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The following program is from WNET 13. The evolving out of the first black political convention was the unanimous acceptance of Imamo Medi Baraka, who is in the studio with me to analyze the convention. As a viable political architect, the merging of his ideology of black nationalism and his creative history as a poet and writer were demonstrated at the Congress of African people in September of 1970. The nationalist must be the spine to the black nation, not some kind of weird projection off the side of his head, going off at a right angle. The nationalist must be the spine of the body of the black nation.
What the nation does, the nationalist must make him do a little better, a little faster. If it's slow, it's because we slow. You understand that? But the minute you put yourself away from the people, no matter how backward and corny you might think they are, then you are isolated, standing there by yourself and you will get killed. You will get killed and it's not about being killed. Liberation is not about being killed. We are not interested in no suicide. We want to live. We want a new life. We want a life that we remember vaguely sometimes in the back of our heads as a liberated African people. So a new approach we are trying to do is create a sympathetic atmosphere in which to develop a strong, organized understanding of what the struggle is, how we must win.
How can we win? Everything of value in the black community we must control. Whoever runs for public office must be a nationalist or be accountable to nationalists. Anybody that speaks using the black community as his base must be fur and deal with nationalism and pan-Africanism. All our politicians must do as much for us and Africans all over the world as Javits does for the Jews. I know it's hard to be black and we are all controlled by white folks. Du Bois said we always have the double consciousness. We are trying to be black and meanwhile you have a white ghost hovering over your hair that says if you don't do this you will get killed. If you don't do this you won't get no money. If you don't do this nobody will think you are beautiful. If you don't do this nobody will think you are smart. That's the ghost. You are trying to be black and the ghost is telling you to be a ghost. We hope you won't submit in New York when we beat each other on the street.
We say what time is it we already say is nation time. We say what's going to happen. We say land is going to change hands. You think about that. That's what it's about. Nationalism is about land and nation a way of life trying to free itself. So the next time somebody has you what time is it you tell them it's nation time brother come out niggas niggas niggas niggas come out help us stop the devil help us build a new world niggas come out brothers are we with you and your sons your daughters are ours and we are the same all the blackness from one black alive when the world is clear you'll be with us to come out niggas come out come out niggas come out it's nation time. It's nation time. It's nation time. It's nation time. with bells and drummers, nation-timers, nation-time.
Get up, Santa Claus, get up, Roy Wilkins, get up. Diner Ross, get up, Jimmy Brownis, nation-time, build it. Get up, muffin bagger, get up, and ask this for me. Look, I'm asking for money. Fast juer. Get up, nigga. Get up, nigga. Come over here, nigga. Take a bow, nigga. It's nation time. Yeah! Brother Baraka, I think more than anything that film shows the combination of you as an artist and as a politician. People are now asking, particularly many of your followers who have defined you as the architect of black art, as well now as the architect of unity without uniformity. Do you consider yourself basically an artist or now do you consider yourself basically a politician? Well, I don't see the division. I think those kinds of divisions are basically artificial. When we were dealing with redefining aesthetics from a black point of view, one of the points that we try to make is that there is no division between art and life,
or politics and life. You know, it's a particular way of defining things at a particular time. We believe that the development of black people depends on their first unifying, and it also depends on them being able to create political structures, you know, actual structures to transform their potential into power. You see, and in that kind of thrust, artists are necessary, black artists are necessary, black politicians are necessary, black economists are necessary. You see, people in diverse walks of life are necessary, but I don't see the division between the black politician and the black artists. I think all of that energy is necessary and it all needs to be focused in the same direction. That is the creation of a strong national black community.
I think one thing that's affecting everybody, even the people perhaps that believed in you, is that it looks as though now you're not just talking, you're really pulling it off. And obviously this film goes back a few years. You've been talking it a few years even before that. I'd like to address myself to this question. You were one of the three co-chairmen along with Congressman Charles Diggs and Mayor Hatcher of Gary. And universally, everyone, including I might add, the opponents of the convention and you in particular, are writing and televising that you are the only man perhaps who could have held that convention together. How do you react to that? Well, I think if that's true and where it is true, it's because of our belief that is in the Congress of African people, and the Committee for Unified New York, it's our local organization, that without the entire nation of black people, then there is no hope for real progress, that it's all right for us to have personal ideologies. We're all in favour of personal and very strong ideological commitment.
