By Ali Shamsiddeen
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
The Republic of New Afrika was founded in 1968 by two African American brothers, attorney Milton Henry and Richard Henry. Both were acquaintances of Malcolm X who was a nationally known leader of the Nation of Islam and later the Organization of African Unity. The two brothers later changed their names to Gaidi Obadele and Imari Abubakari Obadele.
The Republic of New Afrika is noted as a Black nationalist organization and a Black separatist movement. The Republic of New Afrika movement has three goals: 1) creation of an independent Black majority country situated in the southeastern United States, in the heart of an area of Black majority population, identified as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. 2). Payment by the federal government of several billion dollars in reparations to African American descendants of slaves for the damages inflicted on Africans and their descendants by chattel enslavement, Jim Crow Laws, and modern-day forms of racism. 3) A referendum of all African Americans to determine their desires for citizenship: movement leaders say their ancestors were not offered a choice in this matter after emancipation in 1865 following the American civil war. This demand for a separate nation was first promoted by Eijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam.
The development of the Republic of New Afrika came out of a conference held in Detroit, Michigan, on March 30, 1968. The conference participants agreed upon a constitution and declaration of independence and the framework for a provisional government. Robert F. Williams, a human rights advocate who was living in exile in China, was chosen as the first president for the provisional government; attorney Gaidi Obadele (a student of Malcolm X teaching) was named first vice president; the widow of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz was named second vice president in 1968. Other notable members of the Republic of New Afrika: Queen Mother Moore was a founding member; Chokwe Lumumba was elected as second vice president in 1971.
Lumumba later relocated to Jackson, Mississippi, where he became noted as a community activist and organizer for human rights and a close friend of this writer. Lumumba was elected to the city council in 2011 and was later elected as mayor of Jackson in 2013. He served briefly in the office as mayor before dying in office in February 2014 of natural causes.
The Republic of New Afrika (RNA) moved to Mississippi in 1970 where they held a conference and convention to setup a provisional government. The convention was held in Bolton, MS where now United States Congressman Bennie Thompson was then the mayor. Congressman Thompson has long been known for his unwavering stance on uplifting African Americans and humanity.
The RNA however has not been without violent confrontations with police on at least two occasions. In March 1969, it was alleged by Detroit’s police that a shooting had occurred outside New Bethel Baptist Church which was pastored by Reverend C.L Franklin, who was the father of renowned singer Aretha Franklin. Police surrounded the church and opened fire and then arrested 140 people who were inside the church. In Jackson, MS in August 1971, members of the RNA were involved in a shootout with Jackson local and state police as well as the FBI. This was because of an early morning raid on two of houses used as headquarters by the RNA in Jackson. The police opened fire; some RNA members returned fire; one police office was killed and two were wounded. Eleven RNA members were arrested. Imari Obadele and seven other RNA members were convicted and spent much of the 1970s as political prisoners.
Imari Obadele has since passed away; however, the RNA as an organization is still leading the struggle for reparations for African Americans, descendants of African slaves in America, and the effort for self-determination for African Americans as a people.