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  • Recollections and Reflections
  • Thomas Warner (bio)

Among existing significant facts about "Queen Mother" Audley Moore, who arrived during the Renaissance in Harlem, New York—a period to which she rightly belonged—there is little-to-no commentary about my mother's relationship with and/or impact upon her biological family. Her life's achievements may seem, perhaps, to eclipse discussion about such matters. Yet, one could perceive it significant that she was a wife and a mother with a son during the Depression. There was, after all, Frank Warner, her husband, and Thomas O. Warner, their son. Albeit she claimed other sons (Malcolm X, to be sure), and some as daughters (Sonia Sanchez), but they came later. I had no siblings growing up, and there were times I felt quite lonely. I am her son and she called me "Tommy," her "Prince."

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Audley Moore was the matriarch of our family and had myriad jobs from domestic to hairdresser, contributing to the household, which, in addition to Dad and me, included for a time her two sisters, Loretta Langley (Aunt Rita) and Eloise, whom she had carried out of New Iberia, Louisiana. My father brought in income as a tailor. Also under our roof was Uncle Rudolph, Aunt Rita's husband, who was business savvy. Eventually, they bought and managed an apartment [End Page 159] building in the Bronx (where, after several years in Harlem, we also moved), and purchased 200+ acres of land in upstate New York (the Catskills) that was named Mt. Addis Ababa in memorial to Halie Selassie's beloved Ethiopia.

I observed as a youngster that Mom had a strong commitment to the plight of others. When she still could find more time, she volunteered in soup kitchens and, during World War II, the hospital wards. It may surprise some that she was hired for a period not less than two years as a seaman for the United States Merchant Marines assisting European brides of Negro servicemen left behind to enter this country and join their husbands after the war. So, there were periods of time when she was scarcely at home.

As a kid, my mom had me frequent RKO Movies at the theatre a few doors away from where we lived directly after school. While at home alone, the radio kept me company. These were the forms of protection upon which my mother depended if family wasn't available to watch me. She did not belong to just us. So, ultimately, it came to pass that my family had to share her, like it or not, with a spirit of unremitting compassion for her devoted activism.

When she wasn't out earning money, I noticed how much she liked standing on the marble stoops or on top of soap boxes chatting with "the people" (she called them). She learned quickly that she could cajole, ignite, and unite, as she was robust in her arguments and urgings from the lectures she'd read or listened to delivered by Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Elijah Muhammad, Kwame Nkrumah, and finally Malcolm, whom she indeed considered an adopted son (among others too countless to name). Her ever-expanding library of leaflets, newspapers, magazine articles, and countless books she got her hands on supported her positions, as she was considered, particularly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, increasingly militant.

A self-professed Garveyite, she belonged to the "Back to Africa movement." She belonged to the period when fledgling disputes between laborers and industries, to which she engaged, were happening, and street rallies were rampant. When white landlords were cutting off rent-paying tenants' heat in winter, my mother decided to organize in the Sugar Hill district where we, ourselves, lived for several years.

She asserted herself, sometimes in militant fashion (I was told) in town hall meetings and street rallies to support Adam Clayton Powell's reforms to end segregated city services and public programs. Perhaps, and as a result of such reform, I remember a summer camp called UNITY becoming integrated and being introduced by my mother to Paul Robeson and his son on the first day of...


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pp. 159-162
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