Herman, Greetings… from Adilah Barnes

I would like to express in words my gratitude to you for coming into my life when I was the tender age of sixteen. (That was 46 years ago!:) I was young, unexposed and a country girl from the dusty, agricultural community of Oroville, California.

Nothing happens by coincidence and as I look back now, I see why I met you when you came to visit a counselor in Project Upward Bound at Chico State. (I think her name was Carole, yes?) Little did I know then, you were sent to be one of my guardian angels.

Herman, I thank you for encouraging me to visit UCSC. How well I remember that day on the Greyhound bus being in awe of all the redwoods as we wound around the highway between San Jose and Santa Cruz. I had never seen such lovely and tall trees!

Through your introduction, Claudia Krich became one of my pen pals and was a familiar face when I got accepted and begin my coming-of-age college experience. I can still see both her and your distinct handwriting now. (Amazing that I applied to only ONE college, though my high school counselor discouraged me from going to UCSC and suggested I settle to go to Chico State, instead. Thank God I was accepted and proved her wrong at the same time!:)

Though I never took your sociology class (I was too intimidated), your class was legendary and one of the most popular at Cowell.

I thank you for all the roles you took on in 1968 with us 28 Black students out of a campus population of 2400.  That was the year of the first big migration of Black students to UCSC. Many of us were young, sheltered, and naive and ready for the next stop on our paths.

You were the only African American professor we had to cling on to in the fall of 1968, and we clung on to you as you wore multiple hats that included being father, friend, therapist, disciplinarian, professor, and guide. For those of us from the “have nots”, UCSC was truly a culture shock.

I remember the night you invited me over to your apartment in Aptos and prepared a delicious home-cooked meal of steak, fresh asparagus and pilaf rice. Just you and me…(That may have been the first time I ever even tasted asparagus…:)

Thank you for being my pen pal my junior and senior year of high school, making sure you did not release me to my own devices and temptations that were calling me, and for coming to visit me when I stayed at my girlfriend, Sylvia’s Hunter’s Point home, in San Francisco.

You kept your watchful eye on me and I am glad that you wrapped your caring wings around me throughout the rest of my high school years and even until I graduated from college.

I thank you for your role in Cowell College’s Extramural Program that alumni still lovingly refer to because of the impact of that program in enlarging their life experiences, and exposing them to populations they may never have had access to.

Tougaloo College was the program I chose and I am SOOO glad I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of college life at an all-Black college, if only for a semester. It was the first time I had ever been to an all-Black school, and ironically it was a culture shock for me!

It was not until I was writing my book and asking Jackie Scott and Eugene to help me with my Tougaloo memories that Gene said, “Remember it was Fannie Lou Hamer who recruited us Tougaloo students to march for equal jobs in Minden, Mississippi!”

My mouth fell open.

I did not even know who Fannie Lou Hamer was in 1970, and am in awe of the fact that I had been in her presence, even amidst angry state troupers with outstretched guns at we demonstrators.

You are acknowledged publicly in my book, ON MY OWN TERMS: One Actor’s Journey, for your profound impact on my life.

Herman, you have been a beacon of light for SOOO many students around the country, always having an affinity for the marginalized students who so needed to believe in themselves, dream and realize they were worthy of success, no matter their humble beginnings.

I am SOOO happy we alumni are going to honor you on April 27, 2013 at UCSC’s Annual Alumni Weekend and that Mel and I are coming to South Carolina to take the lead on shooting a documentary in honor of your life.

You are so worthy of both honors.

The best that we students you have touched over the years can do is pass on a fraction of what you gave to us to others along our paths (both youth and adults) who are in need of positive role models and belief in themselves.

Each one, teach one.

I continue to pass on to others in small way as you have given to me.

Thanks again, Herman, for being such a vital vessel in my life!

Walk in Balance,

Adilah

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