spirit of Marion Nzinga Stamps, one of Chicago’s great activists,
is much needed today. Marion possessed the kind of fighting
spirit in her organizing work that is truly missing in our
present struggles. Marion Stamps was an “In-Your-Face Activist.” Let
us remember her contributions.
people around the world suffered a tremendous loss with the
(death) of Marian Nzinga Stamps in Chicago on Wednesday,
August 28, 1996 at the age of 52.
the late 1960s, Sister Marion was one of the leading activists
and organizers in the Chicago area, whose impact was felt
throughout the country. Upon coming to Chicago from Jackson,
Mississippi in 1962, Marion quickly gravitated to
the activism taking place in the Black Movement in this city,
As the Black Panther Party emerged, she became associated
with its work on the north side, in the Cabrini-Green Housing
the guidance and leadership of the Professor Edwin Marksman,
several other powerful African women in America organized
and established the Tranquility Community Organization based
in the Cabrini-Green Housing Developments. After the death
of Professor Marksman, it became known as the Tranquility
Marksman Community Organization.
someone like Marion leaves our midst and makes their transition,
forces outside of the African Community always try to interpret
these giants to fit their own interests. This is the model
that white supremacy forces use in their efforts to explain
and control African contributions.
recent years, we can observe this phenomenon with Elijah
Muhammad, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fred
Hampton, to name a few. The white supremacy forces and spin
doctors have tried, through their writings and movies, to
reinterpret their work to fit white supremacy interests.
Fortunately, they have not been successful. They have also
attempted to make their move on interpreting the life of
Sister Marion Nzinga Stamps.
The first shot
they threw, in their efforts to reinterpret Sister Marion,
began in the Chicago Tribune article written by Flynn
McRoberts on September 8, 1996. McRoberts wrote, “For all
her ability to grab media attention — and her funeral was
no exception — Stamps and her approach to community activism
had become largely irrelevant long before she died of a heart
attack late last month.”
McRoberts wrote, “Her verbal bomb throwing had its roots
in the tactics of Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing.
But like sloganeering and stunt staging of advocates for
the homeless, Stamps’ tactics ultimately had little effect
on policy; in her case failing to change the course of redevelopment
arrogance of McRoberts’ attempt to define Sister Marion fits
into the strategy of one of the
key issues she addressed for over 20 years. In Chicago, Marion
was one of the few people who publicly alerted the African
Community to the land grab schemes of the white developers,
bankers and city officials.
ploys were designed to remove significant populations of
low-income African people from urban areas and disperse them
to outlying areas, or the suburbs, so that white people,
in their development schemes, could repopulate these urban
Nzinga Stamps fought with all her spirit and soul on this
issue of the land-grab and Black removal. The white power
structure and many of their Black allies fought Marion “tooth
and nail” and tried to undermine her credibility with the
masses. As a result
of Marion’s leadership on the land-grab issue, many African
people were educated as to why we should not abandon the
urban areas so that white people could take the land back.
was obviously ignorant to the fact that most of the significant
public policy changes that have occurred in America, aimed
at benefiting Africans in America, took place because of
the “in- your-face activism” of people like Marion Stamps.
In Chicago, specifically, the “in-your-face activism” of Sister
Marion, and many others, led to the climate that created
the conditions for the election of Chicago’s first African
American Mayor, Harold Washington.
was part of a cadre of activists in Chicago that in the 1970s
and 80s challenged, successfully, the Chicago Board
of Education and its racist policies, the Chicago Housing
Authority and its racist practices, the Chicago Police Department
and its racist practices, and numerous other agencies and
institutions in this city.
Marion truly understood what Malcolm X meant when he said, “By
Any Means Necessary!” In her organizing activities, Marion
lived by this slogan. If it meant going to jail, being attacked
by the police or sitting down with the white power structure
officials, she was clear that you must use all tactics and
strategies to deal with the question of power and self-determination
for African people.
often tell a lot about the life of a person. Such was the
case at Sister Marion’s funeral. People from all walks of
life in the African Community in Chicago showed up in droves
to pay their respects to this freedom-fighter who fought
to the end for her people.
Marion was a proud mother of five daughters, and her daughter,
Karla, wrote the following about her mother that summarizes
much of the spirit of Sister Marion: