“We have to have houses of knowledge where we can just come and rest and learn.”
These words were expressed by Haki Madhubuti in reference to Pan African Connection & Bookstore on a recent visit to Dallas earlier this month.
At 81, Madhubuti, the founder of Third World Press in Chicago, and a leading voice in The Black Arts Movement, also acknowledged, “I would not be here if it wasn’t for Black women.” He added that Black women “are critical in terms of our continued development,” as he pointed out the honor of having been a publisher of the works of poet Gwendolyn Brooks. She is the first Black author to win a Pulitzer Prize. She won in 1950 for her work “Anne Allen” published one year earlier.
Speaking about his life as a poet, artist, publisher, historian, and friend to other icons in the arts, Madhubuti shared that he started Third World Press fifty-five years ago with $400 and a mimeograph machine in the basement of his apartment. “I was on a mission to discover who I was and where I came from,” he recalled as he recounted some traumatic experiences in his life including the death of his mother in the 1950s. She was 34 when she died while being sex trafficked.
As Madhubuti spoke to the audience, stressing the importance of acquiring knowledge and teaching our children, he cautioned the audience to remain proactive amid the political attacks that are seeking to erase the contributions of Black people from curriculums. “We are under attack all over this country. We must push literacy and reading at another level and teach at the interest of our children and honor Black history.”
As the audience responded with head nods of affirmation and claps, he continued, “They try to stop you but they cannot stop wisdom and knowledge.”
Near the end of his talk, Madhubuti read from some of his published works, and wowed the crowd with his quick wit, lucidness and ease of remembrance in sharing his involvement in some of the most pivotal events in our history, including his friendship with the late Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X.
Among the gems of wisdom he shared was this: “If you’re not making decisions for your life, you’re making choices within the parameters of someone else’s decisions.”
These lasting words echoed through Pan African Connection & Bookstore and were spoken as only an elder could: “We don’t have to apologize to anyone for being Black.
We have to be warriors and build independent black institutions. How can I help myself, my family and my people is the first question we should be asking.”
Video: Haki Madhubuti reading from his published work.