HOUSTON – “What I’ve tried to do is, be a good servant to the people – that for me has come in the form of being a part of an organization, the National Black United Front (NBUF).” These words of humility were rendered by Chairman Kofi Taharka (NBUF-Houston), during a recent insightful interview. Though he prefers the role of “servant”, in contrast to “leader”; his position, stance and selfless sacrifices, have solidified him as a true leader. As authentic leadership is determined by the genuine virtue of, first being a servant.
For decades, Brother Kofi has campaigned and protested as an activist and organizer. Fervently standing on the basis, “No Compromise, No Sell Out”; he has championed for Africans and Africans in America on scores of social justice issues. In the face of much opposition and adversity, he has refused to relinquish his cause in the fight for economic justice for People of Color. His resume establishes him as a: sought after speaker, writer, guest talk show host (locally and nationally) and above all a, true servant to the people.
The Man behind the Front:
Bro. Kofi is a native of S.E. Banneker City (Washington, D.C.). Strong values consistent with maintaining Black pride and a responsibility of serving the community were instilled in him, at an early age. Being the product of a very large and community-centered family; enabled him to witness first-hand, pertinent issues relative to the perils that African-Americans throughout the nation faced.
After graduating from Archbishop John Carroll High School with honors and serving as president of his class, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 1983. From the support and sacrifice of his family, he matriculated at Morehouse College. There, he was exposed to a wide variety of individuals and organizations, which were active and involved in the Black Power and Civil Rights Movement’s. Exposure to ideologies such as: Black Nationalism, Pan Africanism, Revolutionary Nationalism and African-centered history/culture, intrigued his curiosity. Since as far back as he could remember, he had retained an interest in the issues that plague individuals of African descent. In 1987, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, from Morehouse.
In the same year, he initiated a career as a Sales Representative at Kraft General Foods USA division in Houston. During his stint within the industry, he was promoted several times and was responsible for one of the largest accounts in his region. Though he operated in Corporate America for some years, he never neglected his desire to remain active in the community. Aside from his professional career, he sought out S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, in the early 90’s. In doing so, he connected with the TA-SETI African Historical Society. TA-SETI became a study haven for him and a great opportunity for him to learn about himself and those who looked like him. The society’s weekly meetings were held at Riverside Hospital in Third Ward; there, they would engulf in the study of African and African-American history/culture. Kofi revealed, that leaders of the group were, “wise and capable”. He also referred to TA-SETI as being, “a good place for growth in understanding what I consider, the foundation of my history and culture.”
In being affiliated with TA-SETI, he became aware of the National Black United Front (NBUF)-Houston. The organization’s mission to, “Bring Black people together,” gelled with the personal concept he identified with; thereby, causing him to gravitate towards its function. NBUF had developed a strong reputation within the community for combating many issues that ailed African-Americans throughout the nation. From warring against social justice issues; to speaking out against unlawful convictions and imprisonment; to Black people being swarmed by the criminal justice system at alarming rates; NBUF had become the verbal and physical catalyst for the underserved and silent majority, who felt they had no voice. Leaders, organizers and members alike, would protest at police departments, courthouses, prisons and numerous other institutions at the beckoning call of duty or demand.
In a less publicized aspect of NBUF’s operation, was its significant interest in the study of history and culture. On many occasions, African-centered scholars would come and divulge various topics with the group and they’d study together. Over time, Bro. Kofi’s engagement with the national organization enabled him the opportunity to interact and network with people from different chapters and allied types of groups, internationally. This period of his life proved to be an educational experience. He said, “I realized that it’s very important to read, study, and look at documentaries – it is also equally important to engage with elders, as well as have experience.”
As time progressed, Bro. Kofi established and coordinated the Operational Unity Network (OU). The coalition became a partnership of grassroots organizations, which came together to work jointly on efforts to benefit African and Africans in American communities. Through the initiatives of OU, members of the: NBUF, TA-CETI African Historical Society, Shrine of the Black Madonna, S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, Nation of Islam and the Haitian American Ministries, united and formed an agreement to serve as support systems for each other. With varying commonalities, each group served as obligators to each other, in terms of hosting events and/or activities.
