On Thursday January 11, the African-American Commission Inc and the Pan-African Patriots Alliance partnered to present a lecture at the Camden campus of the Camden County College featuring former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee organizer and leader Mukasa Dada known in the ‘60’s as Willie Ricks. The lecture was part of a program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the modern history of resistance to oppression and social injustice.
R. Mangaliso Davis, who spearheaded the program, was pleased local organizations were able to partner with Camden County College to open their facilities to the Camden community. “We are privileged to have this partnership with Camden County College in terms of more openness with the school and the community. We are working with them to promote the historical contributions that we all have made and particularly the African whom we all have come from.”
In his hour long lecture Mukasa Dada shared his personal history, the history of global European domination and colonialism, the history of African struggle on the continent against domination, in the “New World” and especially in the US.
“My name is Mukasa Dada; it used to be Willie Ricks. When I was in Uganda hanging out with Idi Amen Dada he gave me that name, that’s what he called me and I gave the white folks back my slave name. I wanted to send it back with a fire bomb”. Mukasa shared his family history growing up on a farm in Alabama on Rick’s Plantation. His family moved to Tennessee and that’s where he became involved in the Civil Rights movement.
He emphasized Black people are African people and talked about the importance and value of Africa and its history. “When we go back and look and look at ourselves we see Africa. Africa is a land, twelve million square miles of land filled with diamonds, gold and many many other natural resources, water and resources in the ground, resources growing above the ground many kinds of trees, we come from that land, Africa produced us. In Africa we spoke our own language, we had our own gods and we many great civilization and we were living solving our own problems.”
Mukasa was passionate about the struggle he shared the history of struggle the various African kingdoms and empires, their leaders who struggled against Arab and European domination. He spoke about the Haitian Revolution and how it was a beacon of freedom around the world and how the Haitian revolution inspired slave revolts in the US and the struggle for freedom in Central and South America.
Dada spoke about the origins of the Pan-African movement. He spoke about DuBois, Nkrumah and Garvey and their influence in the African liberation movement. Dada was highly critical of Europeans who came to Africa and gave the indigenous people Christianity. He talked about the African anti-colonial liberation movements. He made the linkage and connection between African liberation in the 1950’s and the US Civil Rights Movement. “A man in Africa organized armies and won his independence in Ghana and ran the white man out of Ghana and all the leaders from all over African, Martin Luther King Jr came to Africa and Kwame Nkrumah said ‘Ghana will never be truly free until all of Africa is free’. Martin Luther King Jr. was right there beside him and he came back to the United States and said if Ghana can do we can do it.”
“In 1960 eighteen African countries ran the Europeans out, and the sit ins started in the US, SNCC was formed and the students began to sit in and in the Caribbean they began to throw off their shackles and demand their freedom. Right here in the US we began to demonstrate and the wind of freedom was blowing in the African communities all over the world”
Dada shared his experiences as a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and provided anecdotes about what life was like during those tense times. He stated SNCC was more militant and radical and the other older leaders like King tried to rein them in. Mukasa Dada is credited with coining the phrase “Black Power” during a march in Alabama. “We organized the Lowndes County Freedom Party which later became known as the Black Panther Party. The whites came and started shooting and burned their houses. We put up tents to house the people. We had to build a military type defense. When we said ‘Black Power’ all civil rights people said ‘no no’, we said ‘yes yes’. We spoke out against the war in VietNam. We said ‘Why should the Black man go three thousand miles to fight the Yellow man for the white man?’ Why should we fight for America? We went down to the draft board and beat the soldiers up. How is the slave going to help the slave master fight? That doesn’t make sense at all. We joined in the liberation movements all around the world, we became international. All that was part of the Black Power Movement”.
Mukasa Dada urged the audience to love themselves, love and respect Black women. He called for African world wide to unite to free their minds from colonial domination. He said of himself, “I wasn’t the smartest, I probably had the loudest mouth, and I was just a soldier for the freedom of African people.”
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