Pan African Orthodox Christian Church
Pan African Orthodox Christian Church
Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman
Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr.
Founder and 1st Holy Patriarch - PAOCC
On Feb. 20, 2000, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the founder and first holy patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOOC), returned to the ancestors at the age of 88.
Since then, the PAOCC and others who cherish the life, work and legacy of this visionary theologian, master-teacher, freedom fighter, nation-builder, father and father-figure, who on Easter Sunday 1967
1967 proclaimed the self-determinationist creed of Black Christian Nationalism (BCN) to restore the African roots of Christianity and resurrect the original Israel as a "black nation within a nation," have commemorated the anniversary of his passing as the "Day of Remembrance."
FROM MOVEMENT TO CHURCH TO DENOMINATION
Jaramogi Abebe read the creed at a "Black Religion and Black Revolution" symposium at Duke University, Durham, N. C., on April 8, 1972.
He was then the presiding bishop of the Black Christian Nationalist Movement, founded on March 26, 1967, when he unveiled at Central United Church of Christ, formerly Central Congregational, Glanton Dowdell's striking nine-by-18-foot Black Madonna and child chancel mural, after which the church would be renamed in January 1968.
From Jan. 27-30, 1972, the then-Reverend Cleage served as the general chairman of the second biennial Black Christian Nationalist Convention at Shrine #1, during which the BCN Movement became the BCN Church, a new "black" denomination. When he read the creed at Duke, he neglected to change "Movement" to "Church" in the final sentence
In July 1978, the BCN Church evolved into the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church, named in honor of the African Orthodox Church (AOC), which grew out of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). After this, "Pan African Orthodox Christian Church" replaced "Black Christian Nationalist Church" in the creed.
NEW TITLE AND NAME
Five days before the Duke appearance, Sala Andaiye (a.k.a. Lula Adams), the Detroit minister's new secretary, advised the symposium's organizer: "We also have given Rev. Cleage an African name, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, and address him as Jaramogi."
His Luo title (Jaramogi) and Amharic and Akan names (Abebe Agyeman), erroneously identified as Kiswahili by an amateur African names book, was given to him by the late Rev. George Bell, the BCN convention coordinator, who soon took the Kiswahili title Mwalimu and the Fulani and Kikuyu names Askia-Ole-Kariuki.
ORIGINAL BCN CREED
Below is the original creed read by Jaramogi Abebe (all-capitals represent the bold font used for "believe"; "INDIVIDUALISM" was capitalized in the original):
"I BELIEVE that human society stands under the judgment of one God, revealed to all and known by many names. His creative power is visible in the mysteries of the universe, in the revolutionary Holy Spirit which will not long permit men to endure injustice nor to wear the shackles of bondage, in the rage of the powerless when they struggle to be free, and in the violence and conflict which even now threaten to level the hills and the mountains.
"I BELIEVE that Jesus, the Black Messiah, was a revolutionary leader, sent by God to rebuild the Black Nation Israel and to liberate Black people from powerlessness and from the oppression, brutality, and exploitation of the white gentile world.
"I BELIEVE that the revolutionary spirit of God, embodied in the Black Messiah, is born anew in each generation and that Black Christian Nationalists constitute the living remnant of God's chosen people in this day, and are charged by him with responsibility for the liberation of Black people.
"I BELIEVE that both my survival and my salvation depend upon my willingness to reject INDIVIDUALISM and so I commit my life to the liberation struggle of Black people and accept the values, ethics, morals and program of the Black Nation, defined by that struggle, and taught by the Black Christian Nationalist Movement."
At the end of the recording, Jaramogi Abebe pauses, then says, "That's a creed." Indeed!
~Source You Tube page of Bro. Paul Lee February 2014
Excerpt of interview by scholar Paul Lee with Edward Vaughn, who explains how he oversaw the creation of Detroit's world-famous Black Madonna and child chancel mural at Shrine of the Black Madonna #1 of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC), 7625 Linwood at Hogarth, conducted at the church's Black Theology room, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013.
Known as Mwalimu (Kiswahili for "teacher"), Vaughn happened to be visiting Detroit, where he once owned a nationally-known "black" bookstore on Dexter Avenue (http://findingeliza.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/NegroDigest67-6-19-PhotoCutline.jpg), from his hometown of Dothan, Ala., on the first Sunday of the PAOCC's Anniversary Month, which this year celebrates the church's Diamond, or 60th, anniversary:
Mwalimu Vaughn stopped by the Mother Shrine, as PAOCC members call it, to see his old friend and fellow Nashville University classmate Cardinal Karamo Omari, a. k. a., Ronald Hewitt.
