Dr. Conrad Worrill goes home to his ancestors

1
2068

By Erick Johnson

The drumbeats are thumping somewhere in Africa. Stronger and more natural than the booms and sounds of hip hop. They welcome home Dr. Conrad Worrill.

In this space was his weekly column that took you back to the Motherland, with his uncompromising passion and knowledge of the history and significance of the African continent.

Worrill’s column will not be here today, tomorrow or anytime in the future. At the start of the deadline day on Wednesday, June 3, Worrill went home to be with his ancestors. He was 78.

With this newspaper, he was a Crusader, but in his heart, Worrill was a Warrior. While many Black leaders and educators were unapologetically Black, Worrill was unapologetically African.

A scholar, educator and activist, Worrill loved Marcus Garvey, admired Malcolm X and celebrated Kwanzaa more than Christmas. His close friends included businessman Elzie Higginbottom and Crusader Publisher Dorothy R. Leavell.

Worrill played a key role in the historic election of Chicago’s first Black mayor Harold Washington and wrote a four-part series on the experience that had readers wanting more.

Until the day he died, Worrill championed the cause for reparations while stressing an African curriculum in public schools. At the Crusader, he was an admired and respected African encyclopedia. He began writing for the newspaper in 1995. At least 200 of his columns are online, but many more were published in print.

After 40 years as a professor at Northeastern Illinois University, Worrill retired on December 31, 2016. He continued to write his columns because his writings were a part of his role in the African Liberation movement.

At his retirement party at Parkway Ballroom on 45th and King Drive, many prominent Black leaders honored Worrill by wearing clothes that in Worrill’s world, are not often worn. Their African dashikis and Kente prints brought ethnic pride and pageantry fitting for a tribal king and warrior whose lifelong battle was to liberate and educate Blacks about their lineage and royal roots.

THE INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED scholar, educator, organizer, and activist prepares to deliver one of his many lectures he conducted during his lifetime.

Sick, but resilient, Worrill’s last column was published on May 28. It was the last of a two-part series on African Liberation Day, which was May 25.

The column could have been about another holiday called Memorial Day, but instead, Worrill wrote about a day when all Black people should come together. “Whether you were born in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Belize, Grenada, Bahia, Germany, England, France, Alabama, Georgia, or on 47th Street in Chicago, as long as you are Black, you are an African with a common heritage and a common set of conditions. We must continue to fight against racism and white supremacy as we demand reparations for African people in America and worldwide.”

One of Worrill’s columns that drew thousands of hits online is titled, “The Importance of Understanding that Egypt is in Africa.” Today, white scholars deny the fact that King Tut and other Egyptian rulers were Black. In this column that was published in the Crusader on February 17, 2016, Worrill wrote that “the removal of Egypt from Africa serves a two-fold purpose. First, it leads to the obvious idea that Egypt is not a part of Africa; therefore, its population could not have been Black. Secondly, it serves the purpose of implying that civilization did not begin with the Black race.

Conard Worrill

“Our scholars, thinkers and researchers should never again raise the question of who the Egyptians were. Clearly, they were Black people. This question has been resolved!”

In his column on February 27, 2020 titled, “THEY STILL OWE US!” Worrill argued for reparations, saying “reparations means ‘repair’ for the damages inflicted on a people or nations.

In pursuit of this repair, we are conscious of the fact that we must engage in the process and assume responsibility for repairing ourselves, which includes: changing the way we think, supporting our own institutions (particularly financially), supporting our families, supporting our own Black business enterprises, cleaning up our communities, and changing the way we relate to and think of each other as a people. These are just a few of the internal repairs we must constantly work on.”

Dr. Worrill said the United States’ invasion of Grenada on October 25, 1983 was the reason he became a columnist. “I began writing my weekly column 30 years ago because of what we, in the National Black United Front (NBUF), observed as the continuing white supremacy policies of the United States toward Grenada, the New Jewel Movement and its leader Maurice Bishop,” said Conrad.

