Sunday, April 3, 2011

Malcolm, Manning and Black Men: The Minds of the Dearly Departed

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action

The death of the great Manning Marable at Columbia University was hard for me. At the young age of 60, Professor Marable took his rightful place with the legends of the black history, ending an amazing life and remarkable career. Professor Marable passed as one of the great black scholars of our time, and had the vision to expand the walls of his classroom to include millions of black and brown people across the world.

In spite of the fact that my god daughter is a student athlete at Columbia and one of my best friends is on the faculty, I’ve admittedly never had a chance to meet Professor Marable (plus, I can be a bit of a hermit at times). But even though I never had the honor of knowing him personally, I’ve always carried extreme admiration for any black male scholar with the passion, purpose and intellectual courage possessed by this brilliant human being.

Professor Marable’s work with the Hip Hop Summit Action Network showed that he was willing to look to our youth for new ideas in order to advance our collective cause. Far too many black scholars spend their careers behind the walls of academia, frightened by anything different and progressive. They consider those outside of academia to be “unscholarly,” and end up wasting their lives writing a long list of research papers that no one is ever going to read. Much of this is a function of the fact that black scholars never told themselves how to be scholarly; instead, they were told that behaving in a particular way is the path to opening doors into universities that are controlled by those who care nothing about the state of black America.

Professor Marable’s last and perhaps most significant book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, allows him to finish his career with an academic bang. I am probably biased, since Malcolm X is my greatest historical hero. But many of us can learn from the lives of both Malcolm and Manning, as we realize that for the black man in America, his intellect is his greatest weapon in a society that is designed to destroy him.

I encourage other black scholars to reinvent themselves in the same way as Malcolm X and Manning Marable. We must commit ourselves to a revolution of the mind and rise above the academic imperialism that keeps us from using our education to serve our communities. We must also realize that having academic degrees does not make you into a scholar, and being a scholar doesn’t require you to have an academic degree. Every black man in America should embrace the idea of lifelong learning, community involvement and courageous action that will help him to secure a positive social footprint.

Life is too short for mediocrity. Professor Manning Marable chose to be great, and scholars for many generations will learn from his contributions. I am proud of Professor Marable, one of my academic fathers, and he deserves his place in heaven next to Malcolm.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


Anonymous said...

Your comments about Dr. Marable are appreciated and right on target. However, I note it to emphasize and reference the black male scholar. Black female scholars are doing some mighty things on the battle field. To name a few - Dr.Tomiko Brown Nagin, Professor of Law and History at the University of Virginia; Dr.Joy DeGruy Leary, Professor at Portland State University; and Dr. Arlette Miller Smith, Professor at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York.

As an African American female octogenarian who has been on the battle field since youth, it is a joy to see the new generation taking on "the task". Communication is a powerful tool. Talk with each other and be aware that each other exists, female as well as male. Communication is a vital tool. No one of us is free until all of us are free.

Shirley Quinn said...

Gone Too Soon... A Mind of Greatness!!! He was A Heroe on the FrontLine; I relish in the fact that His provocative words are imprinted in books;hearts and minds for A lifetime. His face will be engraved in the American Landscape as one who spoke what he felt and believed & That which was Right. Observering A Few Black History Makers: Black Royalty; Fannie Lou Hammer;Adam Clayton Powell;Woodson;(miseducation of the Negro)...Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Malcomb X and this venrable figure of Clarity, An Educator of Artful Thinking, A Fantastic Reach towards Humanity; A Regal Page in Black History... Manning Marable!!! Sir, Go Heaven and Receive Your Reward...

Chryll D. Crews said...

Wow! I hadn't heard about his death. I was just recently on Columbia's, as well as Syracuse's, African-American Studies' web site to read about their undergraduate and graduate programs. My daughter is a freshman at Syracuse and has to declare a minor for next year, so I was doing research on the subject.

Of course it is a good field but I do remember Rev. Michael Eric Dyson having to check some white pundit that was trying to imply that those with Ph.D's in AAS were less than.

Sigh.....I'm very proud of my own culture. Even with all our problems, I wouldn't want to be anything but African American. I know my legacy and my history! Thanks goes out for those scholars who teach and lecture on the subject, so I can remain informed. And more importantly, continue my own research.

tweener8292 said...

He spent the 1986-87 academic year at Purdue University. During that time, I took two graduate courses from him. They stand among my highest accomplishments, as I earned two A's from him. One of the funnest days occurred when a white student accused him of favoritism towards me, as somehow he was easier on me because I was Black. He silenced her with one comment. "Yes, you're right. I am biased where he's concerned. You need a 90 for an A. He needs a 93. You need 80 for a B. He needs an 85." I didn't know that, laughed, and said "Wait a minute! You're biased against me BECAUSE I'm Black!" We both laughed as she stewed. I'll always remember him as a scholar, a mentor, and a friend.