FROM WHITE PILGRIM TO BLACK MADONNA
In late 1966, the church's pastor, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, then known as the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who was often called "Rev." by his parishioners, directed Mwalimu Vaughn, chairman of the Black Heritage committee of what was then known as Central United Church of Christ (UCC), to replace the church's chancel mural.
Installed when it was the all- or mostly-"white" Brewster-Pilgrim Congregational church, it portrayed the 1620 landing at Plymouth Rock by Elder William Brewster, who had sailed aboard the "Mayflower" to the "New World."
Mwalimu Vaughn commissioned artist Glanton V. Dowell to paint an 18-by-nine-foot oil chancel mural of a Black Madonna and child. It was inspired by "Black Madonna," a poem by Detroiter Kofi Wangara, then known as Harold G. Lawrence, published in "Negro Digest" in June 1962, which could be read online here:
However, Mwalimu Vaughn first had to persuade Jaramogi Agyeman to abandon his idea of a mural of a Black Messiah, or Christ, which he wanted Jon (later Onye) Lockard to paint. Dowdell chose as his model Rose Waldron and was assisted in painting the mural by local activist General G. Baker, Jr.
AN IMPOSSIBLE CONCEPTION
Jaramogi Agyeman unveiled the mural on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967, when he proclaimed the Black Christian Nationalist Movement, or BCN, which sought self-determination in a "black nation within a nation."
"We really don't need a sermon this morning," Jaramogi Agyeman began. "We could just sit here and look at the Black Madonna and marvel that we've come so far...; that we can conceive of the possibility of the son of God being born by a black woman.
"And that's a long way for us 'cause it wasn't so long ago when that would've been an impossible -- an impossible -- conception because our idea of ourselves was so distorted. We didn't believe that even God could use us for His purpose because we were so low, so despised, because we despised ourselves. We despised ourselves."
And to have come to the place where we not only can conceive of the possibility, but to have come to the place where we are convinced, upon the basis of our knowledge, of our historic study, upon the basis of all the facts, that we are not only capable of conceiving of the idea, but we are convinced that Jesus was born to a black Mary; that Jesus, the Messiah, was a black man; [and] that the nation that he came to save was a black nation."
A portion of his sermon could be heard online here:
The church was rechristened the Shrine of the Black Madonna in January 1968.
OLD AND NEW MURAL
Photos of both murals could be seen online on "Finding Eliza," the blog of Kristin Cleage Williams, the eldest of Jaramogi Agyeman's two daughters, here:
'GREAT PAX WHITIE'
In the summer of 1967, Mwalimu Vaughn and Cardinal Karamo invited fellow Fisk graduate Nikki Giovanni, then a rising poet in the Black Arts Movement, to attend the Second Annual Black Arts Convention (also Conference), which Mwalimu Vaughn's black nationalist discussion group, Forum '66, held at Central UCC from June 29-July 2. Giovanni saw the new mural and later mentioned it in her 1968 poem "The Great Pax Whitie," which could be read online here:
Before leaving the church to return to Alabama, Mwalimu Vaughn was warmly received in the pastor's study by PAOCC Presiding Bishop Demosthene Nelson, a. k. a., Jaramogi Menelik Kimathi. "I got half my education in your bookstore!" the presiding bishop told Mwalimu Vaughn.
Painter Glanton V. Dowdell with his world-famous Black Madonna and child chancel mural, Central United Church of Christ, c. March 1967. Enlarge the photo to see the details highlighted by Mwalimu Vaughn in his video interview. After Shrine # 9 was established at Atlanta, Ga., in 1975 and Shrine #10 was founded at Houston, Tex., in 1977, similar murals were painted at those churches. (James D. Wilson Photo/Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Archives, Courtesy Kristin Cleage Williams)Painter Glanton V. Dowdell with his world-famous Black Madonna and child chancel mural, Central United Church of Christ, c. March 1967. Enlarge the photo to see the details highlighted by Mwalimu Vaughn in his video interview. After Shrine # 9 was established at Atla...
