Author Archives: Michael Sykes

Silicon Valley Unsung Hero: Roy L Clay Sr.

Roy L Clay Sr.

Photographed by: Onyx Truth

 Silicon Valley is the hub of technological innovation, home to hundreds of companies. Roy L. Clay Sr., also known as The Godfather of Silicon Valley, is responsible for its success. He was a founding member of Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) first computer division, which put Silicon Valley on the map. This, and his many other technological ventures,  played a crucial role in establishing several enterprises to increase the representation of African Americans in the city of technology. Yet his legacy is not known to the general public. One of his sons, Rodney Clay, stated that “if you ask a kid now, who created Silicon Valley? They’ll probably say Mark Zuckerberg. They might even go back and say…Bill Gates. But they can’t go much farther than that.” 

Despite facing the barriers of segregation, Clay’s determination and hard work earned him a scholarship to study mathematics at Saint Louis University. While he had a passion for baseball, he chose to focus on his academic goals and was among the first African Americans to graduate from SLU.

After spending some time working as a teacher, Clay eventually landed an interview for McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. But despite his qualifications, he was told, “I’m very sorry, we don’t hire professional Negroes.” While he would eventually reapply and land a job with the corporation, it was at his next job and his move to Palo Alto, California, in 1962, that marked the beginning of a journey that would lead him to greatness.

In 1958, Clay ended up working at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he would write software for the U.S. Department of Energy. This software would display how radiation particles would spread after a nuclear explosion. As word spread about the work he was doing at the lab, it would eventually be caught by David Packard, who would personally recruit Clay to Hewlett-Packard (HP).

Joining HP in 1965 was another step toward his goal. With his unwavering determination and leadership skills, Clay helped launch and lead the computer science division in 1965, leaving a lasting impact on the world of technology. The creation of the HP 2116A minicomputer launched the company into the world of computers. This launch was viewed as a negative by HP’s co-founder Bill Hewlett, who was paraphrased by Clay’s son Rodney, as saying “you’ve [Clay] done us a disservice. You’ve gotten us into the computer industry. I [Hewlett] want you to get us out of it.” 

Additionally, Clay held the highest-ranking position of any African-American member or staff at HP until he left in 1971 to pursue his dream of starting a consulting business. His expertise and dedication helped Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm, identify investments that became some of the biggest names in tech, such as Tandem Computers. Yet Clay was not finished when it came to how many accomplishments one could achieve. 

He would make another mark on history when he became the first African American to be elected to Palo Alto City Council in 1973. A white friend of Clay had been the one to encourage him into running for local politics. This venture would eventually lead to him becoming vice mayor for two years (1976-77).

In 1977, Clay started ROD-L Electronics. One of his sons, Rodney, explained, “Safety testing is what ROD Electronics is about. We started selling our equipment to companies manufacturing all kinds of electrical things, from printers to copy machines and computers. Our goal was to sell to every company that was building electrical products so that they would use our tester to verify the safety of their test. They could put an underwriter laboratory sticker on their product, put it in a box, and know they’ll be okay. And that’s what Rod Electronics is all about, so we built the equipment that allowed other manufacturers to do that test.”

It is an undeniable fact that Clay had to confront racism even after becoming the first African-American member of the Olympic Club of San Francisco in 1989. It is worth noting that this club has a long history, established in 1860, but until 1989, no minorities or women were permitted to become members.

Rodney Clay said how the members felt after his father became a member, “The Olympic Club used to have a policy of not allowing black people to become members. The club’s bylaws stated that only white Anglo-Saxon males could join. However, my father, the first black member, broke this barrier and paved the way for people of all ethnicities to join the club. He even went on to become a board member and eventually the club’s president, which was a remarkable feat considering the racism and anger he faced from some members who had been there for generations. Some people were so upset by his inclusion that they took his picture off the wall. A white friend of his said to Roy, ‘I’m taking all the pictures off the wall. He went and tore all the pictures off the wall.’”

