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Jamala Rogers

Newspaper columnist and community organizer, Jamala Rogers was born Terry Massey on October 11, 1950 in Kansas City, Missouri to Lollie Massey and Bennett Woodward Massey. Rogers attended Phillips, Ladd and Moore Elementary Schools and graduated from Central High School in 1968. An activist at Tarkio College, Rogers was a leader of the black student organization. She also tried to join the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party during the time that its leader, Pete O’Neal, was leaving the country. After earning her B.A. degree in education in 1971, Rogers relocated to St. Louis, Missouri.

Rogers helped to found the St. Louis Chapter of the Congress of African People (CAP) under the leadership of Amiri Baraka in the 1970s. There, along with Haki Madhubuti, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Jitu Weusi and others, Rogers practiced a version of Maulana Karenga’s black nationalist Kawaida Theory. She was also involved in the African Liberation Support Committee and the National Black Political Assembly. In 1980, Rogers joined Herbert Daughtry, Conrad Worrill and other black activists to form the Black United Front. The Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) was founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 1980 by Rogers and other community activists, students and union organizers to help the black working class and extol the principles of Black Power. OBS programs include community civic, youth, education and cultural arts activities from the African oriented Rowan Community Center.

In 1993, Rogers was appointed director of the City of St. Louis’ Office of Youth Development by Mayor Freeman Bosley, Jr. and fostered innovative approaches to addressing youth services . She served in that capacity until 2001. During this period, Rogers also served as chairperson of the St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable. In 1998, Rogers joined with Angela Davis, Bill Fletcher and 2,000 other activists to form the Black Radical Congress (BRC) in Chicago. The BRC is a grassroots network focusing on civil and human rights. Rogers has served in a number of leadership capacities with the BRC, including as a coordinating committee member and as national conference coordinator. In addition to being chairperson of OBS, she is co-chair of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR) and sits on numerous boards of youth and education oriented agencies. Rogers is a prolific contributor to websites and blogs and is also a featured contributing writer for The St. Louis American and an editorial board member of the Black Commentator. Her writing focuses on issues like Hurricane Katrina, the Jenna Six, police brutality and the environment. She is married to veteran civil rights activist Percy Green II.

Rogers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 16, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.290

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/16/2007

Last Name

Rogers

Maker Category
Schools

Central Academy of Excellence

Phillips Elementary School

Ladd Elementary School

Moore Elementary School

Wendell Phillips Elementary School

Tarkio College

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Jamala

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

ROG07

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any, does better with young people

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: $200-500
Preferred Audience: Any, does better with young people

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Forward Still

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

10/11/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Community activist and newspaper columnist Jamala Rogers (1950 - ) served as Director of the City of St. Louis’ Office of Youth Development from 1993 to 2001. She founded the Organization for Black Struggle and writes for the St. Louis American.

Employment

Kansas City Public School System

Congress of Afrikan People

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jamala Rogers's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jamala Rogers lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jamala Rogers describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jamala Rogers talks about the importance of family photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jamala Rogers describes her mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jamala Rogers describes her parents' move to Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jamala Rogers describes her relationship with her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jamala Rogers describes her great-aunt, Sadie Gibson

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jamala Rogers describes her family's education

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jamala Rogers describes her likeness to her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jamala Rogers describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Jamala Rogers describes her neighborhoods in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Jamala Rogers describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jamala Rogers remembers her interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jamala Rogers describes the black media outlets in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jamala Rogers describes her relationship with her father

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jamala Rogers describes the St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jamala Rogers remembers her involvement as a Girl Scout

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jamala Rogers remembers her early understanding of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jamala Rogers recalls her early advocacy

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jamala Rogers describes her mother's parenting style

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jamala Rogers remembers her influences at Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jamala Rogers describes her activities at Central High School

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Jamala Rogers recalls her aspiration to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jamala Rogers remembers her conflicts with her stepfather

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jamala Rogers describes her stepfather

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jamala Rogers recalls the aftermath of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jamala Rogers remembers her college scholarship

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jamala Rogers remembers the Black Panther Party in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jamala Rogers remembers Tarkio College in Tarkio, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jamala Rogers describes her student activism at Tarkio College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jamala Rogers describes the history of Tarkio College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Jamala Rogers talks about attending a majority-white college

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jamala Rogers recalls attending the Communiversity in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jamala Rogers talks about the black nationalist perspective

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jamala Rogers remembers student teaching at Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jamala Rogers remembers her introduction to Afro-centrism

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jamala Rogers talks about Pete O'Neal and Charlotte O'Neal

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jamala Rogers remembers her move to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jamala Rogers describes the history of the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jamala Rogers describes the changes in the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jamala Rogers describes her involvement in the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jamala Rogers recalls the pushback against the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jamala Rogers describes communal living with the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jamala Rogers describes the changes in the Congress of Afrikan People

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jamala Rogers talks about the Revolutionary Communist League

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jamala Rogers describes the white members of the Revolutionary Communist League

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jamala Rogers describes her work with the Revolutionary Communist League

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jamala Rogers describes the Organization for Black Struggle

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jamala Rogers talks about the National Black United Front

