BLACK POWER POTENTIAL: Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture, right at mic) endorsing the political candidacies of law student Kenneth V. Cockrel, Sr. (left of Carmichael) and Shrine of the Black Madonna founder Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr. (later Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, fourth from left, hands in pockets), Jeffries Projects, Detroit, July 30, 1966. PHIL WEBB PHOTO/THE DETROIT NEWS. (See link to article this photo accompanied at the end of this post.)
Below is a newsletter from the Cleage for Congress campaign.
Unfortunately neither my father or Ken Cockrel won. I remember passing out campaign literature at Jefferies Projects all day with Jim, now my husband, and attending Ken Cockrel’s “Victory Party ” that night in a flat on Wayne State University’s campus. I just remember it as being almost devoid of furniture and dusty. Jim and General Baker gave me a ride home after midnight where I found that my father, who was supposed to tell my mother that I was going to the party and would be late, got involved in his own after election activities and forgot. Talk about talking fast. I was 20 years old.
To bring history back to the present, read The Roots and Responsibility of Black Power – a reprint in The Michigan Citizen of remarks by historian Paul Lee made at the Detroit City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. He wasaddressing the takeover of the government of the majority-Black city of Detroit by Michigan’s Republican governor. He appealed to their sense of history, to the struggle that Detroiters had gone through in the past to gain political power. The Council voted to turn the city over to a manager appointed by the governor.
For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I will be blogging everyday using items taken from the letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother from 1907 to 1912, starting with “A” and moving right through the alphabet to “Z” during April.
Would like to see you Thursday afternoon.
I expect to arrive in Indianapolis Thursday morning and if it will be possible for me to see you any where at anytime before Sabbath write me at #910 Fayett St. – Albert
Title: Floral Clock at Gladwin Park, Detroit, Mich. Caption on back: This Floral Clock is located at Gladwin Park, which contains 75 acres. Here also is the water pumping station were seventy-three million gallons of water are pumped daily for Detroit’s supply. The Clock is run by water power.
“This park — which still exists today but is no longer open to the public — would eventually encompass 110 acres with swimming and picnic areas, play equipment like swings and teeter-totters, baseball diamonds, even a library. It also was a popular place for fishermen. At the turn of the 20th Century, the park also had two islands, three bridges, a small wading lagoon and a winding canal where rowboats could enter the park,” “The First 300 Years” says. “Visitors strolled along pathways lined with chestnut trees, intricately landscaped shrubbery and floral displays,” it continues. Another beloved attraction was a clock near the entrance that was made of flowers and run off water pressure.” Water Works Park Tower – Historic Detroit
When I saw the prompt, I immediately thought of some photos of a building in Detroit that my uncle Henry Cleage took. I found them in the first place I looked (amazingly). They aren’t labeled or dated but looking at a few old Detroit buildings I found they are of the old County Building. I would date them around 1950 from the people and cars. These are only a few of the many. Court was held in the building and Henry was a lawyer. Perhaps he had some cases there.
“The cornerstone was laid Oct. 20, 1897, in a ceremony that the Detroit Free Press called at the time “simple but impressive.” Under a headline in capital letters proclaiming, “It is laid!”, the Free Press wrote that it had rained all morning the day of the ceremony, but just at 2 p.m., as officials were gathering at Old City Hall, the sun broke and the clouds parted. A band led the procession down Cadillac Square to a platform decked out in American flags in front of the county building, where Judge Edgar O. Durfee had the honor of laying the cornerstone. Judge Robert E. Frazer gave what the Free Press called a “stirring address,” and Mayor William C. Maybury also participated.” Go to Old Wayne County Building – Historic Detroit to read a detailed history of the Old County Building.
“One of the building’s most prominent features is the pair of large sculptures flanking its center tower and portico. The copper sculptures are known as quadrigae, a Roman chariot drawn by four horses. The pieces were done by New York sculptor J. Massey Rhind, who intended the quadrigae to symbolize progress. They feature a woman standing in a chariot led by four horses with two smaller figures on either side.” From Old Wayne County Building – Historic Detroit
My mother’s sister, Mary V. Elkins, got a job at the County Building in 1940.
“June 10, 1940 — Mary Virginia has just gotten (through Jim and May) a good job at the County Bldg — God is so good to us. M.V. won high honor in her business Institute for typing and short hand.” Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s little diary.
Mary V. attended business school after she graduated from Eastern High School, then worked for awhile at her cousin’s Newspaper office until he helped her get a job in the old county building. She held the job for many years and received a proclamation from the City of Detroit for her service to the city during a Family Reunion when she was in her 80s.