Clay, a prominent figure in the technology industry, was recognized by the African American Museum and Library at Oakland in 2002 as one of the most significant African-Americans working in technology. Furthermore, ROD-L Electronics, a company in San Mateo County, was honored with the Dads Count Family Friendly Employer Award. Clay’s contributions to the technology industry were also acknowledged in 2003 when he was inducted into the Silicon Valley Hall of Fame. His story serves as an inspiration to all those who face obstacles in achieving their dreams.

This led to the writing and publication of his autobiography “Unstoppable: The Unlikely Story of a Silicon Valley Godfather.” Virginia Clay, the late wife of Mr. Clay had been a huge inspiration to him throughout his life and career. It was her idea for him to write his life story as to not only preserve his legacy, but to also inspire others in pursuing their dreams. His son Rodney said that “…she [Virginia] was the one who said, ‘Roy, you’ve got to write your story as an inspiration to minority kids coming up.’” He goes on to say that “…I think it was more my mom saying…’I want people to know about you…’ My mother was very proud of him. And she was a big reason….for him being who he was…”

In terms of how Clay felt about his book, one of his other sons, Roy Jr., stated that “…he [Roy Sr.] wanted to get some degree of recognition, but really just to get a lot of different things out there. So recognition, being able to help the community, a lot of a lot of reasons all combined together.” He furthers this by saying that “… that was his kind of mantra. And that’s primarily why he wanted to write the book was to be inspirational.” His son Chris, added to this by saying “… whether it be in technology, whether it be in other disciplines, whatever it is…don’t let anything slow you down.”

While Roy Clay Sr. may not be able to do press for his book and life story as a whole, his sons do that job for him. Chris Clay was able to talk at Stanford last year to minority engineering students. He also stated that he had the ability to do another talk with 80 engineers from the company he currently works at. He believes that the book “…has become a big vessel for us to go out and do these sorts of talks and really start to spread the message to other groups. Without a book, then we’re just kind of talking and especially without him there, we don’t quite have the reach and quite have the credibility, but with the book in hand…we are getting a lot and a lot of attention, and a lot of momentum, a lot of visibility to the audience that we want to reach a global audience of all makes increase in interest.”

Chris C. goes on to say that “…we are absolutely getting a lot of reach into…primarily underrepresented people…looking to achieve whatever they want to be, in engineering or other fields of study.” Roy Jr. follows this sentiment when he brings up his father’s start in technology, “…he dealt with a lot of things when he was growing up…he had to deal with a lot, a lot of racism, a lot of…rejection from mainstream society. And in the process of climbing up out of all of that, I think he started to realize that, really, there’s a lot of pathways that need to be created…for the black community to be able to…advance itself in any way.”

After decades in the making, the book was released in July of 2022. His sons are currently in the process of finishing a children’s version which is slated for release in 2024.

AB 742 will restrict the practice of using police canines for apprehension, arrest, and crowd control. 

Police dog, German Shepherd. Original public domain image from Flickr
Police dog, German Shepherd. Original public domain image from Flickr

In February 2023, Assembly Bill 742 was proposed in California. The bill aimed to ban the use of police dogs for arrest and crowd control if they were deemed racist. However, in July, the bill was turned into a two-year bill and will remain inactive until 2024 for reasons that currently need to be discovered.

In Feb, Assemblymember Corey Jackson, Executive Director of ASIU California Carlos Marquez, and Rev. Jethroe Moore II, President of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP chapter, held a press conference in front of the state capital supporting Assembly Bill 742. The bill remained inactive until then.

At the press conference, Rev Moore stated, “This seeks to end a deeply racialized traumatic and harmful practice by prohibiting the use of police canines for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control. It’s time for AB 742 to stop passing this issue on to the next generation, and it’s time for California to atone for its violent past.” The press conference was held five months before the bill was announced, and it will remain inactive.

In 2021, the California Department of Justice released statistics that revealed nearly 14% of the serious injuries or deaths resulting from police use of force incidents across the state were caused by police canines. This highlights the significant role police dogs play in law enforcement and raises questions about their appropriate use and training. The statistics also suggest the need for a re-evaluation of the use of police canines in certain situations to minimize harm to civilians.