Jaramogi Abebe Aygeman (left), then known as the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., founder and first holy patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC), with Mwalimu Vaughn (right), August 1968. (Bob Benyas Photo/Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Archives)Jaramogi Abebe Aygeman (left), then known as the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., founder and first holy patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC), with Mwalimu Vaughn (right), August 1968. (Bob Benyas Photo/Jaramog...
Mwalimu Ed Vaughn (left) with charismatic Black Power advocate Kwame Ture (center), then known as Stokely Carmichael, and Kwame Atta (right), then known as Arthur (Smitty) Smith, Fellowship (later Alice Strauther) Hall, Central United Church of Christ (later Shrine of the Black Madonna #1), July 31, 1966. (William W. Smith Photo/Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Archives.) Mwalimu Vaughn, Elder Atta and the former's Fisk University classmate Cardinal Karamo Omari, then known as Ronald Hewitt, all worked at the U. S. Post Office. The month before, from June 24-26, Mwalimu Vaughn and Elder Atta organized the historic First Annual Black Arts Convention (also Conference) at the church, which brought together many of the leading lights of the burgeoning Black Power and Black Arts movements, sponsored by Forum '66. Among the participants were Detroiters Grace Lee Boggs, Milton R. Henry, Denise Nicholas (later of television series Room 222 fame), Sylvia King, Oliver LaGrone, Martha Prescod, David Rambeau, Dudley Randall and Kofi Wangara, then known as Harold G. Lawrence; Muhammad Ahmad, then known as Max Stanford, of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM); South African K. William Kgositsile; John O. Killens; Lawrence P. Neal; and Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's widow, who brought four of their six daughters. Ture was unable to deliver the opening address because he in jail and was replaced by foreign correspondent Charles P. Howard. Mwalimu Vaughn and Elder Atta would later organize the Pan-African Congress, U. S. A. Mwalimu Ed Vaughn (left) with charismatic Black Power advocate Kwame Ture (center), then known as Stokely Carmichael, and Kwame Atta (right), then known as Arthur (Smitty) Smith, Fellowship (later Alice Strauther) Hall, Central United Church of Christ (later Shrine o...
Mwalimu Vaughn (foreground) being warmly welcomed into the pastor's study of Shrine of Black Madonna #1 by PAOCC Presiding Bishop Demosthene Nelson, a. k. a., Jaramogi Menelik Kimathi (left), Bishop Kehinde Briggs (center), Cardinal Baye Landy (2d from right, partially obscured) and Chiri Karega (right), general of the Holy Order of the Maccabees, Oct. 6, 2013. (Paul Lee Photo) Mwalimu Vaughn (foreground) being warmly welcomed into the pastor's study of Shrine of Black Madonna #1 by PAOCC Presiding Bishop Demosthene Nelson, a. k. a., Jaramogi Menelik Kimathi (left), Bishop Kehinde Briggs (center), Cardinal Baye Landy (2d from right, partial...
THE ROOTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF BLACK POWER
Submitted April 2012, by Bro. Paul Lee ~ Detroit, Michigan
CLICK HERE to read a recent article in The Michigan Citizen (Detroit), April 2012.
Content submitted by Bro. Paul Lee ~ Detroit, Michigan
Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman (Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.) when he was the chairman of the Michigan Freedom Now party, 1964. (Detroit News Photo/Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library)
Dear Nation and Friends,
COMMEMORATION AND CELEBRATION
As most of you know, this year the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC) is commemorating the centenary of its founder and first holy patriarch, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.
The Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Archives (JAAA),
which was headed by Kristin Cleage Williams, Jaramogi Abebe's eldest daughter, commemorated the 10th anniversary of his passing last Feb. 20 and celebrated his birthday on June 13 thru circular letters to the Nation and its friends, attaching rare documents from the JAAA.
The other committee members are Sala Andaiye (Adams), H.R. Lewis, Paul Lee and Lt. Tacuma Ribbron. The bulk of the archives were organized by Kris, Sis. Sala and Lt. Tacuma.
Yesterday, Bro. Paul was blessed to receive in the mail an unsolicited and unexpected gift, which the JAAA is honored to share with you: A rare interview with Jaramogi Abebe, who was then the pastor of Central Congregational church (which became Central United Church of Christ in October or November 1965 and the Shrine of the Black Madonna in January 1968).
It was conducted by the late, great Albert J. Dunmore, the managing editor of The Michigan Chronicle, and published in the Feb. 10, 1962, issue of that paper.
