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NehandaNehanda Abiodun

Nehanda was a veteran of the New Afrikan independence struggle and a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika. Nehanda's work as an activist began at age ten as a tenant organizer. Later she worked with the National Black Human Rights Coalition, and then helping to heal addicts at the Black Acupuncture Association of North America with Dr. Mutulu Shakur. In 1982 Nehanda was indicted, along with Dr. Shakur and Sekou Odinga, for a Brinks truck expropriation. She went underground and later surfaced in Cuba. Nehanda was a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and worked with Pablo Herrera on Black August and on their participation in the Cuban Rap Festival

Nehanda Abiodun: Rap on the Run, A Political and Cultural Biography  2/26/2010 Pan African News Wire: ""The Cuban hip-hop community had earned my respect. To put on the festival like that, they had worked miracles with the very few material resources available. So I said I would make a commitment to the young people; that it would be nice if those of us in touch with hip-hop communities in the US would give material support to the Cuban rappers. Young people from the Havana hip-hop community started coming to me and asking about Malcolm X and various issues regarding progressive struggles in the US and other parts of the world. So we just talk all the time. It is very rewarding to me."

Odaymar Pasa Kruda
1/30/2019 at 10:59 AM

Me desperté wierd y ya se porque ..ahora duele y duele...ibae ibae
Rest in power. Nehanda Abiodum, black panther mentora madrina del movimiento de hiphop cubano, guerrera ...te extranaremosss

I woke up wierd and now I know why ... now it hurts and hurts ... ibae ibae. Rest in power. Nehanda Abiodum, black panther mentor godmother of the Cuban hiphop movement, warrior ... we will miss you

Life Underground
By Nehanda Abiodun in BLU 9

In the past I've resisted writing what it means to be underground, using security as an excuse, not wanting to give my enemies any more information than they already had. But I was fooling myself. The real reasons I didn't want to take on the task was because it meant looking honestly at what my being underground did to some people that I love; that I had to relive some painful moments; and that I had to finally find out if I had forgiven myself for my errors as well as the hurt that my decisions had caused others. I cannot write about underground in a technical or theoretical way, I can only write about the cause and effects as I lived them.

-- for the rest of this article, see Life Undergound below

Nehanda Abiodun took the name Nehanda from a Shona spirit whose original incarnation was in the 15th century. A number of strong women took her name and acted as her mediums, including one who led a revolt against the British in 1896. See

Nehanda Abiodun Story, by Nehanda Abioduntop

Carry it on now.

Nehanda Isoke Abiodun, is a name that I am proud to have for many reasons. My first and last name were given to me by very close comrades on my 30th birthday and when Zimbabwe was fighting for its independence. Nehanda was a spiritualist revolutionary who lived in the 1800's and led the first war of liberation against the Rhodesians and I pray that I do her memory justice with my attempts to gain freedom for my people. Abiodun, means born at the time of war and for me was more than appropriate since New Afrikans (African-Americans) born in the Americas have been at war against those that have oppressed them for centuries. Isoke was a name given to me by movement Sisters in the early 1990's here in Cuba and means a precious gift from God. I cried during the ceremony because it was a blessing to know that my efforts for our collective freedom was appreciated by my peers.

The Early Days

I was born in Harlem, New York, a child of the 50's from parents who were of opposite poles politically. My father was a revolutionary Muslim nationalist, a disciple of Marcus Garvey and later Malcolm X. My mother is from the Martin Luther King school of thought, Christian, moderate and at that time an integrationist. They were both internationalist in their own ways and worked hard to give me the practical and spiritual wherewithal that allowed me to be proud as a woman and a descendant of Africa. They were also responsible for teaching me my first lessons on how to fight for what should have been inherently mine: human and civil rights.

As a Harlemite from the real old school and who grew up playing hand ball, double dutch and dodge ball, me and my crew, Betty, Dizzy Liz, Butch, Peter, Sarah and others from the 'hood' claimed as our patch of green pastures, Morningside Park. It was our haven, a place to escape the eyes of our parents, ride our bikes and just be kids.

In 1959 the City of New York and Columbia University agreed to build a gym in Morningside Park. The problem was that Columbia's gym meant that kids like me who lived in the West Harlem community, the black part, would not have a place to play and our only admission to the gym would be through its back door and of course with their permission. There was also the pressing issue of Columbia and the city's development plans which called for the demolition of a great portion of the buildings in West Harlem and the displacement of it's residents. Though the gym issue is mostly associated with the 1968 student strikes at Columbia, the struggle to stop the building of the gym started in the early 60's when community protest among residents who lived in the Morningside Park area.

