Written by Lucero Benitez, COSS Communications Specialist
After teaching at Fresno State for 29 years, Dr. Malik Simba retired Spring 2019. He taught several courses in the Africana Studies Program and History, wrote a number of books and articles and inspired students.
Simba’s interest in Africana Studies stemmed from the time and place of the 1960s. “My best academic subject was history and Malcolm X, who in many of his speeches, argued that a ‘knowledge of the past is the gateway to freedom’ led me to study the discipline of history,” Simba said.
In 1989 Simba began teaching Ethnic Studies at Fresno State which eventually changed its name to Africana Studies. Knowing that his training was in American Constitutional history, the department of history wanted him to join that department. Simba agreed to do so as long as he could maintain a joint relationship with Africana Studies. He later began to teach U.S. legal history and African American history.
“Working on campus was fulfilling because of my collegial relationships with supportive faculty and, of course, teaching students,” Simba said. “My fondest memories of teaching students are the many written notes of thanks from students who applauded my helping them intellectually in their understanding that the past is dictated by the present.”
Simba helped institutionalize “The African American Intellectual Thought Symposium” in 2007 with the renowned Marxist historian, Dr. Herbert Aptheker as the inaugural keynote speaker. Since then, there have been 13 annual symposiums covering major topics including race, class, and gender. One of the most memorable for him was the 8thAnnual Symposium, “Black Women’s Literary Expressions: Aesthetic Writings, Political Writings, and Autobiographical Writings” for which the noted scholar, Dr. La Donna Forsgren was the keynote speaker.
His involvement at Fresno State also included organizing Black Agitprop: a visual image of Black history and culture which corresponds pedagogically with the requirements of outcomes assessments for the Africana Studies Program.
Simba worked to have Instructional Related Activity (IRA) fund another event which he co-developed with Emeritus English Professor Dr. James E. Walton–the annual Martin Luther King/Gunnar Myrdal Lecture Series. Together, they developed the lecture series in lieu of the absence of a university lecture series. With IRA funding, they were able to bring to campus such luminaries as Michael Eric Dyson, Donna Brazile, Eugene Robinson, Susan L. Taylor(Essence Magazine), Coach Herman Boone(Remember the Titans) and others.
In support of getting historical information to the community, he is a featured writer for the local Black newspaper, The California Advocate. In addition, he has written for and will continue to write op-eds for the Fresno Bee.
The majority of Simba’s writings are for Blackpast.org., referred to as the “Google of the Africana Experience.” His involvement with the website landed him a seat on the advisory board.
“I have published in many encyclopedias on topics like Malcom X, Civil Rights, World Slavery, American Slavery. I have written for the Chicago Tribune, Focus of Law Studies, and the 9thCircuit Legal Journaland so forth,” Simba said.
In 2015, Simba was honored by the local African American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley as a member of its Trailblazers.
At Fresno State, he served on many academic committees and served on search committees for the history department, Africana Studies program, and Women’s Studies program. He served as chair of the history department and coordinated the Africana Studies program.
Simba is grateful for the support the College of Social Sciences gave him to conduct research. He received grants from the college and the National Endowment for the Humanities. During that time, he wrote Black Marxism and American Constitutionalism: From the Colonial Background, Through the Ascendancy of Barack Obama, and the Dilemma of Black Lives Matter. It is now in its 4thedition and Simba says students find it enlightening, informative, and even life changing.
The major change Simba says he observed during his time at Fresno State was its move from an essentially teaching institution to a research, and thus, a “publish or perish” institution. And now he says it’s time to move on.
“I decided to retire because in an interesting time and place, my FERP was ending after five years; therefore, I thought it was time to walk into a sunset while looking back at a productive career,” Simba said. “A retirement after a productive career creates a deep satisfaction that a mission of service to students, colleagues, the university, and the community was achieved at a high level.”
In his retirement from institutional work, he will continue to write for Blackpast.organd further edit his book which is used by professors throughout academia from coast to coast.
“My advice to students is always study and struggle against injustice with the understanding that the history of the past is dictated by your actions today,” Simba said.