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Fulani, Lenora 1950—

Lenora Fulani 1950

Political party leader, psychologist, social therapist

When, Not If

Independent Politics

Worked the Streets

Sources

For more than 20 years, Dr. Lenora Branch Fulani has established herself as one of the leading voices in national independent politics and working class advocacy. She is a community organizer against discrimination and violence. She is the first woman and first African American to have appeared as a presidential candidate on all U.S. ballots. She also practices social therapy in order to make a difference on an individual level.

Fulani was one of the founders of the Barbara Taylor school in New York City. This independent school adopted the social development model first outlined by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotski who specialized in child development and the learning process. She is a main supporter of the Castillo Cultural Center in Manhattan, founded in 1984, which supports multicultural art and theater. Fulani is the founder and co-producer of the All Stars Talent Show Network, an anti-violence television program for urban children in the United States.

When, Not If

Lenora Fulani was born just outside of Philadelphia in she was aware that others had an effect African Americans. the working class city of Chester, Pennsylvania. She spent her first 18 years in Chester progressing through the public school system and attending church. According to an article published in Ms. Black Shopper International Network, Fulani first became interested in changing the world at the age of 12, when her father, Charles Branch, died of a seizure after her family could not get an ambulance to come into their neighborhood in Chester. Even at such a young age, the economic considerations of on the health and well-being of African Americans.

In her book, The Making of a Fringe Candidate, 1992, Fulani explained that the firing of her churchs choir director also convinced her to assist people whom she terms disenfranchised. Everybody sort of knew [the choir director] was gay, but nobody said anything about it until they decided to replace him so they could do something else with his salary line. They used his homosexuality as an excuse to get rid of him. The injustice of the situation enraged the young Fulani so much that she advocated his retention, even against the urging of her mother to simply participate in prayer meetings like

At a Glance

Born Lenora Branch on April 25, 1950, in Chester, PA; daughter of Charles (a railroad worker) and Pearl Branch (a licensed practical nurse); changed name to Lenora Branch Fulani, 1973; divorced; children; Ainka (daughter) and Amani (son). Education: Hofstra University B.A; Columbia University Teachers College, M.A,; City University of New York, Graduate Center, Ph.D.; New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research, post-graduate training in social therapy.

East Side Center for Short Term Psychotherapy, New York City, psychotherapist; National Alliance Party, founder, presidential candidate, 1988 and 1992; Inde-pendent Black Leadership in America, Castillo international, contributor, 1990; This Way for Black Empowerment newspaper column, columnist; All-Stars Talent Show Network, founder; Fulani!, television show, host. Author: The Making of a Fringe Candidate, 1992.

Member: Transnational Radical Party, Cenerai Council; Committee fora Unified Independent Party, Chair; Patriot Party, co-founder, 1994.

Addresses: Office Committee for a Unified Independent Party, 200 W. 72nd St Suite 37, New York, NY 10023. AgentCastillo International, 500 Greenwich St., Suite 201, New York, NY 10013, (212) 941-5800.

everyone else.

Another example of Fulanis early activism was related in the Philadelphia Inquirer Daily Magazine. As a senior at predominantly black Chester High in 1968, she [threatened] to organize a walkout if her class were forced to integrate its all black class cabinet, the first in the schools history. The administration backed down. Fulanis cousin, Yvonne Mann, was quoted as saying in the article: All her life she knew she was going somewhere. She thought about when, not if.

Fulani told of her time at Hofstra University in The Making of a Fringe Candidate, 1992 as one of growth. While there she learned about her own prejudices and how to overcome them. She noticed that women and their contributions to society and the civil rights movement remained in the shadows of men. Fulani did not enjoy this unequal treatment, but she was unsure about what she could do to change anything as prevalent as sexism.

During the early 1970s Fulani married. The two children from this relationshipa daughter, Ainka, and a son, Amanireceived the majority Fulanis attention while she also worked to support the family and complete her various degrees. As she acknowledged in her book, the effort was taxing, but it made her stronger. The hard work and desire for change lead Fulani in new directions.

Fulani began exploring activism and social change in the 1970s. While completing her doctorate work and working at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City, she attended a therapy group run by Dr. Fred Newman, a psychologist who practices what he calls social therapy. The group helped her eradicate her prejudices against different kinds of people. She wrote in The Making of a Fringe Candidate, 1992 that what I had learned about [people different from myself] was a pile of bull and very hurtful. I worked aggressively to do something about that. With Dr. Newmans help, she recognized that she had been raised with certain expressions [and] attitudes that were unfair assessments of people she did not know. [Prejudices are] so deeply embedded in how you think that they make you insensitive and hurtful even to people you love very much. I worked hard in that group to provide leadership around these issues.

Dr. Newman has continued to play an important role in Fulanis life outside of the therapy group by serving as campaign manager during most of her political campaigns. As Fulani admitted in her book, she consults Newman about her most pressing concerns because he shares Fulanis hope of improving the lot of disenfranchised people through political means.

