Dr. Walter Rodney (National Security Archives)
Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney, born March 23, 1942, in Georgetown, Guyana (South America) was an extraordinary human being. His achievements and impact defy his 38-year lifespan. Rodney stands in the forefront with our most cherished revolutionaries, particularly those whose lives tragically ended before the age of 40. He exemplifies the transformational power of vision, critical analysis, independent thought, effective communication, compassion, and focused determination. Rodney’s life and works remain relevant today and worthy of serious study. In fact, re-experiencing his words and penetrating cadence in text, audio, or film, strengthens our cultural memory and aids in our understanding of current realities.
Throughout his career, Rodney achieved the highest distinction. After continuous scholarships in his native Guyana and Jamaica, he obtained his Ph.D. with high honors from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London at the age of 24, before the ubiquitous Internet or computers. His archives are replete with copious hand-written notes and type-written pages.
Rodney was the paradigmatic icon of the scholar-activist, – a preeminent voice of Black Power and a relentless fighter on behalf of the interests of the working class and against colonial and neo-colonial hegemony in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and North America. He is renowned for his most celebrated and seminal work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. That work, much like Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, was feared by imperialists and lauded by progressives for its surgical analysis, demythization of the true nature of oppressive forces, and strategies for liberation. In terms of Rodney’s precision, it is noteworthy that his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. His Grounding with My Brothers, highlights the importance of the guerilla intellectual, one who uses their academic credentials, intellectual rigor, and oratory to educate and learn from the workers, the students, and especially the youth outside of the university context.
On June 10, 2021, forty-one years after the brutal assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney, and as the principal result of the Rodney family’s ceaseless advocacy, the global community’s support, and an independent Commission of Inquiry, the Guyanese government finally admitted its bloody complicity. Multiple acts of reparations are underway, including that the books Rodney wrote will now be placed on the national syllabus by the Ministry of Education and provided to students across the country, that The Walter Rodney Chair at the University of Guyana will be re-established, and records that suggest Rodney committed wrongdoing in connection with his assassination will be expunged.
The Importance of Rodney’s Children’s Books
Dr. Patricia Rodney, a public health administrative educator and the devoted wife of Walter Rodney, reminds us that “though Rodney lived with constant police harassment and frequent threats against his life, he nonetheless managed to complete four books in the last year of his life: An academic work: A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905; A political call to action; People’s Power, No Dictator, and two children’s books: Kofi Baadu Out of Africa and Lakshmi Out of India.” Dr. Rodney’s native Guyana is often said to consist of six “peoples” of various ethnicities, of which those of African and East Indian descent make up the largest portion of the population. In Guyana, just as it is throughout much of the world, conflict between races exists and so Dr. Rodney, a humanitarian, devoted his life to address and improve racial unity, social justice, and liberation. “The whole reason he was writing those series was so that the children of Guyana could begin to understand their history and each other . . . to create not just tolerance but an understanding of people and their lives,” his wife explained. Dr. Rodney published two children’s books (for ages 10 – 18): Kofi Baadu out of Africa. (Georgetown, Guyana, 1980) and Lakshmi out of India. (Georgetown, Guyana: The Guyana Book Foundation, 2000).
The books provide readers with historical, geographical, and cultural experiences and lessons, using a relatable narrative format. In the introduction to Kofi Baadu out of Africa, Dr. Rodney wrote, “This collective effort hopes to make a modest contribution to revealing further aspects of our rich and varied heritage, so that children, at least, might better understand themselves and each other.” In this spirit, Dr. Patricia Rodney and her three children: Shaka, an entrepreneur; Kanini, a physician; and Asha, a lawyer, also hope to publish another series of children’s books one day.
Dr. Walter Rodney children’s books were written to counter racism (the false notion of resource and opportunity division based on race stratification and hierarchy) to unify humanity, particularly the working class. He was seeking to unify peoples of all races, in particular African and Indians, in the perennial struggle for justice and liberation. In the tradition of Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney, we must continuously educate our children to understand their history, to unify, and for the sake of humanity, to advance the struggle against racism, classism, sexism, materialism, imperialism, and white supremacy.
Looking to The Past For Future Inspiration
Kofi Baadu out of Africa is 25 pages and Lakshmi out of India is 35 pages. They both require new covers, pictorial layouts, font alterations and enlargement, text adjustments, new forewords, acknowledgments, and testimonials. Grants and donations are being sought. Once the books are republished, a marketing campaign will be initiated and coordinated to ensure the successful launch of this project. Books will be distributed to The Walter Rodney Foundation, the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement, and the Legacy for Literacy, Inc. for distribution to students and the community. Riverwise Magazine, Broadside Lotus Press, and Source Booksellers will also facilitate maximum distribution and awareness. All proceeds from the sale of these publications will support The Walter Rodney Foundation. The family of Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney will retain complete and full intellectual property rights of these publications and welcomes donations to the Walter Rodney Foundation. Learn more and take action to help advance this cause at www.walterrodneyfoundation.org