I often think of Sister Charshee
McIntyre who had great impact of all of us in the Black Liberation
Movement. I miss her dearly. I miss the late night talks, advice, and
consultation. I am sure that many other activists, scholars, and
leaders in our movement also miss her. Sister Charshee, like Queen
Mother Moore, was one of the Queen Mothers of our movement.
On Saturday, May 15, 1999, the
African Liberation Movement worldwide learned of the passing into
eternity, in New York, of our great Queen / Sister / Mother, Dr.
Charshee Charlotte Lawrence McIntyre.
Although Sister Charshee was not a
household name in the African Community, in this country, she was one
of our leading behind the scenes scholars, leaders, organizers, and
activists, who worked tirelessly for the liberation of African and
Native American people. Sister Charshee had indigenous, Native
American, lineage in her family.
Sister Charshee had battled with the
effects of Lupus and other illnesses for over twenty years. Even
though she was often in severe pain, she continued to travel to
important movement meetings, keep a busy lecture schedule, researched
vigorously, worked as a professor of Humanities and Chair of the
English Language Studies Program at the SUNY Old Westbury.
Dr. Sister McIntyre was the first
woman President of the African Heritage Studies Association, founded
by our recent ancestor, Dr. John Henrik Clarke. She served on the
Executive Board for many years and used this position to help mentor
numerous young researchers and scholars in their development.
I attended her Celebration of Life
on Friday, May 21, 1999 at the St. James Presbyterian Church in
Harlem, New York. More than a thousand people from all walks of life
attended and participated in the celebration, including her husband
of 41 years, renown instrumentalist, Dr. Makanda McIntyre and her two
“perfect sons,” as she called them, Kheil and Kaijee.
My esteemed colleague and friend,
the late Dr. Jacob Carruthers, who worked closely with Sister
Charshee over the years, was not able to attend the celebration but
wrote a beautiful and succinct statement that I was able to present
to the family.
Brother Jake, as we call him, wrote,
“In behalf of the Temple of the African Community of Chicago
and the Kemetic Institute, I wish to make our tribute on the occasion
of the transition of our beloved Sister and fellow worker. Dr.
Charshee Charlotte Lawrence-McIntyre, Maa Kheru (The Voice is
True). Sister Charshee was our Chief, a selfless leader in our
movement who contributed mightily, spiritually, and materially to our
Continuing, Brother Jake expressed
that “Dr. Charshee McIntyre’s specialty was promoting
good will, friendship, love, and unity among the various
organizations and personalities in our movement. In this regard, she
was without peer. She promoted us all, often remaining in the
background, although her spirit was always at the forefront.”
In concluding, Brother Jake made
this profound point. “Charshee always exuded the qualities of
African Womanhood: an obedient daughter; a caring sister; a devoted
wife; and a loving mother. Whatever the measure, she set the
One of Sister Charshee’s great
scholarly contributions was her book, Criminalizing A Race: Free Blacks During Slavery. Given the white
supremacy assault of the Criminal Justice System on African people in
this country, I think it would be a fitting tribute to Charshee to
read or re-read this most important book.
In our everyday conversations in the
African Community in America, the issue of African males and the
disproportionate number of them imprisoned in America’s jails
is frequently discussed.
Most of these discussions center
around the current problems of drugs, youth violence, poor education,
lack of economic opportunities, poor family life, and lack of proper
racial identity and cultural direction.
Often, the missing aspect of these
discussions is the historical context of the foundation of the white
supremacy Criminal Justice System and its multi-million dollar Prison
Dr. McIntyre’s book is a rare
and profound African centered analysis of the structural design of
this nation that has produced the disproportionate number of
imprisoned Africans in America, particularly African in America,
Without a clear historical
understanding of the continuous and growing trend of the
incarceration of African in America males, we will not be able to
counteract this long standing white supremacy public policy of this
country. Charshee’s book helps us understand this issue.
A key revelation in Dr. McIntyre’s
book is her explanation of the development of America’s prison
system and its immediate impact on Africans in America. She points
our, “To distinguish the prisons from earlier jails and to
suggest the essence of what the institution should be doing these
do-gooders coined a new name, penitentiaries, implying that prisoners
would be taught to be penitent regarding their crimes.”
In this connection, Dr. McIntyre
asserted, “These do-gooders created penitentiaries for the
reformation of deviants.” They considered free Africans in
America a natural population for these new institutions that began
imprisoning African in America males as far back as 1790.
Those of us in the National Black
United Front/NBUF, and other Black Movement organizations, have truly
missed Sister Charshee. Her spirit is guiding our work and she would
be particularly proud of our work in the Reparations Movement. Sister
Charshee was a strong advocate of Reparations for African people. Let
us continue to lift up the spirit of Sister Charshee and the millions
of our other ancestors who contributed so much. Hotep!