Because of the length of the article, it was necessary to scan it in two parts. Sis. Kris not only merged them into one, but also improved the quality of the image. It's attached in PC jpg format.
THANK YOU, TOM KAGE, PETER GOLDMAN AND GOD
The gift was from Tom Kage, an antique dealer at Northville, Mich. Recently, longtime PAOCC friend Peter Goldman purchased from Mr. Kage for the JAAA three original documents from the Michigan Freedom Now party (MFNP), which Jaramogi Abebe co-founded in October 1963 (we'll return to this below): a handbill, a bumper-sticker and a tin pinback button. We've attached photos of these documents for your reference.
Appreciating Bro. Paul's interest in the history of modern "black" Detroit, Mr. Kage mailed him a folder of precious old documents, including the interview. He attached the following note: "I just found this group of papers and thought it may be of interest to you regarding your research for your book."
When Bro. Paul called Mr. Kage to explain how valuable the interview is to the JAAA and the Cleage family, he replied, "You know that's God, don't you?" He promised to keep an eye out for any other documents that might be useful to the JAAA and the Cleage family. We would like to thank Mr. Kage, and God, for their generosity in support of our modest efforts.
THANK YOU, AL DUNMORE
Veterans of Detroit's civil-rights, Black Power and radical movements will be eternally grateful to Al Dunmore for providing among the city's fairest coverage of these movements in The Michigan Chronicle, mostly thru the exceptional reportage and commentary of Betty DeRamus and Carol Schmidt, even though Mr. Dunmore often editorially criticized them.
Black nationalists will be particularly grateful to Mr. Dunmore for asking Jaramogi Abebe in 1967 to submit a weekly column, "Message to the Black Nation," which Grace Lee Boggs, Jaramogi Abebe's able secretary, prepared from stenographic notes of his sermons and speeches. Thru this column, he was able to extend his already growing reach and influence.
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
This interview, which appeared a half-century ago, is a time capsule of Jaramogi Abebe and the "black" Detroit freedom movement, both of which were in the midst of changes that would help to define the balance of the decade and influence subsequent decades.
However, unlike most of his contemporaries, Jaramogi Abebe was conscious of this historical moment
"The Rev. Cleage," Dunmore noted, "contends Detroit is in the process of basic changes in organizational and individual leadership. 'There are only a few organizations which seem to be looking to the future. Too many of our organizations are hanging on to the past and are failing to recognize the needs of a fast changing social and economic pattern."
The following year, Jaramogi Abebe would help to shape that future by conceiving and helping to organize the historic "Walk To Freedom" march down Woodward Avenue, which was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on June 23. Until recently, the march and the massive Cobo Arena rally that followed it were mostly ignored by historians, but it is now acknowledged as having been larger than the better-known March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom two months later.
As the momentum of social change helped to accelerate Jaramogi Abebe's internal change, so did his view of others involved in the freedom movement. Therefore, the praise that he offered of the Trade Union Leadership Council (TULC), a "black" United Auto Workers (UAW) caucus, and the "Negro Preachers of Detroit and Vicinity" in his 1962 interview would prove short-lived, as he saw them focusing on symptoms rather than causes.
FROM 'BLACK BROTHERHOOD' TO BLACK POWER
Nineteen sixty-three also saw Jaramogi Abebe's formal embrace of black nationalism, which he alternately called "Black Brotherhood" in the pages of the militant Illustrated News newsletter, published and edited by his siblings and family friends.
Along with his brother Henry, a brilliant attorney, Jaramogi Abebe added up the math of America's ruinous "race" relations and concluded that "racial" integration was irrelevant and that power -- which Mukasa Dada (Willie Ricks) and Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) would call Black Power three years later -- was imperative.
FAILING OUR CHILDREN
For this reason, Jaramogi Abebe soon abandoned advocating the integration of the Detroit Public Schools, as he so passionately did in his Chronicle interview. Nevertheless, the core of his critique of the failure of the school system appears to remain valid:
"...the time is long past that action should have been taken against the many inequities which exist within the Detroit public school system.
"'They existed 30 years ago ... they exist today. The inequities are obvious. The results of these inequities can be seen by anyone who cares to look ... and yet we continue to wait 'and study.'"
