September 8, 2010

Ron "Slim" Washington, Presenté! — Ron "Slim" Washington, Ashé!

Update… September 13

While FOTM didn't receive any additional "memory essays" from Slim's many long-time friends and comrades, one fascinating note about brother Washington's stellar college basketball career did arrive. We found it compelling and interesting enough to want to popularize primarily because it supports the observation that Ron was involved in so many different arenas that his was literally a different Slim in each and every venue, and to the collegiate hoops community as well:
Ron Washington, the thin man from Chicago! (from "Shocker News; Wichita State University Men's Basketball")
Larry Adams, longtime friend and comrade of Ron Washington, speaks at the People's Organization for Progress memorial meeting.
The Black Liberation Movement, the Labor Movement, the Peoples' Struggles both in the U.S. and around the world all lost a giant on Sunday, August 22 this year.

Although Slim's height helped him become a basketball superstar in high school, it wasn't his tall stature that made him a giant in the people's struggles. Yes, his basketball skill afforded him a scholarship to Wichita State University, but that's not the source of his colossal importance to his comrades and friends. No, it was the struggles Ron organized, learned, and led at Wichita State (and later the University of Kansas Law School) that made him the indispensable leader he was…

While at Wichita State University, he founded and served as president of the Black Student Union as well as editor of their newspaper "Harambe." At Kansas State he served as president of the Black Student Union on that campus and also founded and edited the Black student newspaper "For Our People" there.

This became Slim's life's work as his efforts on campus and in the community helped him connect with the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU) and join together with Howard Fuller (Owusu Sadukai), Nelson Jackson and Abdul Alkalimat. The combination of these progressive and revolutionary forces resulted the African Liberation Support Committee becoming the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL).

Throughout his life, Ron continued his leadership in progressive movements seeking justice and freedom against the imperialist forces that suppress and oppress the working class and Black people in particular. His role as president of Black Telephone Workers for Justice, co-founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Reparations, and Black Solidarity Against the War Coalition continued his lifetime long commitment.

We asked longtime comrades to share their memories of Slim. Ajamu Dillahunt of Black Workers for Justice and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organicion Socialista del Camino Para la Libertad (FRSO/OSCL) wrote:

Bright Moments with Slim
Much is being written about Slims politics and tenacity. I want to reflect on a few personal remembrances in the spirit of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's classic Bright Moments. I truly would like to be in the same space with the folks who will celebrate him on August 28th; the activists, the musicians. No doubt it will be a celebration full of the energy and hipness of our quintessential Black man.

"What's Up Black Man?" Slim's salutation during the last 10-15 years immediately sent a message of pride and grounding for those that received it.

I first met Slim at the historic Puerto Rican Solidarity Day Rally at Madison Square Garden in 1974 (I knew of his work with SOBU/YOBU and the African World Newspaper-he had a rep). It was an amazing event with terrific speakers and the whole US Left in attendance. Juan Mari Bras from the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, Angela Davis, Ella Baker and Owusu Sadaukai among the best known. Slim said that Owusu's speech was good but not as dynamic as usual because he was just incorporating our understanding of what was then called Soviet Social Imperialism. The Dominican groups were trading chants and songs from different sections of the garden. Slim observed that the Black revolutionary movement did not yet have traditional revolutionary songs like the South Africans, Zimbabweans and others. He said we needed something to overcome the influence of "We Shall Overcome."

Towering over others with a beacon of energy always was how he showed up on the scene so many times. At the head of a May Day march in lower Manhatttan in 1976. Getting off a bus in Atlanta that had brought a delegation from N.Y and N.J. to build the National Black Workers Organizing Committee or in Raleigh with delegations of the Black Telelphone Workers for Justice and Peoples Organization for Progress attending the BWFJ's annual Martin Luther King Support for Labor Banquet. Those buses by the way were filled with energy and music for sure. In Atlanta they were partying to Roger Troutman's huge hit "More Bounce." When they touched down in Raleigh they partied hard after the banquet and then took care of political business at the breakfast the next morning.

The last bright moment was a visit to the BTWJ lounge in N.J. after a BRC meeting-drinks and great conversation. This was a little before the scene at Cecil's which regrettably I didn't get a chance to check out. In our last phone conversation during which he turned me on to some videos from sets at Cecil's he told me to get off my ass and come up and hear the music. Make it a long weekend he said. Check out Sista's Place in Brooklyn and Cecil's.

This weekend I will listen to "Bright Moments" and have a taste in his honor. And then back to the struggle for the class and the Nation.

Ron "Slim" Washington-Presente!

At Fire on the Mountain, we hope many other longtime comrades and friends, from the music community, the labor movement, and the many political battles brother Slim engaged in, will write to share their memories. Ron was involved in so many campaigns and issues that he was a literally a different Slim to different people. But as anyone who sat next to him on a bus (to a demonstration, conference, the Black Workers for Justice's annual Martin Luther King Salute to Labor dinner in Raleigh, NC, or any  other event) knows, Ron wasn't only a revolutionary nationalist. While he was known primarily as a Jazz Impresario among some friends, our brother was also an internationalist, a scientific socialist, a communist committed to proletarian revolution, as well as a music enthusiast. For Ron "Slim" Washington it was a wasted journey  if he hadn't moved you closer to his point of view in at least one of these arenas.

Once again, FotM extends our heartfelt thanks to People's Organization for Progress photographer Jon Levine for the images (click HERE to see more pictures) included with this blog entry. Special thanks to POP Secretary-Treasurer Angenetta Robinson for additional pictures, including the photo of cameraman Jon…

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