Leith Mullings: Presente!
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I had not planned on turning my iPhone back on. I had earlier cut off both my phone and computer, and was getting ready for bed. But I impulsively decided that I needed to look something up, so back on went my phone.
Suddenly I received what felt to be frantic texts. I looked down and they were from my good friend, Denise Perry, the executive director of Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD). Leith Mullings, she indicated, had passed away.
This was no generic call. Leith, and her late husband Manning Marable, had been a very good friend and comrade. I was stunned. Cancer, Denise indicated, had taken her from us.
Dr. Leith Mullings, a noted Marxist anthropologist and activist, was a retired professor from the City University of New York-Graduate Center. Leith was a very warm, wise, and thoughtful person, someone who did not tolerate fools. She had a wonderful sense of humor and, as sharp as she was, never talked down to anyone. She was also an excellent debater.
I met Leith in 1993 but it was twenty-five years ago, just about this time of year, that she, Manning Marable, Barbara Ransby, Abdul Alkalimat, and I began laying the groundwork for the formation of what came to be known as the Black Radical Congress (in June 1998). Working with Leith was a wonderful experience given her wit and insight, as well as her interest in building a formation that was exceptionally broad. The five of us, plus a host of other great scholars and activists, were successful in the formation of the Black Radical Congress which, during June Teenth weekend in 1998, mobilized approximately 3000 participants over the course of two and a half days.
Leith was a serious scholar who also believed deeply in activism. In her last years she offered her assistance to the Movement for Black Lives as well as offered in depth analysis of the conditions faced by the African World (Africa and the African Diaspora) in this time of neo-liberalism.
The suddenness of the news of Leith’s loss shook me. I had been totally unaware of her illness and am very disappointed that I had no chance to say goodbye. But, as my friend Barbara Ransby noted, Leith was a very private person. I think that she decided to exit this plane of existence with privacy and dignity. I will miss her deeply but know that she has reconnected with the spirit of Manning Marable who, along with her children, was the love of her life.