Saturday, November 29, 2008

Memphis Civil Rights Legend & Kwanzaa Pioneer Joins The Ancestors Today...

By Dr. Karanja A. Ajanaku | Nov. 29, 2008
Memphis Tri-State Defender

Adjua Abi Naantaanbuu-Ali, longtime president of Kwanzaa International, Inc., died Saturday, November 29.

Plans for a memorial service will be announced soon.

Adjua Abi Naantaanbuu-Ali celebrates Nia (purpose) during the Kwanzaa Celebration at Lester Elementary School last year. (Photo by Earl Stanback)

Last year was the 28th Anniversary of Kwanzaa in Memphis. In an interview before the celebration she shared this quote with the Tri-State Defender:

“During the days of slavery, our culture and our way of life were completely taken away from us. Kwanzaa helps us to re-discover who we are, and restores a sense of pride. It is just inspiring for Afrakan-Americans. And as always, we are encouraging everyone to come out in Afrakan attire!”

Adjua Abi Naantaanbuu-Ali and Adimu Ali -- Kwanzaa 2007. (Photo by Earl Stanback)

During the 40th commemoration of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., she reflected with the Tri-State Defender’s Wiley Henry about the dinner she had at her home for Dr. King the night before he was killed.

‘He’s not coming’ to dinner’

It was a Kodak moment for Adjua Naantaanbuu and her famous guests who had dinner at her home in Binghamton, approximately 24 hours before one of them was fatally wounded by an assassin’s bullet.

But nobody thought to bring a camera to capture the once-in-a-lifetime experience for posterity.

Forty years later, Naantaanbuu still remembers the dinner scene with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Ralph Abernathy munching on steak, a baked potato, a salad, and sipping cold ice tea.

Earlier that day on April 3, she had picked up Dr. King, Dr. Abernathy, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Bernard Lee and a woman named Mrs. Cotton from the airport in her 1966 duce and a quarter, and drove them to the Lorraine Motel for lodging.

It took them so long to check in, said Naantaanbuu, who wondered why Dr. King was given a room upstairs at the motel when several were available on the lower level.

“When they finished, I took them to Centenary Methodist Church on McLemore, where Rev. Jim Lawson was the pastor. They had a meeting there. Then I took them back to the Lorraine.”

Since Dr. King was in Memphis for the sanitation workers strike, Naantaanbuu said Dr. King wanted to know what the daily newspaper had written about him.

“He asked me about The Commercial Appeal and talked about his involvement in the ‘movement.’ He said he tried to get out of it and couldn’t.”

Naantaanbuu also said Dr. King talked about the time a busload of people came to his house to talk to him, and he told his wife to tell them he wasn’t there.

“He said he was just tired. But the people said they’d wait. So he did talk to them,” she recalled him saying. “He said the group told him that people in Mississippi were dying from malnutrition. And he told them he would take the issue to Washington, D.C.”

Before Dr. King delivered his ‘Mountaintop’ speech that night at Mason Temple, Naantaanbuu said Dr. Abernathy had asked her to prepare dinner for the group.

Later that evening, torrential rains started pelting the church and wouldn’t let up. “It was so much rain. I’d never seen that much rain in my life,” said Naantaanbuu.

After Dr. King’s chilling speech, she said Solomon Jones, an employee at R.S. Lewis Funeral Home, drove Dr. King and Dr. Abernathy to her home for late night dinner.

She said they didn’t leave until the rain let up around 2 a.m. “After the April 3 dinner, Naantaanbuu said she was asked to prepare dinner again on April 4.

“They wanted chitterlings, spaghetti and slaw. I asked them what time they wanted to eat. They said 4 o’clock. So I started cooking around 2:30 that evening.

“At 4:30, they didn’t show up. So I called Bernard Lee. He said they were in a meeting and would be right over. I found out they were in a meeting with Jesse Epps and Bill Lucy, who had invited Dr. King to go to dinner.

“I was also told (Rev. Samuel) ‘Billy’ Kyles had invited them to dinner. Bernard Lee said he didn’t know Billy Kyles had fixed dinner for them. But he said they would drop the staff over to his house and then they would come to my house.”

The food was ready, Naantaanbuu said. “I was sitting there with the table set.”

Then a girlfriend called and asked Naantaanbuu if she had the TV on. “I told her I was sitting on the couch waiting for Dr. King to come to dinner. She said, ‘girl, he’s not coming. He’s been assassinated.’”

*W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special*

Eye-Witness To The Crucifixion: The Last Days Of MLK...


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