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Ron Karenga celebrating Kwanzaa at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Karenga is pictured directly behind the kinara candles.

Ron Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett on July 14, 1941, and also known as Ron Everett and as Maulana Karenga) is an African American author, political activist, and college professor best known as the creator of Kwanzaa. Karenga was active in the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 1970s and founded the black nationalist group US Organization which remains active to this day promoting Karenga's philosophy of Kawaida.[1] Kawaida is a set of principles based on Blackness. The principles are designed as parts Kwanzaa.

Karenga served time in prison in the early 1970s after being convicted of felony assault and false imprisonment. After leaving prison, he eventually became a professor at California State University, Long Beach in the Africana Studies department.[2]

Contents

Career

Karenga is the former Chairman of the Black Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach, a position he held from 1989 to 2002.[3] He is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies and the author of several books, including his Introduction to Black Studies, a comprehensive black/African studies textbook now in its third edition.

Karenga founded the Organization Us, a Cultural Black Nationalist group, in 1965. He is also known for having co-hosted, in 1984, a conference that gave rise to the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, and in 1995, he sat on the organizing committee and authored the mission statement of the Million Man March.

Background and education

Karenga was born on a poultry farm in Parsonsburg, Maryland, the fourteenth child of a Baptist minister. He moved to California in the late 1950s to attend Los Angeles City College, where he became the first African-American president of the student body. He was admitted to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as part of a federal program for students who had dropped out of high school, and received his master's degree in political science and African studies.[citation needed]

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party, as well as Malauna Ron Karenga of the U.S. Organization, were students at Merritt College in Oakland.[citation needed]

He was awarded his first Ph.D. in 1976 from United States International University (now known as Alliant International University) for a 170-page dissertation entitled Afro-American Nationalism: Social Strategy and Struggle for Community. Later in his career, in 1994, he was awarded a second PhD, in social ethics, from the University of Southern California (USC), for an 803-page dissertation entitled "Maat, the moral ideal in ancient Egypt: A study in classical African ethics."

Influences of Malcolm X

Karenga was influenced in the creation of his ethos for US by Malcolm X.

"Malcolm was the major African American thinker that influenced me in terms of nationalism and Pan-Africanism. As you know, towards the end, when Malcolm is expanding his concept of Islam, and of nationalism, he stresses Pan-Africanism in a particular way. And he argues that, and this is where we have the whole idea that cultural revolution and the need for revolution, he argues that we need a cultural revolution, he argues that we must return to Africa culturally and spiritually, even if we can’t go physically. And so that’s a tremendous impact on US. And US saw it, when I founded it, as the sons and daughters of Malcolm, and as an heir to his legacy." —Ron Karenga[4]

US Organization and the Black Panthers

At the beginning of the 1960s, Karenga met Malcolm X and began to embrace black nationalism. Following the Watts riots in 1965, he interrupted his doctoral studies at UCLA and joined the Black Power movement. During this time, he took on the title "maulana", an Arabic word literally meaning "our lord" or "our master" and has been borrowed into the Swahili language, where it is used also as a title of respect for revered members of a community, religious or secular, roughly equivalent to the English "Sir". "Karenga" meant "nationalist."[5] Earlier, he had called himself Ron Ndabezitha Everett-Karenga; Ndabezitha being Zulu for "your majesty." He formed the US Organization, an outspoken Black nationalist group.

In 1969, the Black Panthers and the US Organization, a more radical group founded by Karenga, disagreed over who should head the new Afro-American Studies Center at UCLA. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Karenga and his supporters backed one candidate, the Panthers another. The Black Student Union set up a coalition to try to bring peace between the groups, which ended when two members of the Black Panthers, John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter were shot dead in an altercation.[6]

Felony conviction and time in prison

In 1971, Karenga, Louis Smith, and Luz Maria Tamayo were convicted of felony assault and false imprisonment for assaulting and torturing over a two day period two women from the US Organization, Deborah Jones and Gail Davis.[7] An article in the Los Angeles Times described the testimony of one of the women: "Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said".[7]

Kawaida, the Nguzo Saba, and Kwanzaa

In 1975, with newly-adopted views on Marxism, Karenga was released from California State Prison, and re-established the US organization under a new structure. One year later, he was awarded his first doctorate.In 1977, he formulated a set of principles called Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition. Karenga called on African Americans to adopt his secular humanism and reject other practices as mythical (Karenga 1977, pp. 14, 23, 24, 27, 44–5).

Central to Karenga's doctrine are the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Blackness, which are reinforced during the seven days of Kwanzaa:

  • Umoja (unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (self-determination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Ron Karenga on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[8]

Films

Books

  • Introduction to Black Studies, 2002, 3rd edition, University of Sankore Press, ISBN 0-943412-23-4
  • Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice, 1977, Kawaida Groundwork Committee
  • Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt ISBN 0-415-94753-7

Further information

References

External links

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. Karenga is pictured directly behind the kinara candles.]]

Maulana Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett on July 14, 1941, and also known as Ron Karenga and as M. Ron Karenga) is an African American author, political activist, and college professor best known as the creator of Kwanzaa. Karenga was active in the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 1970s and founded the black nationalist group Us Organization which remains active to this day promoting the philosophy of Kawaida.[1] Kawaida is a philosophy based on social and cultural change.

Contents

Career

Karenga is the former Chairman of the Africana studies Department at California State University, Long Beach, a position he held from 1989 to 2002.[2] He is the director of the Kawaida Institute for Pan African Studies and the author of several books, including his Introduction to Black Studies, a comprehensive black/African studies textbook now in its third edition.

