Before there was a national holiday day dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a month-long celebration of Black History, or national movement toward acknowledgement of Juneteenth Day there was a Black Solidarity Day.
Established in 1969, from the beginning years Blacks and Caribbean nationals in NYC heeded the call for a day to unify and reflect on cultural and historical issues.
It was the vision of Panamanian Dr. Carlos Russell — born Aug. 6, 1934 — to launch the day in order to assess the conditions of Blacks in America; gather and find solutions as a unified race committed to solidarity and purposeful change.
The Pan-African intellectual chose the eve of each November election as the annual commemorative date to execute his ideal, which demanded participants refrain from work, school, shopping at white owned establishments and instead dedicate the time to teaching, learning, volunteering and enhancing the conditions of disfranchised individuals.
Russell’s intent was also to demonstrate the economic might of the race.
By holding a one-day moratorium on shopping, indisputable evidence of Black economic might would not be ignored.
The day of absence resonated with immediate attention from Black college students who embraced the notion of investing 24 hours to positively impact the community.
Some used their campuses as rallying points to hold workshops, forums, and a myriad of enlightening replacements to scheduled curriculum.
In time, senior citizens, activist and politicians acknowledged BSD.
With reportedly increased incidences of racial strife, flagrant exhibition of white supremacy and emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, commemoration of the 51-year-year anniversary in 2020 seems more significant than ever.
In his lifetime, Russell conferred with Malcolm X, Cong. Shirley Chisholm, diplomats from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and in his position of Dean at Brooklyn College expressed the urgency of a Pan-African perspective on issues related to the global population.
Had he lived past the age of 84 years, Russell might have had more than a few words to opine about the kneeling suffocation death to Floyd Lloyd, the intrusive police shooting of Breonna Taylor in her home, the irresponsible shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the most recent police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr, who was killed in Philadelphia, protests throughout the nation, the political discord that divide the nation, America’s diminishing image around the world, disparity among Covid-19 casualties and a plethora of other concerns.
He might have positioned himself at the fore-front leading discussions about police brutality and undoubtedly raising an urgent call to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
Since migrating to Chicago, Illinois and later here to Brooklyn he relentlessly advocated for change.
It has been widely published that “While serving as the Panamanian Ambassador for the United Nations, Dr. Russell was inspired by Douglas Turner Ward’s fictional play “Day of Absence” in which a small town in the South is suddenly devoid of its Black population and is crippled by their absence.”
That singular production sealed the need for a trailblazing effort he is now memorialized.
The Panama-born, Brooklyn resident was described as an activist; visionary, ambassador, historian, literary artist, poet and playwright.
He died in his sleep on July 10, 2018.
Russell’s legacy will prevail with virtual presentations from SUNY New Paltz and other campuses as well as a 3 pm rally from Bed-Stuy Restoration Center (1360 Fulton St.) A 7 pm Zoom event will begin at FB@BlackSolidarityDay.
Throughout the day, observants of BSD are urged to display the Black Liberation colors of black, red and green.
Catch you on the Inside!
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