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Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan

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  • Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan

    ‘Doctor Ben’ legendary scholar of Egypt, was dean of Harlem Street University
    Frost Editor | March 24, 2015 | 1 Reply
    Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan ancestors at 96

    Dr. BenBy Todd Steven Burroughs

    Yosef Alfredo Antonio ben-Jochannan, known to the African world as “Dr. Ben,” believed that education belonged to any member of his race who wanted it.

    Perhaps that was because of the 20th century tradition of ad-hoc “street universities,” with step-ladder orators as varied as Malcolm X and “Porkchop” Davis, a tradition he understood. Perhaps it was because of the racism he experienced as a young black man studying engineering.

    Or perhaps it was because he believed that if his people knew their collective root, their ancient greatness, they would fight for their freedom and achieve it.

    “Dr. Ben,” one of the founding scholars and lecturers in what is now known as Africana Studies, died last week after a long illness. He was 96.

    Active for at least 50 years, his death represents another milestone in the slow passing of politically-and-culturally black, pre-gentrified Harlem, a fabled place that not only existed in books on Marcus Garvey or the Harlem Renaissance but in reality: the capital of Black (Nationalist) America, where fiery, independent scholars taught classical African history in community meetings and on the local airwaves, shaping those lectures into swords against white supremacy. Dr. Ben existed and thrived in what could be called The Harlem Century—the time between the too-brief era of the great scholar-activist Hubert Henry Harrison, the street-corner orator known as “The Black Socrates” who publicly introduced Marcus Garvey to its people, and now, the dawning of a new Harlem.

    The man known as “Dr. Ben” joined his Ancestors on March 19, the morning of the first day of the annual meeting of the organization he helped found, the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations.

    “Our People are now safeguarded [in] the After-Life by Dr. Ben, Dr. [John Henrik] Clarke, Dr. [Cheikh Anta] Diop, Minister Malcolm X, Elijah [Muhammad], The Honorable Marcus Garvey…..and many more of our Greats,” announced Leonard Jeffries in a quickly circulated announcement email.

    “Though Painful [,] this is a Victory, that we had him for 97 plus [SIC] years,” continued Jeffries, retired professor of Africana Studies at City College of New York and one of ben-Jochannan’s unofficial aides. “We will be raising monies to make his Celebration Eloquent and we will message this and the arrangements.”

    Jeffries and Professor James Small, another pioneering Africana Studies historian, had been the spokespeople for the ben-Jochannan family and its Youtube public face as his condition worsened. They had updated admirers during the month while maintaining their vigil outside the specialized care unit in the Bay Park Nursing Home in the Bronx, where ben-Jochannan spent his final years.

    New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), co-founding member of the council’s Progressive Caucus and a member of the body’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, said in a statement that Dr. Ben’s “extensive research on Egypt, black culture and history gained him notoriety not just among educators but people of more color across the world.

    “As Dr. Ben once said, ‘trust is a continuous examination, and fact… always supersedes belief.’ It’s my hope that all New Yorkers remember his prolific, eye-opening legacy and reflect on his thorough work for Afrikan people. We can take solace knowing that he did so much while here and has now joined the ancestors.”

    “So much” is an understatement. Dr. Ben educated more than two generations of activists while influencing classical African and Judeo-Christian historiographies and Pan-Africanist thought. He explained how the stories and teachings of Judaism and Christianity, for example, come from ancient Egyptian religious systems that existed thousands of years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

    Dr. Ben was Africana Studies way before it was in vogue. He taught at City College and Malcolm-King: Harlem College Extension from the 1950s through the 1970s. In 1976, during the end of the birth of Africana Studies as a formal academic discipline in American universities, he was given an adjunct appointment in the Africana Studies department of Cornell University, where he taught for several years.

    He sponsored educational tours to the center of the ancient Black World—Egypt, the Sudan and Ethiopia—for at least three decades. And there and everywhere, the one fact he stressed—that the ancient Egyptians, proud members of the most advanced civilization in the ancient world, as well as the original Jews, were dark-skinned Africans—made him distinctive and bed in black radical circles and controversial in white communities.

    Among those who followed the “street universities” in black communities during the 20th century, ben-Jochannan was known as the hardcore, blunt face of African-centered thought to the sometimes more gentle public façade of his longtime friend and oftentimes lecturing partner, John Henrik Clarke.

    Both taught members of the Harlem community through ben-Jochannan’s “First World Alliance” lecture series, which operated on weekends from 1977 through the 1990s. The series, which started in ben-Jochannan’s home, was moved to a local church when it grew in popularity.

    On the street, in community meetings, in speeches and in articles in black newspapers and magazines, “Dr. Ben” was often named in the same breath as Clarke, his fellow historian. But the staunch race-first Garveyite claimed he had strong ideological differences with his longtime broad-based African-centered leftist friend, who died in 1998.

    Like Clarke, ben-Jochannan became well-known in the New York metropolitan area in the late 20th century because of his many decades of frequent television and radio appearances on 1190 WLIB-AM, then a local black news-talk radio station, and WABC-TV’s black public-affairs mainstay, “Like It Is.” He became nationally known via “Nighttalk with Bob Law,” National Black Network’s weeknight public affairs radio program. Like Dr. Ben and Clarke, these forums are either gone or changed in 2015.

    Everything about Dr. Ben was worldly, with a tinge of the ancient. The pioneering Egyptologist was born in 1918 in Ethiopia. Ben-Jochannan moved to the United States in 1940, after going to school in St. Croix, Virgin Islands and universities in Puerto Rico and Havana. He received his Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Havana.

    “Dr. Ben”’s 49 books, pamphlets and academic papers reflect his decades of teaching, research and activism around New York and the world. His most popular ones included African Origins of Major Western Religions, The Black Man and The Nile and His Family, and We, the Black Jews: Witness to the “White Jewish Race” Myth, Volumes I & II. He self-published many of his works, but many eventually got picked up by Black Classic Press, a Baltimore-based independent book publisher of Black-oriented major nonfiction books. These works became underground classics in Black-consciousness settings from the waning days of the Black Power Movement in the late 1970s until today.

    “Dr. Ben” remained a strong race man his entire life. Unlike many black scholars who donate their papers to places like the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture or the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, in 2002 ben-Jochannan donated his personal library—an estimated 35,000 books, ancient scrolls and manuscripts—to the Nation of Islam.

    His long affair with Harlem was not without hardship. He was assaulted on a Harlem street in 2003, an incident that made national news in Black America. His son Nnandi was shot and killed in Harlem the following year.

    He is survived by two daughters, Ruth and Naomi Johannes, and other family members.Click image for larger version

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  • #2
    greetings brothers and sisters we should never forget a Scholar


    • #3
      Yosef Alfredo Antonio ben-Jochannan, known to the African world as “Dr. Ben,” believed that education belonged to any member of his race who wanted it.

      Brother Mohammed thank you good post.



      • #4
        Give praise to a great man who is now with our ancestors. PEACE!!!!

        True consciousness supersedes duality/polarity by thought, projection and intent
        You cannot come from something and not be that something.