Gettin' Active

My activist career started with those same community protests at the age of 10. Without either of my parents' knowledge, I joined the picket lines to save my park; racism and gentrification had nothing to do with it, my motives were purely selfish (Where were my friends and I going to play?), but an act that was to become a spring board of learning for me about the value of community organizing, self-determination, the power of unity among like minded forces and nation building.

It wasn't hard for me to make the leap from being a casual 10-year-old protester to a community organizer. The lack of interest and total disdain among many of the teachers towards both students and parents in the schools I attended, the deplorable conditions that we were subjected to live under in Harlem, the rise of drug addiction, lack of health care, the subtle but affective racism that stifled the creativity of Black and Brown people in the North, coupled with the daily televised brutality against those who were fighting for civil rights in the south were the events that motivated me to become a volunteer and eventually part of the paid staff of the West Harlem Community Organization (WHCO).

During my tenure at WHCO I became more politicized and aware of the fact that no matter how hard we as an organization worked within the confines of the regulations and guidelines mandated by private and government funding agencies, our efforts for the most part were in vain. I came to know that to change the quality of our lives, it would take more than renovation of dilapidated tenements and band-aid remedies. The social ills that we experienced existed not by accident but by the design of those who ruled and profited from our labor.

What I was beginning to slowly understand were those speeches and lessons I heard first at home and then from Malcolm who I was privy to hear speak while he was a Minister for the Nation of Islam. Those lessons spoke of the need for a revolution, a socialist revolution that would bring about a change in a corrupt country, whose system of government was rooted in oppression, genocide, sexism and racism. What I was coming to grips with was that even though I was born in the US, an industrialized developed country, my community and those communities across the country like mine, lived in conditions that in some cases were worse than communities in the most impoverished nations in Third World countries. It was becoming increasingly clear to me that the Black nation was a colonized one within the boarders of the United States.

Even though I was becoming more politically aware of the need for a different form of government in the US, for years I tried to work within the system, only to be more disillusioned as time went by. A seemingly endless chain of events like the increased US aggressions against Vietnam; the FBI's and other police agencies? attacks on progressives; the murder of Fred Hampton; the arrests of many activists across the country on trumped up charges; increased heroin addiction in Harlem; the killing of a 13-year-old unarmed male black child by a New York police officer who claimed that he had a knife; the killing of a 5-year-old black baby by the LAPD; were only a few of the events that were forcing me to make some serious analysis about how I would make contributions for change.

When I left Columbia University I started working in a methadone clinic in East Harlem. Like many others at that time I thought that methadone was a viable clinical solution to heroin addiction. Eventually I was fired from the clinic for refusing to increase the dosage of one of the patients who had successfully stopped using illicit drugs and decreased his methadone intake from 120mgs to 20mgs in a very short time. It was the opinion of the clinic owners that I had lowered his methadone dosage too quickly. My defense was that the patient was no longer using illicit drugs, was not complaining about any physical discomfort and was functioning well in regards to his outside responsibilities. The ultimatum from the clinic owners was either increase the dosage or be fired. I opted to be fired rather than force a patient to take more drugs than was needed.

Lincoln Hospital Detox

After being fired I started investigating other alternatives to drug detoxification. It was this investigation that led me to Lincoln Hospital's acupuncture drug detoxification clinic. Founded by activists who were either active or former members of The Black Panther Party, The Republic of New Afrika, The Young Lords and Students for a Democratic Society, the clinic successfully treated thousands of alcohol and drug addicted people using acupuncture. Much of their success had to do with a comprehensive holistic medical treatment plan coupled with political education classes and community work that the patients were required to participate in.

The political education classes allowed the patient to understand his addiction in a more political context, how addiction contributed not only to the deterioration of his/herself, but the family and community as well. It was in those classes that they learned about the CIA's involvement with heroin trafficking, using the body bags of dead soldiers killed in Vietnam to transport the drug. They also learned how drug addiction has been used as a deterrent to progressive movements nationally and internationally.