Similarly, his critique of the federal Urban Renewal program, which he and others called "Negro Removal" after it destroyed the mostly "black" Paradise Valley and Black Bottom neighborhoods, seems applicable to the present "racial" and class gentrification of Detroit, where poor African Americans are being rapidly displaced and housing, businesses and institutions are being grafted upon their neighborhoods to serve the needs and desires of outsiders.
"We are calling together community leadership organizations and individuals to act in this matter of Urban Renewal," Jaramogi Abebe advised Mr. Dunmore. "We feel this entire question of housing is tied up in the manner in which Urban Renewal will be handled.
"At present time, the lack of concern for persons who are dislocated by Urban Renewal projects is only helping to create blighted areas in other sections of the city.
"All a person has to do is to walk through any community which has been earmarked for 'open occupancy' and they can see what is happening. We have enough departments and institutions established to correct these ills but these agencies seemed to be completely unconcerned.
"The Board of Health, the Bureau of Building and Engineering, the City Planning Commission and other such bureaus have the machinery through which they can act to prevent the extension of this blight."
Jaramogi Abebe called for the African American community to become "even more politically alert" and elect more "black" people to public offices. "There are a number of Negroes capable of serving these districts, Negroes who are as liberal and as pro-union as Representative John Dingell and, at the same time, far more capable of representing this large Negro constituency." (Five decades later, Dingell is still in office.)
The following year, Jaramogi Abebe, militant brothers Milton R. and Richard B. Henry (later Gaidi Abiodun and Imari Abubakari Obadele), James and Grace Boggs and organized the Michigan Freedom Now party, which is considered one of, if not the first all-"black" (with the exception of Chinese American Grace Boggs) political party in U. S. history.
In 1964, the MFNP ran a full slate of "black" candidates for office, with Jaramogi Abebe as its gubernatorial candidate. While none were successful, the party laid the foundation for the formation of the Black Slate, an independent political lobby, a decade later, which Coleman A. Young often credited for helping to elect him as Detroit's first African American mayor. The slate also helped elect many other African Americans to city, county, state and federal offices.
Before the organization of the MFNP, Jaramogi Abebe contended that "more pressure must be placed on the political machinery in city government" -- something that is just as important now that African Americans occupy these offices, which the efforts of Jaramogi Abebe and others helped to bring about.
BIRTHING THE FUTURE
Also in 1963, Jaramogi Abebe and the group that founded the MFNP organized the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference at Mr. Kelly's Lounge and King Solomon Baptist church on Nov. 9 and 10, with Nation of Islam (NOI) national spokesperson and New York Minister Malcolm X as the keynote speaker.
If the movement for Black Power or "black" self-determination has several birthplaces, this historic conference was among the most important, popularizing and legitimizing thru Jaramogi Abebe's and Malcolm X's speeches both the term and the philosophy of black nationalism.
(Malcolm X's famous "Message to the Grass Roots" speech, in which he quoted Jaramogi Abebe several times, was recorded and posthumously released as a long-playing record by Milton Henry.)
As you'll see in the interview, Jaramogi Abebe was fighting to redress many of the same problems that haunt "black" people in Detroit and thruout the country today.
"Employment, education, housing and politics are all areas in which positive action must be taken," he declared. "Some one [sic] has to attack these problems on as many fronts as possible."
Since Jaramogi Abebe, like Malcolm X, was deeply interested in the African decolonization movement, which was then freeing the continent from decades and even centuries of European political domination, it's possible that his use of the term "positive action" was adopted from or influenced by the strategy employed by Osageyfo ("Redeemer") Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in leading the British Gold Coast colony to freedom as the independent nation of Ghana in 1957. In any case, the strategy of education, protests and selective boycotts was the same.
'APOSTLE OF YOUTH'
By 1962, Jaramogi Abebe, the son of a "race man" father and a "race woman" mother, was already a veteran of civil-rights struggles in his previous pastorates at San Francisco, Calif., and Springfield, Mass.
While always a realist, he also felt the sense of optimism shared by many in the freedom struggle as it picked up steam, overturning the old order of "racial" subjugation and opening up opportunities previously denied African Americans.
"When first class citizenship is achieved," he said hopefully, "I can go back to pastoring and working with young people."
In high school, Jaramogi Abebe was the chairman of the youth group at St. Cyprian's Episcopal church and later became the youth minister at the Rev. Horace A. White's Plymouth Congregational church (now Plymouth United Church of Christ). In all of his ministries, Jaramogi Abebe had an emphasis on young persons, earning him the nickname the "Apostle of Youth."
