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Pan African “Living Saint”, MLK Fellow… Transitioned

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WADU High Council of Elders Chair, The Most Reverend Dr. Ndugu T’Ofori-Atta transitioned into the spiritual world on January 11, 2012 at 11:15 a.m. For most of his life, Dr. Atta served humanity foremost as a Pan African Priest, founder and leader of the Religious Heritage of the African World (RHAW), and a former professor of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). He was also instructor and member of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellows, a founding member and leader of the Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta and most importantly a ‘peoples’ pastor’. Over the decades, Dr. Atta worked with major leaders across the African world for the freedom and liberation of African people resulting in the building of major Pan African institutions in Africa and the African Diaspora.
Born on July 11, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr. Atta is an activist priest who has consistently served African people with the utmost grace, humility, and conviction. His work for Black freedom follows the path of great Pan African priestly leaders such as Rev. Henry H. Garnett, Rev. Dr. Edward Blyden, Rev. Dr. Martin Delaney, M.D., Bishop Henry McNeil Turner, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. These ministers have transformed the religious, political, and social landscape of history.
As a child, Dr. Atta felt a passion to help overcome the problems of the world. While serving during WW11 as an assistant Chaplain in the Pacific, Dr. Atta made his life commitment to serve Black people, especially those challenges affecting his Homeland, Africa. Upon completion of his military service, he immediately enrolled at Lincoln University and then attended graduate studies at Boston University with other African American leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Atta remembered Boston University as a “hotbed for raising one’s spiritual and political conscience to transform a world dominated by racism, imperialism and colonialism.”
Upon graduation from Boston University in 1951, Dr. Atta taught briefly at Livingstone College in North Carolina and proceeded with his wife ‘Nanasewa’ Farrel Thomas to work in The Congo. While in The Congo, he taught and promoted African liberation theology. He also participated in activities that led to the forming of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in 1961. The AACC is a Pan African faith organization that gave support to the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. Both the AACC and the OAU committed themselves in principle to support the unification and liberation of African people.
In 1965, Dr, Atta returned to the United States and established the Religious Heritage of the Black World (RHBW) at Livingstone College as an organization to re-educate Africans in the Diaspora on African culture, spirituality and to participate in the African freedom struggles of African people. In 1969, the RHBW moved to the ITC in Atlanta, Georgia and collaborated with Dr. Vincent Harding (former speechwriter for Dr. M.L. King, Jr.) of the Institute of the Black World (IBW) on numerous projects.
In the 1970’s, the RHAW also became the beacon of light for African spiritual reawakening attracting many pastors and community leaders to accept and confirm African traditional worldview as vital to the dignity, humanity and divinity of African people. It officially changed its name from RHBW to RHAW to send a clear and uncompromising message that ‘we are Africans’. Dr. Atta also collaborated with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellows Doctoral Project at Colgate University as a faculty leader and member. He taught prominent faith leaders on the significance of African religious experiences in South America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic coast of the United States as critical links to African spiritual legacy. Additionally, while at ITC, Baba Atta educated thousands of young ministers to dedicate their work to restore and promote African history, spirituality, and African liberation, everywhere.
Dr. Atta also used the RHAW as a catalyst to provide direct support for African liberation struggles in Africa and throughout the Diaspora. The RHAW has especially collaborated with the AACC, the National Council of Churches (NCC,USA), the World Council of Churches (WCC), Congress of National Black Churches (CNBC) on a number of Africa initiatives to promote the decolonization of Africa. Inspired by Dr. Atta, graduates of the MLK Fellows program such as The Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker and Canon Frederick Williams were able to organize other prominent ministers to serve as vital links to support the liberation and human rights struggles in Africa.
By the 1980’s, the RHAW initiated the Pan African Christian Church Conference (PACCC) to organize African faith leaders across the Diaspora to partner with the AACC to support the full liberation and reconstruction of Africa. With PACCC, the RHAW became the first successful effort in Black history to hold a major Pan African meeting of faith leaders representing African people from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. The work of PACCC inspired the founding the Religious Action Network (RAN) by Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, former Chief of Staff to Dr. King. RAN became a powerful punch to American Committee on Africa (Africa Fund), now Africa Action. Through RAN, Dr. Walker recruited former students of Dr. Atta such as Rev. Phyllis Byrd and Minister P.D. Menelik Harris into his leadership to galvanize religious organizations and leaders for African liberation, sustainable development, and human rights issues in Africa.
The RHAW opened the 21st century by launching the RHAW Pan African Movement (PAM) initiative to unify the African Diaspora with Africa. The RHAWPAM initiative was inspired by the work of Bishop Henry McNeil Turner, a key convener and supporter of the 1900 First Pan African Congress (PAC) in England. With those like Dr. WEB Dubois and other leaders of Africa and the African Diaspora, these early Pan Africanists established the framework for African independence and unification. The RHAWPAM initiative was also a response from the continuous call from the OAU, now African Union and the AACC for Africans in the Diaspora to become partners for the rebuilding of our Homeland, Africa.
Since 2004, the RHAW was able to rally wide support from major organizations and leaders across the African Diaspora to rebuild the Pan African Movement for the 21st century and by 2007 established the World Afrikan Diaspora Union (WADU) as that instrument. WADU is the now most important Pan African organization of the Diaspora unifying the African Diaspora with Africa, economically, politically and culturally. WADU leadership is now across the African Diaspora including Europe, the USA, the Caribbean and in South America. Dr. Atta initially served as its Chief Secretariat and then the Chair of WADU. WADU has been able to attract other illustrious Diaspora leaders such as His Excellency Baba Dr. Dudley Thompson, President; Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Vice President; Nana Dr. Niara Sudarkasa, Chief Elder; Nana Sybil Clarke (wife of Dr. John H. Clarke), Queen Mother; and Dr. Julius Garvey, Executive Support.
As part of Dr. Atta’s enduring work, the students and faculty of ITC (premier Black seminary) have pushed for a Sankofa curriculum as a model to promote African sacred heritage and history in the world. Indeed, Dr. Ndugu T’Ofori-Atta has passed on a great legacy to his immediate and extended family members across the world. Our beloved Baba Ndugu T’Ofori-Atta’s spirit is now watching over us as we mourn, celebrate and continue his sacred and ‘saintly’ work. On January 22, 2012, his brother in struggle and confidant, Dr. Vincent Harding will preside over the funeral rite of passage ceremony.

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