe how the Angolan and Cuban soldiers, along with fighters from SWAPO and the ANC [the African National Congress], destroyed the apartheid army at Cuito Cuanavale in Southern Angola. Nineteen months after South Africa retreated across the Angolan border, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison.
Elombe Brath was also a firm supporter of Zimbabwe, where the land has been given to its rightful owners, the African people. He hailed the overthrow of Africa’s shame, Mobutu Sese Seko, the U.S. puppet dictator in Congo who had helped to murder the great African independence fighter, Patrice Lumumba.
Elombe went to Congo in 1997 to interview Laurent Kabila and presented the hour-long interview to over 200 people at the Victoria 5 Theatre in Harlem. As a youth, Elombe was a follower of Carlos Cooks, the leader of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement. Cooks was an associate of the Honorable Marcus Garvey.
In 1995, Elombe Brath emphasized that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge wanted Mumia Abu-Jamal executed on August 17, the 107th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s birth. Elombe worked tirelessly to save Mumia’s life. Workers World Party along with many other organizations and individuals — above all sisters Pam Africa and Ramona Africa — stopped the executioners and helped get this revolutionary off death row.
Now, we must fight to free Mumia, the MOVE 9 and all political prisoners. We need to tear down the walls brick by brick and bring home hundreds of thousands of prisoners to their families. Elombe worked tirelessly to free political prisoners, including Dhoruba bin Wahad. Brath also fought to free the Central Park 5.
There, in Harlem, Elombe passed a message to Winnie Mandela that she was standing next to Betty Shabazz. The two sisters embraced. Long live the memory and example of Elombe Brath! (Taken from a talk given at a June 6 Workers World Party forum in New York City.)
Elombe Brath helped lead the struggle to preserve the African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan.
He fought for Africans and oppressed people everywhere. Kwame Ture — who, as leader of SNCC [the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], was known as Stokely Carmichael — called him “the dean of Harlem nationalists.”
If you wanted to struggle, you respected Elombe and wanted to know what he had to say. For last year’s tribute to Elombe, world renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal recorded a message from his prison cell, telling of his “admiration and affection” for him. Workers World Party comrades also admired Elombe Brath. Our party’s first secretary, Larry Holmes, was part of a delegation that attended Brath’s memorial on May 31 at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
Elombe Brath: A world-renown Pan-Africanist
Pan-African Revolutionary Teacher
But how come the name Elombe Brath? It was the result of a suggestion of Thomas Kanza, the top diplomat of the Congo, appointed by Patrice Lumumba, head of the government of the former Belgian Congo around 1960s.
Kanza had exchanged ideas with Cecil Brathwaite Jr and found him an articulate pan-African advocate, jazz enthusiast, radio producer and historian of African culture and politics and suggested the Bajan change his Christian name to Elombe which he said meant “all knowing.”. The rest is history. Most people whose surname is Brathwaite are routinely called “Brath” as a term of endearment. Hence, the new name Elombe Brath.”
Brath, as a graphic artist and consultant on “Like It Is”, helped attract African scholars of renown on the show and also shared his knowledge of the continent with Gil Noble. Viewers became accustomed to watching interviews with the likes of: Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan; Professor John Henrik Clarke; Professor Leonard Jeffries; Dr. Ivan van Sertima; Joy DeGruy; and many others. Visitors to Gil Noble’s office would have also been impressed with the books that lined his shelves: on African history, politics, arts, and culture.
“He lived his life doing what he loved,” said his son Cinque Brath. “He wanted global fairness for people around the world.” He was one of the top organizers when Harlem welcomed Nelson Mandela, in 1990, and a strong advocate for the Central Park 5. Brath, the Brooklyn-born pioneer who grew up in Harlem and Hunts Point, founded the Patrice Lumumba Coalition in 1975. The Harlem-based group spread word of the ongoing struggle against oppression in Africa. ”
Brath suffered several strokes, and had been living in the nursing home since 2009.
Four of his seven children and his wife, Helene Nomsa Brath, were at his side when he died. Among the thinkers whom Brath counted as influences: Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Carlos Cooks and his cousin, Clenell Wickham, who waged a political battle on behalf of working class blacks in colonial Barbados as an editor of The Herald, a Barbadian newspaper.
“Renowned poet George Edward Tait has often expressed his love
and appreciation for Brath, and did so elegantly at the tribute.
“Brooklyn & Bronx brainchild answering the be-bop beat of a Barbados Birdcall;
Hip strutting to Harlem home base and headquarters;
Student of street speaker seminars and stepladder symposiums;
Becoming soldier star of study and struggle;
Becoming revolutionary renaissance revivalist,
Is the opening stanza of the poem in honor of his fallen friend and associate
It was truly “Elombe Time,” and as Tait concluded in his poem:
“A freedom fighting man; a family man;
Freedom fighting day after day;
freedom fighting decade after decade;
With family foundation, family fixture, family framework, family fulfillment;
Behold the Brath of most persistence;
behold the Brath of most resistance;
It’s Elombe Time: to be continued & continued & continued & continued.”