But also, we believe that if you are like a good Christian or a good Muslim, or am I a good nationalist, you know, it's actually futile for me to try to convert you to myism. I think what we have to look for is the easiest point at which we do merge, at which there is some real communion. And that's following to a certain extent what Malcolm X said when he talked about the unity of groups, and that the strength of the black community would come when we learn to put aside our petty differences, our petty sovereignties, and transcend those kind of petty concerns to reach a stronger kind of unity. And I was impressed, my trip to Africa, by the kind of diversity and, say, liberated nations like the Republic of Guinea in Tanzania, where there's real diversity, where you have Christians and Muslims in different tribes, you know, Messiah, Chaga, Kekuyu. But yet within the framework of a national kind of consciousness, and a national kind of unity,
they're able to sort of put those diversities together, you know, and come up with a national agenda. And that was the concept behind the convention. Well, the concept of that convention, if sticking in the context of your statement, was various tribes coming together with various tribal chiefs, the tribe I might add from Michigan, the Michigan delegation, and their tribal chiefs had perhaps a little different concept of unity without uniformity, perhaps than the basic philosophy of the convention. Well, I think some of the people from Michigan, the ones who walked out, because didn't all of them walk out, as a matter of fact, part of the delegation stayed and elected a new chief, as a matter of fact. But I think some of the people that did walk out were accused of being representatives of the United Auto Workers, the UAW. They said the UAW had paid their way to the convention. But I believe very truthfully that even that persuasion, if it's legitimate,
and I'm sure that there are a lot of, you know, black folks, Negroes, bloods, what have you, who have their way paid different places by white folks. I think we have to accept that as a legitimate kind of direction for some black people to come. But I think those people have to realize that, again, they can have an input into the total assembly of black folks, but they can't dominate it. The only thing that can dominate is what is really can be considered by the majority as something which will benefit that majority. I think the majority always has the right to decide, you know, and the minority always has the right to be heard, you know. But I think there has to be, you know, that kind of interreaction where each group knows that finally what you're after is some kind of, you know, transcendent, some kind of dialectical reality that takes into consideration opposites and then makes a better truth out of those opposites. Okay, acknowledging your success as the, I might say, moderator at the convention and the fact that some 8,000 blacks got together and did some of the things,
many of the things you're talking about, one of the major magazines wrote recently that that convention really didn't represent a diversity of black America. Well, I think that the only way they could have said that is not be there because in all my days of being, you know, around different places, I can truthfully say that that was the most diversified group there. I think we had within that 8,000 people and I guess those 8,000 were the ones that we could see in the school. There were another three or four thousand that came in and around the city of Gary and the city of Chicago that never even got to the convention. But the 8,000 or so that we saw, there were absolute diversity. There was a so-called black integrationist and a so-called black nationalist and the Muslims and Christians and black Democrats and black Republicans. It was a very, very diverse group and I think what we have to do is see ourselves as that kind of diverse group.
We are not a monolithic people and people keep saying, well, what does the black community think? First of all, it's necessary for us to create the black community. So far, all we have is a kind of settlement where we share space but don't share values. What we're trying to do is evolve past just the sharing of space and the sharing by default of negative kind of qualities. We're trying to create a community, you know, which has to do with people coming together, you know, and evolving a specific political culture based on that diversity. Well, once we can accept the fact that we are diverse, we're not monolithic, you know, and just like the white community, nobody says, well, what is the white community saying? If they can have like Jerry Rubin and Richard Nixon, you know, both claiming to be white folks, I think that we can at least claim some kind of diversity. You see, and still see ourselves as having a common direction, you know, finally, that we can work out with a little kind of effort and a little science. In practical terms, what can we do? We are, I think, 13 million registered voters, something like six million blacks either don't vote or are not registered with 13 million, I believe, potential black voters.
