Republic of New Africa Returns to Detroit for Nation Day

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Mon Apr 1 08:44:35 MST 2002

Republic of New Africa Returns to Detroit for Nation Day

Conference hosts activists from across the nation

Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT, 31 March (Panw)--Founded in Detroit in March of
1968, the Republic of New Africa (RNA) returned to its
birthplace for a 34th Anniversary conference this weekend.

When it was formed the RNA called for the United States
Government to hand over 5 contiguous states in the South
where African people in America could form their own
independent nation.

As a result of the counterintelligence program of the late
1960s directed against the Black Liberaton Movement, the RNA
was targeted for liquidation.  This weekend's national
meeting was held under the theme of "returning to the
mission" of the original RNA's principles and objectives.

The conference, entitled "New African Nation Day," began at
the Akwaba Center, a community service building that is owned
and directed by the Pan-African Orthodox Christian Church
headquartered and founded also in the city of Detroit.

Friday night's opening plenary session featured spokespersons
for many of the local struggles that are currently taking
place in Detroit.  In the areas of education, police
brutality, communications and reparations, the array of
speakers who included Ms. Helen Moore, Mr. Richard Clay, Ms.
Arnetta Grable and others, presented to the national audience
in attendance a picture of the complex and intense struggle
taking place in the city.

On Saturday morning a series of workshops began that extended
throughout the day. These workshops covered topics such
as "Building Independent Institutions," Communications,
Economic Development and Youth Development.  The speakers in
these sessions were people who had specific models of
institution building that others around the country could
benefit from as it relates to the concrete examples displayed
in the workshops.

Representatives presented from independent African schools,
such as the New African Life Center Academy in Philadelphia
and the Council of Independent Black Institutions (CIBI),
based in Chicago. Other presentations were made from a Black
Liberation Radio station based in the Michigan area, the Pan-
African News Wire, the New African Liberation Front and the
Jazz musician Quincy Stewart from Pontiac, Michigan.

On Saturday evening a plenary session featured a host of
veteran movement activists including Fred Hampton, Jr. who
was recently released from nearly nine years of incarceration
in the state of Illinois.

Hampton, said that "I am a recently unleashed political
prisoner," to the evening audience.  He later discussed the
Prisoners of Conscience Committee, an organization that is
focusing on the plight of Africans incarcerated in the prison
systems throughout the United States.

Other speakers included Iyaalua and Herman Fergusan of the
New African Liberation Front and "Nation Time" newspaper.
Both of these veteran activists were present at the founding
of the RNA in 1968 as well as the historic Black Nation Day
gathering in 1969, when police in Detroit shot up the New
Bethel Baptist Church while RNA members and supporters were
holding their meeting in the facility.

Also Atty. Chokwe Lumumba, a native of Detroit who moved to
Jackson, Mississippi many years ago, addressed the audience
on how the struggles waged by the Provisional Government of
the Republic of New Africa was "part and parcel of the
broader black liberation movement."

On the final day of the New African Nation Day Conference,
the participants went on a historical tour of the city
visiting areas such as the corner of 12th and Clairmount
where the July 1967 rebellion began.

They also visited the New Bethel Baptist Church on the
renamed C.L. Franklin Blvd. (Linwood and Philadelphia).
Inside the church, the same trustee who was on duty the night
of the police attack on March 29, 1969, spoke to the New
African Nation Day Conference delegates about his
recollections of events that fateful Saturday evening.

"When I showed up to lock up the church I noticed that some
of the organization members were armed. I immediately called
Rev. Franklin to inform him of the situation," the church
trustee said.

"Then when the shooting began and the police officers had
crashed into the mailbox and the wall across the street, it
was very soon after that when four cars of policemen
arrived," he said.

"At that time the front entrance doors to the church were
glass.  When the police tried to open the doors, they
couldn't because they were locked from the outside.  They
then began to shoot out the glass.  More cars arrived and
they began to fire in the church on the first floor," he

"We then ran to the basement only to have the police continue
down in the basement shooting wildly.  Rev. Franklin's office
was locked and they shot the door down thinking there was
someone inside," he pointed out.

"I was arrested along with the others in the church," the
trustee said.   Rev. Franklin, Judge Crockett and James Del
Rio showed up at the police headquarters and got us out. I
was the first person released when they were convinced that I
was there on behalf of the church and not with the group that
rented the church."

This event was also a watershed in Detroit history as well.
In its aftermath the white power structure in Detroit at the
time sought to destroy Judge George Crocket Jr. who set up
court in police headquarters and released all but two of the
159 RNA members, supporters as well as those who were caught
up in the shooting.  One woman was just passing by the church
at the time and was picked by the police.

The African-American community in Detroit at the time
mobilized to defend Judge Crockett and the RNA defendants
later charged in the murder and shooting of the two police
officers outside the church.  It was during this period that
the first Black United Front was formed in the city of
Detroit.  This coalition later constituted a model which led
to the election of State Senator Coleman A. Young as the
first African-American mayor of Detroit.

The New African Nation Day Conference ended this afternoon
with a closing session at the Inner-City Sub Center on the
city's east side.

Featured speakers included another presentation by Fred
Hampton, Jr. as well as officers of the Republic of New
Pan-African News Wire articles may be broadly distributed for
non-profit research and educational purposes.

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