August 26, 2010
posted by Rahim on the Docks
"We must breath the spirit of rebellion into our youth," Lawrence Hamm said, reflecting on the importance of this past Saturday's commemoration of the 179th anniversary of August 21, 1831 South Hampton County Virginia slave revolt with these words. In fact, Newark, NJ may be the only place in the US where there is a park honoring Nat Turner, the leader of this rebellion.
In addition to brother Hamm, Roger Smith and Elizabeth McGrady spoke representing the Friends of Nat Turner Park, the Central Ward community group that reached out to the Trust for Public Land, the Newark Public School, the Springfield/Belmont Super Neighborhood Council and other public advocacy groups to bring this, the largest city-owned park into Newark, into existence. Smith, a former member of the original Black Panther Party has been active in the city his entire life and was able to shed light on exactly how this unique park came into existence over the last four decades.
"Street Doctor" Earl Best reflected on the many ways the Central Ward needs this new park, while Larry Adams, POP's co-chair, shared Nat Turner's story and the history of the 1831 slave revolt he led. POP chairman Hamm decribed Adams presentation as a "deep and thoroughly materialist" history. POP elder and movement griot, Aminifu Williams expanded on brother Adams' masterful history lessons, melding in his own seven-decades of experience in the people's struggles, while POP historian Wade McIver shared little-known facts about Turner's revolt. Revolutionary poet Carlos Dufflar shared brand new verse devoted to Turner's life and legacy.
Zayid Muhammad, National Minister of Culture of the New Black Panther Party, roused the nearly 100 participants in attendance, speaking about the political and cultural implications of Nat Turner's revolutionary ideals and their implications for a new generation of revolutionaries. "We need to wonder," brother Muhammad asked, "how this revolutionary people's park got the approval of the reactionary Booker administration?"
The answer to this question is that the very existence of Nat Turner Park is the legacy of an earlier generation of activism. As Roger Smith pointed out, the 1967 Newark Rebellion energized the Committee for a Unified Newark, which in turn led to the election of Kenneth Gibson, Newark's first African-American mayor in 1970. The mood, attitude and community culture of the times that attempted to build the Kawaida Tower low-income housing, succeeded in getting the land set aside and designated for Nat Turner Park. It took more than 30 years to build, but it is certainly a people's victory…
[This Fire on the Mountain blog entry is dedicated to the memory of our brother Ron "Slim" Washington, an African-American labor and community leader who passed Sunday, August 22. In the words of his friends, he devoted the entirety of his intellect, passion and energy to the cause of Black Liberation. Slim would most certainly have been with POP at the Commemoration of Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt, just as he played a leading role in the many struggles of the past four decades that helped bring this park into existence. Ronald "Slim" Washington, Ashé! Ronald "Slim" Washington, Presenté!]
Thanks once again to POP photographer Jon Levine for sharing the photos used in this blog. For more pictures from Newark's 1st Annual Commemoration of Nat Turner's Rebellion click on this link.