Accountability – Article by Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman/Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.

The following article on accountability was written by the late Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the founder of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church, for his weekly column, “Message to the Black Nation.”   It was published in the Oct. 14, 1967, issue of  “The Michigan Chronicle,” Detroit’s oldest black newspaper.

His column began informally with two articles that he wrote in the wake of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, which were published in the Aug. 12 and Aug. 19, 1967, issues.   The first was headlined “The Message’/We Must Control Our Community” and the second was headlined “Transfer Power To End Violence.” The following week, on Aug. 26, his column formally began under the “Message to the Black Nation” title, but the “Black” was omitted in the Oct. 14 column, apparently due to a typographical error. It ran for the next two years, with only occasional breaks, such as when he vacationed in Mexico in December 1967.   It was usually published on p. A-12, but sometimes on p. A-16.

In the beginning of this column, he refers to the Citywide Citizens Action Committee (CCAC), which was a broadly-based coalition of black organizations and individuals that was formed at a public meeting held in the 13th-floor auditorium of the former Detroit City-County Building, now the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, on Aug. 9, 1967.   CCAC was disbanded the following year. — Paul Lee.


 Explains Principle Of Accountability

CCAC flier urging black people to “Fight to Win Self-Determination for the Detroit Black Community” by joining one of its 12 committees.  At least 12 of the chairs or co-chairs were members of or closely associated with Jaramogi Agyeman’s church, including attorneys Russell S. Brown, Jr., Milton R. Henry and Andrew W. Perdue; bookseller Edward Vaughn; artist Glanton Dowdell; street speaker Jackie Wilson (later Amen Ra Heru); publicist William M. Bell; physician Dr. Horace F. Bradfield; William Flowers; Marion Burton; United Auto Workers (UAW) organizer Nadine Brown; and Loretta Smith.

Black people in the city of Detroit have a new kind of unity born out of the July  [1967] rebellion.   Our new unity is the unity born of conflict and confrontation.   It is a unity that was made possible by our realization that in a moment of crisis the total white community came together in opposition to us in our struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination.

 This is the first time in the city of Detroit that we have had this kind of unity and out of this unity has come a new kind of organization, the Citywide Citizens Action Committee (CCAC).

 Historically black organizations have not been born out of conflict or the will to self-determination but rather out of a fruitless seeking after integration.   Our old organizations expressed our conviction that it was possible for us to integrate into the white man’s society and that some day there would come a great getting-up morning on which black and white would walk hand in hand in love for one another.

That was the basic dream which brought all of our black organizations into existence.   That was essentially the message of the black Christian church.  Now we realize that it was this dream which thwarted and frustrated all our efforts to secure freedom and justice.

Today’s unity was born out of the realization that our survival means a continual conflict and confrontation which can only be restored through the transfer of power and self-determination for the black community.

 What Self-Determination Means

Self-determination means black control of the black community.  This is the purpose which has brought us together.  Self-determination means control of the police department in our community.   It means controls in our community.   It means that we must control everything that touches the black community.

FREEDOM MARKET: The Black Star Co-op Market, 7525 Linwood, the first economic cooperative venture of the Citywide Citizens Action Committee (CCAC), Aug. 12, 1968. Formerly Rashid’s Market, it was a stock corporation inspired by Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Steamship Corporation in the 1920s. The old stock certificates are now collector’s items. BENYAS-KAUFMAN PHOTO, COURTESY PAUL LEE, BEST EFFORTS, INC.

Self-determination is not something vague and abstract.   It means that we must control all of the stores on all the streets in our community.   It means control of the housing in our community.   It means that we cannot tolerate one huge white real estate concern operating 60 percent of the apartment houses in our community.

 As the days pass and we begin the complicated task of translating these objectives into concrete programs, there is going to be a lot of double-talk and confusion.   Very few black people will publicly deny that they support self-determination even though many will refuse to do the things necessary to achieve it.

 That is why we must have one citywide organization interpreting day in and day out the simple facts involved in black control of the black community.   CCAC must help people understand what is involved.

We do NOT mean that we are going to turn the black community over to the self-seeking black capitalists.   There would be no great improvement for us if individualistic black businessmen controlled the business in our community for their personal benefit.   We are not exchanging one kind of economic slavery for another.

