Kwame Ture gave two speeches Monday in Finney Chapel on his political philosophy, Pan-Africanism, and on a controversial topic he lists as a plank in the philosophy, anti-Zionism.
Third World House originally invited Ture to speak on Pan-Africanism as part of their People of Color Lecture Series. When they heard of his visit, Students for a Free Palestine asked him to address Zionism as well.
Ture did not shy away from the issues that have made him controversial, repeating his belief that "the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist."
Ture's 8 p.m. speech on Pan-Africanism was addressed mainly at African-American students. He stressed the need for an organized movement in the black community.
He spoke of Pan-Africanism as an inevitable anti-capitalist movement to unite Africa and Africans from the diaspora.
"Unity is an evolutionary process, from the family to the tribe to the clan to the nation. [In Africa] this process was thwarted by colonialism and slavery,… Since it was stopped, unity can only be achieved by revolution, by destroying capitalism."
He talked about the importance of struggle and the responsibility of black students.
"African students at Oberlin, you have a task before you. You have to teach yourself about Africa," he said. "You have to teach the unconscious, ignorant masses about Africa."
Ture also proposed Oberlin students unite in a push to make the United States offer socialized college education. Dialogue alone, he said won't bring people together as common struggle will.
"In struggle, you can come together," he said. "Otherwise it's just talking and there ain't nothing going on."
Ture wore a long blue African gown and sat as he talked because of his prostate cancer. His voice was deep and lyrical, his tone fiery. His words became acidic at times, ridiculing certain comments.
Ture is currently an organizer for the All-African People's Revolutionary Party (AAPRP), a political group he helped organize in the 1970s. The group is dedicated to uniting Africans and descendents of Africans worldwide. Before his involvement in the AAPRP, Ture co-authored the book Black Power, served as prime minister in the Black Panther Party and was involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The speech at 4 p.m. about his views of Zionism was met with protest by around 30 students who stood and turned their backs to Ture as he spoke. At the 8 p.m. speech, which dealt with Pan-Africanism, the crowd was mostly quiet.
Both speeches drew audiences of more than 400 and before both speeches, several Jewish students handed out flyers with information about Zionism and analyses of past Ture speeches the students felt were anti-Semitic.
Also available at the doors were copies of a College policy called "Guidelines for Meetings Involving Speakers, Films and Other Forms of Artistic Expression" and a General Faculty statement on multiculturalism.
Each session had a moderator - in the first, Commons Coordinator Tracene Marshall and in the second, African-American Studies Professor James Millette. The moderators were particularly active during the question and answer sessions that followed both speeches.
At the first talk, the question and answer session took approximately as much time as Ture's speech and at some points became a shouting match between students and Ture. The entire meeting lasted from shortly after 4 p.m. until 5:40 p.m.
The second speech was given to a much quieter audience, which did not protest Ture.
At that speech, around a half dozen members of the Nation of Islam stood around Finney Chapel, in aisles and corners, wearing dark suits and bow ties.
Ture spoke on Pan-Africanism from shortly after 8 p.m. until around 9:15 p.m. and the question-and-answer session lasted until nearly 10 p.m.
Protester's passion: Students protest Kwame Ture's speech by turning their backs to him in Finney on Monday. (photo by David Reeves)
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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