Karenga founded the Organization Us, a Cultural Black Nationalist group, in 1965. He is also known for having co-hosted, in 1984, a conference that gave rise to the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, and in 1995, he sat on the organizing committee and authored the mission statement of the Million Man March.

Background and education

Karenga was born on a farm in Parsonsburg, Maryland, the fourteenth child and seventh son. He moved to California in the late 1950s to attend UCLA, but attended Los Angeles City College (LACC) to establish residence. There, he became the first African-American president of the student body. After graduation from LACC, he went to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he received his B.A. and M.A. in political science with a specialization in African studies. (Maulana Karenga, Los Angeles: UCLA Center for African American Studies, Oral History Program, 2002)

He was awarded his first Ph.D. in 1976 from United States International University (now known as Alliant International University) for a 170-page dissertation entitled Afro-American Nationalism: Social Strategy and Struggle for Community. Later in his career, in 1994, he was awarded a second Ph.D., in social ethics, from the University of Southern California (USC), for an 803-page dissertation entitled "Maat, the moral ideal in ancient Egypt: A study in classical African ethics."

Influences of Malcolm X

Karenga was influenced in the creation of his ethos for Us by Malcolm X.

"Malcolm was the major African American thinker that influenced me in terms of nationalism and Pan-Africanism. As you know, towards the end, when Malcolm is expanding his concept of Islam, and of nationalism, he stresses Pan-Africanism in a particular way. And he argues that, and this is where we have the whole idea that cultural revolution and the need for revolution, he argues that we need a cultural revolution, he argues that we must return to Africa culturally and spiritually, even if we can’t go physically. And so that’s a tremendous impact on US. And US saw it, when I founded it, as the sons and daughters of Malcolm, and as an heir to his legacy." —Maulana Karenga[3]

Karenga, Us and Legal Controversy

During the 60s, Us became a target of the FBI COINTELPRO and was put on a series of lists describing it as dangerous, revolutionary and committed to armed struggle in the Black Power Movement.[citation needed] Us developed a youth component with para-military aspects called the Simba Wachanga which advocated and practiced community self-defense and service to the masses.

Similar to the Black Panthers in their claim to be a revolutionary vanguard, Us at first cooperated with the Panthers and other community groups in Black United Front efforts.[citation needed] However, there evolved ideological differences that the FBI through its COINTELPRO began to increase and aggravate, leading to physical conflicts. Tactics used to foment and aggravate conflict between Us and the Panthers included poison-pen letters, defamatory cartoons, agent provocateurs, creating suspicion of members of each organization as agents, and actually shooting at and attacking members of both groups and blaming it on the other.[citation needed]

This heightened level of conflict eventually led to a shoot-out at UCLA in 1969 in which two Panthers were killed and a Simba was shot in the back. Community efforts to resolve the conflict, both before and after the shooting, were conducted by the Black Congress of Los Angeles, but were unsuccessful. The FBI and local police used this state of things to further suppress both groups driving Us members and Panthers underground and in exile and putting them in prison under questionable circumstances.[4] As noted above, Karenga argues that he was a victim of these tactics and that his imprisonment was political.[5] Other scholars have raised similar questions.[6][7]

In 1971, Karenga "was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment".[8] One of the victims gave testimony of how Karenga tortured her and another woman whom he had accused of attempting to assassinate him.[8][9][10]

Kawaida, the Nguzo Saba, and Kwanzaa

In 1975, with newly-adopted views on Marxism, Karenga was released from California State Prison, and re-established the Us organization under a new structure. One year later, he was awarded his first doctorate. In 1977, he formulated a set of principles called Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition. Karenga called on African Americans to adopt his secular humanism and reject other practices as mythical (Karenga 1977, pp. 14, 23, 24, 27, 44–5).

Central to Karenga's doctrine are the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles of Blackness, which are reinforced during the seven days of Kwanzaa:

  • Umoja (unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (self-determination)—To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (collective work and responsibility)—To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (cooperative economics)—To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (purpose)—To make our collective vocation the building and development of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (creativity)—To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (faith)—To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Maulana Karenga on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[11]

Films

Published works

Further information

References

  1. ^ http://www.us-organization.org/
  2. ^ CSULB Online 49er: v10n20: Vision marks black studies chairman's legacy
  3. ^ "Maulana Karenga Malcolm X". "The History Makers". http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=378&category=educationMakers. 
  4. ^ FBI file on Maulana Karenga, 157-724, Memo March 21, 1968
  5. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2009), pp. 10-14. Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press. ISBN 978-0-7456-4827-9.
  6. ^ Halisi, Clyde (1972), Maulana Ron Karenga: Black Leader in Captivity. Black Scholar, May, pp. 27-31.
  7. ^ Woodard, Komozi (1999), p. 166, A Nation Within A Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)& Black Power Politics. Chapel Hill, North Carolilna. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0807847619
  8. ^ a b Scholer, J. Lawrence (January 15, 2001). "The Story of Kwanzaa". The Dartmouth Review. http://dartreview.com/archives/2001/01/15/the_story_of_kwaanza.php. 
  9. ^ Swanson, Perry (November 22, 2006). "Backers say past of founder doesn’t diminish Kwanzaa". The Gazette (Colorado Springs). http://www.gazette.com/articles/karenga-19049-kwanzaa-times.html. 
  10. ^ "Karenga Tortured Women Followers, Wife Tells Court". Los Angeles Times: 3. May 13, 1971. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/698873952.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=May+13%2C+1971&author=&pub=Los+Angeles+Times+%281923-Current+File%29&edition=&startpage=3&desc=Karenga+Tortured+Women+Followers%2C+Wife+Tells+Court. 
  11. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.

External links


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