The community work they were asked to participate included such task as helping an evicted tenant find housing; welfare rights work; helping a family with transportation to go see an imprisoned relative; or attending a trial showing support for one of the many political prisoners who were being railroaded into prisons for their political work.

The educational classes and community work were important elements to the patients healing process because it allowed the patient to understand their oppression in a global sense and instead moved the patient from being a parasite, to now contributing to the well being of their community.

Lincoln Detox ceased to exist as a revolutionary community controlled health center when over 200 members of the New York police department and their SWAT teams used excessive force to close it down. Their official reason for doing so was the mismanagement of funds, but their real motive was revealed when Mayor Koch said that "Lincoln Detox was a breeding ground for revolutionary cells."

The 20 years of community work that I participated in up until that time, the continued violence of the government and white terrorist hate groups against those who used peaceful means of protest, blatant police brutality against people of color, the ongoing arrests and assassinations of political activist by city, state and federal police agencies, along with the murderous international policies directed towards liberation movements and the colonized nations within the US boarders were the dictates that lead me back to what were the roots of my political education; self determination and self defense for the Black nation.

Nehanda Goes Underground

In 1982 a federal warrant was issued for my arrest for violating the Rico Racketeering and Conspiracy laws. I choose to go underground for political reasons and while living clandestine I learned how important it is to struggle from a position of love and not hate. It was the love of humanity, freedom and justice that were the dictates that led me to where I was then and the love given from comrades that kept me mentally and spiritually healthy when I thought that I would die from a broken heart because of being separated from my family. And be assured that it is that same kind of love that has given me the resolve to continue daily in our quest for freedom. I recognize how blessed I am to have so many beautiful people in my life that genuinely care for me, individuals who are willing to make the sacrifices needed to carry on the traditions of principled struggle.  

GodMother Of Cuban Hip Hop by Nehanda Abiodun

Over the past 10 years, Nehanda has been active in the Cuban hip hop movement. Her capacity as a mentor for various rap groups in Havana has earned her the affectionate nickname "Godmother of Cuban hip hop." In the past, Nehanda has opened her house to host political education classes for Cuban youth, as well as other young people such as students studying in Havana. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Black August Benefit Concerts, "a celebration of Hip Hop and our Freedom Fighters...a project of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), which strives to support the global development of Hip Hop culture by facilitating exchanges between international communities where Hip Hop is a vital part of youth culture, and by promoting awareness about the social and political issues that affect these youth communities...[its goal] is to bring culture and politics together and to allow them to naturally evolve into a unique Hip Hop consciousness that informs our collective struggle for a more just, equitable and human world." According to Nehanda, "rap music is...the voice of protest...[with which] we can educate and organize around the world. It puts a whole different light on the word globalizatoin...Wherever you the world, from New Zealand to Timbuktu, there are rappers. Wherever you go! And once you step out of the U.S., a large part of that global community of hip hoppers are progressive. Seriously, because most of it comes from the indigenous people of that particular place. "It speaks not only to the conditions here in Cuba, but around the world. It particularly speaks to the plight of African people. Yes, a lot of it talks about Cuba, in terms of black Cuba or Afro-Cuba, but you can take that same lyric and apply it to the U.S...It is critical thinking. Not only do they do that, but they make political analysis on what's going on around the world. For instance, right before Bush invaded Iraq, Anonimo Consejo came out with this rhyme "No More Hunger, No More War." Who do we have in the U.S. that did that? And it's also international in its make-up in that they do embrace other flavors of hip hop. It ain't just about Cuban hip hop. They feel that they're part of a bigger community...we are part of a global hip hop community."

An Excerpt from "Life Underground" By Nehanda Abiodun in BLU 9 top

In the past I've resisted writing what it means to be underground, using security as an excuse, not wanting to give my enemies any more information than they already had. But I was fooling myself. The real reasons I didn't want to take on the task was because it meant looking honestly at what my being underground did to some people that I love; that I had to relive some painful moments; and that I had to finally find out if I had forgiven myself for my errors as well as the hurt that my decisions had caused others. I cannot write about underground in a technical or theoretical way, I can only write about the cause and effects as I lived them.

"Nehanda Abiodun: Life Underground"

Life in Exile

There are those who might feel sorry for me, being in exile, separated from family and friends, they shouldn't. I made certain choices in my life and those decisions came with certain consequences. My only regret is the pain that my family suffered. Those of you who have children I'm sure can understand the hurt in my heart and guilt that I go through for leaving them. Fortunately we are healing as a family, them loving me unconditionally as I love them; so once again I am blessed.

