Nehanda Abiodun, a founding member of the New Afrikan People’s Organization, noted organizer for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and undisputed Godmother of the Cuban Hip-Hop scene reportedly died in the early morning of last Wednesday (Jan. 30). She was 69 years old. The cause of death has yet to be revealed. Abiodun’s passing was announced on the official website of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement last Wednesday:
The New Afrikan Independence Movement and the world-wide anti-imperialist movement has lost a powerful soldier, comrade, and sister. Our comrade, Nehanda Isoke Abiodun, a founding cadre member of the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) and an Organizer for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) died the early morning of January 30, 2019. She was living in exile in Havana, Cuba where she resided for over 30 years representing our struggle to the Cuban people and the international community.
Affectionately known as Mama Nehanda, she was living in exile in Havana, Cuba as a U.S. fugitive for the past 30 years. December of this year would have been her 31st year living as an estranged citizen of Cuba. In the early ’80s, U.S. authorities charged her for assisting with the 1979 escape of Assata Shakur from Hunterdon County Jail, the 1981 impounding of Brinks trucks in Nyack, NY which resulted in the fatality of two Brinks guards along with a series of robberies which triggered her immediate underground pledge. The accusations landed Abiodun on the FBI’s Most Wanted List in the eighties, where she remained until the time of her death. Last year, she spoke to Vibe about her relationship with Shakur, showcasing her sisterly nature:
“I knew about Assata and I supported Assata. I was part of the FBI’s Most Wanted list because they believed I aided her in her liberation. I’m not saying that I was there. But whether or not I did help Assata escape, I will say that I am proud of being accused of it. She is my sister and I love her”
Born in Harlem, as young as 10 years of age, the New Afrikan powerbroker was a youth activist with grand influence from her father who was a member of the Nation of Islam and also the bodyguard of the late Malcolm X. Shortly after graduating from Columbia University in 1972, she started working for the Lincoln Detox Center, a detoxification clinic in the South Bronx spearheaded by Black Panther member Mutulu Shakur where she practiced the holistic measures of acupuncture to treat patients fighting opioid addictions. The clinic was primarily employed of formers members of the Black Panther Party, Republic of New Afrika, and members of the Puerto Rican collective, the Young Lords. Six years later, the operation was resolved by the FBI labeling the clinic as a “breeding grounds for terrorism.”
In 1990, Abiodun reached the island of Cuba where she was granted political asylum. Since she became the founding annex of the Cuban Hip-Hop scene through the use of her revolutionary vigor. As a founding member of the New Afrikan People’s Organization, a collective that promotes the act of self-sufficiency for Black people in the southern states of the U.S, she encouraged the birth of Black and Afro Cuban awareness among the youth, ultimately serving as a precursor for the movement.
She is famed for transforming her home in Havana into a center for cultural awareness and staunch socio-political education which became the place for the region’s first Hip-Hop gatherings. Cuban youth received knowledge about the history of the ’60s and ’70s Black liberation and were also taught about their African origins, a queue for the modern trending element of Cuban lyricists embracing their blackness.
Abiodun became a key organizer of Black August benefit concerts where she helped the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement New York City-based collective exchange ideas with U.S. rappers including Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Common, and Black Thought and connect with the Cuban rap scene, respectfully heralded “a celebration of Hip-Hop and freedom fighters.”
Abiodun’s approach on the rise of Black awareness through her Nation of Islam background, enlightened by Malcolm X’s wisdom and through the evolution of her New Afrikan conceptualization, she respectfully earned her position as the “Godmother of Cuban Hip-Hop” by influencing a radiating sense of Afro pride among Afro-Cuban rappers. Cuban rappers in the likes of Mutila, La Reyna y La Real, and El Individuo have created timeless tracks which all echo Abiodun’s revolutionary essence. Nehanda Abiodun’s influence in the Cuban region of Hip-Hop culture holds a special unshakable place in history.