Archive for Baba Olabese

A Priest of Ifa has Joined the Ancestors!

Posted in On the Passing of Stan Kinard with tags , , , , , on April 28, 2019 by playthell

Baba Olabase aka Stan Kinard with Son Alade at Sista’s Place

A Mighty Tree Has Fallen In Brooklyn
Let Every Head Bow…and Every Tongue Sing Praises
HAIL AND FAREWELL!

Baba Olabase has Danced Yet His Spirit Dwells

Stan was the man to go to if you needed a hand up the ladder to grasp your dreams, for he was a dream weaver, a vendor of miracles, who helped seekers to identify their dreams and then live them. I know this by virtue of the many outstanding Afro-Americans who have publicly testified to it with heart rending, soul stirring, stories. In a public Tribute to his good works held at Sista’s place last summer, I witnessed a galaxy of stars turn out and testify to the critical role “Mr. Kinard” played in their becoming who they are: Preachers, teachers, politicians, musicians, businessmen, artists and even ex-thugs who used to terrify the community. Indeed, Baba’s life was a benefaction and his wisdom a REVELATION.

The good he has done will live on…but, alas, the enumeration Stan’s good works requires a space far beyond the limits of this remembrance. For he was my student and I have observed his development and good works for 51 years! From my earliest encounters with Stan I knew he had exceptional leadership qualities and vision; he was unusually confident and self-directed for a teenager. I figured he would go far in life, and that confidence proved justified as he went on to exceed everything I had hoped for our graduates.

When we set up the WEB DuBois Department of Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst our objectives exceeded the normal aspirations of academic departments. While other departments were quite content to produce students who were equipped to pursue their individual goals to get ahead and contribute to the advancement of society as a by-product of their efforts, our goal was to produce students whose main objective was the uplift of their people, who had been long oppressed by a racial caste system that amounted to a monstrous crime against humanity centuries old.

Hence we wanted them to go back to the communities from whence they came and apply the skills they had acquired at the great white university to the task of community development. For us, this was the true measure of success. It was, by the standard measure of academic achievement, an extraordinary expectation. Several of our students would fulfill our aspirations for them, but none more so than Stan Kinard, who was one of the tallest trees in the forest we cultivated. He was living proof that the experiment we began in the fall of 1969 had the right stuff to produce the kind of result we envisioned.

Our objectives were shaped by the philosophy that guided the development of the DuBois Department. Unlike the other departments in the university, whose courses were designed by traditional academics, our project and course offerings were designed by movement intellectuals in collaboration with the traditional academics. The former shaped the philosophy and objectives, and the latter organized them to meet traditional university standards. In order to achieve our paramount objective, which was to produce an intellectual vanguard that would reshape the racist humanities curriculum that supplied the intellectual underpinnings for the system of white supremacy; a racial caste system which limited the life’s chances of Afro-Americans. And then organize the Afro-American community to achieve political power and economic parity; to realize the slogan “Black Power.”

Hence in our view the founding of the DuBois Department was an extension of the black liberation movement into the academy; this determined the courses we offered and the professors chosen to teach them. For instance, the first three professors hired by the department was Ivanhoe Donaldson, Cherif Guellal and this writer. Ivanhoe was a political scientist who had played a major role in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the organization most responsible for building black political power in the South by organizing Afro-Americans to vote, particularly after the passage of the Voting rights Act of 1965. He had lectured on political movements all over the US and Africa. But as an activist deeply interested in radical progressive change as a vehicle for black liberation, Ivanhoe was not content to just talk about politics in the classroom, he took a group of his students down to Atlanta, and successfully ran Andrew Young’s successful campaign for the US Congress.

Cherif Guellal, a colleague of Ivanhoe’s at the Center for Policy Studies in Washington DC, was an Algerian who had served on the central committee of the National Liberation Front, NFL, which successfully waged a bloody seven year revolutionary war against the French colonialists, costing the Algerian people a million and a half lives! Among Cherif’s duties was to serve as aide de camp to Dr. Franz Fanon, the brilliant black psychiatrist from the French Caribbean colony of Martinique who became the principal theorist of the Algerian Revolution.