To date, OU has been instrumental in a number of causes that have been overwhelmingly beneficial in empowering and rendering aid to those from its community. Amongst those was the historic Million Man March, held on October 16, 1995. Aiming to promote a theme of, “Atonement”, Minister Louis Farrakhan organized, “the greatest demonstration in the history of America, of Black love and Black men coming together.” The march previewed over 850,000 Black men standing in unison, in the name of, “repairing and reconciling relationships, both personal and religious.” The strength of OU remained as an integral facet of the great demonstration exemplified on that day as well. OU also provided a major humanitarian effort in establishing Haiti-Rwanda Relief Day. At a time when there was crises going on in both countries, the operation raised donations, supplies and sent manpower in aid of supporting victims affected.
During the same era, NBUF-Houston officially acquired its home office. For two years, members volunteered their time on the weekends and evenings to completely renovate the space located at 2428 Southmore Blvd., 77044. In a two-year, major restorative project NBUF was able to change the face of the community with dedicated, “hard work, blood and sweat”. The facility officially opened as an office/meeting space in 1997. Opposed to talking about the ills that have the tendency to invade the Black community, NBUF-Houston chose to lead by action. The facelift of the establishment served to embellish, a once drug-infested home, which had not been occupied in over a decade. Brother Kofi expressed his appreciation for being involved in the collective effort, resulting in a positive outcome by the success of their determination and bare hands.
The Many Faces of the National Black United Front – Houston
In 2009, Brother Kofi became Chairman of the NBUF-Houston. Under his leadership, the organization has continued to thrive in many capacities, geared towards enhancing and servicing the needs of the community. One of which includes its’, “Feed the Hood” project. “Feed the Hood”, is an initiative which provides residents with toiletries, non-perishable foods, vegetables and basic food items. Also, on NBUF-Houston’s premises is a Community Garden named in honor of a political prisoner. Kofi shared, “There are many brothers and sisters from the 60’s and 70’s that paid the ultimate price. Many of them come out of the original, Black Panther Party – some are still alive, but imprisoned because they took a very hardcore stand on some of the same issues. So we named the garden, after one of them.”
NBUF also offers an African-centered Saturday school which commences during three sessions of the year. For several weeks during each session, young people ranging in ages 8 through 16 are educated in History, Culture, Business and other topics from an African and African-American perspective. The organization has also implemented the “People’s Patrol”, a young group of members which perform weekly monitoring in various neighborhoods. Members go out and engage with those from the community and bring the programs to the people.
Overall, NBUF-Houston strives to empower people to become proactive in their need of self-solving their own issues and problems through the assistance of Black unity and support. Furthermore, the organization, organizes in a collective way. By means of this function, there have been numerous victories for African and African-American communities, through their support. One of the latest examples of this action was exemplified in the scheduled closing of the Southmore Post Office facility, located on Almeda Road. Through a coalition of people organizing, supporters were able to show that the facility was not losing money and proved to be an asset to the community. NBUF-Houston rallied with allies such as: politicians, activists, residents, and a broad array of people, who shared a common interest in the location. After traveling to Washington, D.C., to the Post Master General’s office, their plea was heard. From this experience, that post office is still functioning and thriving today. Brother Kofi regards this effort as, “a people’s victory.”
In past, NBUF- Houston has extended great levels of humanitarian Aid for victims of major natural disasters such as: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Tropical Storm Allison. Another area of focus has been justice for the Black community in local media outlets. Over the years, NBUF has launched scores of social justice campaigns including: the thrust for reparations, the Million Youth March, ending the death penalty (Shaka Sankofa/Gary Graham), freedom for Political Prisoners, saving Allen Parkway Village and Freedmenstown, fighting and protesting in the battleground against victims of Police Brutality, and a plethora of other initiatives.
