Although there have been many honored and highly respected grandcestors whose names are said with reverence constantly, and who fought tirelessly in service of liberation and justice for Black people, there are also many more names who many do not and never will know. These are people who, despite relative anonymity and a severe lack of appreciation during their lifetime, worked just as honorably in service of liberation. In some cases, they were simply ahead of their time, and said things that no one, most unfortunately the would-be beneficiaries, Black people, simply were not ready to accept as truth, and advocated for doing things that Black people were not ready to do at that time. Because of this, they may have been labeled “crazy” or a “loose cannon” during the time in which they were alive and active. In other cases, they simply shunned most, if not all media attention, especially from the white controlled media, whose main existential function is to maintain white dominance and the perpetuation of the status quo through propaganda. They simply chose to do their work quietly and preferred to operate as an “underground hero”, and a “people’s champion”, with no need to broadcast or promote their work to the outside mainstream world in an attempt to create a cult of personality.
One of those relatively unknown, underappreciated Black revolutionary, liberation minded grandcestors is a man by the name of Carlos Cooks. Carlos Cooks is a man whose name I became familiar with watching a lecture by the Irritated Genie of Soufeese several years ago. During that lecture, Cooks was referred to as a man who is a quintessential “race man”, a man who kept the ideological principles of the honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey alive well into the 1960’s, when he met his untimely death. His aversion to media coverage and his oath to the community to not seek publicity at the expense of the work were noted as the main reasons why he had such a relatively low profile among the more well-known people of his ilk (Malcolm X, Garvey, Stokely Carmichael, Elijah Muhammad, kwk). I was intrigued by this and had to do further study as to who this man was. I looked for anything on him in the form of books, videos, and whatever other source of information available. But besides a few short YouTube videos, and very expensive out of print books that were going in excess of $500, I could not find much. This is until a gentleman by the name of Onitaset Kumat, host of The Pro Black Perspective and administrator of the blog African Blood Siblings, offered something called the Carlos A. Cooks Reader. In the Carlos A. Cooks Reader, he scanned these very expensive, out of print books featuring the writings of Carlos Cooks, as well as clips from his magazines that he ran to promote his organization and views, which were provided to him by Kohfe Atoapem Acemendeces. Onitaset offered this treasure for a small donation that I was more than happy to give.
Carlos Cooks was born in 1912 in the Dominican Republic to a mother and father from St. Martin. Cooks father was an ardent follower of Marcus Garvey, and Cooks was exposed to the teachings of Garvey at a very young age, attending UNIA meetings in the Dominican Republic with his father and uncle. His father was also a successful businessman, so Cooks was reared in an atmosphere of what could be described as economic success. Cooks came to Harlem, New York in 1929 and joined Garvey’s African Legion, becoming an officer at the age of nineteen. Carlos Cooks became a much-decorated officer and speaker within the UNIA, giving impromptu lectures on Black Nationalism on the streets of Harlem. He continued to hold a high place within the UNIA until Garvey’s death in 1940, when the UNIA fragmented and lost much of its stature. In the wake of this, Carlos started his own organization, the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM) in 1941. This was an organization that when described by Cooks himself, was to be “an educational, inspirational, instructive, constructive and expansive society. It is composed of people desirous of bringing about a progressive, dignified, cultural, fraternal and racial confraternity amongst the African peoples of the world”. Cooks was a writer of the first order, and a very charismatic orator, with a viewpoint and way with words that was not unlike another revered Black Liberation soldier, Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad, minus Dr. Khalid’s religious orientation, as Cooks described himself as an atheist (though he did advocate in his writings for Afrikan Spiritual concepts such as Vodoun).
In fact, Cooks’ way with words angered the white supremacist power structure to the extent that he was arrested for his street corner lectures and forced to make a choice to either do military service or be jailed and deported. Cooks understandably took the military option. Upon the end of WWII, Cooks left the Army, and got right back into Black liberation focused work, creating the United African Nationalist Movement. He also started the School of African History and Culture, as well as the Nationalist Social Club, in which was to serve as a networking outlet for men and women classified as Black to be able to exchange viewpoints and possible solutions to THE problem. Ideological differences forced him out of the UANM, and many members followed Cooks, as he re-formed the ANPM in 1949. Cooks organized with many of the greatest grassroots liberation minded Black people of that era, and started several publications, such as “the Street Speaker”, “Cavalcade Africana”, and “the Black Challenge”, in the same vein as Garvey’s earlier, very influential media apparatus, “the Negro World”. In the 1950’s, Cooks was a main organizer and a fierce advocate for the “Buy Black” campaign, which was described as “an economic doctrine which would result in the business life in the Black communities being put into the hands of the community simply by adjusting the communities spending habits”.
He was behind several annual events designed to institute and cultivate the concept of Black Self Respect by honoring Black liberation minded men and women. He created Marcus Garvey Day on Garvey’s birthday, August 17th, and Freedom Day on Jan. 1st. He also created an annual event to celebrate the unique beauty of Black women, by creating a beauty pageant called the “Miss African Standard of Beauty” pageant. He publicly railed against the word “negro” being used to describe Black people, due to the dehumanizing tone and history of the word. Cooks was said to have been highly influential on and admired by none other than the great Malcolm X, who was a regular at his lectures, who shared the public space with the ANPM on the streets of Harlem, and who shared the rostrum with Cooks at rallies and lectures. In fact, after Malcolm left the Nation of Islam, when he started a group called the OAAU (Organization for Afro-American Unity), literature from the ANPM was distributed at OAAU meetings. Cooks was also highly admired and influential on another Pan-Afrikan hero, the honorable Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who upon a visit to New York personally invited Carlos Cooks to speak at his event. Cooks attempted to build a new building to serve as both a monument to Garvey, the concepts of Pan-Afrikanism and Black Nationalism, as well as a centralized base of operations for the ANPM. But ultimately, he was sabotaged in his efforts, and passed away before the building could be completed. Despite many enemies, both Black and non-Black, Carlos Cooks remained a warrior and outspoken advocate for Black Nationalism until he passed away on May 5th, 1966.
Although, due in no small part to his own vow of silence to the white media and his seeming distrust of and aversion to any attention of any kind from outside of the community that he faithfully served and dutifully tried to fight on behalf of, not much has survived in the way of information on Mr. Cooks. I was extremely fortunate to have come across this offering by Onitaset, which allowed me access to the books, writings and publications of Mr. Cooks by way of the Carlos A. Cooks Reader. This piece is a demonstration that regardless of popularity and cult of personality factors, selfless, constructive work will always be appreciated and respected by the sincere. As long as the names of the righteous ancestors who dedicated their time and energy to eliminating the problem are continuously spoken and kept alive by those who have selected themselves as soldiers in the counter racist struggle for justice and liberation for Black people, the work is never in vain, is never taken for granted, and will always be valued. I myself have come at a time in which I can view Mr. Cooks activities with the benefit of hindsight (hindsight is 20/20 as the saying goes), and through hindsight, I can deduct that perhaps Cooks dedication to creating organizations, as well as other aspects of his ideology could be debated. But Cooks is to be saluted and highly honored by me for having the dedication to Black liberation to attempt to do what he thought was best to liberate the thoughts and actions of Black people worldwide, according to the information that he had, and within the paradigm that he was familiar with at that time, as well as giving many who came behind him an ideological foundation to build upon and refine. Salute to the great Carlos Cooks. May his name, ideology, spirit and works live forever.
Osei, 21st Century Race Man