Having not been able to yet meet my granddaughter, hug my children or my mother when I want, thinking about my comrades in prison and how much we have to do so they and we can be free are things that make me sad.

Nehanda Still Smiles

What makes me smile is a very long list. Listening to my 7 year old granddaughter tell me her definition of the word awesome, knowing that my mother is the radical dissident resident in her nursing home (you gotta know Large Marge to understand); my daughter's stories about her brother; thinking about Mutulu in the clinic years ago doing the 'Whip It,' Chinganji's 'Lucy moments;' Featherdance's wedding; Jafari's unending patience with me; young people who think I have all the answers and me knowing that I some times don?t even know the questions; Catherine dancing on the table last new year's eve. Mari writing me and telling me of her recent marriage, her being at peace spiritually; Dana's face when in moment of forgetfulness, calling me a fool (it was all good, she forgot I wasn't her peer, we were in girlfriend mode); a baby's smile and a vivid sunrise are just some of the things that make me smile.

The Role of the Intellectual in Liberation

I see no difference in the role or responsibility of an intellectual than I do a day laborer when it's a question of freedom. Everyone has some sort of talent or intellect that would be of value to our liberation. It's a question of finding out what talent we have to offer and giving it unselfishly to our struggle for self-determination.

Is the intellectual any more important than the person who organizes the people to understand the theories of the intellectual or the person who defends the protest and rallies or for that matter the person who does childcare so that parents can attend the demonstrations? Was it not the house servant that secured information about the master's movements and plans that enabled various slave rebellions to be of some success? If we look at Cuba as an example we will see that their triumph was in part due to the fact that women and men from all sectors of the society made contributions to defeat Batista and no one has been excluded, regardless of education, race or gender from defending the revolution.

If you're a writer, write about the revolution; if you're a teacher, teach revolution; if you're a painter, paint the scenes of freedom; if you're a computer specialist, design the leaflets; if you're a community organizer, organize the next rally; if you're an MC then rap about Kwasi Balagoon, Sandra Pratt and Mtayari Shabaka Sundiata. There's a job for everyone and no one who is willing to make an honest contribution should be turned down or discouraged from doing so or made to feel that what they donate is not needed or appreciated.

Intellectual Influences

There were many people who contributed to my political development. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Fanon, Phoolan Devi, June Jordan, DuBois, Robert and Mabel Williams are a small fraction of the intellectuals who have influenced me and are probably familiar to most, but there are a number of political theories and opinions written by lesser known intellectuals who have contributed to my political consciousness. I?d like to think that my development is an ongoing process and have opened myself up to learn from many sources.

Political prisoners Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and David Gilbert provide in-depth analysis of both current events and the past victories and errors of the Black Liberation Movement and the role and participation of the white radical left respectively. I am very grateful for the writings of women like Audre Lorde, bell hooks and Angela Davis[1] for their theories regarding feminist thought. Drs. Adewole Umoja, Jafari Allen, Mukungu Akinyela, Akinyele Umoja, Sisters, Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur, Marilyn Buck and Afeni Shakur have also been very important to my learning process.

I learn a great deal from young people whom I?m fortunate to have in my life. I'm honored that youth from both the US and Cuba have embraced me, opening their hearts and allowing me to enter their lives. Their energies have often been the fountain that I draw from to revive my commitment to struggle.


Nehanda: aTribute to a Woman Warrior in Exiletop

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Political Exile Nehanda Isoke Abiodun lives in Havana, Cuba.  Abiodun is a veteran of the New Afrikan Independence Movement.  She was the former editor of the nationalist organization, the Republic of New Afrika’s newspaper the New Afrikan.  Her activism began at the age of ten as a tenant organizer.  Later she worked with the National Black Human Rights Coalition.  Her community activism also included working with Mutulu Shakur healing addicts in Harlem’s Black Acupunct

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Nehanda Abiodun, 68, Black Revolutionary Who Fled to Cuba, Dies  2/8/2019 NYT: "“I have a commitment to those who have sacrificed their lives for us,” she told Ebony magazine in 2014. “I’m talking about from the time of slavery, the first Africans who were brought here, that gave their lives for us to be free.” Ms. Abiodun was born Laverne Cheri Dalton in Harlem on June 29, 1950, to Wesley and Marge Dalton. Her mother worked for United Airlines, and her father was a bodyguard for Malcolm X for a time. Laverne grew up immersed in the black power movement."