How can we, in a pragmatic way, how would this political convention, a political agenda? How is that going to, in a practical way, affect American politics? Well, I think one of the important things that come out of the convention, a steering committee has been named, Chairman, from 50 different states, plus national organizations, to put together a method of electing a national assembly, which would be about 427 black folks, minimum of two per state, and the rest proportionally elected, actually 10% of the amount that came to the convention. Now, what this assembly would try to function much like a Congress or a national assembly of a nation, of a country, which would very consciously try to involve these diverse groups on a continuous basis. And there'd be no attempt to dominate by one group, that all the groups would be able to come together in a well-organized, you know, evolving political structure.
We need a political structure, a concrete political structure, whether we call it our party, or we can call it a banquet, you can call it anything you want to. But we need a concrete political structure that will allow black people, even though they might be black Democrats, they can remain black Democrats, as long as they can also, you know, understand that they should, and eventually will feel they must contribute to the development of this black political structure, you see. Which will even be able to make their functioning within the Democratic Party much more valuable to themselves and to the black community. On an issue basis. Does this mean that we should decide to support a candidate who is opposed to busing, who is forebusting, who is opposed to community control of schools, who is a four community control of schools? Is this the kind of, are we talking about masking, are we talking about organizing around an issue, or are we talking about organizing around a concept of nationhood?
We're talking about organizing now around the concept of political power for black people, self-determination for black people. And in that context, specific issues have to be handled according to what benefits the national black community at any given time. You see, so we say on the issue of schools, for instance, what does this national assembly, what does the great diversity of the black community think about this? What will benefit us? Well, let's look at this scientifically, you know, not out of some kind of like sudden emotionalism. Let's sit down and look at this. How will it benefit us, actually, the majority of us, and then place the weight of our national black community behind that, you see. And by doing that, we'll find that more and more we'll isolate those, say, representatives of purely white interests that exist in the black community. You see what I mean? Where legitimate black interests will more and more begin to refine and define themselves and to show themselves, you see.
And create a kind of legitimacy. Do you think the Democratic Party has taken the black vote for granted? Yeah, I think so. I think the Democrats can take the black vote for granted because most of the people who function in the black community have been Democrats, you see. But I think that's over, certainly. I think that the taking for granted, not only by the Democrats, but any white controlled institution, or any institution that is not clearly, you know, in controlled by black people for the benefit of black people, it's all over. I think that the 70s, one clear thing will come out of this decade is the creation of some strong black political structure that will evolve more and more to a direction given, you see, for the black community, national black community. Do you think that black people, that this black assembly, should or will, do you believe, relate to the Republican Party? Do you foresee a time possibly that we might direct our votes on the side of the Republicans around an issue?
One thing that most of us who, you know, were paying attention in the late 50s and the 60s to the African nations and the Asian nations learned is that it's not necessary for you to, like, get in anybody's box car. You understand? When you make alliances or coalitions or when you make deals, you see, well, you're not giving up your sovereignty. And too often, what happens, a week people, when they make some kind of coalition, they're not really making a coalition or they're not getting a deal, they're actually giving up their sovereignty. For instance, a small island in the Pacific, you know, can't make a deal with the United States. The United States co-ops them. They go along with the United States. For too long, so-called Negro leaders have not been able to deal from a power base. What they've done is just give up their sovereignty to white folks. What we're saying, when we create our own kind of national base and national kind of, you know, overall structures, then we can deal with people from the basis of power.
