[News] Reginald Major- Living Long, Living Well

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 24 11:24:31 EDT 2011

Reginald Major- Living Long, Living Well


June 23, 2011, 5:59 pm

Reginald W. Major February 8, 1926 to June 20, 2011

New York born Carribean man, family man, author, journalist, 
professor, political activist (progressive, radical, revolutionary as 
the times and his own consciousness guided). A Harlem raised 
Pan-African humanist, drafted World War II Navy Veteran (yeoman based 
in South Pacific) he attended the University of Chicago and graduated 
with a B.A. in Sociology. He met my mother, Helen, who was attending 
Roosevelt College at the time, and they had two children, my older 
brother David born in Chicago, and me two years later in Berkeley, 
because my father thought California was the better place to raise to 
Black children of mixed origin. (We were always raised as who we 
were, people of color.) After holding a multitude of jobs, he was 
quick with tongue and fist and always demanded to be treated with 
respect and dignity, he became one of California's first 
African-American, (I think the newspaper said Negro) Driver License 
Examiners and then later a DIA II (Driver Improvement Analyst). All 
the while he was a writer having sold his first short story (Sic Fi I 
believe) in the early 1950's. He had some stories published, two 
books A Panther is a Black Cat, 
the first history of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense written 
by someone who was neither a Panther or a member of Cointelpro. This 
has recently been re-released by Black Classic Books (Thank you Paul 
Later he had Justice in the Round, a book about the Angela Davis 
trial published by Third Press in New York. He became a regular 
contributor to Africa News and Africa Today, wrote stories for 
Pacific News Service and was a stringer for the New York Times. One 
of my favorite articles by him is a piece he did on Geronimo Pratt 
for Emerge Magazine. It is one of the pieces in the "Best of" anthology.

But before, during and around all of that he was also an activist. He 
worked with Dr Nathaniel (Nat) Burbridge and the NAACP as Education 
Director. He was one of the architects of the Auto row boycott that 
brought Black salesmen to Van Ness Street auto dealerships, the 
Sheraton Palace Hotel sit-in, which helped Blacks get hired in white 
collar hotel jobs, and the demonstrations, and future solutions, only 
partially implemented at the Board of Education in S.F. that helped 
to more fully integrate S.F. schools. He worked on African freedom 
projects including support for Zimbabwe, Angola and, of course, South 
Africa. He worked with members of the Revolutionary Communist Party 
(with members not as a member, ultimately my father has always said 
that he was an anarchist who understood working in coalition with 
like minded people facing the same direction) in work they were doing 
in Peru. He was also the first director of the Educational 
Opportunity Program (EOP) at San Francisco State College creating a 
program that included EOP classes to bring students up to speed in 
college so that ultimately the graduation rate of those EOP students 
surpassed the general college graduation rate. I believe he was there 
about three years (1969-72) He and six other Black administrators 
ended up in a mass resignation because of racist policies that were 
gutting his and other programs. Later he became a popular professor 
at SF State University working in the Black Studies department and 
teaching classes such as Critical Thinking and The History of Black 
Music, and the History of Black Film. I have said nothing about his 
life and who he was and left out so much. I know he started a 
magazine at one point with Mill Tuitt and Jamie Jamerson. I know he 
used to load up Black children (I was grown by then) and take them 
out camping. I know he worked on myriad projects, was on television 
and radio for various news stories, narrated a film about Black 
Cowboys, and did far, far more. More recently Reggie was a board 
member for the Educultural Foundation, 
the Lea's (Babtunde and Jenny) Arts Education foundation. (Tunde's cd 
tribute to Leon Thomas with a wonderful rendition of "The Creator Has 
a Master Plan" was one of the last CD's he heard. I know he loved and 
was loved by so many people, as friend, as mentor, as artist, and 
lover of life.

