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Father of ‘Black Power’ Remembered

November 22, 1998

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) _ Radical leftists and advocates of African unity paid tribute Sunday to Kwame Ture, the 1960s revolutionary who spread the cry of ``Black Power″ throughout the United States and the world.

Ture, who spent most of his life preaching socialist upheaval and changed his name from Stokely Carmichael after he moved from the United States to Guinea in 1968, died last Sunday of prostate cancer at age 57.

He was memorialized Sunday at a service at a university in Conakry and was to be buried later in a public cemetery.

No prominent figures were visible at the ceremony, although Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and Ture’s first wife, the South African singer Miriam Makeba, had been invited.

Instead, about 400 people _ including Libyan and Cuban diplomats and a number of former comrades from Ture’s activist days in the United States _ assembled in an outdoor pavilion beneath a 50-foot-long mosaic of a black man breaking manacles on his hands.

Ture’s coffin lay on a table adorned with pictures of Ture and his self-chosen namesakes _ deceased African leftist heroes Ahmed Sekou Toure, Guinea’s former president, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana.

An ambulance with its sirens blaring led a 15-car procession to the funeral. Behind it followed Ture’s own automobile, an unpretentious black and red Citroen Deux Chevaux.

Above the speakers hung a banner that read: ``The CIA gave me cancer. Kwame Ture.″ Ture and his family had accused the CIA of inflicting him with the disease that eventually killed him.

Ture, who was born in Trinidad but raised in New York, began his political career as a college student in the 1960s, helping to integrate public transportation in the American South as a freedom rider. He soon became one of the era’s most fiery figures, popularizing the term ``Black Power″ and changing the way many Americans viewed the once-nonviolent civil rights movement.

He headed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a center for leftist activism in the ’60s, and later became the honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party.

Angered when the Panthers tried to ally themselves with white radicals, Carmichael left the group, changed his name and moved to Guinea in 1968, at the invitation of Guinea’s brutal Marxist dictator, Sekou Toure.

Ture quickly became a fringe political figure and a man largely forgotten except for his ’60s activism. He spent the rest of his life lecturing and writing, preaching black power and championing socialism while condemning America, capitalism and Zionism.

Ismael Ghussein, secretary general of the Guinean Democratic Party, said Ture had dedicated his life to black people.

``Stokely the fighter, was always in front, beside and behind the people of Africa in the struggle to take back what was taken from them,″ Ghussein said in his remembrance.

Bob Brown, a longtime friend who was first arrested with Ture more than 30 years ago, said Ture’s political hopes became the center of his life.

``Kwame is a struggler. He struggled all his life, he struggled until the last second of the last minute of the last hour of the last day,″ Brown said to loud applause and cheering.

``I know that today my father is very happy _ happy because he will remain in Guinea,″ Ture’s son Bocar said.

Lost amid the political speeches was the human side of a man known for his gentleness toward his friends.

In the audience, Beverly Sylla, an American teacher married to a Guinean, said privately that Ture often called to cheer her up after her son died of brain cancer early last year.

``He wasn’t just about politics. He was caring, he was human. And they need to say that,″ she said, gesturing towards the speakers on the podium.

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