Indeed, after the five-day 1967 Detroit Rebellion, which hastened Jaramogi Abebe's call for a "transfer of power" from the city's entrenched, nearly all-"white" political leadership into the hands of what would soon become the "black" majority, the membership of his church precisely doubled: From 600 to 1,200 members.
For good reason, some called the Shrine the "young people's church" because the bulk of its new members -- many of whom soon became its leaders -- were under 20 years old.
FOUNDATION OF THE 'BLACK' NATION
While Jaramogi Abebe soured on the goal of obtaining first-class citizenship and came to see the only secure future for his people in forming a "black nation within a nation" based on creating a counter-culture and building counter-institutions, one constant would remain: His belief that there should be no separation between the sacred and the secular, between the church and the "black" freedom struggle.
Indeed, he believed that the natural foundation of the "black nation" was the "black" church, which is why he proclaimed the creed of Black Christian Nationalism (BCN) on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967, to return the African American church to its revolutionary African roots.
To underline this vision, he unveiled on this occasion a striking eighteen-by-nine-foot chancel mural of a Black Madonna and child, which still proudly presides over the sanctuary.
"I am convinced," he said in the 1962 interview, "it is the church's duty to act in any area where the welfare of the community is at stake. As long as I feel this vacuum exists, I intend to speak out and act in any manner in which I see fit against these obvious inequities."
BEGGING THE QUESTION
Asked her opinion of her father's 1962 interview, Kris Williams replied:
"As I read it, I thought how the more things changed, the more they remained the same. We gained 'control' of Detroit, and yet the schools never improved, the neighborhoods looked worse each time I visited. Urban renewal and highway building stopped, but still communities disappeared. What if he could have seen where it would all go? Could something different have been done then so we didn't end up where we are now? What could any of us have done differently, wherever we were, so that reading the article wouldn't leave me feeling depressed?"
Which is why the JAAA is sharing this interview with you. After all, it implicitly begs the question: What are we doing today to redress the problems that Jaramogi Abebe and many others fought so hard to deal with then, and what lessons could we learn from their successes, and their failures?
On behalf of the JAAA, I have the honor to remain
Strict-Lee Ol' Skool BCN,
Content submitted on June 13, 2011 by Bro. Paul Lee ~ Detroit, Michigan
Jaramogi Abebe, then still known as the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., celebrating his 51st birthday with church member and community activist Helen Kelly, Central Congregational church, Detroit, Mich., June 1962. Central was rechristened the Shrine of the Black Madonna in January 1968. (William W. Smith Photo/Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Archives)
Dear Nation and Friends,
Had he not made his transition on Feb. 20, 2000, today would be the 100th birthday of Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, formerly the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., the founder and first holy patriarch of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC).
CENTER OF THE 'BLACK' WORLD
Late last year, we, as members of the Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Archives committee (JAAA), began planning for a celebration of this historic occasion with a public program that we hoped would demonstrate that Jaramogi Abebe, as he's affectionately called by the faithful, and the Shrine were at the center of the "black" world by mid-1967 or 1968. All roads to "black" liberation, it seemed, led from or to them.
This was due to their compelling conceptualization and articulation of the need for Black Power, or self-determination, and their challenge to the "black" church to return to its African roots and historical role as the chief agent of secular, as well as sacred, liberation. They pursued the latter by founding the Black Christian Nationalist Movement (BCN), later church, on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967.
As we stated in a circular letter on Feb. 20, 2011, the "Day of Remembrance" commemorating Jaramogi Abebe's transition, it's our considered opinion that he was "one of the most important theologians in U. S. history, among the most innovative social philosophers of the 20th century and one of the key figures in the movement for black cultural, economic, political and spiritual empowerment, or Black Power, which began in the mid-1960s. He was a visionary thinker, a brilliant organizer, a deft strategist and an effective promoter of ideas and builder of institutions.
"Yet, unlike many of his contemporaries during the tumultuous days of the modern civil-rights and Black Power movements, which changed this country and the world, Jaramogi Abebe's name, beliefs, program and history are rarely evoked, not even during what is now known as National African American History Month (February)."
We're convinced that Jaramogi Abebe, as a person, and the Shrine, as a church -- with all the faults and limitations that are an inevitable part of the human experience -- were among the most important molders of "black" consciousness in this country and around the world in the latter half of the 20th century, even though scholars have been slow to recognize and duly credit them for this signal contribution.
