Dr. Chinosole joins the ancestors

Dr. Chinosole joins the ancestors

December 30, 2014

by Jennifer Beach


Dr. ChinosoleDr. Chinosole

Dr. Chinosole, born Patricia Thornton in New York July 14, 1942 (Bastille Day, she always reminded), died on Oct. 4, 2014, in Oakland. She was a brilliant intellect, academic, freedom fighter and friend. When she chose the name Chinosole, it was that one name, no first or last; it means “freedom.”

She earned her PhD in world comparative literature from the University of Oregon in Eugene and taught all over the country and, indeed, in various places in the world. A proud Black nationalist, she loved her time teaching in Africa. Although she was forced back to the U.S. during the Angolan Civil War, she dreamed of returning to Africa for the rest of her life.

The author of “African Diaspora and Autobiographics: Skeins of Self and Skin” as well as many articles and editor of “Schooling the Generations in the Politics of Prisons and Voices in Black,” she taught at San Francisco State University in the 1960s as the first Black acting dean of the College of Ethnic Studies and a founding member of the Black Studies Department in the midst of the strike, and returned to San Francisco State in the 1980s to teach in and later chair the Women’s Studies Department.

Her work in support of prisoners, political and otherwise, mobilized and inspired many people inside and outside prison walls. Her insistence that we demand the freedom of the Black Panthers left inside was unflinching. Those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area were delighted when she chose to return over a year ago, and we all feel the fierce, cold wind of loss in her passing.

Her friends, colleagues and family will gather to commemorate her life on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, at 1 p.m., at 550 24th St., Oakland.

Jennifer Beach can be reached at ferbeach@yahoo.com.

Conversations between cousins

To Chinosole from her cousin, Aleea May

Your life story is inspirational
To live willing to die for one’s truth
Is something to which I aspire

It is courageous
To spend a lifetime
Protesting government sanctioned rape
Either of land or body
Mind or family
Or time
Within education or prison systems
From America to Angola
Even when enclosed in prison walls overseas

Were you ever frozen by fear?

I imagine you acquired these traits
Perhaps in a past life
Possibly a byproduct of early trauma gifted from family
Maybe the stewardship of mentors along the way

You were
Humanism in action
Nomadically traversing land and sea

When we met again
You wore a small afro
Crowning a graceful time weathered face
Sad brown eyes centered symmetrically
Surrounded by skin tinted in thick melanin

Assumed postures of old age
With ease
Shoulders in perpetual forward bend
Contorted by decades of tension
Under chronic stress

Was it the pressures of life?
Was it the constant awareness of the ongoing genocide
Of people of African descent
Regardless of where they reside?

Your stride slowed ever
With mounting heartache
Feet grounded
Never planted

I admired how invested you were in promoting
The voices of the unheard
The misunderstood

You taught me
The Power of the Narrative
How dire our future
If we do not
Reclaim our voice
Honor our right
To write our history
With an accuracy never afforded
By the other

Sparks flew from energy created by your lips
Whenever you spoke about one day
Returning to Africa

Your most honest home
Your emotional salve

With me
You shall

Encouraged in pursuit of a similar journey
You advised me to be humble
Quick to listen
Slow to judge
Emphasized finding community
To serve the collective needs

Never stop living my dreams

With you
I felt seen

You often saw light in others
Before they saw it themselves
Nurtured it for growth
While planting more seeds

I am thankful for that which
Sprouts from within me

For but a moment
We served as each other’s
Link to family
Both of us
In need of support

In finding peace in all the broken pieces
Of your life story connected to blood
In finding light walking an unusual path
Achieving comfort in intimacy
Acknowledging strength in vulnerability

That which you gave with ease
To build more solid ties with me

All the while
Surrounded by loving steadfast comrades
Acquired over time
A testament
To the magnitude
Of your shine

I pray to live up to your legacy

Proudly your cousin

In creative revolutionary struggle

Please give my regards
To the Ancestors