Photo: Sun-Times file photo
Be very careful whom you call a “leader.” Often the term is ascribed to Black people with fancy titles or a large platform but if the content they disseminate doesn’t actually lead Black people to independence and real power (self determination), we should reject them. Dr. Conrad Worrill was a leader in the true sense, a scholar and activist who was also a movement leader. There are plenty of Black people with huge social media followings but where are they leading their followers to? Dr. Conrad Worrill was a man leading Black people in a real way, to a real destination: liberation.
Worrill was a founding member of the National Black United Front (NBUF), an independent Black organization that invests in “organizations that impact children, families and communities.” NBUF emphasizes “self-help, economic opportunity, positive community change and social justice.” Worrill served as National Chairman from 1985-2009 and in the wake of his passing the organization said, “As a scholar/activist Chairman Emeritus Dr. Worrill placed a meticulous focus on organizing African people, never too big to do the ‘little things’ passing out flyers, setting up chairs and the like. While we believe in the collective, it is correct to say that more than other single people he is the reason NBUF has lasted for 41 years.”
As a foundation of liberation, Dr. Worrill was focused on education and more precisely, ensuring that African people properly understood the proper function of it. As he said some time ago, “we are still challenged today to create an education climate that inspires African youth in America to understand that the purpose of education is to develop the skills and historical understanding of the past as it relates to the present and future in preparation for working for self and the liberation of African people.” In a world in which African children are taught myth history, colonial propaganda and anti-Blackness, it is the duty of African people to educate our children properly, a sobering reality that Dr. Worrill understood well.
Worrill helped build the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University, where he taught students and served as director. As an organizer, he helped to to elect Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. Worrill also co-founded the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment, at that time. His influence spread much further than Chicago, as a nationally recognized thought leader, organizer and moral force. There are many people with huge crowds and loud voices but what are they saying? What is their message and do their words and actions lead Black people to independence? If not, it’s time to cancel them, in honor of Dr. Worrill’s legacy.