Assembly Member Jackson said this at the conference: “The use of police canines inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on Black Americans and communities of color. This bill marks a turning point in the fight to end this cruel and inhumane practice and build trust between the police and the communities they served.”

In an article titled “California Bill Would Prohibit Police Dogs from Being Used for Arrest and Crowd Control Due to Racial Controversy,” published in the L.A. Times, it is mentioned that the proposed bill would prohibit the use of canines for arrest and crowd control, but not for other purposes such as explosives detection, search, and rescue, or narcotics detection, which do not involve biting.

Chabot first Haunted House

The first annual Chabot Haunted House and Halloween party took place on October 30 and 31 at Building 1200, presented by the Chabot Theater Club. On October 30th, the haunted house was open from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with an admission fee of $3.00. On the 31st, both the Haunted House and Halloween Party will be available from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., also with an admission fee of $3.00.

The Entrance to the Haunted House

The entrance to the haunted house

Staff Photographer: Michael Sykes

The haunted house and Halloween party were organized by Priyanna Atwal, a theater student, and other students from the theater arts department. According to Atwal, she stated, “We (The theater club) started planning the event last year. We came up with the idea of an insane asylum and they had to figure out how to make it happen, including obtaining the necessary funds. We asked for donations from people and received support from the theater department. However, it was a stressful experience as we faced challenges in getting people to help due to scheduling conflicts.

Scary clown freighting the guest

Scary Clown Frighting the Guest

Staff Photographer: Michael Sykes

To enter the Haunted House, you begin in the hallway of the 1200 building and exit from the back of the 1300 building. The haunted house was impressively decorated with horror-themed props, had realistic sound effects, professional make-up, wardrobe, music, and casting. The theme was centered around an Insane Asylum. The haunted house had a theme of an insane asylum, with theater students dressed as nurses, psycho killers, and asylum patients. They would pretend to attack or scare guests as they walked through.

Theater students posing as Patiences from the Psychiatric Ward

Theater students posing as Patiences from the Psychiatric Ward

Staff Photographer: Michael Sykes

Virginia Criswell is one of the attendees that was at the haunted house. She said, “I really don’t do haunted houses, I was kind of apprehensive. The things that scared me were people crawling around and coming out of nowhere jumping out. I really enjoyed it.”

The money collected from the haunted house and party goes towards supporting the theater club’s future events and needs.

Gladiators Bites the dust losing their 9th and last home game of the season.

Chabot Gladiator Football lost their ninth game to the San Francisco Rams. The game took place on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. at Chabot, where they have yet to secure a victory all season. The team suffered a crushing defeat, with a final score of 6-59, leaving their season record at a dismal 0-9. Immediate action must be taken if they hope to win even a single game before the season draws to a close.

Eric Fanene, the coach of Chabot, had this to say about their defeat. “Defense played stout, especially in the first quarter. We slowed it down on offense, so that’s not really us. I’m just frustrated right now. When you’re now 0-9, you hope that some calls will go your way and some of the big plays, we didn’t get first downs, that’s the deal. We didn’t get first downs, we made mistakes. You can’t make mistakes when guys are wide open. You can’t make mistakes when you’re wide open and drop the ball. You can’t make mistakes and that might come from just guys trying to do extra to help their team win and sometimes it comes and hurts you, but defense on the field way too much, way too much.”

During the first quarter of the game, #56 Andres Viernes (Linebacker), executed a great and brutal tackle on the Rams. Unfortunately, the Rams managed to score a touchdown just two minutes into the game, as Chabot’s defense was unable to stop them from reaching their goal. This made the score 0-7, without any field goal. However, Chabot’s defense managed to make the Rams lose five yards, and even though the Rams made it to the field goal line, they missed the field goal. At the end of the first quarter, the Rams were leading with a score of 0-7.

In the second quarter, the Chabot team’s defense performed exceptionally well by making great tackles. Linebacker Willie Chase (#25) picked up 28 yards and a first down. Despite Chabot’s defense putting in their best effort to prevent the Rams from making a touchdown, the Rams were able to score three touchdowns and three field goals, resulting in a lead of 0-28 by halftime.

