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, http://aalbc.com/writers/blackclassic.htm 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 Coates). http://www.blackclassicbooks.com/servlet/StoreFront 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, http://www.educulturalfoundation.org/ 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.