Remembering Contrast’s role in the African Liberation Movement in the 1970s

This month marks the 43rd anniversary of the African Liberation Day commemorations in the Americas. According to the May 27th, 1972 edition of the African-Canadian weekly, Contrast, there were demonstrations all over the Western Hemisphere. At the time, liberation movements were blazing in Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), Southwest Africa (today’s Namibia), Guinea Bissau, South Africa, Mozambique and Angola. 

The number one record on the Billboard chart was the Chi-Lites, “Oh Girl.” Eugene Record, Marshall Thompson, Robert “Squirrel” Lester and Creadel “Red” Jones performed on this track. 

The record and the group were embraced by members of the African Liberation Movement when they released “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” in 1971. 

The song was featured on the soundtrack to the 1995 film, “Panther.” The Chi-Lites were huge in the Americas. 

African people in the West­ern Hemisphere demonstrated in support of liberation movements in Africa. 

In Toronto, Canada 3,000 people came out. 30,000 came out in Washington D.C. 6,000 came out in Dominica. 10,000 came out in Antigua and 3,000 in Grenada. We encourage Africans in other parts of the Americas to come forward with more information about actions taken in their areas. 

The headline of the May 27 issue Contrast read: “One People! One Aim! One Destiny! African Peoples of the World Unite or Perish!” 

Contrast called for a boycott of South Africa, refused advertising from firms that did business with the racist regime and urged artists to not perform there. The publisher of Contrast was Al Hamilton. Royson James of the Toronto Star, bigged up Hamilton in the pages of Canada’s largest daily newspaper. 

Says James, “Name a significant Toronto journalist of color and his or her work has appeared on the pages of Contrast.”

Harold Hoyte left to create The Nation News and a media empire in Barbados. Cecil Foster left for theStar, then the book world, and is now a Guelph University professor. Arnold Auguste founded rivalShare newspaper. Tom Godfrey is now at the Toronto Sun. Also, Olivia “Babsy” Grange went on to become the Minister of State responsible for Information and Culture in Jamaica during the Edward Seaga regime.

International African coverage and theoretical analysis 

There were articles like “Guinea-Bissau: Africa’s Vietnam;” “Pan-Africanism in Practice;” “We Must Struggle Where We Are: Pan Africanism,” “Pan African Ideology For The Caribbean,” “Revolutionary Black Culture As A Weapon In The Struggle Of The Pan African Revolution,” “Our Methods Must Be Based On The Overall Interests Of Our People” “World African Liberation,” “The Politicization Of African Culture,” “Jamaican Bauxite And African Liberation,” “Canada’s Blacks And African Liberation,” “Tanzania Welcomes Skilled Blacks.” 

These articles were written by Harold Hoyte, Horace Campbell, A.C.Hekima, Donald Rashidi, Sister Veronica Challenger, Muhammad Ahmadaka Max Stanford, Ibn Hakim, Errol Hasfal, Sister Ushaka, and Augustine Mahiga.
Mahiga went on to become the Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the United Nations, and later as the UN Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia. The cover of the May 27, 1972 edition of Contrast was designed by Cleveland Moulton. 

This special edition of Contrast was prepared by a panel of Pan African spokesmen and writers. The paper was prepared in cooperation with the African Liberation Day Committee of Toronto and the African People’s Party of Cleveland, Ohio. 

One of the strengths of this newspaper was that it was anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. It saw Africans at home and abroad as living under colonialism or neocolonialism. 

Huey P. Newton once opined that blackness was necessary but not sufficient. The major weakness of this issue was the question of gender. The producer of this issue completely ignored the question of women historically and during this period. 

African Liberation Support Committee 

These events were organized by the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), a black activist organization that supported Pan-Africanism. 

In 1971, Owusu Sadukai (Howard Fuller) traveled to Africa where he observed the anti-colonial movements in Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Angola. When he returned to the United States, he began to make plans for an African Liberation Day demonstration that was designed to show worldwide support for the African liberation struggle. Just as there were Africans in the West who wanted to volunteer to fight in Ethiopia when she was invaded by Italy, there were Africans who wanted to fight in Africa in the 1970s. At that moment in our history, even Rev. Jesse Jackson was saying, “It’s NationTime!” 

Today, the African Liberation Movement is resurfacing. With police attacks on African people all over the world and highlighted in Baltimore, Ferguson and Toronto, a new movement is emerging. 

As Dr. Gerald Horne pointed out for years on Saturday Morning Live on CKLN-FM 88.1 and Radio Regent, Africans in the United States have always had international support. Our own fight plus international support has kept us alive. 

Contrast is no longer in print. But in 2015 we still have The Burning Spear newspaper, in continuous publication since the 1960s. 

In cyberspace we have Uhuru News and Black Agenda Report. 

The Pan African News Wire, and yourworld­ have also stepped up to the plate. 

The Uhuru House is St. Petersburg, Florida, headquarters of the African People’s Socialist Party, has just been granted a permit from the U.S. government’s Federal Communications Commission to build a LPFM radio station. 

We must support our own media which provides a voice for the African Liberation Movement.

Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Viet Nam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. 

Jalali is producer/host for the Diasporic Music show on every Sunday at 2pm ET and for’s Saturday Morning Live show. 

His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper. 


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