On May17, 1967, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Black Power advocate, Stokley Carmichael, spoke at Fountain Street Church to a standing room only crowd.
Since we do not have a transcript of what Carmichael said, we must rely on a Grand Rapids Press story that appeared on May 18, 1967. In the article, Carmichael addressed several themes in his talk. First, he spoke about how all civil rights legislation was about civilizing white people.
Another area that Carmichael addressed was the Vietnam War, where he made the points that this was a way to diminishing the ranks of blacks by forced recruitment and it was another indication that whites engage in violence all the time, yet they cry foul when violence is done to them.
The Black Freedom struggle leader also talked about white cops in black neighborhoods and that black cops should not join the AFL-CIO, since they practiced racism in their ranks. One final comment was Carmichael’s response to J. Edgar Hoover, who claimed that Stokley was part of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). Stokley responded by calling Hoover a note taker. What he meant by that was that Hoover just took notes while the cops surrounded black people and beat them.
There was a second short article in the Grand Rapids Press, which acknowledged that Carmichael had meet with roughly 350 members of the black community at the First Community Church AME. People at that meeting addressed dissatisfaction with community conditions, with public education and with the Campau Housing Project in particular. Carmichael did encourage high school students from Central, South and Ottawa to get organized and become part of SNCC.
The irony was that just 2 months later, police officers in Grand Rapids pulled over and abused several young black students, which erupted into a 3 day rebellion in July of 1967. Many of the people involved in this rebellion were black high school students.
Lastly, it is worth noting that there were threats against Carmichael coming to Grand Rapids. Two white men living in Belmont had their homes raided by the FBI. The FBI found assault rifles, bombs, dynamite and 2 sub-machine guns in their possession, as reported by Jet Magazine. The magazine also reported that “the men were charged with possession if illegal weapons, but were released on their own recognizance.”