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$8

DATitle
Jamala Rogers remembers her introduction to Afro-centrism
Jamala Rogers describes the Organization for Black Struggle
Transcript
(Simultaneous) Is there a, a period of time, I mean, how did, prior to the late '60s [1960s], if you called somebody an African American, an African, you had a fight and they'd be mad at you, you called them black, there'd be a fight. There's a, w- when did you start actually learning something about Africa as such? I mean, where would you--$$I would say I was in, in college.$$Okay.$$I was in college.$$Can you remember a first time or that you heard anything about it or--$$No, I can't--$$--first time you wore anything African or--$$--nah, I can't but I remember after that freshman year it was totally solidified. So, 'cause initially, I stopped pressing my hair but I didn't have an Afro, I just stopped pressing it. And then by, I think, probably after that first year, I did, I did the Afro. And then, you know, during that period of time, we were, you know, dealing with, you know, love Africa, Mother Africa, you know, that's our homeland. And so, you know, started wearing African clothes, yeah.$$Okay, because I think it's--yeah (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) But by the time I graduated, I was actually wearing African clothes every day not like for event purposes but that was a part of who I was and who I wanted to be. So when I'm photographed, you know, there's a picture in the yearbook when I was working with the kids on the yearbook staff, that I'm in full-like, you know African clothes and I'm in the center of the picture and everybody else is sort of on this, going down the steps and so I'm at the top with this big old 'fro and these African clothes. So it, it, you know, I'm sure I shook up some people there at the high school [Central High School; Central Academy of Excellence, Kansas City, Missouri].$$So, were there any other teachers (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Wondering like, who is this person? Or what is she about or what's she teaching those kids and is she teaching them that black stuff and, you know, but, you know, I, I would, I had like special relationships with the kids in terms of doing things for them that they obviously had an interest in but had nobody to cultivate it so like there were a couple of students in there that were really into poetry so they would write stuff and let me look at it and critique it and stuff and I remember one child, I don't know how I got into this, but I ended up teaching her how to drive (makes sound). So I, you know, I had personal relationships with them outside of the classroom but we definitely did a lot of, you know, traditional things but trying to add like some, some flavor of who you are and what you need to be about and that kind of thing, so.$$But, but who, I guess I'm trying to figure out like who, who did you learn any of this from? You know, you're coming from, you go to Tarkio College [Tarkio, Missouri], who on campus was talking about wearing African clothes or naturals or how did you all get it (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well, one of the brothers, well, two, two or three people that I recall 'cause some of these folks were coming from bigger cities. I mean, so they were already, definitely into it like from D.C. [Washington, D.C.], a couple of people from Chicago [Illinois], folks from St. Louis [Missouri], so they were a little bit more advanced, just in terms of, you know, already doing this stuff, the communities doing it and one of the brothers that would actually take us back to the Communiversity, you know, that was a part of what they was doing so all of that was being sort of dealt with by peers and so, you know, and then we would like try to find out more of what was going on, get, you know, news articles. I mean, we didn't have the Internet then, obviously, but, you know, just trying to stay in communication, reading black newspapers and kind of seeing how other people were doing things. So it really was like just a learning thing say like, what does it mean to be black right now? Okay. Ooh, they're wearing that, you know. The black light, we need some fluorescent lights, you know, so you know, you just try to just mimic, you know, what it means to be a conscious black person and all of us we would go to different places, everybody was doing the same thing, listening to Coltrane [John Coltrane] and, and black light, you know, at the parties. So, so I think it was just really just trying to figure out what identity, what we really wanted to, to be and, and having the influence of peers 'cause I really don't recall, other than like the Communiversity, getting that kind of identity nurturing from anybody and certainly I didn't get it in Kansas City [Kansas], you know. So, I, I think it was really peer based and then, you know, whatever folks were learning in their cities and talking about what was going on, sort of just brought that into the fold.$Now how is Organization for Black Struggle [St. Louis, Missouri] different from the, what was it in '79 [1979], in '80 [1980], the, was it the Revolutionary Communist League or--$$Oh, it's, it's completely different 'cause it's a mass-based organization. There ma- there's a couple of us who are, you know, Socialist or Socialist leaning but basically it's, it's a mass-based organization from, you know, students to, you know, professionals, but it's basically working class organization.$$Okay. So, the, are the same people in it, that are in, they were in the Revolutionary Communist League or--$$No, the only, the only two that probably are remaining is myself and Brother Kalimu Endesha and we both played leading roles in the Congress of Afrikan People and so, you know, I think part of coming out of the Congress of Afrikan People and still seeing that there was a need to have a primarily black organization even though you are a Socialist, you know, or a Communist, was still, was still a valid demand. And so, that, I think that's one of the reasons that, that this group was founded, the Organization for Black Struggle, 'cause, you know, you had the period coming out of the '60s [1960s], the Black Power movement and then there was that lull, you know, because black organizations were being attacked, folks were, you know, ran out of the country, they were killed and so for like the '70s [1970s], there was just a lot of misguided things going on and, and people sort of trying to figure out where do we go from here and quite, you know, frankly, some people disillusioned by even the, the Communist movement, the new Communist movement. So, so, you know, we were part of a group that, that establishes but all of them were not Socialist on, neither were they all left, they were, you know, some of the progressive folks who wanted to set up something for black people to address the issues 'cause when we looked around, we saw that, you know, there was not a whole lot of groups that were addressing the issues of working class black people and you had the Urban League [National Urban League] and you had the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] and that was about it and, you know, they had their limitations. And so, so we became that, we filled that void here in St. Louis [Missouri].$$Okay, so when did the or- the Organization for Black Struggle start?$$Nineteen eighty [1980].