Through his books such as The Wretched of the Earth – his magnum Opus – Studies in a Dying Colonialism, and “Toward the African Revolution, we were provided a first hand analysis of the dynamics of a revolution in progress. And the activists seeking radical change around the world were inspired. Cherif, who came to the US as the Ambassador to the Kennedy administration from the revolutionary government of Algeria, taught courses on the life and writings of Dr. Fanon, and the process of organizing a revolutionary movement.

I came to the department having spent the last decade as a movement activist, which began at the birth of the black student sit-ins in the spring of 1960, when I was a freshman at Florida A&M, and I evolved into a revolutionary; co-founding the Revolutionary Action Movement with Max Stanford aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, in Philadelphia, two years later in 1962. In that same year I came on the airways billed as a “Radio Historian” on WDAS, a commercial radio station broadcasting to the black communities in three states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

A serious autodidact who camped out in the famous Schomburg Collection,* The great Philadelphia Public Library, the Van Pelt Library, at the University of Pennsylvania, and two book stores that specialized in books on the history of the black world and revolution: Hakim’s Book Mart and the New World Book Fair, both owned by black men devoted to liberating and uplifting the race, I delved into the archives of ancient prudence and interrogated the texts deposited there.

The book fair was located on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania and I began to meet U Penn history professors, one of whom Dr. Ted Hershberg had heard my weekly lectures on the radio – which were three hour sessions consisting of an hour lecture and two hours of open phone discussions where the listeners could ask questions or offer their own insights derived from their research on the subject – invited me to attend departmental discussions on the ongoing researches of his colleagues.

Although I had been under the tutelage of Dr. Lawrence D. Reddick, a conventionally trained Afro-American historian. these sessions at Penn provided me a front row seat to witness the development of a new method of writing history: quantitative and social science history as it was being created by scholars like Dr. Hirshberg and Dr. Lee Benson. It was a priceless graduate education that equipped me with knowledge on the cutting edge of the historical profession, which would serve me well when I would later be challenged by professors in the U-Mass history department, who were intent upon proving Black Studies was a fraud!

Between the U-Penn Professors, and other scholars I would meet after I was hired by the Reverend Doctor Leon Sullivan, an activist Baptist preacher, who first hired me to teach a black history course in the basement of his church the venerable Mt. Zion, when I was 21, after listening to me on the radio, then commissioned me to develop a “Minority History” course for the Opportunities Industrialization Centers, a skills training program that began in an abandoned jailhouse in North Philly but spread to 120 cities and five African countries after it was mass.

I not only taught African and Afro-American/Caribbean history at the “proto-type” program in Philadelphia, but was soon in demand for lectures at other OIC programs around the nation. This led to invitations to conduct seminars for public school teachers and eventually university lectures, which increasingly centered around rationales for inclusion of Black Studies in their academic programs. As I traveled around the country I was also developing underground cells for the Revolutionary Action Movement. Among the radical organizations spawned by RAM was the Black Panther Party of Oakland, when we recruited two students at Merritt Junior College in Oakland: Bobby Seales and Huey P. Newton. I became so busy that I severed ties with OIC and became an Independent Public Intellectual.

After the armed revolutionary movement was devastated by the FBI Co-In-Tel-Pro offensive, and the disillusionment I felt with the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I was undecided about my next move. The revolutionary writings of Mao Tse Tung was our bible, and I had begun to suspect that he might be wrong alas. It was during this period of uncertainty that I met Professor Mike Thelwell at a conference on how to develop Black Studies in elite white private schools; to which Afro-American students were being recruited by the ABC – A Better Chance – program.