Old Wayne County Building could soon be allowed to seek buyers. “A Wayne County Commission committee approved a nonbinding agreement today that would settle a nearly 3-year-old lawsuit against the owners of the Old Wayne County Building and allow the owners to seek potential buyers.” From an April, 2013 article in the Detroit Free Press.
My friend, historian Paul Lee shared this today and I am sharing it with you, in remembrance of my father who died on February 20, 2000 on Beulah Land, the Shrine’s farm in South Carolina.
‘A Day of Remembrance’ Salute to Jaramogi By Paul Lee
On Feb. 20, 2000, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the founder and first holy patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOOC), returned to the ancestors at the age of 88.
Since then, the PAOCC and others who cherish the life, work and legacy of this visionary theologian, master-teacher, freedom fighter, nation-builder, father and father-figure, who on Easter Sunday 1967 proclaimed the self-determinationist creed of Black Christian Nationalism (BCN) to restore the African roots of Christianity and resurrect the original Israel as a “black nation within a nation,” have commemorated the anniversary of his passing as the “Day of Remembrance.”
COVENANT AND COMMITMENT
This year, I’m honored to share a rare audio recording of Jaramogi Abebe reading the original BCN Creed, his statement of the church’s sacred covenant with God and “Total Commitment” to God’s people, which he promulgated in early 1972.
From then until 2011, church members and often visitors faithfully recited it during every Sunday service at Atlanta, Ga., Beulah Land, S. C., Detroit, Flint and Kalamazoo, Mich., and Houston, Tex., and at the community and college cadres at Georgia, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania.
FROM MOVEMENT TO CHURCH TO DENOMINATION
Jaramogi Abebe read the creed at a “Black Religion and Black Revolution” symposium at Duke University, Durham, N. C., on April 8, 1972.
He was then the presiding bishop of the Black Christian Nationalist Movement, founded on March 26, 1967, when he unveiled at Central United Church of Christ, formerly Central Congregational, Glanton Dowdell’s striking nine-by-18-foot Black Madonna and child chancel mural, after which the church would be renamed in January 1968.
From Jan. 27-30, 1972, the then-Reverend Cleage served as the general chairman of the second biennial Black Christian Nationalist Convention at Shrine #1, during which the BCN Movement became the BCN Church, a new “black” denomination. When he read the creed at Duke, he neglected to change “Movement” to “Church” in the final sentence.
In July 1978, the BCN Church evolved into the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church, named in honor of the African Orthodox Church (AOC), which grew out of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). After this, “Pan African Orthodox Christian Church” replaced “Black Christian Nationalist Church” in the creed.
NEW TITLE AND NAME
Five days before the Duke appearance, Sala Andaiye (also Adams), the Detroit minister’s new secretary, advised the symposium’s organizer: “We also have given Rev. Cleage an African name, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, and address him as Jaramogi.”
His Luo title (Jaramogi) and Amharic and Akan names (Abebe Agyeman), erroneously identified as Kiswahili by an amateur African names book, was given to him by the late Rev. George Bell, the BCN convention coordinator, who soon took the Kiswahili title Mwalimu and the Fulani and Kikuyu names Askia-Ole-Kariuki.
ORIGINAL BCN CREED
Below is the original creed read by Jaramogi Abebe (all-capitals represent the bold font used for “believe”; “INDIVIDUALISM” was capitalized in the original):
“I BELIEVE that human society stands under the judgment of one God, revealed to all and known by many names. His creative power is visible in the mysteries of the universe, in the revolutionary Holy Spirit which will not long permit men to endure injustice nor to wear the shackles of bondage, in the rage of the powerless when they struggle to be free, and in the violence and conflict which even now threaten to level the hills and the mountains.
“I BELIEVE that Jesus, the Black Messiah, was a revolutionary leader, sent by God to rebuild the Black Nation Israel and to liberate Black people from powerlessness and from the oppression, brutality, and exploitation of the white gentile world.
“I BELIEVE that the revolutionary spirit of God, embodied in the Black Messiah, is born anew in each generation and that Black Christian Nationalists constitute the living remnant of God’s chosen people in this day, and are charged by him with responsibility for the liberation of Black people.
“I BELIEVE that both my survival and my salvation depend upon my willingness to reject INDIVIDUALISM and so I commit my life to the liberation struggle of Black people and accept the values, ethics, morals and program of the Black Nation, defined by that struggle, and taught by the Black Christian Nationalist Movement.”
At the end of the recording, Jaramogi Abebe pauses, then says, “That’s a creed.” Indeed!