During the third quarter, Opeti Fangupo (#45) Chabot’s defensive line picked up a fumble from the Rams and scored a touchdown, making the score 6-28. However, San Francisco quickly responded with three touchdowns and two field goals, ending the third quarter with a score of 6-49.

Opeti Fangupo (#45) Chabot’s defensive line made a great touchdown

Opeti Fangupo (#45) Chabot’s defensive line made a great touchdown

Photographed by Jared Darling

In the 4th quarter, the Rams committed an illegal formation penalty, but #45 managed to make a sack on the five-yard line. Despite this, the Rams were still able to make a successful field goal, bringing the score to 6-52. Later, the Rams scored another touchdown, ultimately winning the game with a final score of 6-59.

Despite not winning a single game this season, the Gladiators are gearing up for their final match against Laney on Friday, Nov. 10th at 7:00 p.m. You won’t want to miss it! To stay up to date on all Chabot sports, be sure to visit

Chabot lose to San Mateo making it their eight lost in this season

Chabot Gladiator Football lost their 8th game to the San Mateo Bulldogs. The game took place on October 28th at 1:00 p.m. at Chabot, where they have not secured a victory all season. The team suffered a crushing defeat, with a final score of 3-66, leaving their season record at a dismal 0-8. Immediate action must be taken if they hope to win even a single game before the season draws to a close.

Chabot Gladiator Wide Receiver  Kierr Stewart making a play.

Chabot Gladiator Wide Receiver Kierr Stewart making a play.

Photo by Jared Darling

Eric Fanene, the coach of Chabot, had this to say about their defeat. “We knew this team. Everyone knows this team (San Mateo) is one of the best. We made some mistakes, like an error in understanding where to take the knee. Our kickoff return guy thought he was in the end zone, and took a knee. We’re on the one-yard line. So that doesn’t help matters right there. Fumbling the ball in big plays feels like we had some drives that we were getting first downs because, in the first half, we had five to six first downs. It didn’t feel like that, but then it ended in a blunder, you know. The main thing is belief in themselves. That’s something we’ve been saying to our guys and having our sophomores lead this team and finish strong with our sophomores. And it’s just hard when you haven’t won a game.”

San Mateo scored three touchdowns and three field goals in 12 minutes during the first quarter. They also made three recoveries. The Bulldogs ended the quarter with a score of 0-21.

During the second quarter of the game, the Gladiators made a terrible punt. San Mateo took advantage of this and scored a touchdown and field goal within the first five minutes of the quarter, making the score 0-28. Despite Chabot #25 Linebacker Willie Chase made a powerful tackle on San Mateo’s offense, they were still able to make a very hard touchdown and field goal, extending their lead to 0-35. On the other hand, during the Gladiators’ offense, they fumbled the ball in the bottom of the quarter, giving San Mateo an easy opportunity to score another touchdown, bringing the score to 0-42 at half-time.

During the third quarter, Chabot’s defense showed great strength. #44 Callan Ivy, a defensive lineman, made a massive sack on San Mateo, and #24 Sione Latu, a defensive back, made a remarkable tackle on them as well. The defense made it impossible for the opposing team to score a touchdown, but they managed to score a field goal, making the score 0-45. Chabot also made a field goal, bringing the score to 3-45. However, San Mateo’s offense made another touchdown, bringing the final score to 3-52.

In the fourth quarter, Chabot struggled to move the ball, with numerous incomplete passes and fumbles, while San Mateo dominated the game, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal, resulting in a final score of 3-66. Making it the 8th  game they lost in this season. 

Next week, Chabot plays San Francisco at Chabot on Nov. 4th at 1:00 p.m. To watch all of Chabot sports, go to

Chabot Nutrition fest

On October 12, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Chabot’s Nutrition Fest was held in front of Building 700, sponsored by Wellness Ambassadors and Dr. Porta. The event aimed to raise awareness among staff and students about healthy and unhealthy eating habits, and how a good diet can benefit you both physically and mentally.

