A View from the East: Black Cultural Nationalism and Education in New York City

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A View From the East: Black Cultural Nationalism and Education in New York City. By Kwasi Konadu. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2009. ix-209 pp. $29.95 hardcover.

A View From the East: Black Cultural Nationalism and Education in New York City second edition is an invaluable case study that closely examines the contributions of the East organization and founder Jitu Weusi, and the growth and development of cultural nationalism and community development in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. Though many scholars have considered the modern African-centered education movement that developed out of the Black Power era, Konadu offers a closer look at the community education centers inspired by the movement and the individual involved in agitation efforts for community control of schools. Specifically, Konadu explores the rise and fall of the East organization, Uhuru Sasa Shule, the jewel of the community, countless business ventures initiated by the group, marriage rituals and etiquette, school curriculum, the Ocean-Brownsville struggle, the African American Teachers Association political agitation and the East's eventual evolution into a sole expression of the African cultural experience called the International African Arts Festival.

Konadu challenges the reader to understand the legitimacy and legacy of such institutions like the East and their contributions to the broader Pan Africanist movement for self-determination. The study complements the African-centered education scholarship produced by scholars like Jawanzaa Kunjufu and Asa Hilliard. It is a tribute to African-centered schooling and its impact on community reform and Afrocentric educational efforts. Konadu's work not only contributes to this scholarship but is also an impetus to reexamine the history of these long gone but not forgotten institutions by, for and about people of African descent. The East, and by extension Uhuru Sasa, an independent school run by the East, provided the Brooklyn and later the broader New York community with a African-centered resource that helped build coalitions, inspire international dialogues and develop young people to proudly embrace a unique brand of African culture.

A View From the East is a story of community triumph, loss, perseverance and self-determination. Konadu's analysis is noteworthy and he rightly discusses the beacon of hope and promise the East organization becomes for later institutions not only in New York but internationally. One minor yet significant critique of the work is the absence the models of independent institutions, most certainly utilized by the East, such as the Nation of Islam schools that had existed in New York since at least the early 1960s; this is a glaring oversight given the Nation of Islam's certain cultural influence in New York prior to and during the development of the East. …