By Michael Simanga (auth.)
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Extra resources for Amiri Baraka and the Congress of African People: History and Memory
He set out to remake it into a national replica of the force that had been built in Newark, turning it into a national revolutionary organization with highly disciplined well-trained activists in cities throughout the country. According to Woodard, “by the Second International Assembly of the Congress of African People in San Diego on Labor Day, 1972, CAP was the most formidable black nationalist organization in the country” (1999, p. 219). It was at that second national conference of CAP that Baraka was formally elected chairman.
In 1971, I was one of the leaders of the first black high school takeover in the country. I graduated that year and went to work in a Chrysler stamping factory where I set about the work of organizing black workers there. I was active in the city as a poet, cultural worker, and speaker. In an Episcopal church basement, with other young activists, I started the Ujima School and Organization a few blocks from where the 1967 rebellion began. Through the school we held Saturday classes, after school programs, and summer camps where we tutored community children, taught African American and African history and culture and martial arts, and engaged in organizing the community around education.
Whenever I’d see Baraka he was fully immersed in African culture, wore African clothes, and traveled then with young men who guarded him. He was always open and curious about the work I was doing. Those encounters were brief but meaningful because he did something that became a constant in our relationship over the years. He always asked me if I’d read certain books or authors and then he’d say, “You should read . . ” I’d find the book or author he recommended as soon as I could. On occasion he would give me a copy of a book he’d just read.