“We want to raise awareness on what foods are healthy and what foods are not. We want to help students make the best decisions for their own health. There’s a lot of sugar in the food that people are unaware of that we put in our bodies.” says Janine Grillo, Instructor of Health and Nutrition.

The event witnessed the participation of many organizations and clubs that demonstrated their support, including Revolutionaries Advocating for Greener Ecosystem (RAGE), CalFresh, and Counseling Advocacy Resources Emotional Support (CARES). These entities set up information tables that provided essential details on balanced meals, nutrition facts, and mental health. The entire event was aimed at encouraging the attendees to understand the significance of the aspects in their daily lives.

Students playing the Nutrition Trivia Game.

Students playing the Nutrition Trivia Game

Staff Photographer: Michael Sykes

At the recently held Nutrition Fest, the Wellness Ambassadors devised a game titled Nutrition Trivia to promote mental health for students. The game entails spinning a wheel that presents a true or false statement, which the player is required to answer correctly. The event was aimed at raising awareness about the significance of proper nutrition in maintaining good mental health and educating students on various aspects of nutrition.

“This event is centered around Chabot, CARES, RAGE, CalFresh basically Wellness Ambassadors and Mental Health Advocates. We’re promoting Nutrition, Informing the students about picking healthier choices to eat. I’m here also helping promote the food pantry.” Said Maddie Ramos from CalFresh. 

Some people are unaware of the unhealthy decisions that are put into their bodies whether it’s sodas, candy, chips or processed food. This event shed light on how eating unhealthy can lead to unhealthy lifestyles like obesity, and high blood pressure, and it can trigger mental health too.

“This is good for students like me who eat a lot of processed food, or we eat out a lot. I mean look at where this campus is surrounded by a lot of fast-food places. Being healthy leads us to make better choices.” Said student Judell Toles-Bey. 

A good diet is one of the essential keys to life along with exercise. Eating greener and drinking water can help fight diseases and dehydration. Just because drinking and eating junk feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

“With This event and the Food Pantry we are here for those students that don’t even have access to food so at least now they have a way through Chabot to get food. We also know how food affects health as well as their mind,” says Pia Jade, one of the helpers and creators of the event.

Not only did the event help students with facts about nutrition, but there was also free food. The event was catered by Panera Bread.

Hispanic Heritage Month Movie Night : A Million Miles Away

Million Miles Away was the film of choice for Chabot’s movie night, organized by El Centro as part of the celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month. The event was held on September 28, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the campus event center. The screening was one of many events scheduled for the month-long celebration of Latino Heritage at Chabot. 

EL Centro providing the snacks for the attendees

EL Centro providing the snacks for the attendees

Staff Photographer: Michael Sykes

The Million Miles Away movie is a motivational film that depicts the true story of José Fernández, played by (Michael Peña) tracing his journey from childhood to adulthood. As a child migrant worker from Stockton, California, Fernández pursued his dreams with unyielding determination, eventually becoming the first Latin NASA astronaut. Directed by Alejandra Marquez, the film is a poignant reminder of the transformative power of perseverance in the face of daunting challenges.

With free admission and complimentary snacks, the event was a perfect opportunity for first-time moviegoers to enjoy the experience with ease.

“I was fascinated that he was a migrant farm worker and got through the requirements because I looked on NASA’s website, you need to go through all the STEM classes. I saw the trailer and it looked good. This was my first time seeing it and I liked it.” says student Kiami Lee.

The event was attended by a significant number of individuals representing a lot of organizations and clubs on campus, including El Centro, CalWorks, and Puente Club. Their presence was a demonstration of their support for the event.

“I’m in the Puente Club they are one of the sponsors with El Centro for this event. So, I’m here to show my support. This is my second time seeing this movie. I enjoyed it both times.” says student Rosalie Cordova.

A considerable number of attendees expressed satisfaction at the positive portrayal of Latin history depicted in the film.

“We have an outreach specialist that has come abroad at El Centro (Elisa Saenz). I believe she took her time and picked a great movie. This movie shows that perseverance is key, no matter the struggles or background. I think that’s the reason why she chose this movie.” Says Damaris Carrillo, Administrative Assistant of HSI-EL Centro. 