I started taking piano lessons when I was about seven years old. We lived on Chicago Blvd. in the parsonage. Mrs. Fowler was our teacher. I remember her as a stern older woman who, according to my cousin, sometimes smashed her fingers on the keys when she kept making mistakes. I think of the room with the piano as the “Morning Room”. Maybe that’s what my mother called it. There was wall paper with fruit on it. My music book was “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” and I learned 3 note pieces with words like “Here we go, up a row, to a birthday party.” When played in a different order it became the piece “Dolly dear, Sandman’s here. Soon you will be sleeping.” I must have practiced between lessons because I remember being used as a good example to my cousin Barbara one time. The piano must have belonged to the church because when we moved, it stayed there.
Several years later we were living in the upper flat on Calvert. I told my mother I wanted to take piano lessons again. She bought the used upright piano in the photo above. We all signed it on the inside of the flap you rest the music on and raise to get at the insides. Our new teacher was Mr. Manderville, the church choir director at that time. He was my parents age and went in more for mean, sarcastic remarks as opposed to banging your fingers on the keyboard. I wanted to play “Comin’ Through The Rye” but he wouldn’t assign it and, for unknown reasons, I didn’t just learn it on my own time.
The only piece I remember by name was “The Wild Horseman”. I remember it as a complex piece that I played exceptionally well. Sort of like this.
Well, maybe I wasn’t quite that good, but in my memory, I am every bit as good. Eventually I told my mother I didn’t want to take piano lessons any more. She was not happy with that and mentioned buying the piano at my request so I could take lessons. She did let me stop. My mother played the piano much better than I ever did. She played it often after that. Pieces of classical music she played on the record player and those she played on the piano have become confused in my mind now. I will have to ask my sister what she remembers.
Another part of the prompt is pictures within the picture. You will notice three pictures on the wall and one of my sister and me on the piano, in my photo above.
In St. Antoine the snow and sleet
Whiten and glaze the drab old street
And make the snow-clad houses gleam
Like crystal castles in a dream.
There, many swarthy people dwell;
To some, ’tis heaven, to others, hell!
To me the street seems like a movie stage
Where Negros play and stars engage.
They laugh and love and dance and sing
While waiting the return of spring.
Some drown their heart-aches deep
In winter time on St. Antoine.
There, on the gutters frozen brink
A dope-fiend lies, with eyes that blink
And from a neighboring cabaret
come sounds of song and music gay.
At windows, tapping, here and there,
Sit dusky maidens young and fair,
With painted cheeks and brazen eyes.
and silk clad legs crossed to the thigh
Upon the icy pavements wide,
Gay brown-faced children laugh and slide
While tawny men in shiny cars
Drive up and down the street like czars.
Into a church across the way
There goes a bridal party gay.
While down the street like a prairie-fire,
Dash a bandit car and a cruising flyer.
Around the corner whirls a truck,
An old coal-peddler’s horse is struck;
The horse falls on the frozen ground,
The dark blood spouting from its wound.
A motley crowd runs to the scene;
A woman old, from shoulders lean,
Unwraps a quilt her hands have pieced
And spreads it o’er the shivering beast.
Among the swarthy folk who pass
Along the slippery street of glass,
Are some in furs and some in rags;
Lovely women, wretched hags,
White-haired migrants from the South;
Some wrapped in blankets, pipes in mouth;
Some smile while others seem to shiver,
As though they long for Swanee River;
But though they dream with tear wet eyes
Of cotton-fields and sunny skies.
They much prefer the heaven and hell
On St Antoine, where free men dwell.
James Edward McCall was my Grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s first cousin. He was a poet and a publisher. He lost his sight due to illness while a medical student at Howard University. He and his family migrated from Montgomery Alabama to Detroit Michigan about 1923.
Both of my grandfathers worked on the Great Lakes steam ships. My maternal grandfather, Mershell Graham, worked as a steward for the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company when he first came to Detroit in 1917. He had previously worked in the dining cars of passenger trains. After several years he got a job at Ford Motor Co. where he remained until his retirement 30 years later.
My paternal grandfather, Albert B. Cleage, Sr, worked for the same company in 1909. He was a medical student in Indiana and earned money during the summer by working on the Eastern States cruise ship as a waiter. The excerpts in this post are from his letters.
June 19 1909 I left Indianapolis last night at 7:25. Stayed all night in Hamilton Ohio. Am now in Toledo at 10 AM. Will leave for Detroit 2: 15.
June 20, 1909 Arrived in Detroit yesterday at 4:00 PM, and left for Buffalo via “Eastern States” Star. on which I am at work. Was lucky. Am well, found two old school friends on same boat!
