US Organization

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US Organization, or Organization Us, is a Black nationalist group in the United States founded in 1965. It was established as a community organization by Maulana Karenga and Hakim Jamal and other members of the "Circle of Seven" discussion group. It was a rival of the Black Panther Party in California.

Foundation (1965)[edit]

After the Watts Riots and the assassination of Malcolm X, Maulana Karenga and Hakim Jamal started a discussion group called the "circle of seven". Hakim Jamal, cousin of Malcolm X, created a magazine entitled "US". It was a pun on the phrase "us and them" and the standard abbreviation of "United States", referring to "Us Black People" as a nation.[1][2] This promoted the idea of black cultural unity as a distinct national identity.[3] Jamal and Karenga joined together and founded the US Organization. They published a magazine Message to the Grassroot in 1966, in which Karenga was listed as chairman and Jamal as founder of the new group.[3]

Aims[edit]

Its aim was to promote African-American cultural unity. Haiba Karenga and Dorothy Jamal, the wives of the two founders, ran the organization's "US School of Afroamerican Culture", to educate children with the group's ideals. However, their husbands soon differed about how to achieve the group's aims. Jamal argued that the ideas of Malcolm X should be the main ideological model for the group, while Karenga wished to root black Americans in African culture.[3] Karenga became the main active force in the group, organizing projects such as teaching Swahili and promoting traditional African rituals.[3] Jamal believed that these had no relevance to modern African-American life, so he left "US" to establish the rival Malcolm X Foundation, based in Compton, California. Karenga became the driving force behind "US."

Kwanzaa (1966)[edit]

Karenga's ideas culminated in the creation of the Kwanzaa festival in 1966, designed as the first specifically African-American holiday. It was to be celebrated over the Christmas/New Year period.[4] Karenga said his goal was to "give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society."[5]

The group's ideals are summed up in the seven principles: Unity (Umoja), Self-Determination (Kujichagulia), Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani).

Relations with Black Panthers (1969)[edit]

The Black Panthers and US had different aims and tactics but often found themselves competing for potential recruits. The Federal Bureau of Investigation intensified this antipathy, sending forged letters to each group which purported to be from the other group, so that each would believe that the other was publicly humiliating them.[6] This rivalry came to a head in 1969, when the two groups supported different candidates to head the Afro-American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. On January 17, 1969, a gun battle between the groups on the UCLA campus ended in the deaths of two Black Panthers: John Huggins and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter. This led to a series of retaliatory shootings that lasted for months, and resulted in two more murders.[7] The Panthers referred to the organization as the United Slaves, a name never actually used by members of US but which is often mistaken for the group's official name.[8]

Conviction of Karenga (1971)[edit]

In 1971, Karenga, Louis Smith, and Luz Maria Tamayo were convicted of felony assault and imprisoned for assaulting and torturing two women members of US, Deborah Jones and Gail Davis. A May 14, 1971, article in the Los Angeles Times described the testimony of one of the women:

"Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said. They also were hit on the heads with toasters."[9]

At Karenga's trial, the question of his sanity arose. A psychiatrist's report stated the following: "This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and illusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment." The psychiatrist reportedly observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons, and believed he'd been attacked by dive-bombers.[9]

He was sentenced to 1-to-10 years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment.

Re-establishment (1971–present)[edit]

In 1971, the organization went dormant while Karenga was in prison. After his release in 1975 Karenga re-established the organization under a new structure and operates it today.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://unitedblackamerica.com/black-history-maulana-karenga/
  2. ^ Hayes, III, Floyd W.; Jeffries, Judson L., "Us Does Not Stand for United Slaves!", Black Power in the Belly of the Beast (Chicago: University of Illinois Press): 74–5 
  3. ^ a b c d Scott Brown, Fighting for US: Maulana Karenga, the US organization, and Black cultural nationalism, NYU Press, 2003, p.38
  4. ^ Alexander, Ron (1983-12-30). "The Evening Hours". New York Times". Retrieved 2006-12-15. 
  5. ^ Kwanzaa celebrates culture, principles[dead link]
  6. ^ Gentry, Curt, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company (2001) p. 622
  7. ^ Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. (New York: Doubleday, 1992) p.184
  8. ^ Floyd W. Hayes III and Judson L. Jeffries. "Us Does Not Stand for United Slaves!" in Black Power in the Belly of the Beast, edited by Judson L. Jeffries. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006) 74–5.
  9. ^ a b Scholer, J. Lawrence (January 15, 2001). "The Story of Kwanzaa". The Dartmouth Review. Archived from the original on December 30, 2007. 

External links[edit]