The objective of ABC was to identify talented black youngsters in black communities and pay for them to attend the nation’s elite private prep schools, then funnel them into Ivy League universities, after which they would take their rightful place among the American elite. The Result was a mixture of triumph and tragedy. For instance they plucked Duval Patrick from the inner city of Chicago, who graduated from Harvard Law and went on to become the first black Governor of Massachusetts. But ABC also produced Jake Lamar, whom they recruited from the “Boogey Down” South Bronx, which produced Hip Hop. However Lamar’s experience in elite white institutions was different, he graduated from Harvard and wrote a book “Bourgeois Blues” detailing the horrors of his experience, and went into exile in Paris, the way black writers had done earlier in the 20th century. He has seldom been heard from since.

Professor Mike Thelwell- a radical Jamaican immigrant intellectual who had attended Howard University in Washington DC, a campus that boasted a gaggle of outstanding black scholars – was an adviser to the ABC program. And he had insisted that the black community didn’t need any “imitation white folks runnin round tha place confusin the people” as he colorfully put in his Jamaican idiom, a language he often resorted to when dismissing what he regarded as “damned foolishness and fuckrie!”

So, Thelwell argued, if they were going to recruit black students with the aim of advancing our community then they must include courses in Black Studies. We were the key note speakers at the opening session of the conference, which was held at Suffield Academy, an upper class prep school that boasted such graduates as Jackie Kennedy. Thelwell spoke on literature and I spoke on history. Our admiration was mutual, and as he was tasked with finding faculty to develop the new department they were planning, he explained that they wanted to name what would be the first full fledged Black Studies Department, after our greatest scholar/activist, Dr. William Edward Burghardt DuBois, whom he had deduced was my intellectual hero by the number of times I had cited and quoted him in my lecture.

Mike was well qualified to lead this struggle, having been a founder of SNCC, and a top flight organizer who helped build the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and then ran the challenge from SNCC’s Washington office that nearly unseated the regular all white Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mike insisted that we should be about the business of building a full fledged department and not settle for a mere patchwork program, in which several professors offered elective courses on black subjects but could neither hire faculty, nor grant degrees. I thought it a great idea, since I had seen these hastily constructed “Black Studies Programs” in my travels around the country. Once we agreed on the objective, he offered me a job. That is how I came to Amherst, and Stan Kinard was the student representative on the committee that interrogated and hired me.*

As the DuBois Department grew, we added more scholars who held traditional credentials; especially the PhD. However the Department added yet another innovation by appointing a contingent of radical black artists to the faculty such as the painter Nelson Stevens, the Sculptor Ed Love, Playwright and Director Paul Carter Harrison. We were also the first to give professorships to Jazz musicians when saxophonist/composer Archie Shepp, and the seminal modern percussionist Max Roach, pater-familias to the most influential school of Jazz drummers in the post-bop era.

After the take over of a campus building, renaming it New Africa House, and establishing a Black Cultural Center, other talented black people were attracted to the campus including a Karate Master and the brilliant iconoclastic poet Amus Moore, an important figure from the Black Arts Movement in Chicago. Eventually James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe – two of the 20th centuries greatest novelist of the Black World in Africa and America – joined the faculty. Thus Amherst become home to one of the most fascinating and influential Pan-African congregation of artist and intellectuals ever assembled anywhere.

Stan Kinard played a major role in all of these developments, and he took full advantage of all that they had to offer. This is where he developed his knowledge of Jazz and the other arts, as well as his historical erudition and political acumen. One of the most moving tributes payed to Stan came from his classmate, political comrade, business partner and life long friend, Leon “Kwaku” Saunders. He opined with a palpable passion and pain:

Stan Kinard was a great man and he was my friend. Unlike family, which you are born into, friendship is a choice. And it was a choice that Stan Kinard and I made over 50 years ago and one which we honored until the end of his life….We might have met on the basketball court where Stan brought a defensive intensity the likes of which I’d never seen before nor since…Stan was a sophomore and as one of the few black students on campus he, Cheryl Evans and others made themselves available to help the new class adjust to life at a major white university. We were less than 150 students on a campus of over 18,000. It was 1968, when the civil rights movement and the anti Vietnam war movement was in full bloom. And we as black college students sought to do our part in changing the socio-political landscape of the country. We wanted to make a difference, and we did!