The program that we envisioned would be built around rare documents, photos and audio and video recordings, which would allow Jaramogi Abebe to speak for himself. While we're disappointed that circumstances did not allow us to do so on his birthday, we're determined that this is merely a postponement. We'll let you know when the program will be held, which will be part of an ongoing celebration thruout this year.
Working closely with the former chair of the JAAA, Kristin Cleage Williams, Jaramogi Abebe's eldest daughter, we've done our best to not only recover, preserve and organize the archives and records of his and the church's rich and unique history, but also to dig into them in order to place both within the precise historical contexts of the civil-rights, Black Power and black theology movements and to share our findings thru articles, public programs, YouTube.com videos and circular letters.
Since we're not hosting a program today, we've decided to attach links to some of our previous efforts to fairly, but critically, memorialize the history of Jaramogi Abebe and the Shrine, with particular focus on their militant, wide-ranging activism during the 1960s and early '70s.
The first links are to "Prophet of possibility," a four-part series that was published in The Michigan Citizen in 2008 to celebrate Jaramogi Abebe's 97th birthday.
The next links are to the last two articles of "UPRISING!" an eight-part series, also published in the Citizen, on the 1967 Detroit Rebellion.
The first article is an edited text of the powerful sermon that Jaramogi Abebe delivered on July 23, 1967, the first day of the rebellion, and includes a detailed introduction.
When the article was originally published, we were unable to include a link to the rare audio recording of Jaramogi Abebe's sermon, which differs substantially from the text that he edited. Please find below a YouSendIt link, which expires in one week, to download the mp4 audio file. If you've never heard him before, or haven't in a long time, you're in for a treat because he was one of the most spellbinding orators of his era, if not any er.
The second article is adapted from Kris Williams's private journal account of the rebellion, which includes a harrowing description of her family's reaction to the uprising and the local and federal response to it.
We've also attached links to two rare videos of Jaramogi Abebe. The first is an interview with him in Shrine of the Black Madonna #1, or the Mother Shrine, in January 1968. The second is a statement by him, made about October 1967, which was excerpted from a British television series and included in a discussion on the "UPRISING!" series on a 2008 Detroit public affairs program. Click on "more" or "See more" to read the full descriptions of the videos. To go directly to the second Jaramogi Abebe video, click on the link for "(7:49)" in the first sentence of the second paragraph. NAMEFinally, a little history on the name of the PAOCC's founder might be helpful to both members and non-members. When he was given his African name, Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, in 1972 (Jaramogi later became his title), he and his followers were taught that it meant in Kiswhahili "Liberator of the People," "Defender" and "Blessed Man," respectively (although variant meanings were also given).
He and his followers pronounced his name "Jer-rah-MOH-gee Ah-BAY-bay AH-gee-man," or "AH-gee-men."However, recent research has established that the origin, meaning and pronunciation of these names (with the exception of the pronunciation of the second) are all erroneous, probably based on an inaccurate African naming book -- which was more the rule than the exception in 1972.In fact, jaramogi, or simply ramogi, is an honorific Luo title, taken from the name of the mythical founder of the Luo people of Kenya (which President Barack Obama's father hails from), and it means "courageous." It's properly pronounced "JAH-rah-moh-ghee," with a hard g.Abebe is an Amharic word, from Ethiopia, meaning "flower" or "blossom."
Agyeman is an Akan word from West Africa, meaning "14th born." It's properly pronounced "Agh-YEH-man."PROPHET OF POSSIBILITY Part I, "Programming for power,"
June 15th-June 21st, 2008
Part II, "The economics of power," June 22nd-June 28th, 2008
Part III, "Spotlight on Black Power," June 29th-July 5th, 2008
Part IV, "Spotlight on Black Power," July 6th-July 12th, 2008
Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, "Rebellions Create Strange Leaders," in "UPRISING! Rare testimonies and reports on the '67 Detroit Rebellion," Part 8, October 14th-October 20th, 2007
Kristin Cleage Williams, "'67 Rebellion journal,"
October 14th-October 20th, 2007
A Nation Within a Nation: Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Explains 'Black' Self-Determination
Interview with Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, founder of the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian church (PAOCC) and father of the modern "black" theology movement, late Decembe...