Hasta la Vista, CAAPEI Baby
A few short years ago, I started writing this column at the request of a very good friend of mine who happens to own Our Weekly. I was and am a prolific talker and community activist more than regular writer of journalistic hubris, but I saw a golden opportunity to better educate the public on the Reparations Movement in particular, and our shared political environment in general.
I have learned a lot in doing this task weekly, and hopefully I’ve provided a few moments of inspirational interpretation of our Black Experience. I’m a faculty member by trade, so communicating well is especially important to me; I’m thankful for this practice in honing another way of getting that done.
I know I sound like I’m signing off and heading for my big break at either the Times or the Daily Beast blog. I’m doing neither. However, I am saying good-bye to the epithet that generally comes at the end of the column associated with my name: CAAPEI at California State University Dominguez Hills. I am no longer the executive director of the political institute at Dominguez.
I, we, did not raise the proper amount of outside funding to enable CAAPEI to fly free and delve into the harsh realities of political-economic life as African descendants in California. That meant that when the chancellor of the CSU, who had graciously provided the financial support for CAAPEI for four years, finally turned off the funding spigot, we were not in a good financial way, and the administrators at CSUDH decided to go forward without me at the helm of the institute. Getting fired never feels good, and I won’t claim all the therapeutic benefits it is supposed to bring. I didn’t and don’t feel any.
Luckily, I can still pay my bills, given I’m a tenured full professor at CSU Northridge, but the abrupt b-slap I got still gets my face warm. I commiserate with the many thousands of unemployed and underemployed Black folk, who reside and wonder why in California.
CAAPEI was the brainchild of former U.S. Congressman, former California Lt. Gov., and retired California legislator par excellent, Mervyn Dymally, Ph.D. (yep, he has an earned Ph.D). It was established by SB 1721 in 2002, and re-authorized by AB 1760 and AB 165 in 2003 and 2005.
CAAPEI was intended to do a great many things. First, it was to provide an environment for the collection, preservation and research utilization of the papers, memorabilia and legislative diaries of California’s elected Black public servants. It was to provide political leadership training for a new generation of African Americans and other ethnicities in order to produce a body of ethically sensitive, well schooled and effective public servants and public policy decision-makers. It was to create and house a Black think tank, a first for a publicly-supported four-year institution in California.
It did all that and more, and it was getting better at it. The California Teen Summit regularly met at CSUDH through CAAPEI’s hosting; African female entrepreneurs came calling from the continent and left us better informed about their significance; political candidate forums and debates were CAAPEI-hosted, as was the visit of 20 UN ambassadors and their staffs to the school.
ASCAC (Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization) came, representatives of the African Union and the N’COBRA executive board held their retreats at the school through CAAPEI, among other activities. In fact, there were times we were sure we were on the right track, and we were indeed making a significant difference.
In politics, there is no good deed, however, that goes unpunished, says the song. CAAPEI got too good, too soon without the protection of enough ducats in the till.
Se la vie. However, in the works this fall was CAAPEI’s move to re-name itself the Mervyn Dymally Political and Economic Institute. That is clearly the correct logical move and now is certainly the right time to do it. Mr. Dymally has earned that honor and much more, and it needs to be done while he can still savor it and enjoy the appreciation of a thankful public. Besides the Willie Brown Institute at CSU Sacramento, which is solely dedicated to the legendary and worthy Mr. Brown and to his voluminous contributions to California, there is no other political institute in the state established at a public university that is dedicated to a Black politician. There is the Pat Brown Institute at CSULA, the Tomas Rivera Public Policy Institute and the Jess Unruh Political Institute at USC, the Leon Panetta Institute for Public Affairs at CSU Monterey Bay, and several more I could name, but no Black ones. The Mervyn Dymally Institute, named for California’s first and only elected Black Lt. Gov., sorely needs to happen, and it needs to happen in Southern California.
The remnants of CAAPEI at CSUDH are now in the hands of the Africana Studies Department, an area understaffed and overwhelmed with other work. Hopefully, somebody there takes this project on and gets it done. We, the people, should send in the letters, texts, and the e-mails to make sure that it gets done.
The Black Think Tank associated with CAAPEI will meet on August 28 to contemplate its own future—to die a quiet death or like Phoenix to rise from the ashes of someone else’s attempted flameout and soar mightily ahead, further helping Black Californians map out survival and transcendent strategies for themselves and their children.
There are people of character, conscience and immense talent in that group. I’m betting on new life and renewed purpose. Viva CAAPEI (under a new nom de plume) and viva the BTT.
David Horne, Ph.D., is formerly executive director of the California African American Political Economic Institute (CAAPEI) located at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
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