Stan was a pragmatist and a political animal who understood “the art of the possible” as the black student body took a stronghold and changed the face of the University of Massachusetts forever. We took over a dorm and renamed it New Afrika House, We helped to create the W.E.B. Dubois Black History Department which brought together perhaps the greatest group of black intellectuals and cultural icons anywhere in the nation, we brought soul food on campus, and took over 35% of radio programming on the campus station, we helped to influence policy to increase the black student population by more than ten fold, we helped to create an environment where Randolph Bromery became the first black Chancellor of a major university. We were a force and Stan Kinard was a quiet leader. And he was my friend!”

 In the course of organizing students to exercise their power, and negotiating with the university administration, Stan gained the skills that he would later apply to his work organizing previously powerless people to seize control of education and politics in their Brooklyn communities. Barack Obama took a similar path to the White House.

I have gone to such length in describing the intellectual environment that nurtured Stan’s development because in the voluminous tributes paid to him by a succession of impressive speakers at his “going home ceremony,” they often spoke as if this inspirational teacher/organizer came into the world full blown like the Goddess Athena from the forehead of Zeus. But Stan, like the many people whom he inspired and taught, was also the product of an educational process. And it is critical for those who must now carry on his work to understand that he was no historical accident.

There is no mystery about how he became the visionary leader and dedicated public servant that he was. It is essential to understand that revolutionaries are made not born. This understanding will make it possible to carry on Stan’s work; to keep his legacy alive as several speakers called for. Removing the mystique around him will make that task lighter. To be sure, Stan possessed some of the virtues that would lead to greatness when we first met him: Good character, natural intelligence, abundant courage and an insatiable curiosity about about the origins, history and contributions of African peoples. So we had good stock to work with, after all, it remains true that one cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear no matter how hard you try.

As I watched and listened to the torrent of tributes to a purposeful life well lived, my mind hastened back to the bedside of Kwame Ture aka Stokely Carmichael, one of the most indefatigable Pan African warriors of the 20th century, as he lay dying from cancer. It was the night before he was to fly back to his beloved Africa, to revolutionary Guinea, from whence he would dance and meet the Ancestors.

As the room buzzed with activity from the many comrades who had come to bid him farewell -which included a contingent of five beautiful black lady doctors monitoring his every heart beat, and seeing what more they could do to make him comfortable, while the brothers offered libations of Wisdom Weed and wine- he still answered the phone with the stalwart greeting: Ready for Revolution!” He looked around the room and said “If you dedicate your life to serving the people…they will stand by your side til the end.”

That’s the same thing I witnessed both at Stan’s bedside and at the farewell ceremony, as a seemingly endless procession of people whose lives he had enriched, came forth and testified with the passion of holy rollers bearing witness to what the lord had done for them. They spoke most often about his stewardship of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Cultural Literacy Program, which he had created. When Stan was devising his plan, he spoke to me about it, after all, I was the first teacher to introduce him to the history of the Black World, in Africa and the Black Atlantic diaspora.

He seemed to know that this would be his great contribution, passing on the things he had learned in Amherst in word and deed. In Amherst we had chosed the name of Dr. DuBois to adorn our edifice to black enlightenment because Dubois was the true Father of Black Studies due to his multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the Black world. And he chose Dr. Woodson as the patron saint of his High school program program centered at Boys and Girls High because Woodson had been inspired to create the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History due to his belief that black people were in danger of destruction just like the American Indian, the Australian Aborigines, the native Tasmanians, etc because of our distorted representation in the history texts written by white racist “scholars.”

