Tribute to Dr. J. Herman Blake from Laura Luster

There are a few people aside from one’s parents that profoundly influence the course one’s life takes, and Herman is one of these in my life.  When I arrived at UCSC, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself other than get through college as quickly as possible.  I first met Herman through my father who I think thought Herman was a young radical with a good heart.

Just a couple of months into my freshman year, Herman began shaping my life:

I found myself agreeing to co-teach a Black History class at Santa Cruz High School.

He brought Dr. Vincent Harding to the campus and I was inspired to do an internship at the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta during my sophomore year – somehow Herman convinced them I’d do okay.  At the Institute I witnessed the birthing of Black Studies across the US and met many of the most eminent Black Scholars of the day.

Living in segregated Atlanta, trips to Malcolm X College in North Carolina, visits to Beaufort, South Carolina, and a stint in New York City introduced this California grown hippie to another US world and reality.

As they say, it goes on from here. Herman provided many other introductions and letters over the years.  With each new turn and no matter how long it had been, he continued to be interested, patient, kind and encouraging. What I have tried to keep with me and learn from his example:

Faith and courage in facing adversity.  No matter our trials, we have it so much better than our forefathers and mothers. How could we ever consider stopping?

Respect for all people – high, low, big, small, same and different.

Importance of building and nurturing community

The obligation to give back to the community

Never losing the ability to “get down”

And, of course never giving up on wayward young folks; letting them find their way home eventually.

Thank you so very much, Herman!

Laura Luster, Ph D

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