Salute to Nehanda  1/31/2019 Pablo Herrera: "Hay momentos en los que uno pierde a alguien que uno quiere sin poder defenderlos. Yo no tengo fotos de Nehanda Isoke Abiodun. Yo creo que la conoci en Julio de 1995 en Santiago de Cuba en el Hotel Las Americas. Y luego nos reunimos en La Habana para lanzar Agosto Negro, todo un mar en la nueva epopeya afrocubana. Nuestra relacion fue buena y fue complicada. Creo que ya de adulto, ella fue la unica persona que me puso un nombrete, a mi no me importaba. Hubo meses que yo la llamaba a su casa todos los dias para saber como estaba, nada mas que para saber de ella. De esa etapa, yo y otros recibimos nombres bajo Kwanzaa. Nehanda era y seguira siendo una mujer muy real. Gente de la que hace falta en numeros mayores. Es triste que gente como ella se vaya. Lo que yo he aprendido es que puede que eso nos haga mas fuertes a todos, por lo menos para en algun momento decir algo que ayude a otra gente. Hay gente que uno conoce que es heroica, uno lo nota y vive con eso. Lo que puedo compartir es un video que Joselina Fay Rodriguez me dijo que seria buena idea mandarle por su cumpleanhos en Mayo del 2017. La alegria que veran es porque creo que a ella siempre le va a importar mas que la celebremos."

Statement on the Transition of Nehanda Isoke Abiodun From the New Afrikan People’s Organization  1/30/2019 Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement: "Despite being isolated from her family, she continued her revolutionary work, and commitment to New Afrikan people. She is the finest example of what Baba Chokwe Lumumba, the late Chairperson of NAPO, taught. She had a great love for the people because she understood, as Chokwe said, “If you don’t love the people, sooner of later you’re going to betray the people”. Nehanda Isoke Abiodun loved New Afrikan people and served the New Afrikan Nation to her death."

The Liberation of Nehanda Abiodun , Political Exile , The Struggle for Land and Independence  4/30/2017 New Afrikan 77: "At mention of reports of repression of dissidents and independent journalists, her expression grew stern. And as for freedom of speech, in particular, she said pointedly: “When the United States is at war, does it not control the press? If you look at the enemies of Cuba, the United States government, and I put them on equal standing the Miami Cubans, they are waiting for this process to change. They’ve got their bags packed, okay? They have really contributed to what some people might call lack of freedoms. Stop the war against Cuba and then criticize.”"

US fugitives say Cuba has reassured them they are safe  6/10/2016 Washington Times: "Charles Hill, a black militant wanted in the 1971 slaying of a New Mexico state policeman, told The Associated Press that Cuban government contacts had recently reassured him he was at no risk of extradition. Nehanda Abiodun, another black militant wanted in a 1981 armored car robbery that left two police offers and a security guard dead, told the AP she had recently received a similar promise."

Cuba–US Talks and the Fate of Assata Shakur and Nehanda Abiodun  2/2/2015 Havana Times: "Unlike Assata (whose whereabouts are unknown and is believed to be at a secret location, owing to the US police effort to capture her), since the 90s Nehanda has organized a series of campaigns in her home to encourage the creation of a black and Afro-Cuban awareness movement. Her home has become a center for cultural and socio-political projects and the venue of Cuba’s first hip hop gatherings. She has also organized debates on contemporary issues and African history which have seen the participation of activists and artists, such as the Cuban rap band Anonimo Consejo."

Nehanda Abiodun: Rap on the Run, A Political and Cultural Biography  2/26/2010 Pan African News Wire: ""The Cuban hip-hop community had earned my respect. To put on the festival like that, they had worked miracles with the very few material resources available. So I said I would make a commitment to the young people; that it would be nice if those of us in touch with hip-hop communities in the US would give material support to the Cuban rappers. Young people from the Havana hip-hop community started coming to me and asking about Malcolm X and various issues regarding progressive struggles in the US and other parts of the world. So we just talk all the time. It is very rewarding to me."

OSSIE DAVIS: GUIDANCE, WISDOM, AND LOVE  3/1/2005 Cuba Now: by Nehanda Abiodun



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