Recently, NBUF-Houston celebrated its 20th Annual Sankofa Caravan to the Ancestors. The Sankofa Caravan to the Ancestors is a powerful, interfaith ancestral commemoration. The soul-stirring spiritual and cultural ceremony takes place on the third weekend in October. According to NBUF-Houston, “Sankofa is a word from the Akan people of West Africa, which challenges people of Afrikan ancestry to ‘Go Back to Your Past’ and bring to the present, past values that are needed now.”
Participants meet at the NBUF-Houston headquarters and take a physical caravan to Galveston, where the ceremonies are held on the beach. The event focuses on three key areas which include: offering praise and thanksgiving to the Creator and African ancestors, educates the community on African spirituality, history and culture, and invokes blessings for the community in all worthy endeavors. Since its inception, people have religiously travelled from far and near to take part in the rich ceremonial and educational experience. It is open to people of all faiths.
Hurricane Harvey Efforts
Since Hurricane Harvey, NBUF-Houston has designated its headquarters as a storage and distribution point, in an effort to provide relief to those impacted by the recent devastation. The organization has received a great outpouring of donations from across the nation through fundraising websites; including creating an Amazon wish list for donors to contribute. Younger leaders of the coalition such as, Brother Malik Muhammad, Sister Folade and others have remained committed in going out into the community, to ascertain some of the heavily impacted areas. Consequently, NBUF has extended relief to residents in Northeast Houston, the Greenspoint area and other minority-affected communities. Additionally, people from all over have journeyed to assist members as they disperse the various supplies received.
Realizing that the road to recovery is far from complete, Brother Kofi shared the following. “Even in the experience of doing this type of work, it has been quite an endeavor – in terms of organizing, storing, documenting and distributing, to the best of our ability. That humanitarian type of aid and relief is something that we have a history of doing and it has dominated a lot of our time.” He continued, “We are still in the process of understanding the phases and understanding that this is a long-term thing. So we are determining how we can be good stewards of what people have contributed to us, to help people in the short-term and near range.”
No Compromise, No Sell-Out
Many do not fully comprehend the grave consequences associated with the role of activism and the bold commitment to confront social justice issues, in the face of the “powers that be”. During our interview, Brother Kofi elaborated on a few of the many unknown sacrifices that exist for those who are willing to, “lay it all on the line,” for the betterment of others. He said, “I understood this liberation movement as something very serious; something that takes people’s lives, and imprisons people; that can have a tremendous impact on people’s families. When you stand up against a power, there are ramifications against that. When we get into the depth of understanding our movement, I’m privileged to know a lot of brothers and sisters through the years. I have had the opportunity to visit political prisoners. The thing about it is that as a people, generally speaking, we don’t know who they are. The Black Panthers paid a heavy price. They are still paying it, but, that’s the nature of being involved in liberation work.” He continued, “We think that we are going to effectuate change, without sacrifice and history teaches us that, that’s not how it happens. In some instances we have laid it all on the line – our freedom, been arrested, threatened and all of those things.”
For the Record:
Brother Kofi says, “One thing that I want very clear is that, I have never accomplished anything as an individual. I am the product of my parents, community, experiences; and in activism largely to, the organization NBUF and our allies. I think that this society focuses on individuals. Sometimes when you are in a position, you get a lot of accolades and scrutiny; however, it’s always a collective effort. So we have prided ourselves on being very consistent with our work. We have dealt with any number of issues – whether it’s international, national or local; in terms of bringing a perspective that is well-studied and coming from a place of, what’s in the best interest for most people of African ancestry. We have remained principled about those positions. We have not compromised in the face of the power structure, whether it’s the White power structure, or Black people protecting the White power structure. So that leaves us with a fierce level of independence, and that work has been varied.”
Today, Brother Kofi continues to operate as Chairman of the National Black United Front – Houston. As devoted as he has remained to individuals of African descent, he is equally favored with his honor of being a husband and father.
NBUF-Houston welcomes all ages, professions and talents to its community. It is located at 2428 Southmore Blvd., 77004. General community meetings are held every Monday. For more information or details visit them online or any of their social media sites on, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.