- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000


"Strange, I thought, the kinds of things many of us were striving for in the name of revolution, these revolutionary Africans were trying to get away from in the name of decolonization." from the unpublished diary of Howard Fuller, September, 1971.

Howard Fuller had been in Mozambique 11 days marching with the Frelimo guerrillas in 1971 when he first experienced war on African soil. Helicopters of the Portuguese military, which was fighting to maintain control of the country, started dropping grenades and firing machine guns at the rebel base where he had slept that night. He ran for the bush, then hid in a banana tree and thought about his family at home in North Carolina. This wasn't Greensboro anymore. But for the Malcolm X Liberation University president, this journey into an African liberation movement tightened his resolve to struggle harder for the freedom for his people.
Indeed, on the night of his departure for Africa, his students at the university couldn't have given Mr. Fuller a better name: Owusu Sadaukai. Owusu means "One who clears the way for others." Sadaukai means "One who gathers strength from his ancestors to lead his people." They couldn't have known then how appropriate was their christening.
He headed to Tanzania to speak about independent education for African people at a meeting of the National Committee of Black Churchmen. War-torn Mozambique had not been on the travel agenda, but that was before he met "Brother Chissano," the leader of the Frelimo (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique), and now the president of Mozambique.
The rebel leader asked him at the Tanzanian headquarters if he would like to travel into the war zone to see what the struggle was like from the inside. Mr. Fuller recognized the opportunity. Not long into the journey, he began noting the difference between the American civil rights movement and the African. These "brothers and sisters" he ate and sweated with knew a different kind of sacrifice. Some were teen-agers, some carried half their body weight, and after a day of marching through oppressive heat and elephant grass, sang party songs and shouted chants as they did military drills.
On Sunday, Sept. 5, he wrote in his journal: "We have been inside now for five days … This experience is very difficult for me physically, but it is strengthening my spirited resolve to struggle harder. I see very clearly the contradictions in my own life within our 'movement' in the United States that we must be more aware of. I also see that leadership by mouth has no place in a revolution, or for that matter in a school like Malcolm X Liberation University. Leadership comes from what you do by example. Revolution is also no place for ego trips, pouting arguments that have no constructive base, etc."
What was supposed to be a 16-day journey turned into 31, with much time for reflection.
"So I am sitting on a mountain in Mozambique hoping I can make it back to tell my story," he wrote in his diary on the day of the Portuguese attack. "I don't know whether I'll be alive an hour from now. Yet, I believe I am pursuing the correct path for my children and my children's children."
He would be given the opportunity to continue to do that once he returned to the United States.
He would rally 30,000 people to Washington from around the country the following year for the first African Liberation Day march to support the independence movements of African people within occupied countries such as Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
He would fight for the right of his people to have a choice in education through vouchers and charter schools in Milwaukee during his term there from 1991 to 1995 as superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. This would help spawn the largest school choice program in the country, which this year provided more than 8,000 low-income, mostly black students with scholarships of up to $5,000 to attend their private or religious school of choice. Now he is working to continue the same dream to better education opportunities in urban America at his Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University.
He is careful to give the education movement its own relevance though: "I don't think that for a movement that involves black people to have validity, that it has to be tied back to the civil rights movement," he said in an interview. Nor does he want empowerment of the disadvantaged to be built around a savior.
For Owusu Sadaukai, the path to empowerment is a shared path. So it is for the millions of poor Americans whose children are let down by the public school system.

Sarah Means is an editorial writer for The Washington Times.

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