The next event for Hispanic Heritage Month is going to be October 12th where they are holding arts night Noche de Arte. The event brought together students, faculty, and staff to celebrate and learn about Latino culture. The screening of Million Miles Away was a fitting tribute to the rich and diverse heritage of the Latino community, and a testament to Chabot’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. To watch the movie, it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Chop it Up Tuesdays

Chop it Up Tuesdays is where African American students and staff meet to discuss the culture and community. The meeting starts at noon in the Black Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) in bldg. 100 room 136. Although the topics discussed are primarily about African American culture, all are welcome to attend and participate.

LaKesha Stewart hosted the meeting. She is the program coordinator for the BCRC. “This is an open space where students can freely select a topic to discuss every Tuesday. This is a part of the Umoja program’s active Live Learning initiative. Our aim is for Chop it Up to serve as a useful tool for fostering a sense of community among students while promoting awareness of current events in the Black community,” said Stewart.

The topic for this week was splitting the bill, whether it’s on a date or just hanging out with friends and family at a restaurant. The attendees were very engaged once the subject was introduced. Though the conversation got loud, it never turned confrontational.

“If I’m out with friends and they order Steak and Lobster, and I ordered chicken strips, you better believe I’m only paying for what I ordered,” said Chabot College student Chris Hardict.

At every meeting, attendees are offered complimentary food and beverages. First-time attendees are expected to introduce themselves to the regular members. Following introductions, the group collectively selects a topic and votes on it. The winning topic is then written on the board by Ms. Stewart.

“I enjoy spending time at the BCRC. It’s great to see so many people come together and discuss a wide range of topics. It’s also wonderful to be a part of a community where we share our thoughts and ideas. Best of all, this space is open to everyone.” said Chabot College student Anita Daniels, who enjoys spending time at the BCRC.

Some students have been attending Chop it Up Tuesdays since 2022. “When I first came here, I didn’t expect it to be anything. I just wanted to meet new people, but I love the conversations here,” said Chabot College student Tsega Yizengaw.

Chop it Up Tuesdays began in the Fall of 2021 to warmly greet students returning to the BCRC Space.

Gladiator’s devastating defeat to Contra Costa

Staff Writer: Michael Sykes

The Chabot Gladiators football team suffered another devastating defeat, this time against Contra Costa Community College. The game took place on September 30th at 1:00 p.m. at Chabot, where they have struggled to secure a victory all season. The final score was 7-23, bringing their overall record to 0-5. The team must regroup and focus on improving their performance in the upcoming games to turn their season around.

Eric Fanene, the coach of Chabot, had this to say about their defeat.“To be honest, we had four starting alignment out today, so that was tough. We are going to have to watch the films. This is a great time for us to have a bye week happen right now. The defense did a great job today with sacks and tackles. We are going to have to revisit the depth chart kind of deal and see if we have the right guts here.”

The Gladiators will not be playing any games this upcoming week, as they are scheduled for a bye week. This means that they will have a much-needed break from gameplay and can focus on rest and recovery in preparation for their next match-up.

In the first quarter, Contra Costa took control of the game with two touchdowns and a field goal, leaving a score of 13-0. Although Chabot’s #43 Marlin Brown had another crucial sack, it wasn’t enough to stop Contra Costa’s.

During the second quarter, Contra Costa managed to score a touchdown. Unfortunately, many of the fans believe the officials failed to call a penalty. However, Contra Costa bounced back and scored a rough touchdown, raising the score to 0-20. Marlin Brown displayed his prowess by successfully sacking the opposing quarterback again, while #4 Douglas Turner Jr (Defensive Back) executed an incredible Tackle.  Moreover, #31 Christian Gonzalez (LineBacker) prevented Contra Costa  from scoring again. By halftime, Contra Costa was still ahead with a score of 0-20.

In the 3rd quarter, Chabot’s offense faced a few setbacks, including an incomplete pass and a holding penalty. However, (#90) Chabot’s Jourdyn Graham, a defensive line player, made an exceptional play, preventing the opposing quarterback from scoring a touchdown. Shortly after, Ian Hocheder (#11), a wide receiver, scored a touchdown – Chabot’s first in two weeks, bringing the field goal score to 7-20. On the defensive end, Eric Johnson (#3), a defensive back, intercepted the ball, securing possession for the Gladiators.

