“When Kwame Calls”
Updated: Jun 25, 2021
This is a working draft, not a final essay, but a version will be in Vol. 2 of my HBCU Experience – The Book project. Consider it a sneak peek into the next book, and, for any person considering contributing, a guide as to how to capture a moment to share with the world. Visit www.BlackCollegeBook.com for details.
By Christopher D. Cathcart, editor, HBCU Experience – The Book.
My dad, Willie (Bro. Wali) Cathcart with Bro. Kwame Toure, circa 1983
It was my freshman year at Howard University and I was lucky enough to have a phone in my room. Well, for a while, at least. It got turned off eventually, as all college students’ phones did back then (circa early the ’80s), but, hey, I had one for a minute.
My dad was in the Nation of Islam at that time. You know, Bro. Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, among many other people and elements particular to the organization. He had been a member for most of my young life. He joined under Malcolm.
Fast forward to early spring semester 1982; my dad called me (on my in-room phone) and told me that during the recent Nation of Islam’s Savior’s Day Celebration, an annual event commemorating the organization’s founder’s birthday, he met Kwame Ture, formerly known as Stokely Carmichael. Now, Kwame had also attended Howard University in the early ’60s and was an active student who went on to head SNCC, the famed Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. His activist resume is breathtaking; you should research it.
Well, my dad mentioned to him that his son was a freshman at Howard, and how proud he was of that. Kwame asked my dad for my number and said he would call me when he got back to D.C. and campus.
Back to the phone. Low and behold, one day as I was luckily enough to be in my room, the phone rang, I answered and this ensued:
Me - “Hello.”
Other Voice - “Is this brother Chris?”
Me - “Yes it is, I believe, who is this?”
Other Voice - “This is Kwame Toure, I had the opportunity to meet your father in Chicago recently and he told me you were at Howard.”
Me - (silence)
Kwame - “You are at Howard, yes?”
Me - “Yes.”
Kwame - “Well, I hope you are taking care of yourself. I will be on campus later this week speaking to students in the student center. I would love it if you would come out and introduce yourself. I enjoyed talking to your father, and would like to meet you in person.”
Me - “Yes, yes, I will. Thank you, brother.”
Kwame - “Thank you, brother. I look forward to meeting you."
Needless to say, I did go see him speak, and I did introduce myself. He was surrounded by other students but took a moment to say hi and that he remembered our conversation.
Now, it’s incidents like this that make for great college experiences. Also, as fate would have it, I would go on to be a student activist as well, even serving a term as president of Howard’s student government. But getting a call from Kwame Toure was and will always be special. And while this story could have happened to anyone at any school, HBCU or otherwise, I’m glad it happened to me and I’m proud it happened at my HBCU.
© 2020 by Christopher Cathcart/HBCU Experience – The Book, V.2