Saturday, July 11, 2009

A. Peter Bailey

This evening a few of us gathered at a nice barbecue restaurant to meet with Brother Malcolm's friend, A. Peter Bailey. A good friend of Yuri Kochiyama's also, Yuri's children, students of Bailey's at the neighborhood Freedom School in New York. It was great watching the two old friends catch up with one another. Bailey said he had the original letter Yuri sent to Malcolm X introducing herself to him and asking if she could join his organization.

As the evening progressed it was great seeing the comradery and love Brother Peter has for Sister Yuri. At times Phil Hutchings, would lean over and repeat for her what Brother Peter had said; older now, her hearing is not what it was. At times Brother Peter would stop and repeat himself for her. He also spoke fondly of Yuri's late husband, Bill, as a strong presence in the home, his wife's silent partner, how he'd be at all the meetings she called.

Bailey was reared at Tuskegee, Alabama, though he moved to Germany with his family when his dad was transferred there. Bailey later joined the military himself. He moved to Washington, D.C. to enroll at Howard University, where he studied for two years before a trip to New York and his falling under Malcolm's spell, forged a friendship which lasted until the leader was killed—and Bailey never returned.

He spoke about how kind and thoughtful Malcolm was. He spoke about the plots against Malcolm's life and the training he and others learned regarding this United States governments attempt to infiltrate black organizations like Brother Malcolm’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).

Bailey spoke about how he learned about writing and security and how a sick nation afraid of its people behaves associated with Malcolm X and OAAU. He edited nine issues. The afternoon Malcolm was killed, he and his leader conversed about the current issue and he was told not to run it that day.

Brother Malcolm stressed to his staff how important it was to use the right words to avoid slander and potential legal suits. Brother Peter said Malcolm stated as an example, the use of the words “murderer” and “killer.” He was speaking of the killing of a black youth by New York police in the issue in question. Those journalists who used the word "murderer" were sued for slander, not Bailey and his staff.

Brother Peter spoke of the reunion of OAAU members August 2006. He said the last time many of them had seen each other was in 1965—there are five hours of unedited footage on DVD. He said such an event would never happen again. One reason for this is the death of many members since then. He spoke of the book, "Malcolm X, Man and His Time," how he and his comrade Earl edited this volume to set the record straight about Brother Malcolm— how they took the book to Dr. John Henrick Clarke to get a publisher, Clarke, a more established scholar.

He said of the 18 OAAU members present at the reunion, 15 were at the Audubon Ballroom that day Malcolm was killed. So was Yuri, who knew El Hajj Malik from his Nation of Islam days--

One could see the look that passed between the two witnesses to the execution. Bailey recalled the day . . . the blood, the melee in the room, what the shots sounded like, how many, the professional nature of the killing, where people were sitting—enemies and friends.

At the reunion Bailey said he put out a call for papers and has received 12 so far even though he hasn't decided what to do with the DVD and papers. His memoir will be out next year.

The conversation shifted and turned, touching on the profound impact Malcolm had on African nations and their support of OAAU. He referenced the 1964 debate on Congo, and Guinea's response to the U.S. posture that it needed to look at its own policies regarding its treatment of African American citizens. In other words, MIND YO OWN BIZNESS MISTER CHARLIE!

It sounded so exciting! Brother Peter recalled Dr. Clarke said six countries were ready to support Malcolm's call for the World Court to address the apartheid on America. When I asked Brother Peter to name the countries, he said they were Ghana, Guinea, Algeria, Tanzania....This was what he asked Spike Lee to focus on in his film: Malcolm’s international work. He said Lee interviewed him for hours and the resulting film was a big disappointment, but with the commercial backing, Brother Peter said, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is about as close to the true commercial Malcolm as we will get. He told Lee to show the COINTELPRO surveillance. Lee said he did, but if one wasn’t paying attention s/he could miss it.

