Carl T. Lewis was born in Crossett, Arkansas. At an early age he moved to Akron, Ohio where he eventually became a student at the University of Akron. Brother Carl held two degrees and was a few credits away from his third. His pursuit of a college education wasn’t motivated by personal economic pursuits, individual security or status. His pursuit of knowledge served the purpose of equipping him with the necessary disciplines that would better serve the African masses. He was a student activist and organizer with many campus organizations. As a student organizer, his days as a cultural warrior were just getting started. He joined the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party in fall of 1974 where he was further influenced by a speech given by Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) at The Ohio State University. This life-changing encounter introduced him to the concept of Pan-Africanism, "the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism”. This began his transformation from just a nationalist organizer, concerned with the African experience in America, to an internationalist Pan Africanist organizer. This expanded his outlook on the entire African struggle worldwide. His purpose in life revolved around the need for Africa’s unification and complete liberation. He spent the remainder of his life organizing the African masses, promoting African Centered education and the need for mass organization; all things he understood with clarity to be necessary in placing Africans in a position to reclaim their lost power.
To make time for his intellectual development and his organizing Carl made huge sacrifices. One of these sacrifices was abandoning to large extent his love of African drumming/bongo playing. Anyone who knew Carl knew how much he loved playing African bongos, but Carl was faced with the ultimatum of developing his musical abilities or to concentrate on his continued development as a revolutionary. Carl chose to concentrate on his continued development as a revolutionary because he knew it would better benefit the masses. Carl’s belief in the collective being more important than the individual confirmed that his decision was the correct one.
Carl spent much energy tackling the question of African centered education by organizing and putting on various workshops, via schools, churches and higher learning institutions; anywhere African people were. Carl understood that all human beings had a right to self-determination, and every culture has made positive contributions to human history. In his studies of world history he came to the realization that Africa and her people were often missing out of history. So his long term struggles where aimed at teaching and organizing the African masses so that they can reclaim their place in history.
Through disciplined study of human struggle, Carl also understood that mass movements are tools in which the masses could be organized. He along with fellow Akron activist John Fuller and others took advantage of the Nation of Islam’s call for “A Million Man March” in October 1995 in Washington D.C. After the march took place Carl and others were busy recruiting in Akron, Ohio local organizations into a body that was later known as the Akron African United Front (AAUF). The AAUF was an entity that brought various organizations under a single umbrella. The formation of a front allowed issues affecting Africans to be tackled by a united front. This higher level of organization was and is instrumental in promoting the conditions that would allow the African to be self-efficient. Carl also used African holidays and celebrations to organize and educate the African masses. He helped organize African Liberation Day all over the U.S. from 1976 until his transition. Carl also took every advantage to disprove lies about Africa and her people by utilizing public forums to argue on various positions like history, theory, and philosophies. Carl was consistent at writing articles that inspired and educated the African masses. Many of his articles also infuriated the opposition.
Carl’s devotion to education didn’t stop at workshops, Kwanzaa presentations, lectures, debates, and writing many articles through media. In 2010, Carl, within the Akron African United Front (AAUF), began a process of institutionalizing African Centered Education with the formation of an African centered book-study group and by 2011 there were two African Centered Book-Study and Training circles in Akron Ohio. With plans to spread book-study circles to every side of town, he envisioned this to be the model that would spread throughout America. Carl transitioned before this process was completed, but what made Carl such a giant in the Pan Africanist world was that he truly understood and accepted that he would not see the fruit of much of his labor and because of his faith in the African masses, he had no problem with this reality. This is not a unique trait. To Pan-Africanists and revolutionaries it is a common one.
Although Carl Lewis has gone to take his place amongst the ancestors, his legacy lives on through the idea of revolution, through the will of any oppressed people struggling for self-determination, through the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party’s mission to unify Africa under scientific socialism and through the work he started that is still ongoing. His vision is a collective analysis that was shaped through historic struggles by those who came before him. No matter where Carl organized, people were drawn to his charismatic and engaging personality. Carl’s high level of patience with the masses, not only showed a great sense of understanding of the contradiction African people face, but a certain humility, humbleness and care. Carl showed through his actions that the masses shouldn’t have been honored to be in his presence, but it is he who was honored to be in theirs. Carl’s transition is being felt throughout the African world. One person can’t fill the void that was left by his transition; it will have to be done collectively. The All-African People’s Revolutionary Party can say with great pride, “That our brother Carl T. Lewis loved Africa, and Africa loved him”.
|January 8, 1951 Crossett, Arkansas
|October 12, 2011 (aged 60)