The African Dream thinks the month of August should be dedicated to the outstanding life journey of Dr. Runoko Rashidi. Therefore, we are taking this step to write about one of the greatest black people to walk this earth. The life and works of Runoko Rashidi should be highly celebrated in the course of history, never to be swept under the carpet. He was the pan-African object of cohesion and unification among black people. He stressed the need for us to be learners of our history while taking the fore in educating the black race on our historical accomplishments. Let’s delve into the life and works of Dr. Runoko Rashidi!
Runoko Rashidi was born Ronnie Ross on 16th August 1954, in Stockton, California. He was the sixth of seven children betrothed to Joseph Ross and Pearlie Moore. Rashidi attended Budlong Elementary School and Washington High School in Los Angeles and graduated from Northridge College with a Bachelor’s Degree. Rashidi also briefly attended the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where he majored in Anthropology and Archaeology. He had a normal childhood plus a brilliant one. He was highly intelligent and vast at a young age. Then Ronnie Ross changed his name to Ronald Lamar.
At the age of 19, the name ‘Ronald Lamar’ was alight as the Black historian changed his name to an Africanized one called Runoko Rashidi. The name means “handsome counselor” and it was accepted at the peak of his African consciousness. Runoko often attested to the significance of 1975. He encountered an article that highlighted the fact that Africans reached the Americas thousands of years before Columbus. It further revealed that Africans were the first and native people of not only Africa but Europe, Asia, the South Sea Islands, Australia, and the New World. This wide range of exposure and memorable insight into the rich past of African people inspired the 45-year career of research, travels, interviews, essays, and lectures by Dr. Rashidi. It also influenced his revered status which landed him global recognition. Dr. Rashidi’s academic interests were inspired by Chancellor Williams’ “The Destruction of Black Civilization,” in addition to speeches and writings of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Furthermore, a chanced encounter with Guyanese-born educator Ivan Gladstone Van Sertima at UCLA in the early 1980s cemented Rashidi’s path to the celebrated writer and researcher he is known as. By 1982, he often contributed to, and later edited Van Sertima’s “The Journal of African Civilizations.” Rashidi was a student and colleague of Van Sertima. He was also a follower and associate of renowned Black scholars such as Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan and Dr. John Henrik Clarke.
The 1980s was quite an eventful period for Dr. Rashidi. He played the role of a public speaker on countless occasions. He spoke at huge church gatherings, schools, colleges, and universities. Subsequently, he would sail the world to educate people on African history and culture.
In 1981, Rashidi joined the staff at Compton Community College in Compton, California, and served under Dr. Billie J. Moore, director of the Extended Opportunity Program and Services. She was so impressed by Rashidi’s intelligence and commitment that she appointed him program chairman of the African People’s Conference. That space provided Dr. Rashidi the opportunity to organize conferences around various themes focusing on Black people in Africa and the diaspora. He was present at the first All-India Dalit Writers Conference in Hyderabad, India. Other notable events included the Diaspora Forum at the Fesman Conference in Dakar, Senegal in 2010 and the International Reunion of the African Family in Latin America in Barlovento, Venezuela in 1999.
Amid the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rashidi addressed the North American Pan-Africanist Federalist Movement during its virtual convention. Rashidi’s other appointments and accolades include a designation as a traveling ambassador for the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League Rehabilitation Committee 2020. He also received an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from Amen-Ra Theological Seminary in Los Angeles.
Dr. Runoko Rashidi was a traveler. He spent 30 years of his life traveling to more than 125 countries. He often conducted study tours of African Americans to several countries including Egypt. His socials were littered with images of pyramids, notes, and contributions. He documented his travels with considerable video footage and photographs, which he presented in hundreds of lectures.
He authored 22 books, including “Introduction to the Study of African Classical Civilizations,” “My Global Journeys in Search of the African Presence,” “The Black Image in Antiquity,” “Black Star: The African Presence in Early Europe”, “African Presence in Early Asia,” and “Uncovering the African Past: The Ivan Van Sertima Years.” Dr. Runoko Rashidi also wrote many essays.
The African Dream once had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Runoko Rashidi via Facebook. He was pleased with our Facebook activities and made us know by sending us a message. Till date, those few words have been a source of inspiration and motivation to keep those activities (telling the positive side of Africa) going. Just that simple validation from him is priceless and cannot be compared to any piece of valuable. We, in turn, made every bit of effort to follow up with his work. He was a man of great valor and zest. He led a private life.
At the time of his transition to the ancestors in Egypt, Dr. Runoko Rashidi embarked on a video series about African history and culture that would have been designed for use on all academic levels.
He made the journey to be with “those who came before him” on 2nd August 2021. He was aged 67.
Maybe, if we teach our kids the truer essence and life of black people like Dr. Runoko Rashidi, they will know how important it is for them to read, learn, and study the heritage of Africa.
Happy Runoko Rashidi month!