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A Rich and Complex History

To all of us who celebrate Black History Month, Diverse delivers an inviting array of feature stories that showcase the intellectual and social contributions African-Americans are making to the nation. In this edition, stories on Dr. James Rosser, the long-serving African-American president of California State University, Los Angeles and Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as Kendra’s Hamilton’s essay “From Then to Now,” all make for some compelling reading.

But first, how to best achieve a diverse campus is just one of the many challenges that colleges and universities are faced with today. Two higher educations associations, AASCU and NASULGC, have produced the report “Now Is the Time: Meeting the Challenge for a Diverse Academy” in hopes that it will provide guidance for their member schools. Editor-in-chief Frank L. Matthews speaks with Dr. Constantine “Deno” Curris, president of AASCU, and Dr. C. Peter Magrath, president emeritus of NASULGC, about the report in “Now Is the Time.”

One man who can appreciate running a diverse campus is Dr. James Rosser. He has presided over the once “sleepy campus” in East Los Angeles for 26 years and has helped rejuvenate this 20,000-student university. Senior writer Ronald Roach made a trip out to Los Angeles, where he spoke with Rosser, faculty members and students about life on campus. Managing such a diverse university hasn’t always been easy, as you’ll read in “The Rosser Revolution.”

And by the time you receive this edition, the Smithsonian Institution will have selected a site for the highly anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. A site on the National Mall seems to be the preferred location, but in the meantime, reports B. Denise Hawkins in “Making the Past Present,” several museums dedicated to African-American history and culture have opened. Says Lonnie Bunch, “the African-American story is so rich and complex that it can unfold and take shape in a number of venues.” 

Contributing editor Lydia Lum introduces a civil rights activist who was new to me and may be for many of you as well. In “Working Outside the System,” Lydia chronicles the life and activism of Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American woman who was inspired by Malcolm X and was present in the ballroom when he was assassinated in 1965. Now 84, Kochiyama has spent much of her life trying to build coalitions between Blacks and Asians in the United States.

Lastly, assistant editor Kendra Hamilton in “From Then to Now,” a humorous yet thought-provoking essay, uses Black History Month and “Daphne,” a composite of young family members, as the context to illustrate some of the cultural confusion that seems to exist within the Black community. Perhaps Black History Month has turned a bit commercial, she says, but should we abandon it as the Academy award-winning actor Morgan Freeman suggested on “60 Minutes” recently? Don’t even think of it, Kendra says.

“Black History Month reminds us of habits that we break at our peril. It reminds us of the value of looking at ourselves as a collective, particularly when assimilation pressures are so intent that the focus stay resolutely individual,” Kendra says. 

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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