ron takaki, r.i.p.

I just received word that activist, scholar and UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies professor Ronald Takaki passed away unexpectedly yesterday at his home in Berkeley. I don't have any more details -- all I've received is one forwarded email and a multiple Facebook messages -- but I'm told he was in poor health for quite some time. I'm sure more information, as well as tributes, will soon emerge... In the meantime, pour one out and crack open your copy of Strangers From a Different Shore in his honor.

UPDATE: Here's the official release from UC Berkeley on Ronald Takaki's passing: Ronald Takaki, pioneering scholar of race relations, dies at 70.

My friend Oiyan wrote this nice piece over at the APAP blog on Professor Takaki, and the impact of his work on her own life. I'm cross-posting it here:

Pioneering Ethnic Studies Scholar, Ron Takaki Passes

I got a text message today from a friend that read, "Saw on facebook that Ron Takaki passed away. Did u hear the same?" I checked me email, and indeed, I received an email from another friend who is an alumnus of Cal sending out the notice that one of the most important Ethnic Studies scholars and teachers had passed. Berkeley has also put out an initial public notice of his passing. I knew that Professor Takaki had been ill for a while. He was just awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Association of Asian American Studies conference in Honolulu, and Professor Michael Omi, who accepted the award on his behalf, mentioned that Professor Takaki's health was not well.

His passing has me thinking about how much Professor Takaki's work impacted my trajectory in life. I first encountered his book Strangers from a Different Shore at the local public library in Springfield, Massachusetts. It had just been published, and I was 16. I'm not sure how I came across the book, but I found myself feeling like I needed to hide as I read the book. Each chapter detailed Asian American history, which until that point, I had no idea existed. With each chapter read, I began feeling more and more power. The knowledge the book presented almost felt illicit. Having grown up in a provincial, all-white, lower-middle class, mostly immigrant community, and being told over and over by the society in which I was growing up that my experience did not matter, the book was electrifying. I remember checking the book out, going straight home, and sitting in the corner of my bedroom on the floor, door closed, and the book lit by my desk lamp I had brought with me to the floor. I'm not sure why I read it like that, but I remember shaking as I devoured the book. You have to understand that in my experience, true relevant knowledge was made out to be illicit and dangerous. When I was 13, I wasn't allowed to do a book report on the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Maybe that's why I hid in a corner to read Takaki's book when I was 16. I do remember that the book was critical in helping me make sense of the violently racist experiences I had and the historical contexts for these experiences, and my relationship to the rest of the world around me, as an Asian American. It was the first time I realized I was Asian American, and I began to develop a voice.

Thank you Professor Takaki for significantly contributing toward the movement for Ethnic Studies, for educating so many of us, and for empowering us with a voice.

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