I recently received an urgent appeal from Susan Taylor via April Silver’s Put on Blast Email Marketing Service. In essence, Sister Susan was reaching out to Black America, requesting that we invest in Third World Press by contributing to this storied institution as it strives to weather the devastating economic downturn. Since the 60s, Black book stores and publishing houses have struggled through cycles of boom and bust in terms of economic conditions and the state of political consciousness in the Black community. Through it all, for more than 40 years, Third World Press has not only survived, it emerged as the largest Black-owned publishing company and “standard bearer for progressive black literature” in the U.S. Therefore, as an exercise in Ujimaa (Collective Work and Responsibility) and Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), I am totally committed to doing whatever I can to support the consolidation and expansion of Third World Press.
There is absolutely no doubt that the success of Third World Press (TWP) and associated institutions is due to the fierce and unrelenting dedication of Haki R. Madhubuti and his very talented wife and partner Safisha. A driving force behind the Black Arts and Culture Movement in the 60s, Haki Madhubuti (formerly known as Don L. Lee) exploded onto the scene as one of the “baddest poets on the planet.” At the height of the era of Black Consciousness/Black Power, no national conference or notable event was complete without words from warrior poets like Askia Muhammad Toure, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka and Haki Madhubuti.
However, Haki was not content just being a poet, writer/author and teacher; he set as his life’s mission the building of viable Black institutions that could impart quality education and critical information to people of African descent through literature/books. Heeding the exhortations of his hero Malcolm X that Black people should “control the politics and social life” of the Black community, Haki and Safisha were committed to creating community-building/nation-building institutions. They co-founded the Institute for Positive Education (IPE) and TWP as the cornerstones of their pursuit. Indeed, Haki tells the story of starting TWP with an investment of a $400 honorarium earned from a poetry reading. The Press began in the basement of a house on the south side of Chicago. The first major piece of equipment was a second- hand mimeograph machine. With clear vision, creativity, skill and dogged determination, Haki and Safisha eventually grew TWP into a major Black enterprise housed in a multi-million dollar facility that occupies an entire city block. Operated by IPE, this facility is also home for the New Concept Development Center, an accredited pre-school and the Betty Shabazz International Charter School. By any reasonable standard, these are formidable achievements.
Safisha Madhubuti is recognized as one of Black America’s leading educators, serving as Associate Professor of Learning Sciences & African American Studies and Co-Coordinator of the SESP Spencer Research Training Program at Northwestern University. Prior to his retirement, Haki held the position of Distinguished Professor and Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University. He recently was appointed Distinguished Professor at DePaul University. Their academic careers have been an extension and complement to their commitment to institution building as reflected in IPE and TWP. Indeed, both have used their academic and literary accomplishments to undergird their community-building/nation building work. Over the past four decades, Haki has published 24 books and he is recognized as one of the iconic authors and poets of the last half century. This has enhanced the stature of TWP as the leading Black publishing company in America.
Haki and Safisha Madhubuti have devoted all of their adult lives to working for the liberation of Black people. They did not build IPE and TWP for self-enrichment. They built them to enrich and empower Black people. Despite the fact that we have a Black family in the White House, there is a “state of emergency in Black America.” The violence, crime, fratricide and social disintegration in urban America are frightening dimensions of this crisis. In addition to changes in the political economy, there has been erosion in the kind of self-affirming Black consciousness that comes with the knowledge and awareness of one’s history, culture and legacy of achievements. We cannot afford to lose institutions like IPE and TWP that function to provide life-giving education, critical information and art/culture. Nor in the face of the crises afflicting Black America is it a good example to allow a cherished institution like TWP to perish. It is our collective duty to invest in TWP because of its inestimable value to the collective well being of Black people. Moreover, we have a collective responsibility to reward the decades of hard work, sacrifice, tender love and care of dedicated freedom fighters like Haki and Safisha Madhubuti with expressions of our love and gratitude for standing up for the race!
Haki and Safisha need to raise $500,000 by the end of this month to restructure TWP and equip it to compete effectively in economic hard times. It can be done. It must be done. Susan Taylor and her partner Khephra Burns have taken the lead in exercising their responsibility by sharing their resources via a contribution to TWP. In so doing, they are setting the example that conscious and committed people of African descent should follow. My check is in the mail. As soon as you read this article, I hope you will write one too and spread the word to family and friends to do likewise. Through Ujimaa and Ujamaa, we can preserve and expand Third World Press!
To support Third World Press, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773.651.0700
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website and www.northstarnews.com. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at email@example.com.