Dr. Runoko Rashidi, the seasoned educator, historian, author, anthropologist and world traveller made his transition on August 2, 2021 at the age of 67. He was one of the studied with master scholars Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan. In keeping with African tradition he would often dedicate his entire lecture to them and to the role they played in his life. The central focus of his research was to showcase the glory, and genius of Africa starting on the continent and spreading across the world. His expert photographic skills made all of his lectures riveting because in many cases he was revealing never-before-seen jaw-dropping images specifically chosen to be transformative.
Book List by Runoko Rashidi
Rashidi had a knack for processing large amounts of information and boiling it down to its key ingredients. In a lecture he gave in Philedelphia called, "Who is the Original Man " he said
"There's only one race, and that's the human race which was born in Africa, Black skin and happy to be nappy hair. She-He is the Mother of us all. I say, "He - She" because we tend to in the Western world, to identify "Man" as the originator. But in reality we know that the female is the only who we can trace that mitochondrial DNA from." - Runoko Rashidi
I remember when Rashidi came to Afriware Books, Co in 2013. The images he displayed in his presentations were breathtaking and captivating due to the unmistakable Black skin color he radiantly associated with excellence, genius, innovation and originality. In a lecture done at the Universal Charter School in Philadelphia called, “Who is the Original Man.” for example, he showed images of an African saint from Egypt named St. Maurice, Black Madonna and child from Switzerland, the Kremlin, Russia, .https://youtu.be/3bsmg-wQ8ik. In the U.S., saints and divinities are rarely if ever associated with Black skin. It is so uncommon that even children who see otherwise don’t think it legitimate. I mentioned this phenomenon in another blog article called “Books on Melanin for Children” where a student I was tutoring ran out of the room crying and screaming in horror when the Santa Claus that came to visit was a Black Man.
But I digress, a little. It’s actually all related and builds on a common thread underlining the importance of associating skin color with excellence and authenticity.
Getting back to the grand impact of Dr. Rashidi. He would also make sure to carefully select his terminology to describe Black people during his presentations. He astutely understood how these terms were used in psychological warfare. Use of the term “fair” in mainstream books is typically used to refer to a light to white skinned person. Not so for Rashidi and those who appreciated his work. He said, “this is an image of a fair-skinned woman from the Solomon Islands. Remember, I’m using these terms based on my perspective. Me being Black, I’d like to think of other Black people as having “fair” skin. That’s “good” skin. “Fair” meaning “good.”
It was an honor to host him at AfriWare Books, Co on two separate occasions. I must give him accolades on top of his scholarship in upgrading and mastering his technological skills for giving presentations. His photographs were the heart and soul of his presentations. When I reflect further on the miles he travelled to obtain and possible risk of welfare to obtain the photographs, they are in fact priceless treasures and should be protected under armed guard as some of the artifacts were that he took them from. When I travelled to Egypt the Cairo Museum was visibly protected by heavily armed guards. I saw large, long rifles, not the hand guns we see on common security in Chicago for example.
I recall when he first came to the store he insisted on using a slide projector. At the time, many had upgraded to using overhead projectors, but Rashidi hadn't embraced it yet. In our initial negotiations, he made sure to mention that he had carefully assembled over 60-100 slides. For those who may not be familiar with this piece of equipment, it consists of a carousel of slots that held the 35mm photos. Central to the mechanics of this equipment was a lightbulb which often had to be replaced. On this one occasion, we had to delay the presentation because the bulb went out and we had to rush to the hardware store to get another. Though slide projectors aren’t made anymore, we are thankful Rashidi not only upgraded but raised the presentation bar of excellence by using powerpoint animation with ease and participated in many Zoom video conferences.
The contribution Rashidi made to documenting Black History around the world was enormous. He regularly interacted in social media in his 17,000 follower facebook group called, “ In the Museums, Tombs, Galleries and Temples with Runoko Rashidi.” With his love of Africa doubling as his sword and shield, he captured irrefutable evidence about the identity of our great ancestors. And he didn’t promote any one religion over another, but whichever one you picked, he could show you pictures he personally took across the globe of the prominent Black personalities throughout. If you were a Christian, he had a photo of the Black Christ. If you were Buddhist, he had a photo of Black Buddha. He focused on the unifying factor of Black skin and this alone was powerful.
Book sales soared after his lectures; we sold titles and DVD’s that he created, and of the African scholars he referenced in his talk. I remember asking him on his second visit to tell me ahead of time so I could prepare for the outpouring. He brought new excitement and interest to African history by putting together faces with places and and seasoned it up with a narrative that put in plainspeak the punchline always being, something like, “and he/she is Black.” He documented everything and made it all accessible online through his web portal archive https://web.archive.org/web/20110927054802/http:/www.cwo.com/~lucumi/runoko.html which contains 353 articles, interviews of his travels from 1999 to 2011. He would often conclude his travel notes with, “In love of Africa, Runoko Rashidi.”
He boldly states in one of his posts called, “ THE GLOBAL AFRICAN COMMUNITY: HISTORY NOTES - A NEW COLUMN“:
"That other African" is not the stereotypical African savage so graphically depicted in Hollywood movies, but the African that first peopled the earth, and gave birth to (and significantly influenced) the world's oldest and most magnificent civilizations. This is the African that first entered Asia, Europe, Australia, the islands of the South Pacific and the early Americas, not as slave, but as master, in control of his and her own destiny. We believe that this African, whom many wish to remain invisible, is to be found wherever one truthfully seeks the origins of nations and religions.