| Back to Lost in Cyberspace |
Black Power Online
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

Stokely Carmichael was bad. Along with H. Rap Brown, he led the militant "black power" wing of the 60's civil rights movement, scaring the bejesus out of white folks and making the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. seem moderate. Too rad even for the Black Panthers, in 1969 he moved to the West African nation of Guinea with his then wife, South African folksinger Miriam Makeba. There he changed his name to Kwame Ture and took up with the likes of Fidel Castro and Libya's Muammar Khadafy, seeking a united socialist Africa to overthrow Western civilization. Ture, 57, died of prostate cancer Nov. 15 in Guinea, but his Pan African legacy lives online.

The "Kwame Ture Website" <www.interchange.org/KwameTure> has links to recent articles on Ture, who was born in Trinidad, grew up in Harlem and graduated from Howard University in 1964. While in college he became a "freedom rider," protesting segregation in the South. He also joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was formed in 1960 as an outgrowth of King's nonviolent protests. For a history of the civil rights movement, plus an online interactive tour, there's the website of The National Civil Rights Museum <www.midsouth.rr.com/civilrights>, located at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Blacks and whites both belonged to SNCC, which held sit-ins, set up free schools and clinics, and registered blacks to vote. But when Carmichael was elected SNCC national chairman in June 1966, he aligned himself with Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, and during James Meredith's Freedom March in Mississippi he raised the cry of "black power."

There was a white "backlash," and some civil rights leaders also criticized the slogan for being inflammatory, divisive and racist. Responding in the "New York Review of Books," Carmichael wrote that black power meant political and economic empowerment: "We want control of the institutions of the communities where we live and we want to stop the exploitation of nonwhite people around the world."

Black power also meant whites were purged from SNCC and self-defense replaced nonviolence, which created a schism in the movement, although one that was probably inevitable, and may have helped the cause as much as it hurt. But a year later Carmichael was ousted from SNCC, and in 1968 he became prime minister of the Black Panther Party. The Panthers have a website, www.blackpanther.org, at which the one-time urban guerilla organization sells tickets for a Krameresque Black Panther Legacy Bus Tour of Oakland, Calif.

Because the Panthers wanted to work with militant whites, Carmichael left them a year later saying such alliances always "led to complete subversion of the blacks by the whites." He moved to Guinea, changed his name and became a Pan Africanist, seeking a united Africa under socialist rule, "one cohesive force to wage an unrelenting armed struggle against the white Western empire for the liberation of our people."

During a speaking tour of campus audiences in the 1970s and '90s, he criticized Zionism and international boycotts against Cuba and Libya. And when he became ill two years ago, his friends came to his aid. "Carl Nelson.Com" <www.carlnelson.com> has what may be Ture's last public declaration, a letter in which he thanks "Brother Muammar Al Qathafi" for his many "contributions to African and World Humanity," and for providing him with a hospital plane, which he was to have taken to Libya before he died.

He also thanks Fidel Castro, who gave him medical assistance, and Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad and his successor, Louis Farrakhan, who helped pay for his health care. The Nation of Islam's website <www.noi.org> has Farrakhan's latest pronouncements, plus the online edition of the Nation of Islam's publication, "The Final Call" <www.finalcall.com>. Anti-American to the end, Ture asserts in the declaration that since 1967, "U.S. imperialism was seriously planning to assassinate me. It still is, this time by an FBI induced cancer, the latest in the white man's arsenal of chemical and biological warfare."

Nobody is going to like this description, but in a sense, Ture was a black Zionist. Pan African websites often refer to an African diaspora, and slavery as the black holocaust. For example, "The Afrocentric Experience" <www.swagga.com> "is dedicated to the empowerment and the enlightenment processes of all people through out the world especially those of African descent in Africa and the African diaspora. Hotep!" Other websites with an African perspective include "Afronet" <www.afronet.com> and "Afrocentric News" <www.afrocentricnews.com>.

Not every civil rights organization is Afrocentric, of course. The oldest black civil rights organization in America, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is at www.naacp.org. Former comedian and long-time civil rights activist Dick Gregory has a website at www.dickgregory.com, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH can be found at www.rainbowpush.org.

Not every black website is steeped in civil rights, either, as there are websites for black music, fraternities and online communities such as "NetNoir" <www.netnoir.com>, which has black-oriented shopping channels, chat rooms and message boards. There's even "Buppies Online" <www.buppie.com>, the website for black urban professionals, with sections on family life, personal finances and a resume databank.

© 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.