This is why when you see Nixon going to China, you don't worry about Mao, you know, like selling, you know, his body, his soul to Nixon. Because, you know, the Chinese, with 800 million people, are coming from a position of power, so they can work together. And there need not be any permanent interests. You see, it can change according to the interests of the black community. We have to deal from the concept of a national kind of sovereignty. Where what benefits us, we go for. What doesn't benefit us, we don't go for. Let's talk about some of the problems in the black community that you in particular will face. I don't think there's any mystery that many of the political types, black political types in our community, are highly egotistical in terms of their self-centered interests and needs. And you may be at this point threatening that. Secondly, you've constantly referred to the paranoia. The fear, the unfounded fear in our community, of any move that you as a Imam or a meaty Barackom makes, how are you as an individual going to remain intact with those two forces operating? How are you going to get into the political arena and not be accused of being selfish or self-centered?
Well, first, let me say this, that we believe, you know, and I'm speaking now as a nationalist, that what we do, our work will legitimize us with the community. We don't have to be self for grandizing, self-advertising. What we do will legitimize us with the community. The work itself, you know, we have a saying that Kazi, which is Swahili for work, is the blackest of all, which means that the work will legitimize you. What you do will legitimize you. And I think that black people, you know, we've been so used to well-advertise failures and rhetoric, you know, above action. That what all of us are looking for now is work and accomplishment and success. And I think that more and more in the 70s, that we will begin to see people becoming more action oriented, accomplishment oriented, and more communally oriented. You see, speaking from, you know, our own organization, Committee for Unified New York and the Congress of African People, our feeling is that we believe in collective work and responsibility. Ujima, again, that's Swahili word. We believe that our brothers and sisters problems are our problems to begin with, because there is no liberation for, you know, the African people, anywhere, unless all of us are liberated.
There can't be any vest pocket liberation, you know. So we don't have any worry about that, because we believe, first of all, the community will legitimize what needs to be legitimized. That black people are not fools, even though a lot of people, even some colored people, think they are fools. I think that eventually we will see the coming together of the diverse forces of the black community. You had a program that said, is it late or is it too late? I think that that kind of anxiety works within a lot of us, you know, consciously and unconsciously. And I think that the legitimacy of what we do will be based on what we actually can begin to accomplish. Well, I don't think there's any doubt in anybody's mind, including the people who weren't there, many of whom have found need, perhaps, or reason to attack the convention per se. And the people who were there, many people observed that particularly the members of the committee for Unified New Arc worked all night. They didn't go to bed, they typed, and they set up the meetings for the next day, they held caucuses. No one can ever find you at a party, at a convention.
They say that you're having meetings and you're getting ready for the next day. But I think we have to understand in a very human sense that this does make you successful, that it does make you recognizable by your deeds. And that there have to be interest in the black community. When you deal in the political arena, I'm sure you will admit it's different from you dealing in the artistic community. The interests are more vested in that other people have their representatives in our community representing them. I'm still, I'm wondering about you surviving. I'm wondering about the fact that you keep a low key. And you are moving into a very prominent situation. I really would like to know what your plan is to continue to do this. Well, as I say, our basic strength comes from the strength of the community. I think that the more of us realize this, the healthier we as a community will be. I don't think any of us has any defense except the organized community. And what we are actually trying to do is to be a part of the organization of the community.
Now, what people are surprised at the kind of selflessness of the new nationalist is that this is like a legitimate, we think this is a legitimate approach to life to see something actually created rather than the creation of yet another little ego, yet another little ego. So, people will find that we're very sincere in saying that we believe in collective work. We believe that it is the community which is a value. We believe that in terms of our organization, that it is the organization to which we owe our loyalty. When can the Black community expect a report from the continuation committee about the convention on the resolutions that were adopted there? The official report is supposed to be made May 19th, the birthday of Malcolm X. There's already a meeting this week with the steering committee, first meeting, post convention steering committee to begin to chart out a direction and to set the guidelines for the elections in each state to this national assembly. Will we hear the resolutions as they were adopted at the convention, or will we get from the continuations committee, the resolutions as they will be modified by the committee?
