April 4, 1984 marked the official beginning date of a formal relationship between Gary James and the Republican Party, by way of a letter of invitation he received from the Committee to Re-elect Reagan-Bush. The letter is explicit with a cryptic narrative and delivered in a fashion that generated curiosity. After the first reading Gary was impressed that somehow the message conveyed an uncanny insight and an apparent prior knowledge of Gary’s experience in community organizing and politics.
The letter generated much curiosity for any number of reasons, not the least of which was because Gary had no prior experience or relations with officials of the Republican Party. Moreover, the general information in the communication indicated that the authors apparently had insight and intelligence. The letter was an open invitation to join the Reagan-Bush campaign that was being built in New York State. Under the circumstances it was an offer that Gary couldn’t refused.
On the letterhead of: REAGAN-BUSH 1984, to the chairman of Voters Anonymous.
Dear Mr. James:
“I have received word from the White House of your interest in helping in the President’s reelection. We appreciate your generous offer of support.
We are building a strong organization in your state and would like to see your group involved. I have taken the liberty of passing your qualifications on to our Executive Director in New York, Mr. Charles Gargano. I trust he will be in touch with you soon.
Again, thank you for your support and enthusiasm.
Sincerely, Roger J. Stone, Jr. Eastern Regional Campaign Director”
Prior to his foray into electoral Republican Party politics Gary James was a staff organizer for the National Welfare Rights Organization in the civil rights and black power movements. Gary enjoyed a colorful Career between 1966 and 1971 as a community organizer headquartered in Harlem on Amsterdam Avenue and 126th Street. NWRO was a civil rights organization among a plethora of popular civil rights organizations such as, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and the Urban League etc. The civil rights movement began in the south and spread north during the middle of the 1950s, and by the middle of the 1960s, and youthful contingent emerged and proliferated.
Popularly known as the ‘black power’ and black conscious movement’s students and community based youth organizations emerged as a growing contingent that intersected and integrated with the civil rights organizations. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is an example of the growing student and youth contingent and was directly associated with SCLC. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leaders of SCLC, and Stokely Carmichael, a/k/a Kume Toure, leader of SNCC were central characters of civil rights period. Ultimately a vast political dichotomy developed between Dr. King the civil rights leader and Carmichael black power, and revolutionary leader. The dichotomy between Dr. King and Carmichael played out in the black community around the country and when the smoke was cleared black power and their ‘militant’ and political ‘revolutionary’ advocated were eviscerated. The civil rights leadership orthodoxy was the unwitting social and political beneficiaries relative to the demise of black power, and political militants.
Gary was among the few survivors of the civil rights movement and black power movement political juxtaposition, and the letter from the Reagan re-election campaign was a reminder of the revolutionary days of political subversion, etc. Gary James survived the political juxtaposition decimated black power militants and the emerging black conscious and the civil rights leadership political archetype were the unwitting beneficiaries of the political power conflagration in the black community. Gary attributes his political survival to the fact he left the national political movement and began focusing local neighborhood and community politics in 1971. On home ground in Jamaica Queens James formulated a Youth Economic Enterprise Development program that generated local success that interrupted the political status quo.
In the wake of a protracted political wrestling match with the New York City black Democratic Party black political powers elite. A registered member of the Republican Party since 1967 when NWRO sponsored a national voter education and registration program targeted to the political prospect that Vice President Nixon planned to run for president following the introduction of his welfare form program dubbed the Work Incentive Program. In the wake of the political fallout from the Nixon Water Gate scandal James who was leadership positions on the South Jamaica Steering Committee, and chairman of the Southeast Queens Community Corporation was on the receiving end of frenzied politics as a constituent of Nixon politics. Subsequently, Gary got an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
While initially suspect of prospect of political machinations that may be associated with the letter inspired by the White House, he ultimately concluded it would be better to respond positively to the White House call… In 1978 Gary James and several others infiltrated the Republican Party electoral politics in the 1980 president race from New York.
On January 22, 1991 I received the following letter from the South African Consulate:
“Dear Mr. James:
I am pleased to confirm the invitation to you and Mrs. James to visit South Africa from February 24, 1991 to March 15, 1991 as guest of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Your visit will entail a compact program, which should provide you with an opportunity to experience at first hand the broad scope of South Africa’s dynamic socio-political environment. Details of your program will be finalized by our guest section in Pretoria, after we have had an opportunity to discuss your personal interests and specific requests regarding your future visit.
Should you accept this invitation, it would be appreciated if you could acquaint yourself with the contents of the attached list of conditions relating to all official guests. Please direct any inquiries to Miss Yolanda Kemp of the Consulate-General. She will be responsible for all arrangements preceding your visit. I trust your visit will be both enjoyable and fruitful. Yours Sincerely, Consul General.”
We visited South Africa for the first time in February of 1991 on a fact-finding mission at the invitation of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs. This maiden voyage embodied a non-governmental itinerary, a people to people enterprise that covered a broad spectrum of South African society. Contacts included the competing political parties, movements and factions, business, financial, education and interfaith sectors. The visit was comprehensive, exciting, informative and insightful particularly as it related to the similarities of ‘inner city’ and ‘third world’ sustainable-development challenges. New and accessible opportunities for economic and social development had emerged since the geo-political paradigm shift from the East vs. West adversarial relationship, following the demise of former Soviet Union. The emerging ‘north-South geo-political dichotomy in the context of the developed vs. developing economies favored the development process in the ‘third world’ though major challenges existed.
Our political education initiative in the framework of the Black Republican Taskforce put our grassroots activism in an elite league in the political perception of the state and national Republican Party. The concept fit like a glove on the Reagan-Bush reelection campaign and it had a positive impact at the New York State level as they were preparing for a serious gubernatorial campaign in the very near future.