Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Reflections of a Woman Who Works Quietly and Loudly for the Race: A Conversation with Dr. Shirley Nash Weber

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Reflections of a Woman Who Works Quietly and Loudly for the Race: A Conversation with Dr. Shirley Nash Weber

Article excerpt

This year, the Africana Studies Department of SDSU (San Diego State University) in California celebrates its 40th Anniversary. Dr. Shirley Weber, full professor and department chair, has been with the department the entire time of its existence. She has served as chair a number of times, and during her administration the department grew in its national reputation as one of the strongest undergraduate Africana Studies department in the country. In this wide-ranging interview, she gives insight into the life experiences, activism and philosophy that makes her one of the outstanding leaders in the discipline of Africana Studies.

Weber is not only an Africana Studies scholar and leader. She is also a strong community activist with a long history of community work. She is the former President of the San Diego Unified School Board, where she served two consecutive four-year terms until she retired in 1996. Shirley Weber was selected Outstanding Young Woman in America twice, 1976 and 1981. Three times she received the SDSU Outstanding Faculty Award, 1981, 1988, and in 1990. For her service, Dr. Weber has received numerous awards from a host of organizations including the NAACP, Urban League, Negro Business and Professional Women, California Women in Government, National Council for Black Studies, National Women's Political Caucus and many more too numerous to note.

In 1980, Weber proposed the Black Baccalaureate to speak to the unique experiences of Black students graduating from SDSU. Established in response to the complaints of students and parents about the quality and relevance of the University commencement, the event is eagerly anticipated and well attended by the community. This year marks the 33rd annual celebration of this event, and Weber has led every one of them. The purpose of the Baccalaureate was not to replace commencement but to provide an additional service, to allow the community to more actively celebrate the accomplishments of its undergraduate and graduate students.

Based in the community, and held in the sanctuaries of large churches, this gave to the graduating experience a missing spiritual component, while re-connecting it to the Church-the community's most historically important social institution (after the family). This writer was privileged to be one of the two graduating student speakers at the 1983 Baccalaureate. The event has grown over the years and now must be held in the larger auditorium of a local high school.

Now a professor emeritus, Weber recently ran for 79th District state assembly in California and finished first in the June 2012 open primary election. She will be facing the Republican opponent in the November run-off. The following interview took place June 28, 2012 at her home, where she graciously took time from her busy schedule to share her past experiences, present activities and vision for the future.

Merritt: You are distinguished for heading for a long time, one of the longest, continuous running African-American, now Africana Studies Department in the nation. This year is our 40th anniversary for the department being in continuing existence. So in talking with Dr. Weber, we'd like to have her take on a number of things, but I'd like to just start out with giving readers a little bit of her background, and her progression to her present status. Dr. Weber, could you talk a little bit about your childhood and your family upbringing?

Weber: Well my family is from Hope, Arkansas and I'm the sixth of eight children. I didn't know a lot about Arkansas as a small child, because we came to California when I was three years old. But we visited Arkansas regularly because my family is strong in the concept of family and that we needed to know where we came from and who all of our relatives were. So we visited Arkansas quite often in terms of my early childhood, but I was raised in Los Angeles. Dad worked in the steel mills of Los Angeles. …

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