In the summer of 1967, Worrill was among a handful of activists who protested in Washington Park, demanding that the park be renamed after Malcolm X. The incident was among several protests that took place around the country during what is now known as “the long hot summer of 1967” in which riots erupted in Detroit, New York and other major cities.

AS ONE OF the founding members of the National Black United Front, Dr. Conrad Worrill speaks at a program honoring Malcolm X. (Photo by J. Coyden Palmer)

Worrill served as the director of the historic Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies/CCICS. Since 1966, CCICS has been a leading center of scholarship and activism in this country. Located on Chicago’s South Side in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, CCICS has worked toward the forward progression of African-American culture and life. CCICS prepares both graduate and undergraduate students to be equipped to work in human and social service agencies, both public and private, as well as educational initiatives.

For over 50 years, Worrill was an active participant in the Black Power, civil rights and human rights movements. He acquired a bachelor’s degree from George Williams College, a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Worrill’s major field of study was Black political and movement history, social theory, and curriculum and instruction. Additionally, he was an expert in the field of the delivery of social and educational services in the African-American community.

Conrad Worrill’s activism is defined by his leadership in organizations and activities that have been at the forefront of social and racial justice, African-centered education, African liberation, and self-determination for people of African descent. Worrill served as the chairman of the National Black United Front/NBUF for 26 years and was chairman emeritus.

Worrill was the special consultant for field operations for the historic Million Man March, a lifetime member of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America/N`COBRA, and a street organizer for Harold Washington’s mayoral campaign. Worrill advanced causes, such as educational restructuring, human rights, reparations and political and economic empowerment for the Black community.

One of Dr. Worrill’s signature organizing projects was his leadership in NBUF, along with the December 12th Movement International Secretariat. He organized the Durban 400 delegation that participated in the historic United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) that was held in Durban, South Africa from in 2001. The Durban 400 succeeded in impacting the WCAR to declare “slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity. This was a major international organizing victory for African people.

DR. CONRAD WALTER WORRILL (right) on July 17, 2000 looks on as then Senator Donne E. Trotter (far left) presents Dr. Carol Adams with a proclamation hailing her as the new Director of the Center for Inner City Studies as Northeastern University. (Photo by Memorie Knox)

Worrill was also a member of the Kemetic Institute, the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations/ASCAC, the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League/UNIA-ACL, and the Association of African Historians/AAH.

For 30 years, Worrill served as a board member of the Black United Fund of Illinois. Through all of this, as a high school and college athlete, Worrill was a sports enthusiast. He chronicled the history and origin of the game of basketball and the historical and evolutionary role Black people contributed to the development of the game.

Worrill was diligent about his work with the Friends of Track and Field. He helped to revitalize track and field as an alternative athletic activity for young people in the Chicago Public Schools.

One of Dr. Worrill’s greatest passions was always the relationship of athletics to academic achievement character building, and preparation for life’s long journey for young people becoming parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and mentors to play a positive role for the next generation.

DR. CONRAD WORRILL standing in front of the new state of the art Indoor Track and Field facility on the southside of Chicago he championed for until its completion.

Since 1983, Worrill wrote a weekly syndicated column that appeared in major African- American newspapers around the country. His writings appeared in numerous publications in the U.S., and Worrill was often a guest on several radio and television talk shows throughout the world. For over ten years, Worrill was a talk show host on Chicago’s WVON Radio.

Worrill was a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker and was constantly a guest lecturer. He served as a consultant for numerous schools, universities, organizations and institutions worldwide.

Dr. Worrill’s life’s work demonstrated his commitment to doing what proverbial African wisdom characterizes as good speech: Speaking truly and doing right.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Though he’s no longer here 🙁 , his legacy lives on. 🙂

    Did Dr. Worrill ever talk or write about how NEIU mostly promoted itself and its El Centro campus over its CCICS campus? :-[

    Was there ever talk of CCICS becoming independent or joining Chicago State University? :-\

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