This story was republished with permission from The Tennessee Tribune. Read the original story here.
On Aug. 26, 1969, an angry white mob in Forrest City, Ark., tried to beat the life out of Min. Suhkara A. Yahweh while leading a peaceful “Walk Against Fear” from West Memphis to Little Rock, Ark.
He told the story many times and marked the 50th anniversary of his near-death experience after returning to Forrest City to keynote a Civil Rights Commemoration Program on Aug. 17, 2019.
Yahweh died March 25 at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis after a brief illness. He was 84.
Wherever there was injustice and racial upheaval, Yahweh was there in the thick of it during the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Though age had slowed his pace in recent years, he was still active as much as he could.
Min. Patricia Lee, an author, publisher, activist, and caregiver, said she was one of the last persons to visit Yahweh, who was known at the onset of his freedom fighting days as Lance “Sweet Willie Wine” Watson.
Yahweh had billed himself as a civil rights and human rights activist, and a political and social engineer. According to his vitae, he’d worked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Fannie Lou Hammer, Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young, and other activists and trailblazers.
“The hospital called me to let me know that someone needed to be at the hospital. That was on March 25,” said Lee, who’d taken food to Yahweh earlier that day. Later that evening, she got the dreaded call.
Lee had known Yahweh for nine years. They penned a book together entitled “The Progression of a Man: The Man, the Mission and the Legacy.” Published in 2021, the book highlights Yahweh’s life’s work as a freedom fighter.
“I’m just glad to be acquainted with such a giant and legend,” said Lee, who was often seen accompanying Yahweh to events. “I’m so glad to be under his tutelage, even though I wasn’t the best student.”
Lee said Yahweh was the epitome of love and unity. “He had a great love for humanity and for the people.”
Dr. Coby Smith agreed and added: “He was incomparable as an organizer. He brought a lot of talent and people to the movement. He had a unique talent. That energy was with him to the end.”
Smith is a noted activist, educator, and co-founder of The Invaders, a local 1960s militant civil rights group. He first met Yahweh when he was in grade school and Yahweh was in high school at Manassas in the late 1950s.
Yahweh once served time in prison and changed his life after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Smith noted. Yahweh assumed the leadership of The Invaders in 1969 when he was 31 years old.
“Min. Suhkara was committed to change and wasn’t afraid to tell anybody about it,” Smith said. “People benefited from his intellect and energy. There were a lot of people who were important in the movement, who got their information from Min. Suhkara.”
He said Memphis should be indebted to Yahweh.
Jabril Jabez was at Carnes Elementary School when he first met Yahweh in North Memphis. Like Smith, he remembers Yahweh as a very good dancer. “Some of the guys would gather in front of the grocery store and dance,” he said.
After Jabez was discharged from the military in 1968, he returned to Memphis and eventually joined The Invaders. He met Smith and became reacquainted with Yahweh “when the group got kind of unraveled.”
The Invaders leadership was basically in jail, he said. Yahweh, however, “was out front” and fearless. “He was a big brother to me,” Jabez said.
Yahweh was out-front, for example, when he maintained security and assisted in building Resurrection City in Washington D.C., and the success of the “Poor People’s Campaign” of 1968.
When he assisted the LeMoyne-Owen Student Government in taking over the college in 1970.
When he marched from Memphis to Jackson, Miss., to support then-Ambassador Andrew Young after he was forced to resign for talking with Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
When he marched in Tupelo, Miss., after a Black man was hung after it was reported that the man had hung himself while his hands were bound behind his back.
Yahweh was essentially out-front during a plethora of demonstrations, marches, and protests throughout the years.
“This was a man who knew no boundaries,” Smith said.
“He stood up for all injustices,” Lee added.
Said Yahweh to a reporter in 2019: “My fingerprints are all over Memphis, Atlanta, Mississippi, Jackson, Carolina, Washington, D.C.”