Woodson was an amazing man who had worked the coal mines in West Virginia and did not begin high school until he was 21, yet earned a Harvard PhD in history, well understood that the objective of white historians was not to set the record straight on human achievement, but to construct an intellectual foundation for the claims of white supremacy, and offer up apololgia for white genocide against peoples of color. Looking about him Stan also recognized that our youth were in danger of destruction, self-destruction from ignorance, self-hatred, and negative nihilistic role models. The life enhancing vision of the Carter G. Woodson Cultural Literacy Program, constructed upon the remarkable life and work of Dr. Woodson, was Stan’s antidote to this decadent cultural poison. The heartfelt testimony of those who were fortunate enough to study in the program offers irrefutable evidence that Stan’s vision was prescient.

Knowing him these five decades has been a highlight of my life. When I visited Stan at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center the night before he danced, I could see his life in this realm slipping away; Yet while his body was ravaged by cancer his spirit was undaunted.

As he lay there barely able to move or speak, he bade me to come to his bedside, struggling to hold back tears I whispered into his ear “Old soldiers never die, your many victories will live on in the lives you enhanced and the institutions you have built. Among them the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in the world!” Hence everybody presently holding a university professorship in Black Studies owes a debt of gratitude to Stan Kinard, and the fact that they may not know it is besides the point, ignorance of the facts cannot negate the truth!

With a sly smile Stan asked: “What was the date of the first Pan-African Conference, where was it held, and who organized it?” I thought it a curious question at the time, but I readily answered it. He smiled again and bade me put my ear closer to his mouth, and he whispered “You the only one who got it right.”

Then his sister told me he had asked everybody who came to visit that question. Hence we parted as we had met: With Stan raising questions about the Black Liberation struggle. He was a Pan-African soldier to the end. So I say of him what Shakespeare said of his noble warrior Moor Othello: “The elements so blended in him…all the world could see…here was a man!”

Now Stan has danced, and if the Ifa Oracle proves true, Baba has journeyed to that mysterious realm where Oludamare, the Orishas and the Ancestors will welcome him into paradise; claiming him as one of their own. Fot there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain: When the Saints come marching in Stan Kinard, Baba Olabese will be in their number.

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The going Home ceremony for Baba Olabese was not the traditional Christian funeral, even tho the final rites  were conducted in the beautiful sanctuary of Bethany Baptist Church.  It was, in fact, an Afro-American enactment of the ancient Yoruba Ancestor Veneration Ritual, where those who knew and loved him, and those whom he had touched with his generous spirit and good grace, sang praises unto his name.  Those who promenaded from Stan’s beloved Boys and Girls High, and later rose to offer glorious panegyrics to his memory and sang of his myriad deeds, hailed from every sector of society.  It was a farewell worthy of a heroic servant of the people and a high priest of Ifa.  Here are some images from that halcyon moment in time.  And they will last forever…ACHE!!!

The Procession

Baba’s Children Lead the Walk on Streets where his Spirit Dwells

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The Strode to the Church to Pay Homage

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As The Procession Entered the Church

Stan’s Sister Led the Way, Followed by his Wife and Children

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The Veneration

Beating the Sacred Batas for Baba

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The Ceremony was Ecumenical

Christians Of the Cloth
Shared the Pulpit

With Pagan Priests of Ifa

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Baba’s Children: Sukeena and Aladay

Recounted his Life Sang Praises to his Glorious Legacy

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While Their Queen Mother Tulani

Warmly Welcomed the Mourners

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From Their Front Row Seats the Family…..

………Proudly Bore Witness to the Praise Poems for Baba

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Mother’s and Daughters Sang Praises

Celebrating Baba’s Devotion to Our Children

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The High and the Mighty Came Forth!

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams  gave Props

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And Battle Tested Warriors Wept…

Venerable Political Leader and Community Activist Charles Barron

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Women Openly Wept Too

Sukeena Comforting a Grief Stricken Sister

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And Tulani Comforted Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Text and Cover Photo by: Playthell Benjamin

Photographs of the ceremony inside Betheny: Hakim Mutlaq

Photos of the Procession on the Streets: Photographer is unknow at