Friday, December 12, 2008

Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael)

In March of 1969 I came down with malaria and spent a very unpleasant two weeks up in Kenema trying to deal with it. Along with this, I also had some stomach problems - mainly a persistent ache in my abdomen associated with nausea and inability to eat. This all began after I returned from a mountain climbing trip to the Loma Mountains. I lost considerable weight. Jim Alrutz, the Peace Corps director for the Eastern Province drove me down to Freetown to get checked out by the Peace Corps doctor. However by the time I saw him (his first name was Dudley - I do not remember his last name) in Freetown I was feeling better. On the first night of my stay in Freetown, I ran in to a few volunteers who were in Freetown and after checking in to stay at Fourah Bay College (for some reason I must have been staying there although I can not remember how this was arranged), we eventually met up in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel. We went there with Joseph Kennedy, who in those days was head of the Sierra Leone Peace Corps program. I think there were a few other Peace Corps officers with us that night. We all had a few beers ('You're brighter by far on a Star'), when, as we were sitting in the lobby, we were joined by Stokely Carmichael (also known as Kwame Ture). I suspect that Joe Kennedy must have known him. Mr. Carmichael was in Sierra Leone with his wife, a well-known singer named Miriam Makeba. She had given a few concerts in Sierra Leone. I remember him complaining that she had not received pay for the concerts and this made him angry. Stokely Carmichael had been a well-known U.S. civil rights activist in the early 1960's and was once head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committe (SNCC) and also had leading role in the Black Panthers. However he had left the U.S. and during the late 1960's was living in Guinea. That night - except for his expressed frustration with Sierra Leonean concert organizers, he was rather surprisingly calm and placid. This was so different from his earlier U.S. public personna. We all joked. He was very cordial and friendly to us. After an hour or so of small-talk, and a few Star beers, he left and we went up to the College to sleep. The next morning I headed back to Kenema with Jim Alrutz. Miriam Makeba was quiet - she sang for us.

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