Brother Peter started to tell us about an article he wrote about Michael Jackson and his hatred of his blackness. I think it is published by the National News Publication Association. He spoke about the tension between Jackie Robinson and Brother Malcolm, which Robinson put on hold when the four girls were murdered in 1963bombing of the church. Robinson called for a rally in New York and invited Brother Malcolm to speak. El Hajj Malik El Shabazz spoke first and was followed by Eartha Kitt, who was booed. Speaking out loud, Brother Peter asked why the crowd booed and without knowing him, Brother Malcolm answered: "because all her husbands are white men."

When Bailey joined the organization the split had occurred and so he didn’t meet Muhammad Ali, but he did know Minister Farrakhan. Though there wasn’t a detour, one could tell there was a story there.

Brother Malcolm was a master teacher, Brother Peter said of his friend. At that time, he worked as a file clerk at Times Inc. What he did was create files on persons mentioned three of more times in the newspaper. When Brother Malcolm was killed, they asked him to pull everything they had on file on this man's life.

In retrospect he said security should have overrode Malcolm's decision to not check guests that afternoon in February at the Audubon Ballroom. Malcolm said they would start at the next event. Brother Peter spoke about the chaos after the shooting and police inaction. He also spoke of a trip earlier that same year where France wouldn't let Malcolm land in Paris. The government sent the plane back to England. Carlos Moore was there waiting to greet Malcolm and got on the phone and told comrades in England Malcolm was coming back. Reminds one of Anti-American propaganda during the Cold War where the U.S. would take citizens’ passports. They took Paul Robeson’s, Richard Wright’s—I don’t know why France wouldn’t let Malcolm disembark.

Brother Peter spoke about Malcolm statement that the biggest obstacle to black unity freedom and success had to do with the psychological assault of white supremacy on the black psyche.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said such people were deaf, blind and dumb to the knowledge of self. They were for all intents and purpose dead and only knowledge of self would wake them up. When I was a kid and I’d hear the minister, I thought he was speaking of zombies, not people.

The day Brother Malcolm was killed Brother Peter said he'd clipped an article and shared with Malcolm about a group calling themselves "Deacons of Defense of Justice." Brother Malcolm saw the move as one worth duplicating throughout the country.

Contrary to what has been said that Malcolm thought he was going to die, Brother Peter said Malcolm spoke that day of doing more work developing the OAAU after returning from an invitation to speak at an event hosted by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi.

Brother Peter spoke about the U.S. government’s desire for a blood bath between the Nation of Islam and OAAU, yet Malcolm spoiled their plans when he took the fight for justice for black people international. He emphasized the system of racism even before the term structural violence and institutional racism became P.C. or politically correct parlance. When one speaks of the time between 1955 and 1965, Brother Peter said one needs to put it in the context of the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Cold War...oppression and violence.

After Brother Malcolm was killed some of his closest friends went underground, like Earl Grant who had to leave town and then the country. Brother Peter kept his friend’s things for two years while Grant was on the lam. Brother Peter spoke about the FBI interrogation after Malcolm was killed. They didn’t bring him in for questioning right away, but when they did, he was prepared. Brother Malcolm had prepared them. He knew how to answer their questions and what questions they would make. He spoke about the tricks they played which he didn’t fall for.

As he spoke he mentioned books which were written about this time: he co-wrote the “Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X,” by Rodnell P. Collins (Malcolm’s nephew) and A. Peter Bailey (1988) and other authors such as Muhammad Ahmad, Maxwell Stanford Jr.— “We Will Return In The Whirlwind: Black Radical Organizations 1960-1975,” Afro Cuban Carlos Moore, and British journalist Anthony Summers who wrote about JFK, when mentioning how misguided black people were who were so in love with JFK. He said the reason JFK's sent troops into Little Rock was only after African nations challenged America's treatment of its black citizens, and if I recall his words correctly, said they were going to send troops into America to protect us. Yeah, wow! is an understatement.

