Friday, October 11, 2002, the leaders of the National Black
United Front, from around the country, began arriving in
Kansas City, Missouri
for our Fall Central Committee Meeting. The
meeting was scheduled to begin Friday evening with a welcome
reception and an all day meeting for Saturday, October 12th.
the Chicago contingency pulled into
the parking lot of the W. E. B. DuBois Learning
Center, I immediately observed
that many of the leaders of NBUF had arrived and were outside
the Center greeting and interacting with each other. It
was a beautiful day in Kansas
City and it was good to see that so many of the NBUF leadership
had arrived early in preparation for this important meeting.
an hour after our arrival at the W.E.B. DuBois Learning
Center, I received a call on my cell phone from Lloyd Kelley,
an activist from Chicago, and a MATAH organizer informing
me that our Brother, Kenneth Bridges had been killed by
a sniper somewhere in Virginia while pumping gas. Needless
to say, I found this hard to believe and accept. Immediately,
I began to call other MATAH organizers, specifically Gaston
Armour, the MATAH Regional Organizer for the Chicago
and Midwest area. Brother Gaston confirmed that our friend and fellow worker
in the Black Liberation Movement had become a victim of
a serial sniper.
I asked everyone to assemble and I made the announcement.
Obviously, everyone was shocked. I asked that we pour libations
for Brother Ken and use his spirit to begin our meeting
early. We dedicated our NBUF Central Committee Meeting to
Ken Bridges, the Co-Founder of MATAH.
had begun to work very closely with Brother Ken as we prepared
for the August 17, 2002 Millions For Reparations Mass Rally
D.C. Brother Ken was very helpful in
making this rally a “grand success.”
must admit, for a very long time I avoided meeting with
any of the representatives of MATAH who called NBUF Offices
seeking to explain the MATAH program. Personally, I had
become somewhat turned off, over the years, by people presenting
a variety of economic schemes allegedly aimed at helping
solve the economic problems of African people in America.
had become burned out from listening to these proposals.
I put up a barrier over the last two years and avoided meeting
with any MATAH representatives. But apparently, the Creative
Forces of the Universe did not want this to continue.
all the lengthy background, Gaston Armour joined the NBUF
Chicago Chapter and in our meeting, the evening he joined,
I discovered I knew his family, specifically his aunt, with
whom I’d worked over the years. It dawned on me that Gaston
was a member of the Armour family in Chicago
who owned a very popular Black-owned grocery store. The
Armour family has established a tradition in Chicago
of being a family of business people.
that moment on, Brother Gaston began to lobby me to become
a part of MATAH. One of our members, Sister Iris Dunmore,
had been attending some of the local MATAH meetings on our
behalf and suggested that we should give the MATAH concept
I broke down and agreed to meet with Brother Ken at my home
earlier this year. The meeting was only to be for an hour,
just to touch base. However, Ken and I hit it off so well,
we met in my living room for over four hours. It was truly
a meeting of the spirit of our ancestors and from that day
forward, Ken and I began talking every week on a regular
basis. It was out of that meeting that we made the linkage
between the demand for external reparations and its relationship
to what we must do to repair ourselves, which we began to
call “internal reparations.”
became clear to me that Ken Bridges was a deep thinker,
a brilliant organizer who had committed his life to the
liberation of Black people by making his vision of MATAH
become a reality.
as Ken explained it to me, was a concept given to him by
God. Ken constantly made the point that “MATAH was an economic
movement of self determination for Africans in America and around the world.”
Ken always reminded his audiences when speaking that “MATAH
emphasizes African cultural development and therefore the
products and services that the organization represents would
focus on the promotion of African culture.”
helped NBUF understand that by becoming a Network
we could help finance the work of NBUF. We had begun working
on identifying one-hundred NBUF members who would be willing
to purchase $30.00 worth of MATAH products each month that
would provide NBUF with a profit of $600.00 a month. A simple
but powerful formula if executed.
and his friend, and business partner, Al Willington, had
created a vision for products made by African people to
be purchased and distributed by African people around the
world. The key component of the MATAH concept, as Ken taught,
is not only should we purchase products from each other
that we produce, but we must also control the distribution
of these products.
the name of Kenneth Bridges, we should carry the MATAH vision
forward by remembering that “MATAH are those people of African
descent who know that practicing a race-first philosophy
is the key to obtaining true freedom for people of African
descent, and who refuse to be crushed.”
us always honor the spirit of our Brother, Ken Bridges.
Columnist, Conrad W. Worrill, PhD, is the National Chairman Emeritus
of the National Black United Front (NBUF). Click here
to contact Dr. Worrill.