For me he was my father and until the end loved me, taught me, guided 
me and showed me how to suck the sweet out of the marrow of life. 
When he finally let his heart wind down and stop unable to recover 
from the fall started by a major February stroke it was only after 
tasting the last few drops of sweet he could reach toward with his 
pain filled limbs- A wonder of a meal from Claremont Moore, a bad 
joke from me, some time in the sun on the deck of the quite wonderful 
University Mount Ladies Home Hospice (how could my father the flirt 
not end up in a hospice that was also an assisted living space for 
women.) When spirit lifted from his body he left a handsome corpse.

The visitors who made it by the hospice these last three weeks really 
lifted him and made his crossing easier. Of course there was the Cali 
family, but also many thanks to Alma and Toye, Arthur, Claremont, 
Doug & Paulette, Emory, Kathy, Lucky, Marilyn, and Stephanie. If I 
have forgotten anyone, please forgive me. Thank you too.

My father's roots were thick and long and he loved and held close, 
despite the miles, to our strong and proud Bahamian family. From my 
brother and I came seven grandchildren and eleven great-grands with a 
twelfth on the way. We are all reeling as he was the patriarch. He 
was the last surviving brother of four, and held much love for his 
niece and nephew and grandnephews as well as his one remaining 
sister-in-law. The family is planning a celebration of my father and 
his life the end of July. (He made me promise on the burying of Uncle 
George in the Bahamas that no one would speak over his corpse and 
that we would not have a typical memorial) There will be a small 
private ceremony that will include the burying of his ashes the day 
before, and a larger public event the following day. As soon as I 
have a time and place I will be among those putting the word out.

Please forgive this quick and awkward account. I needed to get something out.

One love,

Reginald W. Major February 8, 1926 to June 20, 2011

New York born Carribean man, family man, author, journalist, 
professor, political activist (progressive, radical, revolutionary as 
the times and his own consciousness guided).
Author of A Panther is a Black Cat (a history of the Black Panther 
Party) and Justice in the Round a history and investigation of the 
Angela Davis trial and countless articles in magazines,. Journals, 
anthologies, etc. If you want to know more about him I have the few 
words I have been able to pull together on my redroom blog page 

Meanwhile a couple of poems- one from 2009 one from this Spring

one love,


swimming at the pool with great-grandpa reggie
for omari and reg

O comes to the car with smiles
swallowing all the
rain softened air around him
gray turning bright with the shine.

the pool was warm, he agrees.
his words a flowing stream-
he avoided the deep end
left the elders "their space"
and instead enjoyed
shallow water somersaults
while learning some of the guys'
nick and joe.

one of them just floated,
floated and slept.
"I guess some old people
like to just do that
in a pool-
sleep and float," he breathes in
eleven-year old amazement.

and then without pause
he explains
how he taught himself
to swim underwater
for longer.
a matter, he says,
of his "state of mind"
needing to just go in
deeper and deeper

he then asks me

as he comes up for air
amidst this telling

did the woman
in the pool
call grandpa reggie

i smile,"did he laugh?"
"yeah" O replies
still asking

(ah, how to explain
that his great-grandfather has indeed
unwrapped death's boney grip
from his heart
more than once.

true, there was no tomb
and we will not debate
about jesus or
the ever seen sparrow)

"great-grandpa reggie
he just keeps rising up
again and again,"
i answer.

devorah major


stroke journey

cold and blinding
strangely dry

there is no self
arms, legs, breath, thought

endless flat expanses
no trees
no rivers or seas
no points from which to navigate

no color but white

whose lips that slur and groan
whose eyes that will not stay open
whose legs that cannot walk
whose mind that cannot remember

where is he

red the fear
red the tears
red the frustration
red the fury
red the resolve

a face comes into view
there is love
it is red and it pulses

once there were
letters words phrases
codes broken at a glance
now hieroglyphics turned to
ideogram turned to cyrillic
transformed to child scribbles
in their mystery

where does a writer go
when there are no words
that can be read
only symbols written
in an alien tongue

my life he cries
this is my life
inside these words
I cannot read
around these letters
I do not know

my life

he does not reach for the past
it is not there

devorah major

The family is planning a celebration the end of July. Yroko is key 
person for that so feel free to check with her for details. Yroko 
Drevon <<mailto:ydrevon at gmail.com>ydrevon at gmail.com>; or on facebook

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