Well, I don't know the exact documents that they'd be given out. I'm sure that they'd be pretty much the way they were given in Gary. There's a lot of confusion as they have to be ordered, put in some kind of law. In one specific issue, we don't need to spend much time on it. But there's a lot of confusion as to what the final form of the resolution against busing was. Well, I think there were three, as I remember, there were three specific resolutions that came off the floor about busing and education in Black communities in general. One was the resolution on the unitary educational system that came from CORE and Brother Innis. Another was an addition to that that was put forward by Livingston Wingate from New York. And the third, I think, came from the South Carolina delegation, or the Alabama delegation. I think it was the Alabama delegation. And I think that those three resolutions, all of which came off the floor, when they were put together, I think you'll see a well-balanced concept of Black priorities around education and busing. And I think the important thing that got said was that busing is no substitute for quality education.
And that the main priority in the Black community is control, community control of the education in our communities, and quality education. Which means control of the budget. Control of everything that has to do with administrating and seeing to the educational quality of the schools. I think that it's a very exciting prospect, the idea of a political movement or perhaps an eventual political party. I don't believe that anyone has a crystal ball at this time, but I don't think anybody can doubt the fact that you are and will continue to be a very important figure in that thrust, which obviously seems to be a new thrust for Black people and particularly for Black nationalism. I'd like to thank you very much for being our guest on Black Journal. And now the Black National Anthem.
With everyone I see the earth I am blue, breathe with the heart of me, of liberty. Let our renours in right path of this distance, let it reach some blood at the ground and see. So in the road it's gone.
Let our renours in right path of this distance, let it reach some blood at the ground and see. Let our renours in right path of this distance, let it reach some blood. Let our renours in right path of this distance, let it reach some blood. Let it reach some blood at the ground and see.
Let it reach some blood at the ground and see.
Black Journal
Episode Number
The Black Political Convention. Part 2
Producing Organization
WNET (Television station : New York, N.Y.)
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Episode Description
Black Journal continues its focus on the National Black Political Convention with an interview with Imamu Amiri Baraka, poet-playwright and co-chairman of the convention. Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones) was a central figure at the three day conference held in Gary, Indiana, and his influence has been acknowledged by both delegates and the press. Advocating a theory of "Unity without Uniformity," Baraka sought to reconcile the differences between black s whose political affiliations ranged from the NAACP to nationalist groups. His decision to admit white reporters and television crews into the convention hall angered many nationalists and subsequent coverage of the convention as it appeared in white media has been severely criticized by those attending the conference. Baraka is interviewed by Black Journal producer, Tony Brown. "Black Journal" is a production of NET Division, Educational Broadcasting Corporation There are two episodes labeled as #56. It is unclear if both aired, or if only one episode aired and other was canceled. (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Episode Description
This record is part of the Literature section of the Soul of Black Identity special collection.
Series Description
Black Journal began as a monthly series produced for, about, and - to a large extent - by black Americans, which used the magazine format to report on relevant issues to black Americans. Starting with the October 5, 1071 broadcast, the show switched to a half-hour weekly format that focused on one issue per week, with a brief segment on black news called "Grapevine." Beginning in 1973, the series changed back into a hour long show and experimented with various formats, including a call-in portion. From its initial broadcast on June 12, 1968 through November 7, 1972, Black Journal was produced under the National Educational Television name. Starting on November 14, 1972, the series was produced solely by WNET/13. Only the episodes produced under the NET name are included in the NET Collection. For the first part of Black Journal, episodes are numbered sequential spanning broadcast seasons. After the 1971-72 season, which ended with episode #68, the series started using season specific episode numbers, beginning with #301. The 1972-73 season spans #301 - 332, and then the 1973-74 season starts with #401. This new numbering pattern continues through the end of the series.
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Executive Producer: Brown, Tony
Interviewee: Baraka, Imamu Amiri
Interviewer: Brown, Tony
Producing Organization: WNET (Television station : New York, N.Y.)
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Chicago: “Black Journal; 56; The Black Political Convention. Part 2,” 1972-00-00, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “Black Journal; 56; The Black Political Convention. Part 2.” 1972-00-00. American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Black Journal; 56; The Black Political Convention. Part 2. Boston, MA: American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from