Before Huey Newton and Bobby Seale started the Black Panther Party, they spent years learning from the leaders of the Afro-American Association. During the early 1960s, when the struggle for racial justice was evolving from a civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the rise of Black Power, the Afro-American Association brought leaders like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali to the East Bay for public conversations about philosophy, religion, economics, politics, and more. Members and close associates of this organization, such as Ron Dellums, Judge Thelton Henderson, and Cedric Robinson, went on to become some of the most influential cultural and political Black leaders of their generation.
Kamala Harris’ parents even met at one of these gatherings.
This episode explores the mostly forgotten* legacy of the Afro-American Association and its leader, Donald Warden (who later changed his name to Khalid Abdullah Tariq al Mansour), through interviews with four former members – Anne Williams, Margot Dashiell, and brothers Loye and Lee Cherry – as well as
Oakland History Center head librarian Dorothy Lazard. Listen now to hear about this group’s origins on the campus of UC Berkeley, their “Mind of the Ghetto” conferences in West Oakland, and much more: Apple / SoundCloud / Spotify. [*One of the few books to mention the AAA is “ Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California” by Donna Jean Murch, which I highly recommend reading.]
During the 1960s, Don Warden would speak at street corner rallies in Black neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area. Afro-American Association members Loye and Lee Cherry recall that police officers would often keep a close eye on these gatherings. To hear archival audio from one Warden’s 1967 speeches, listen to the new episode. [Archival audio courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives; Photo from the archives of: Khalid and Jamila al Mansour]
According to Anne Williams, attending the Afro-American Association’s meetings gave her a strong sense of racial price. “It was like Sunday school… but different.” Williams went on to have a long and distinguished career in nursing. [Photo: Liam O’Donoghue]
Following her involvement with the Afro-American Association, Margot Dashiell had a long career in education and advocacy. One of her many endeavors was Frederick Douglass Designs, an Afrocentric greeting card company that she launched with her brother in the early 1980s. [Photo: Liam O’Donoghue]
Former Afro-American Association members Don Hopkins, who managed the congressional office of Rep. Ron Dellums for many years, and Dr. Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. [Photo from the archives of Lee O. Cherry.]
Lee Cherry was only a high school student when he began accompanying his older brothers to Afro-American Association events. He later went on to create the Dignity Institute of Technology in 1967 (named changed to the African Scientific Institute in 1975). [Photo from the archives of Lee O. Cherry.]
According to Loye Cherry, one of the Association’s major priorities was promoting education. “We even had a march to the Oakland Library!” [Photo from the archives of Lee O. Cherry.]
“What I’m learning through researching the Afro-American Association is that liberation can come in many different forms,” said Oakland History Center librarian Dorothy Lazard. To read more about Dorothy’s research into the AAA, check out her essay on the Oakland Public Library’s website. [Photo courtesy of Dorothy Lazard]
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