Obi Egbuna

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Obi Benue Egbuna (born 18 July 1938 – 18 January 2014) was a Nigerian-born novelist, playwright and political activist, most famous for leading the United Coloured People’s Association (UCPA) and being a member of the British Black Panther Movement (1968–72). Egbuna also published several texts on MarxistBlack Power, including Destroy This Temple: The Voice of Black Power in Britain (1971) and The ABC of Black Power Thought (1973).

Biography[edit]

Egbuna was born in Ozubulu, Anambra State, Nigeria. He studied at the University of Iowa and Howard University, Washington, DC, moving to England in 1961 where he lived until 1973. Here he participated in the Antiuniversity of London[1] and became a pioneer of the Black Power movement in Britain.[2]

Political thought[edit]

Being heavily influenced by Marxism, Egbuna stressed the importance of an international struggle against capitalism, as a part of the global struggle against racial oppression. In a speech from 1967 at Trafalgar Square, London, Egbuna stated: “Black Power means simply that the black of this world are to liquidate capitalist oppression of black people wherever it exists by any means necessary”.[3] On 10 November 1967 Egbuna launched the Black Power Manifesto, published by the Universal Coloured People's Association. As spokesperson for the group, he claimed they had recruited 778 members in London during the previous seven weeks.[4] In 1968 Egbuna published Black Power or Death.

Egbuna also saw the socialist and communist student movements of the 1960s as problematic to the Black Power Cause. Although ideologically rooted in a similar Marxist intellectual tradition, he saw the student organisations as “socialist snobs” who decree from “the premise that only they have read and can understand Marx”.[5] This intellectual snobbery was, according to Egbuna, “doing a great harm to the cause they claim to be upholding” by ignoring race as a key reason for oppression of black workers:

"Nobody in his right mind disputes that the fact that the White worker is a prey to capitalist exploitation, as well as the Black Worker. But equally indisputable is the fact that the White worker is exploited only because he is a worker, not because he is white, while in contrast, the Black Worker is oppressed, not only because he is a worker, but also because he is Black."[6]

During the 1960s, many sympathisers of Black Power left their socialist and communist student organisations and subsequently started their own Marxist orientated Black Power organisations such as Black Socialist Alliance.

Controversy[edit]

As a consequence of the Race Relations Act 1965, incitement of racial violence had become explicitly illegal in the United Kingdom. Several members of Egbuna’s UCPA were fined under this act. Perhaps most noticeable was Roy Sawah, who in a speech 1968 at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park urged "coloured nurses to give wrong injections to patients, coloured bus crews not to take the fare of black people and Indian restaurant owners to 'put something in the curry'."[3] Egbuna himself was later that year sentenced to prison accused of threatening to kill police and certain politicians.[3] (These charges were dismissed when brought before a court - Obi egbuna Gideon dolo and Peter Martin were released without charge. This was a test case and served to restrict the time for imprisonment on remand with no evidence, up until the recent terror law changes. This technique was used many times by the government to try and squash decent from mainly civil rights and union activists. From Lisala Dolo Gideon Dolo's son). This provocative language must however be seen in context of the political climate of 1968. On 20 April 1968, the then shadow cabinet Defence Secretary Enoch Powell made his "Rivers of Blood speech" in Birmingham, essentially laying out a highly prejudiced account of black immigration.[7] The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on 4 April that same year is also likely to have influenced and radicalised several Black Power thinkers.

Bibliography[edit]

Drama:

  • The Anthill - play (London: Three Crowns/Oxford University Press, 1965)

Novels:

  • Wind versus Polygamy, (1964) (republished in 1978 as Elina)
  • The Minister's Daughter (1975)
  • The Madness of Didi (1980

Short stories:

  • Daughters of the Sun and Other Stories (1970)
  • Emperor of the Sea and Other Stories (1974)
  • The Rape of Lysistrata and Black Candles for Christmas (1980)

Non-fiction:

  • Black Power or Death (1968)
  • The Murder of Nigeria: An Indictment (1968)
  • Destroy this Temple: The Voice of Black Power in Britain (MacGibbon & Kee, 1971)
  • The ABC of Black Power Thought – A Nigro Book (1973)
  • The Diary of a Homeless Prodigal (1978)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jakobsen, Jakob (2012), Anti-University of London–Antihistory Tabloid, London: MayDay Rooms 
  2. ^ "Obi B. Egbuna (Obi Benue Egbuna) Biography". Accessed 17 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c A. Sivanandan, A Different Hunger – Writings on Black Resistance, London Pluto Press, (1982), p. 21.
  4. ^ Marshall, Rita (11 November 1967). "Black Power Men Launch Credo". The Times. 
  5. ^ Egbuna, O., The ABC of Black Power Thought – A Nigro Book (1973).
  6. ^ Egbuna O., The ABC of Black Power – A Nigro Book (1968), p. 19.
  7. ^ "Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech" - full text, The Telegraph, 6 November 2007.

Further reading[edit]