- Matriarch of the Captive African NationRecollections of Queen Mother Moore
As a college freshman, I attended a 1973 meeting of the Muhammad Ahmad (a.k.a. Max Stanford) Defense Committee (MADC). Police had captured Ahmad, a leader of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) and a principal target of the Counter INTELligence PROgram (COINTELPRO). I was asked at the meeting, "You ever heard of Queen Mother Moore?" After receiving a brief explanation, I was assigned to escort Queen Mother to a speaking engagement. The proceeds of her California talks went to the MADC.
As her driver and security, I accompanied Queen Mother on several speaking engagements in the 1970s. I was later recruited into RAM's successor organization, the African Peoples Party (APP). Queen Mother was mentor to the APP. As the principal female elder in APP, she was commonly referred to as "Mother." Queen Mother's speech that 1973 winter day expressed themes that recurred throughout her addresses. I will briefly share some core themes that appeared in Queen Mother's oratory, and reconstruct some of my experiences with her.
"We are Africans": The Core Themes of Mother's Message
Queen Mother always emphasized that blacks in the United States were "Africans." She believed "black," "Negro," and "colored" were not appropriate designations. Mother argued that identity must be tied to a homeland; Chinese from China, Germans from Germany, Japanese from Japan, and Mexicans from Mexico. "Where is Colored Land? Where is Negro or Black Land? You can only be Africans!" The sojourn of "Africans" in the United States did not transform them into "Americans." She consistently queried, "Cats having [End Page 177] kittens in an oven, doesn't make them biscuits?" Mother asserted Africans in the US were a "captive nation."
Mother asserted that our oppression had black people in a mental condition she labeled "oppression-psycho neurosis." This "psychosis" led blacks to act against our interests and engendered fidelity to our oppressors. This psychological condition was reflected in our being "denaturized" into "negroes." She described a tamed lion in a circus to make her point. Mother stated the lion opened his mouth and allowed his white female tamer to put her head in it. If the lion had been in "his right mind, he would have torn that white girl's head off."
Queen Mother advocated reparations for enslavement and our colonized psychological condition or "slave mentality." Reparations were also due for changing our culture and physical makeup. Being light-skinned, she proclaimed her "beautiful dark skin" was lost due to white rapists violating her female ancestors.
Queen Mother represented the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women (UAEW), an organization that she founded in 1957. The UAEW challenged capital punishment of black men. They asserted large numbers of black men were on death row in southern prisons primarily due to "legal lynching" and false charges of rape of white women. Queen Mother and the UAEW were also the primary reparations advocates for "African slave descendants." Mother's lobbying for reparations made an impact on the Black Power movement, and influenced the political programs of the Republic of New Africa (RNA), Nation of Islam, RAM, Yoruba Temple, and ultimately the Black Panther Party.
Queen Mother and Gender in the Nationalist Movement
I do not characterize Queen Mother's message as feminist. Her concept of "nation-building" included the practice of polygamy, men having multiple wives to increase the black population. My male ego swelled after she pointed to me during a speech and said: "Look at this beautiful, young brother! He should have at least three wives!" She also promoted the need for male leadership. One example of her support for patriarchy occurred after an accidental fire destroyed her home in New York while she was visiting Los Angeles. At a meeting to create a committee to provide support for Queen Mother, the question came up of who would lead the group. Mother exhorted, "We need a man for this job . . . a strong man."
While she did not challenge patriarchy in her addresses, her strong presence and authority created space for women's...