Honoring the African American Association

Honoring the African American Association
by Barbara Lee

Honoring the African American Association. Congressional Record. April 23, 2007. Extensions of Remarks. Page E824. DOCID:cr23ap07-16. (available online)


    Monday, April 23, 2007

Ms. LEE. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the African American Association. Throughout its extraordinary history, the Association has been known for promoting equality, diversity, social justice, and African American community empowerment. This year the Association celebrates the 45th anniversary of its founding.

The African American Association was first organized in the early 1960s by African American students at the University of California, Berkeley. Among the founding members were community leaders such as Khalid Al-Mansour (known then as Don Warden); future Judges Henry Ramsey and Thelton Henderson; future Congressman and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; and future Black Panthers Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.

The Association's founding occurred in the midst of a turbulent time for African Americans and for our country. Malcolm X was fearlessly expressing his views on race relations. Many African nations were being liberated after years of colonial rule and oppression. The civil rights movement was gaining national momentum, and many young African Americans were feeling a newfound source of pride in their African heritage. A primary impetus for the group's establishment was an interest in learning the real history of Africa and slavery in the United States. Not having the resources for a mass media campaign, group members took their message to where the people were: they took their message to the streets.

Of central importance to Association members were questions related to the African American self-image. Members wanted to address the negative light in which many African Americans viewed themselves, specifically in the context of their African heritage and physical features. Moreover, the Association's mission was to help African Americans cultivate the sense of self-love that for many had been missing as a result of slavery's destructive legacy within the African American community and throughout our country.

After being met with skepticism initially, the Association began to reach more and more people with their message of empowerment. Members began reaching a wider audience by broadcasting a half-hour radio show on Oakland KDIA, entitled We Care Enough To Tell It Like It Is. After approximately a year of meeting in various locations, the Association established regular meeting facilities on Grove Street in Oakland. The best known and most attended events were the Association's weekly Monday Night Lectures and Friday Night Forums. These gatherings featured discussions of books on African and African American history, religion, architecture, current events, and other topics. People of all ages attended these lively meetings because they always represented an opportunity to learn, and to look at things from a new perspective.

Over the years, the Association continued its advocacy for social, political, economic, and educational equality for African Americans. Members urged African Americans to establish businesses, and the Association formed its own employment office to match members with job opportunities. The Association also remained centrally involved in the struggle to promote education among young African Americans, urging them to not only complete their education but to obtain the highest grades at the highest level of education that they could. In addition, the Association organized to address countless other issues, including community safety, the devastating impact of the Jonestown Massacre, and social justice in African countries.

Today the members and supporters of the African American Association have come together to celebrate not only the organization's 45th anniversary, but also the group's permanent and positive impact on our community. On this very special day, I join all of the members in thanking and saluting the Association for its profound contributions to California's 9th Congressional District, our country, and our world.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).