It is only fitting to conclude with an article from his brother Kwame.
Elombe was one of the founders, and the lifetime president of the African Jazz-Arts Society & Studios, (AJASS) a cultural group which had been founded during the summer of 1956 in the South Bronx but moved to Harlem in 1961. The group was a collective of Black artists, photographers, performers, and students (including Kwame Brathwaite, Robert Gumbs, Chris Acemendeces Hall, Frank Adu, Jimmy Abu and others) who gathered to promote Black Arts and Culture. This was the beginning of what became “The Black Arts Movement” which many believe started in 1965, nine years later.
Install pride and confidence in African women, who at the time were looked upon as less than beautiful by the mass media, the fashion world and by African people themselves. After the 1961 contest, AJASS formed the nucleus of a group of models to explicitly promote the African standard of beauty, The Grandassa Models under the direction of Elombe. The image of darker women had been long overlooked by such magazines as Ebony, Jet, Tan, contradicting their very names.
Thus the “Naturally” series of “cultural extravaganzas designed to restore our racial pride and standards” was born, beginning with the production of “Naturally ‘62” on January, of that year.
Here are my final personal thoughts on a fellow African Nationalist, as well as a friend.
I first met the Brath brothers (Elombe and Kwame) in 1960 when we were members of the ANPM (African Nationalist Pioneer Movement). I am truly blessed to have been able to watch Elombe grow from a student fifty years ago into a highly respected leader in the global African communities.
Moreover, I was especially impressed by Elombe’s (together with his brother Kwame) creation of AJASS (African Jazz-Art Society Studios), that was formed in 1956 in New York. It was the pure genius on their part to use entertainment as a means to teach African culture and pride.
It was done with the “Black is Beautiful” series of shows. And it grew and became popular for over a decade. It began in 1962 and lasted until 1979. During that period, a gradual change of culture occurred to women hair styles. Resulting in the return to the natural hair look that became acceptable to African women until this current day.
Even more astounding, his life time of dedication is best explained by his brother in portions of an article below.
“His life has been a marathon of causes here and around the world on behalf of our brothers and sisters who needed their struggles to be voiced and recognized, whether in South Africa, Namibia, Congo, Ethiopia, Grenada, Burkina Faso or in the United States.”
[Africa’s Great Freedom Fighter Makes Passage into the Ancestral World]
”Elombe Brath was raised from birth under the influence of the Honorable Marcus Garvey in the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) led by Carlos Cooke of the Dominican Republic. He then spent his full life fighting for the decolonization of Africa and other oppressed nations of the world. He stood firmly for Black empowerment in the USA and beyond, and was a champion for human rights and justice.
His main role as a freedom fighter was coordinating, promoting and providing direct support and assistance to the leaders of the liberation struggles across Africa, especially in southern Africa.
Also, from his Harlem headquarters of the Pan African movement, he worked directly with revolutionary leaders and ambassadors at the United Nations to mobilize support and assistance for Pan African resistance to imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and for the building of Garvey’s vision for a united states of Africa.
In addition to organizing and spearheading African liberation support committees, the tireless Brath helped to co-found several key organizations including the Patrice Lumumba Coalition PLC), the December the 12th Movement (D-12) and the World African Diaspora Union (WADU).”
In line with Elombe activism, he popularized the slogan “Africa called, Cuba answered.” As well as, in 1992, was an endorser of the “Peace for Cuba” rally that packed New York City’s Javits Center.
Consequently, Elombe Brath was invited to Cuba by Fidel Castro, who described how the Angolan and Cuban soldiers, along with fighters from SWAPO and the ANC [the African National Congress], destroyed the apartheid army at Cuito Cuanavale in Southern Angola in March 1988, the army of apartheid South Africa was defeated by a Pan-Africanist alliance that included tens of thousands of Cuban volunteers. Their victory forced South Africa’s racist rulers to enter negotiations that led to the dismantling of anti-apartheid organizations, the release of Nelson Mandela, the independence of Namibia, and ultimately freedom for South Africa.
All aspects of the global African communities were represented at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem New York on May 31, 2014. Although, there were hundreds in attendance and thousands or perhaps millions mourn his passing. However, those are also millions who is unaware of Elombe’s existence. Above all, his life of activism should be known throughout the global African communities.
Most certainly, his life of activism is worthy of a book along with a DOCUMENTARY
Sabamya Jaugu joined the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) and attended classes, workshops and seminars that were involved in the promoting of African Nationalism as was expounded by Marcus Garvey. Sabamya has travelled and lived in Tanzania and works to shares the true history of Africa and the global African communities through his activities with the African Manifesto and African History Month Concept.
External LinksAfrican History MonthTributary Messages for Elombe Brath: Our Living HeroHarlem mourns death of Elombe Brath, lifelong warrior in battle for pan-African empowermentElombe Brath, a fighter for African liberation
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