Another book mentioned was: "Revolutionaries to Race Leaders, Black Power and the Making of African American Politics" by Cedric Johnson. He spoke of finding 60 bound volumes of old Pittsburgh Couriers in a closet at the Schomburg library where a custodian instructed to throw them away had the good sense to disobey those orders.

This was just one example of how poorly the library took care of its archival materials, and to hear Brother Peter tell it, nothing significant has changed in its policy. I didn't understand why the black librarians haven't as local and national organization done something about this, after all, NYPL, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a branch of the New York Public Library, similar to the African American Museum and Library here in Oakland where our archived materials are better cared for. I know; I'm a trustee.

Brother Peter recalled one of the newspaper's columnists, George Samuel Schuyler who wrote brilliantly then, he said and the complete about face in later publications like his: Black and Conservative (1966). His opposition to Martin King's receipt of the Noble Peace Prize was cause for his separation papers from the black newspaper (1966).

His faced glowed as he spoke of press junkets he organized for journalists while editor for Ebony (1968-1975) to this country and that, the first African American Beauty contest where these five brothers sang. This was his first time seeing the Jackson Five. A collector, he began collecting magazines with Michael Jackson on the cover years ago, and planned to make them available as a collection at Jackson's concert tour. Now that Michael is dead, he has to figure out how much to charge. Adeeba Deterville, who was there that night, said to make sure there are two commas in the figure.

He excitedly told us about his serious first issue collection of black magazines: Ebony, Negro Digest...and how excited he was to see for the first time a copy of Jet. He joked with its owner that he'd better keep his eyes on his property.

When asked about Malcolm's children he said that Malcolm's grandson, who is 24 now, asked Brother Peter to send him the OAAU goals and objectives. He wasn't certain if the grandson had received the letter, until the young man told him to forgive him for not writing back when he saw him later after his release. See

Brother Peter said young Malcolm hung out with his aunt Iyasha in January for the Inauguration and is now at the University of Syria. He said he introduced Attalla to Yolanda King. Attalla loved theatre. I think he said at the time Yolanda was the Associate Director of Black Theatre and together the two women founded Alliance Theatre and had plans to write a play, "Of One Mind," about their two fathers. Brother Peter was on his way to LA where Attalla was on the list to visit.

An editor and writer for Ebony Magazine from 1968 to 1975, Brother Peter teaches journalism in Washington D.C. and still writes for the National Black Journalism Association.

It was such a delight listening to him talk and talk and talk. It felt like Africa, where the dancing and music goes on and on. At 10:30 the conversation shifted to the street not because anyone was tired of listening and talking, no, the restaurant closed but not before we took photos.

While Brother Peter waited for Shukuru to bring her car around to take him back to his hotel the conversation continued. I just took photos and wished I'd had more space on my recorder, but I didn't. I taped the conversation at dinner, but I haven't listened to it yet. This narrative is from my notes and memory. I hope it's accurate, so it’s subject to editing (smile).

Brother Peter was headed to LA the next day. When not traveling he teaches mass media at the University of the District of Columbia and writes for the National Newspaper Publishers Association where he proudly shared, one of his protégées works.

As Brother Peter spoke, Shukuru Sanders who'd just returned from New York knew many of the people Brother Peter spoke of, as did Amara, Michael Lange who is known here for his dramatization of Malcolm X's speeches. Marcel Diallo and his family were present, as was Emory Douglas who told me of Eartha Kitt's support for the Black Panther Party. Duane Deterville, who'd hosted one of Brother Peter's colleagues recently at Marcel Diallo's Black Dot Cafe, was one of the folks hanging outside the restaurant until Brother Peter had to go. Folks in the restaurant who were not a part of our party were drawn into the discussion.

He is a great storyteller who answered question after question but never lost the theme which he began, that Michael Jackson's whiteness was a symptom of what he says Brother Malcolm would speak of constantly, white supremacy and its affect on black consciousness.


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