Are you Walter Rodney?
June 2020 marks 40 years since the assassination of Dr Walter Rodney. The following blog post formed the basis of an interview with Donald Rodney (brother of Dr Rodney's brother) and Eric Huntley (who with is late wife Jessica Huntley published How Europe Underdeveloped Africa) aired
on Galaxy Radio, December 9th. The words herein expressed are those of the author's, Olatunji Heru of Alkebu-Lan Revivalist Movement, and are thus copyrighted.
Way wive Wordz Admin.
In his Letter From A Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr, mused that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” (1) But when denial is the prevailing modus operandi of an oppressive system, even long delayed justice needs to be pursued. A case in point is the recent announcement of the quashing of the convictions of the ‘Oval Four’, wrongly imprisoned on the basis of a corrupt police officer’s evidence back in 1972. (2) However, the pursuit continues in the case of Mark Duggan where they are striving to overturn the “perverse” inquest verdict that exonerated the police in his 2011 shooting. (2) Now there are calls for the case to be reopened following groundbreaking virtual modelling of the scene by Forensic Architecture, a London-based research organisation that uses modern technology to search urban areas for evidence. Their technology cast serious doubt on the version of events advanced by the police and the conclusion arrived at by the jury. (3) As we know the pursuit of justice is a global issue and one the continuing fights concerns legendary warrior scholar activist Walter Rodney and also his brother Donald Rodney. For those unaware, Dr Walter Rodney was a prodigious intellectual powerhouse, author of, among other important works, the seminal 1972 book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published jointly by London based Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications and Tanzania Publishing House, which transformed the analysis of the relationship between Afrika and the west. At age twenty-one he gained a first-class degree in history from University of the West Indies (UWI) and three years later he attained a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. However, his immense academic prowess never prevented him from “grounding” with his brothers, whether it was teaching in Tanzania between 1966 and 1974, a tempestuous semester at UWI in Jamaica in 1968, or organising in Guyana from the mid-seventies until his untimely death in 1980. (4) His time teaching at the UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica, ostensibly with a view to establishing a faculty of African History is particularly illustrating. (5) While there, as as advocate of Black Power, he mobilised among “Rastafarins… urban youths (including youth gangs) and a heterodox religious movement led by the Rev. Claudius Henry.”:(6) “At an exploratory gathering at UWI, he reportedly outlined four aims of Black Power: creating an awareness of blackness, mobilizing black people ‘to act in their own interests,’ rejecting ‘white cultural imperialism,’ and ensuring ‘the rule of blacks in black society.’ He demanded ‘a complete break with the capitalist system,’ and rejected the official Jamaican creed ‘out of many, one people.’ Jamaicans, the report quotes Rodney as saying, are ‘predominantly black and not a multiracial community. Therefore they should be governed only by black people.” (7) He was subjected to extensive surveillance and eventually barred from the island by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, sparking widespread protests involving students and many in the grassroots community. According to eyewitness accounts, the police acted with violent repression and in the aftermath, there were three fatalities, fifty buses and $2 million worth of property damaged. (8) To help raise awareness, of Walter Rodney’s case, Eric Huntley, his wife Jessica Huntley and others founded Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications and released The Groundings with My Brothers, a collection of his lectures that the Jamaican government sought to censor. The publication was the beginning of a fifty plus year journey they would have with the esteemed scholar. (9) Government intervention also lead to lecturing posts being rescinded in 1968 and 1974 in his native Guyana where he had relocated after his Afrikan sojourn. He engaged in community politics and emerged as the most well-known spokesperson of the newly formed Working People’s Alliance, which aimed to resist the increasingly violent, authoritarian and corrupt regime of Forbes Burnham. Indeed, Rodney was garnering international support from as a far afield as Zimbabwe and was feted as an honoured guest at their independence celebrations in 1980 even though the People's National Congress government had withdrawn his passport. (10) All of this meant that the he was seen an ever more dangerous threat to the status quo and he remained undeterred even by his 1979 arrest on spurious charges. After an international campaign the charges was dropped. (11) Less than a year later, Walter Rodney was killed in an explosion. Few doubt that the government of Forbes Burnham was responsible. In fact he was on public record exhorting WPA members to “make your wills”, perceived by many as death threats. Yet they came up their own, bizarre version of events – and implicated Walter Rodney’s own brother, Donald. In many respects this is consistent with repressive regimes. Not satisfied with extinguishing the physical life of those that oppose them, fearing a spirited rebellion, they go after those closest to the martyr – even across generations. Advocates of this view point to examples such as: · The deaths of Rev Dr Martin Luther King’s brother A.D in suspicious circumstances and the murder of his mother Alberta one and six years respectively after his assassination. (12) · Fred Hampton Jr, the son of revered Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, murdered by Chicago police fifty years ago this week, framed and locked up on spurious charges. (13) · The alleged FBI plot to frame Omowale Malcolm X’d daughter Qubilah for planning an assassination attempt on Min. Louis Farrakhan as well as the FBI targeting of her son Malcolm and his subsequent murder in Mexico in 2013. (14) Thus, in the case of Walter Rodney, the government blamed his brother Donald who survived the blast. Bro. Donald gives “a narrative of injustice” of what happened next in his own words: “When Walter Rodney was killed by a c