Independent Politics

After finishing her doctoral work, Fulani chose to remain with the New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research. She began her therapy practice working with people in Harlem. Fulani also founded a political party known as the National Alliance Party (NAP) in order to effect political change without resorting to the policies of the Republican or Democratic parties. As an independent party, she looked for support wherever she could find it, but the majority of NAPs original followers were women and African Americans from Fulanis work place and the local community.

As Fulanis and others political starting point, the NAP described itself, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, as black-led, multiracial, pro-gay, and pro-socialist. Over the years Fulani often served the party as its standard bearer in elections. She campaigned for lieutenant governor of New York in 1982, mayor of New York City in 1985, governor of New York in 1986 and 1990, and president of the United States in 1988 and 1992. In her run for the presidency, she distinguished herself by becoming the first woman and the first African American to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states. She also became the first woman to qualify for federal primary matching funds during her 1992 bid. In fact, she was so successful in 1992 that she garnered more in matching funds than mainstream candidates Jerry Brown and Douglas Wilder.

Fulanis brand of independent politics has involved many tactics. She has led drives for voter registration. She has initiated lawsuits to open up ballot access to independent parties. Fulani has fought to be included in debates with major candidates on the state and national levels.

During her bids for public office, Fulani received endorsements from disparate people and groups. One of her supporters over the years has been the controversial minister Louis Farrakhan. Fulani has endured a great deal of criticism from more mainstream politicians because she has refused to denounce Farrakhan. Fulani stated in The Making of a Fringe Candidate, 1992, however, that black leaders-like white leaders-have the right to have differences without having to repudiate each other. She also received a great deal of bad publicity for her support of gay rights.

Fulani insists, though, that it is possible to derive support from these very different sectors of the country and build a movement that is unified in its thinking. In her run for the Democratic partys nomination for governor of New York in 1994, she showed this statement to be true by collecting 21 percent of the total vote in the primary elections. She gathered more than 30 percent of the vote in many black majority areas and more than 40 percent of the vote in the six northern New York counties where industrialist Ross Perot scored very high percentages of the vote in the 1992 presidential election.

Worked the Streets

In addition to her grassroots runs for political office, Fulani has often taken to the streets to push for action issues or solve problems of the working class. She has played a major role in attempting to serve justice in the rape case of 15-year-old Tawana Brawley in which she originally implicated three white men, was defended by black social activist Al Sharpton, but eventually admitted that she fabricated the story. Fulani organized marches, again with Reverend Al Sharpton, in regards to the Howard Beach, New York, incident in which three black men with car problems were severely beaten, one fatally, by whites in a white neighborhood for just being there. Fulani took to the streets for more than 25 marches through the the predominantly white Benson-hurst section of Brooklyn, New York, in which Yusuf Hawkins, a black youth, was killed. She spent several hours in the streets of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn helping to avert a bloodbath [between African American and Jewish residents) in the wake of the death of Gavin Cato [a black child run over by a carl, according to Ms. Black Shopper. This event led to her endorsement in the 1990 gubernatorial race by the Guardian Association of the New York City Police Department.

Fulani continues her work with what she calls the overtaxed and under served population in her political activities, said her spokesperson Madelyn Chapman. In 1994, Fulani assisted in forming a unified front of the disenfranchised and other independent voters who supported the presidential campaign of Ross Perot. At a meeting that year of the Federation of Independent Voters in Arlington, Virginia, the Patriot Party was born through this organizing effort. The NAP has since folded itself into the Patriot Party for the 1996 elections, hoping to strengthen the power of independent voters.

Although Fulani has achieved great success in organizing independent voters, it has not been without obstacles. Both Political Research Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Nation magazine have published material highly critical of Fulani and the NAP. Nation likened the party to a cult run by Dr. Newman. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, however, Fulanis followers have heard all the criticism and remain fiercely loyal. Many of the most ardent, from the most disaffected quarters of society, say she has revived their interest in politics.

However she is viewed by others, Fulani is sure to persist in working hard for independent politics and the reform of the current system. In 1996 she reached out to people through a newspaper column carried in more than 140 newspapers, entitled This Way for Black Empowerment. She also is the host of her own cable television show, FULANI!, seen in more than 20 cities each week. In these ways, Lenora Fulani has expanded her efforts to include everyone in the democratic process.

Sources

Books

Fulani, Lenora B., The Making of a Fringe Candidate, 1992, Castillo International, 1993.

Salit, Jacqueline and Gabrielle Kurlander, Independent Black Leadership in America, Castillo International Publications, 1990.

Periodicals

Ms., May/June 1992, pp. 86-88.

Ms. Black Shopper International Network, January 1995, p. 3.

Nation, May 4, 1992, pp. 385-94; May 30, 1994, pp. 746-47.

New York Amsterdam News, January 30, 1993, p. 4.

Philadelphia Inquirer Daily Magazine, April 6, 1992, p. C1.

Additional information for this profile was obtained through a November of 1995 press release from Castillo International Publications.

Stephen Stratton

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