June 20, 1909 I am sitting in an old ware-house door on the wharf at Buffalo, – tell me there isn’t an element of romance in my location to say the least. I will be in Detroit again tomorrow and will see many of the boys whom I know there. You can imagine how worn out I am – just stopped traveling this morning, and if the boat ever comes into dock again I shall go immediately to bed. I went uptown to get some things and it went up the Lake and left me, but it will return soon.
June 24, 1909 Lawrence has come and we are working together.
June 27, 1909 (On board the Steamer “Eastern States” – Lake Erie) This is Sabbath night about 10:00 o’clock and we are about six hours ride out of Detroit and about twelve miles from land in the shortest direction. Surroundings are such as to impress one with his insignificance and emphasize the fact that he is indeed kept by Jehovah’s care. I shall first endeavor to acquaint you with the boat on which I am working. It’s name is “The Eastern States” and runs from Detroit to Buffalo. We leave Detroit one day at 5 PM and arrive in Buffalo the next morning at 8 o’clock, staying in
Buffalo all day we leave again for Detroit in the Evening at 5 PM you see we spend one day in Detroit and one in Buffalo. Today we were in Detroit and would it interest you to know how I spent it? Well, if it will interest you; after breakfast was over about 9 am, I went down to our “quarters” (I suppose you have only a faint conception of what that word means – I describe it later.) and slept until 11:30 – served lunch, after which Aldridge and I walked up town for about 2 hours – smoked some cigars, came back to the boat and took a couple of hours more of sleep. So you see I am putting in plenty of time sleeping. This stuff I’m sure does not interest you and I will not bore you longer but as I promised to say something about our “quarters”
It is one large room about 35 x 40 ft. in which are 32 beds – just think of it!! Those beds or better bunks are arranged in tiers of three and I at the present time am sitting on my bed (the top one) and there are two other fellows below me. What ventilation we get comes through six small port holes the diameters of which are about 6 in.
The fellows are a cosmopolitan aggregation, men from everywhere and at any time you can hear arguments and discussions on all subjects – Sensible and nonsensible. There are several students on board – boys from Howard University, Wilberforce University, Oberlin University, Michigan, and Indiana and out of them there are some very fine fellows to know… I could talk all night about the desirable and the non-desirable features of my Steamboat experience.
July 3, 1909 (Enroute to Buffalo, Steamer Eastern States) Yesterday while Lewis and I were walking up the street in Buffalo, whom did we see standing on the corner (as if lost) but Miss Berry of Indianapolis, her brother and his wife and a Miss Stuart an Indianapolis teacher. Well to be sure we were surprised and they too seemed agreeably so. We spent the day with them taking in the zoo and other points of interest. They visited our boat and we showed them through it. That was experience number one.
Secondly – our boat was in a storm last night I awoke last night amid great excitement in our quarters and found that it was only possible for me to lie in bed with quite a great deal of effort. The old boat was being mightily tossed and driven and the angry waves were rising a high as your house or higher. We were sometimes on top of them and again between them at all times with a feeling that we would every minute be swallowed up by them. Great excitement prevailed. Most of the waiters got up and put on life preservers thinking they would have need of them. I neither was afraid or sick. Nothing serious happened and we arrived in Detroit only a few hours late this morning.
We are tonight taking over to Buffal0 a 4th of July Excursion. A large crowd is aboard. A great number of extra waiters are aboard and an extra amount of noise is present and unfavorable to letter writing accept the effort…
After WW2, automobile travel replaced steamer travel and gradually the ships were retired, burned and scrapped. Here is a timeline for the Eastern States from the link above.
Laid down as EMPIRE STATE.
1902, Jan Launched Wyandotte, MI.
1909 Owned Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co, Detroit, MI.
1930 Owned Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., Detroit.
1950 Laid up, Detroit.
1956, Jun 21 Owned Lake Shore Steel Co & Siegal Iron & Metal Co, Detroit.
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 inthe 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.
MESSAGE TO THE NATION
Explains Principle Of Accountability By REV. ALBERT B. CLEAGE, JR.
Black people in the city of Detroit have a new kind of unity born out of the July  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.
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.
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.
In 1965 the idea of the Black Star Co-op was born at Central United Church of Christ. In 1968, the year after the Detroit riot, a grocery store was opened a block from the church. Due to a variety of reasons – inexperience of management and staff, costs of keeping enough stock, high prices – the store did not last long. Later the church operated a long running food co-op. Several people would go down to Eastern Market early Saturday morning and buy produce which was shared by everybody who paid $5 that week. There was no overhead and no paid staff. Later the church had a farm in Belleville, Michigan and the food for the co-op came off of that farm. Below is a short photographic story of the Black Star Market.