We are far beyond the days when we would proudly point to Brother So-and-So who had gotten rich from exploiting us and was driving around in a Cadillac.   If a black businessman is going to operate in our community, he must contribute to it and be accountable to it.

This is the first principle of black control of the black community:   the principle of accountability.   Everyone who is going to do anything in the black community must be accountable to the black community.

This will be something entirely new for us.   No black leader has ever considered himself accountable to the black community before — in politics, in business, in labor, in the church, or in education.   So-called black leaders have considered themselves accountable only to the white man.

We were supposed to be happy and content because they were successful and could dress up and live in big houses and walk around acting like white men.   Today, if a black man is exploiting the black community, he must be dealt with.   We have no room for selfish individualists in politics, in business, in labor, in the church or in the professions.

CCAC also opened the 24-hour Black Star Shell Service  Station at Linwood and Clairmount, several blocks west of where the Rebellion began.  BENYAS-KAUFMAN PHOTO, COURTESY PAUL LEE, BEST EFFORTS, INC.,

That Slavery Softness Has Got to Go

We must be willing to accept the implications of this position.   We have certain so-called leaders who disappear or have nothing to say when a crucial issue faces the black community.   We must have one answer for this disappearing act.   When election times come around, these so-called leaders must be put out to pasture.

This is more difficult than you imagine.   When election time comes, a lot of us will hesitate.    People will argue that it is better to have a weak black man in office than to risk no black man in office.

They will say that he is still some help just because he is black.   This is not true.   If a black politician does not recognize his accountability to the black community, then he is worse than nothing.   It would be better to have someone in office whom we can recognize as an enemy than to have an enemy in office who appears to be our friend.

Legislators, judges, councilmen, congressmen, every black man who holds a political office must take orders from us.   The moment he begins to think his job is bigger than we are, there is nothing for us to do but take him out.

We intend to demand that everybody who works in the black community recognize his accountability to us.   When he strays from the straight and narrow path, we are going to talk to him.   We will take a group of brothers and we will sit down and talk over his weaknesses and shortcomings.

We are going to do just what it says in the Bible.   “If a brother strays, go sit down and talk to him.   If he won’t listen to reason, take some more brothers to talk to him.    If he still won’t listen, then treat him like a Gentile.”

In the Bible the Gentile is the white man.   That means that if he will not accept his accountability to the black community, we have no alternative but to treat him like a white man — and put him out of the [Black] Nation.   That is the Bible.

A lot of you are not really ready for this.   You have still got a lot of that soft slavery weakness in you.   This is because you don’t take seriously the simple fact that we are fighting for survival.   If a brother is betraying the Nation, he must be put out of the Nation.

We are holding everybody accountable because we are getting ready for confrontation.   We can’t afford any halfway people messing us up.   We are preparing for all kinds of conflict.

Don’t think we had a bad summer and everything is going to be pleasant from now on.  Get yourselves ready.   That old slave psychology, that softness, has got to go.   We must know that if we are going to move, it is going to be by confrontation.


For more about the Black Star Co-op, click.

For more about the CCAC and my father in the year following the 1967 Detroit riot, follow the links below.

Prophet of possibility Pt. 1 – The Michigan Citizen by Paul Lee.

Profit of possibility Pt 2 – also from the Michigan Citizen by Paul Lee.

7 thoughts on “Accountability – Article by Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman/Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.

  1. 1967 was the year I graduated from high school. I remember it well. It was a summer of rioting in Cincinnati, too. I worked for a year after high school at Procter and Gamble trying to save money for college. I was in a car pool and still remember that our route had to be constantly changed because of National Guardsmen blocking our way to work. What a time of upheaval. Interesting post.

  2. Thank you Kristin and Paul. It is clear that Jaramogi gave us the next steps post physical rebellion. Accountability is as important today than has every been. We need, as a thinking people, to access where we are and to programmatically and effectively find and continue to create our fit in this post-industrial new-age racist world. Our accountability to each other which is Nation-building must drive our effective Pan-African fit in these fast pace encroaching technological driven societies that are being propped and used by multi-national corporations. Much has happened since 1967, however the struggle to build institutional power that belongs to our people and operates for our people is the same struggle, but in need of the vigor and the help of new believers and especially consistently loyal doers.

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