Nat Weinstein ¡Presente!

When I First Knew Nat

By Kwame Somburu

In the spring of 1960, I signed a petition to get Farrell Dobbs and Myra Weiss on the ballot in New York. They were the Socialist Workers Party candidates for President and Vice President. I did work in support of their campaign at the SWP national office. That was how I met Nat and Sylvia.

I joined the Young Socialist Alliance for a few months, and became a political sympathizer of the SWP while I was doing independent study of various groups and scientific socialism. Nat, Sylvia and I became politically and personally friendly. In the fall of 1963, I became the chairman of the attempt to build a Harlem chapter of the Freedom Now Party.

On July 18th, 1964, a white police lieutenant shot a 15 year old unarmed black youth in the back, and killed him. That sparked a rebellion in Harlem and Brooklyn on July 25th. 

I was the FNP candidate for State Senator from Harlem, and because of my known opposition to racial and other types of oppression, I was not allowed to speak publicly in Harlem during the remaining summer months for fear I would spark another rebellion—I spoke anyway.

I was arrested on August 8th and charged with disorderly conduct and more. However, the Police Department agreed to drop the charges if I agreed not to sue.

I did agree not to sue, because Nat and other SWP leaders wanted to sponsor a rally and make a court case for free speech if I were arrested again. 

I spoke at that rally which was held on August 28th, and Nat was ready with bail money. I was arrested, Nat promptly bailed me out, and we eventually won the court case.

The Freedom Now Party’s main sector in Detroit went out of existence when none of their 20-plus candidates were elected. In April 1965 I visited the SWP headquarters, and Nat asked me if I would make a contribution, I did, and he smiled. At a visit the next week, he asked me if I would join. With no hesitation, I joined, and noticed a very appreciable smile. In May, I wrote an article explaining why I joined that was published in The Militant.

Nat, Sylvia, myself, and my son Asi-Yahola, had a very political and friendly relationship that only death could end, but memories will keep alive.