?Who Was Elombe Brath

Elombe (née Cecil) Brathwaite was born to Cecil T. Brathwaite and Etelka Margaret Maloney-Brathwaite in Brooklyn, New York on September 30, 1936. He was the oldest of three children. His brother Kwame (née Ronald) Brathwaite is the middle sibling and his brother John Edward Brathwaite is the youngest.
 
After emigrating from Barbados in the 1920s, his father quickly established himself as a tailor, opening two stores in Harlem, both on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard at 134th and 137th Streets respectively. Elombe grew up in the Hunt’s Point section of The Bronx, which then included a diverse mix of cultures, including Caribbean, Italian, Chinese and Jewish families.
  
A cousin of Bajan Pan-Africanist journalist Clennell Wickham, who was exiled from Barbados in the 1930s for writing about socialism, Elombe credited his early interest in political affairs to conversations his family would have about Wickham, and about Marcus Garvey’s philosophy and activities in Harlem in the 1920s. Elombe would later become a dedicated student of the late Honorable Carlos A. Cooks and Professor Rayfus Williams, two of the most dynamic teachers of Garvey’s African Fundamentalism and Dialectic Materialism as applied to African Nationalist argumentation.
 
Along with his early interest in political science, Elombe showed a talent for art. Following in the footsteps of his father, himself a gifted painter, he attended the High School of Industrial Art (now Art and Design), later winning a college scholarship to the School of Visual Arts.
In 1956, he, along with his brother Kwame, Robert Gumbs, Chris Acemendeses Hall and others founded the African Jazz-Art Society & Studios to reclaim jazz as music of contemporary African traditions that should be controlled by black artists. Several years later in 1959, Elombe participated in a convention to do away with the term “negro” because he believed it was a disparaging term that created distance between African descendents in the United States and their brothers and sisters on the African continent.
 
One year after that conference in 1960, Elombe joined the South West African Relief Committee to assist SWAPO President Sam Nujoma in getting aid to the country of Namibia, which was then suffering under the yoke of the racist apartheid regime. This marked the beginning of his numerous relationships with African freedom fighters, struggling to liberate their countries from colonial and White minority rule. They included leaders such as Samora Machel of Mozambique, Thomas Sankara of Burkina-Faso, Kanyama Chiume of Malawi, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Agostinho Neto of Angola. In 1973, he was awarded the Croix de Chivalry by President Ahmed Seke Ture of Guinea for continuous work toward the African Democratic Revolution.
  
Elombe was committed to both providing a platform for our people who were engaging in freedom and anti-imperialist struggles around the world while educating countless others with priceless insight to their struggles. Through Elombe you learned about amazing Freedom Fighters such as Amilcar Cabral and the revolutionary efforts of our people in Guinea-Bissau and the truths behind the rise and fall of one our peoples greatest heroes; Pan-African Martyr, Patrice Emery Lumumba of the now Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He taught the significance of and connection between our people’s current conditions, globally and the mis-education we receive of these struggles for freedom whether past or contemporary. With Elombe, you learned, in detail, how distractions away from understanding the African Independence movements of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana, Gamal Abdel with Nasser’s Egypt, Dedan Kimathi and Jomo Kenyatta’s Mau-Mau of Kenya and their Pan-African and African-Internationalist solidarity examples, are calculated attempts by the corrupt super powers to keep our people and global oppressed communities from being inspired and thus providing the global support required. He believed that these forms of struggle are elementary in us realizing our true social, cultural, political and economic potential for true independence and freedom through the continuity of world Afrikan unification.
  

Back on the domestic front in 1962, Elombe helped to found the Naturally shows that featured the Grandassa Models, a group of young black women who all wore their hair in its natural, glorious African state, sparking the “Black is Beautiful” movement in New York that would spread to the rest of the country and world.
 
As a family man, Elombe was the proud father of seven children; a daughter, Amber Ann Nzingha Lyons, and six sons. He married Nomsa Helene (née White), the former president of the Grandassa models, on August 23, 1964. 
  
 Elombe began working as a graphic artist for ABC television in 1962 and remained there until his retirement in 1999. For 17 years, he was a Consultant on African Affairs for the award-winning show “Like It Is” with Gil Noble. While working at ABC, Elombe emerged as a key figure in the Pan-Africanist movement, co-founding the Patrice Lumumba Coalition in 1975 with the late Irving Davis and organizing protests against the South African government. Elombe was also involved in the anti-slavery movement of the Sudan and Mauritania, the fight against the atrocities of Shell oil and the Abacha regime in Nigeria, and the fight against the atrocities of the Mobutu regime in Zaire which is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  
Elombe used his platform at WBAI-FM, 99.5 for over 30 years, broadcasting his show AfriKalidescope to make people aware of injustices around the globe. He exposed the truth about the Sandinistas’ struggle in Nicaragua, the atrocities committed in East Timor, and provided platforms for representatives of Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Cuba, who were fighting for freedom in their countries.
In 1987, he co-founded the December 12th Movement in response to police brutality following the 1986 murder of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach. In 1989, he organized and mobilized for the Central Park Five, believing in their innocence decades before the truth came to light. In 1990, he was one of the organizers responsible for bringing Nelson and Winnie Mandela to Harlem where over 200,000 people gathered. His keen insight into domestic and international affairs earned him a Revson Fellowship at Columbia University, where he taught for several years despite never having done formal academic graduate work.
Elombe has received over 200 recognitions and awards in his work. In May of 2013, Elombe was immortalized in the history of America when he was enshrined with a Congressional Record by the 112th Congress.
Elombe Brath, a man of enormous wit and charm, won you over with a quiet intensity, rather than bombast in his telling of the African experience. His encyclopedic knowledge of the history of African peoples based on his involvement in struggles around the world from the Caribbean and South America to the countries of Africa and, of course, the United States, was astounding.
Counted among his many friends and admirers were jazz greats such as Miles Davis, Max Roach and Jimmy Owens, political and cultural greats such as Presidents Hage Geingob, Fidel and Raul Castro, the late Amiri Baraka, and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure).
 
A committed and courageous fighter until the end, Elombe eventually succumbed to illness on Monday, May 19, 2014.
  
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