Kwame Afoh and Reginald Booker at bus protest: 1970
Edell Lydia Jr. (later Kwame Afoh) and Reginald Booker are shown July 10, 1970 at a press conference at the Nash Methodist Church in Brookland at a press conference during a direct action protest against bus fares.
A series of direct action protests against bus fare increases took place in the District of Columbia from 1966-72—this one called on bus riders in the Benning Road corridor to pay only 25 cents of the 40 cent fare.
Up to half the riders in the corridor participated with some buses tied up as operators stopped their bus and called police. The passengers on the bus would then de-board and board another bus tying up the line.
16 people were arrested including a number of the organizers who waited for police to arrive.
Booker was head a veteran rights activist and leader of the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis and a steering committee member of the Black United Front who led fights for the public takeover of the private bus system; against new freeways in the city; for building the Metrorail system; for upgrading, promoting and ending discrimination among public employees and construction workers and for better schools in the District of Columbia.
Afoh was a prominent black nationalist in the city for 20 years who led this action against the buses that helped spur the public takeover of the private D.C. Transit bus system.
He first realized the determined resistance of white supremacists when he was beaten during a lunch counter protest at age 18 as a freshman at Talladega College in Alabama.
Afoh said in a 2002 interview "I went to jail. I didn't have an African consciousness then. I was just learning ... But Talladega schooled me as to how much hate was out there. It was there that the calling hit me."
He served as a delegate from Washington, D.C. to the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana in 1972.
He changed in name to Afoh in 1973 after having an African spiritual awakening. Afoh became vice-president of the Republic of New Africa.
He won five-figure suit against his employer, IBM, in 1975. He spoke out in 1982 after Edward Thomas Mann shot two people to death and wounded seven others at the IBM building in Bethesda, Md., saying that the shootings were the result of IBM’s “insidious, vile and racist policies” toward black people.
He was involved in a 1985 organizing conference for youth in the District of Columbia that offered workshops in problem-solving and coping skills.
Afoh moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.in 1994 to be near his son.
There he was a prominent member of Citizens Concerned About Our Children, an organization that successfully sued the school district in 1994 over inequitable distribution of resources between predominantly black and white schools.
He also worked on immigrant rights issues in Florida and was an early opponent of the 2003 war in Iraq before the rest of the nation learned there were no “weapons of mass destruction.”
He was quoted on his views about black nationalism:
“A black nationalist is one who is building, perpetuating and growing a group of peope who constitute a nation to gain a greater sense of self-determination. It’s not necessarily about race but a common future. I don’t hate anybody else. I just want the right to be free. Self-determination.”
Afoh headed the Pan Afrikan Nationalists of South Florida until his death in 2010.
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHskrqfbpr
Photo by Ray Lustig. The image is cropped from a larger photograph and is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.