Archive for Zach Husser

Blues For Brother Zach

Posted in Cultural Matters, On the Passing Of Brother Zach, Playthell on politics with tags , , on November 5, 2018 by playthell

Zach as Student Leader at Columbia

On The Passing of a Tireless Freedom Fighter

Upon hearing that the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy had passed, the novelist Gorky said on behalf of other Russian writers whom Tolstoy had inspired:”Now… we are all orphans.” That is how many of us feel who recognize, and often relied upon, Brother Zach’s leadership; he was indefatigable in his efforts to uplift and advance the interests of the Black community. He seemed to be anywhere and everywhere, anytime and all the time, lending his considerable talents to a wide array of causes 24/7. More often than not he did it pro-bono, which is the truest measure of commitment.

Brother Zach was what they called “Race Men” in the 20th century, the century that shaped him and defined his values. And he has planted positive seeds in many places that will bear fruit to nourish the minds and spirits of generations yet unborn. With his ever present smile and heroic optimism in the face of persistent adversity, he was one of a kind.

Over the course of what has turned out to be a fairly long and eventful life, I have traveled over the ocean seas, and resided for nearly half a century in this grand metropolis at the center of the world. It sometimes seems that I have met every variety of human being and spoke to everybody twice, thus I am certain that I have met a representative sample of what humanity has to offer.

Yet I have never met a better man than Brother Zach, and I am certain that I never will. As our Ibo ancestors – whose prolific and profound proverbs appear to have encapsulated all the world’s wisdom regarding the human condition and the vicissitudes of life – would say on this question: “A better man than Zachary Husser has not been born….and his mother is dead.”

When I heard Brother Zach had danced and joined the ancestors, I was devastated. I had just hung out with him a few weeks ago and he seemed healthy as a race horse, moving in triple speed running hither and yon as was his habit. He was a man on a permanent mission, a man who lived a purpose driven life. One need only look at his Face Book page in order to see a catalogue of the myriad activities that he was involved with. It caused the thoughtful observer to wonder when he slept…or just chilled.

Yet despite the fact that he was always in the trenches did not make him bitter or depressed. Like the blues, Zach understood that life could be a low down dirty shame…but we had to keep on swinging anyway. It was this irrepressible spirit embodied in the blues that enabled the Afro-American people to keep our souls in tact in the face of the horrors of American racism.

Hence Zach always had a ready smile; whose incandescence was made the brighter when contrasted with his regal ebony hue. He was – as the brilliant 18th century Afro-American scientist Benjamin Banneker described himself in a letter to Thomas Jefferson introducing a mathematical treatise authored by himself – “a negro of the deepest dye.”

There was a grandeur about him that reminded me of the ancient Ethiopian King Menelek the II, and a benevolence worthy of a saint. I cannot remember a time when Brother Zach was not in good spirits and convinced that if we just kept the faith and continued the struggle…victory is assured!

Hence the question before us now is how do we remember such a grand spirit? How should we honor and celebrate him? Well, first we must approach the task with humility given the gravitas of the subject. I have searched for words sufficiently poetic and profound to describe the debt we owe for his service to us. And more importantly how do we pay it.

Although words are my game, they sometimes desert me when the gravitas of a subject is such it challenges the power of words to describe – even if one relies on the poetic treasure trove manifest in language of Shakespeare, Gwendolyn Brooks, The King James Bible, Zora Neale Hurston, Chaucer and James Weldon Johnson. Now is such a time.

However, knowing Zach as I do – and I knew him very well – I think we will honor him best by continuing the fight for the things he fought for since he was one of the leaders of the historic student strike at Columbia University as a teenager.*  He would no doubt have smiled at the many good things that will be said of him, but joining the struggle is the best way to keep his spirit alive. His works will live on because great works, whether in literature or life….will long endure. 

This Struggle Attracted National Leaders

Chillin On the Beach


* To read about the Columbia University Strike see:

Playthell G. Benjamin


November 6, 2018

Why I Won’t be at the Giant’s Parade!

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Sports! with tags , , , on February 7, 2012 by playthell

  The Victorious Giants in the Canyon of Heroes

 On Football, War and American Society

Among the many splendid insights the brilliant and prescient Trinidadian revolutionary activists, political theorist and intellectual polymath CLR James provided to those of us who are trying to understand the riddle of human life, is his recognition of the role of sport in society.  According to the distinguished Barbadian professor of British Diplomatic history Keith Sandiford James taught historians that “it is impossible to understand the Victorians without understanding the role of sport.”

Hence when CLR James tells us in his seminal book on Cricket – the quintessential Victorian upper class game – “He knows not Cricket who only Cricket Knows,” we are alerted to the deeper meanings of the game in British society through his interrogation of the value system that determine the rules of the game.

The same can be said of football.  It is a war game that organizes it players like combat squads, and the language of the game is strictly military, with talk of ‘Field Generals,” “penetration of lines,” “throwing the bomb” and the like.  It is the perfect game for the most warmongering society on earth.

The game’s terminology goes perfectly with the war song that is our national anthem, which speaks of “bombs bursting in air.”   The perfect background sound for the vicious bird of prey, the Bald Eagle, which is our national symbol.  But a strange thing has happened: The game of football is being used to take people’s minds of the real wars and internal strife that plague or nation.

Eric Williams Came from Australia for the Party

A Happy Camper!
The Room Erupted in Joy!!

When the Giants took the Patriots Down!

Our Host: Brother Zach 

The Thrilling Giant’s Victory even put a Smile on the face of  a Raven’s Fan! 

I didn’t give these issues a thought as I cheered the Giants at Super Bowl Party hosted by Zach Husser, a community organizer in Hackensack New Jersey who routinely mobilizes people to take collective action in defense of the public interests.  And I think of these things all the time.

Like all other football fans, I too was caught up in the combination of grace, elegance and physical prowess displayed by the great athletes out on the football field.  During my boyhood in Florida football had been a civic religion; and I had measured my manhood by the game.  So I was as bewitched by the spectacle of the Super Bowl as anyone.

But as I looked at the pictures I took of the enthusiastic crowd the day after, reveling in the scrumptious culinary delights while heightening the euphoria sipping vintage spirits, I wondered if Zach could command an enthusiastic crowd such as this to protest the looming invasion of Iran.  And I remembered the slogan advanced by the Emperor Diocletian in the dying days of the Roman Empire: “Panen et Circenses!”  Give the untutored mob “bread and circuses” and they won’t notice the empire is falling apart.

That’s why Americans would rather throw a ticker tape parade in the “Canyon of Heroes”- located in the financial center of the American empire- for football players, make believe warriors, grown men playing a boys game, rather than our real warriors.  The young men and women we sent to hell and back on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan – the cream of the working class and some of the bravest and most honorable of our fellow Americans who voluntarily answered the nation’s call to service – are ignored.

That’s got to be a big part of the reason the suicide and homeless rate is so high among veterans of these wars.  They want a parade too, one that acknowledges their supreme sacrifices on our behalf: A chance to bask in the nation’s gratitude in a national healing ritual that celebrates their service to the nation.  I’m down with them….and until they get a parade I’m not going to any more parades for pampered, highly paid and over praised, athletes whose work is their common pleasure!

 Mambo Yo Yo!

Victor Cruz Salsa Dancing in the End Zone!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

February 7, 2012