Chabot fought hard until the very end, but unfortunately, they fell short with a final score of 7-23. Even though they didn’t come out on top, they showed great effort and determination. It’s never easy to lose, but they can take pride in the fact that they gave it their all. 

The upcoming game for Chabot is scheduled on Oct. 13 at 7:00 PM in Pleasant Hill, where they will be facing off against Diablo Valley College. This Saturday, they have a bye.

Banned African American Books in Red States and Why

Books depicting the African American experience from Alex Haley, Alice Walker, Ruby Bridges, and more black authors are banned in the U.S. Schools, Libraries, and prisons from Tennessee to Arizona (Mostly red states).

They’re banned because of the violence, language, and adverse effects they might have on young readers. Another reason why is because of the Critical Race Theory (CRT). It’s a Cross-disciplinary examination by social and civil rights activists of how social conceptions of race and ethnicity shape laws, social and political movements, and media.

Whether books or teaching, the number of banned subjects related towards CRT continues to grow across the US. Several red states believe it teaches that America was founded on racism and inequality and that white supremacy is embedded in this country.  

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a nonfiction book based on the actual events of the Muslim Minister and civil rights activist. The book was written by Malcolm and Alex Haley.

The novel touches on black pride, The African American experience from the 1920s through the 1960s, racism, religion, coming of age, black separatism, and Jim Crow. Along with Malcolm X joining the Nation of Islam (NOI), a black nationalist organization that teaches Islamic tradition and black separatism.

The NOI was started in 1930 by founder Minister Wallace Fard Muhammad, then after he died in 1937 and led by Minister Elijah Muhammad from 1937 till his death in 1975. Muhammad was Malcolm X’s mentor. The novel mentions when Malcolm X left the NOI and went to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and the events when he returned.

When Malcolm left the NOI due to disagreements about where the organization was heading with Muhammad, Malcolm went to Mecca for his true conversion into a Muslim.  Malcolm X changed because of what he saw, and he saw Muslims of all different colors and races without discrimination against each other. 

The book is  regarded as one of the most influential in the U.S. as of  2012. The Library of Congress named it “One of The Books That Helped Shaped America” in 2021. The book was published on Oct. 29, 1965, just eight months after Malcolm X was assassinated at 39. 27 years later, the book was produced into a film starring Denzel Washington as Malcolm X and was directed by Spike Lee.

Dr. Jamal Cooks, Vice President of Academic Service at Chabot College, said this about the book “Malcolm was changing before going to Mecca. He began to not only see the world in black and white, but he also began to see it in terms of those that were for the progress of humanity and those that were not. The book spoke on brotherhood, embracing humans, and somehow it got lost in translation.”

The novel is banned in six red states, including Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee. According to an article on the Vice website, Tennessee Prison Rejects Book Donations Because Malcom X is Not Allowed, states that  Malcom X’s bio book is banned in the prisons of Tennessee because of CRT law that’s been placed in that state and how it may incite a riot. The book is claimed to be inconsistent with rehabilitative goals.

An autobiography not banned in those same red states is German Nazi Party Leader, Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. Translated in English is titled, My struggle, is claimed to not have anything to do with the CRT laws.

When Department of Criminal Justice Chief of Staff Jason Clark asked why he allowed the Hitler book in the Texas Prisons, he replied, “Mein Kampif is approved because it doesn’t violate our rules, it doesn’t stir up readers’ minds.”

In an excerpt from Mien Kampif on page 134,  “The Jews are the master of lies…. Jews are people of robbers…. they are beneath us like rats.” This extremist racist German organization imprisoned, tortured, and killed over six million Jews during the holocaust.        

Malcom was all about helping the African American race. He was never about violence. He was a separatist, but he changed when he returned from Mecca. He wanted to ally with other civil rights leaders he once called “Uncle Tom,” a derogatory word that meant a sell-out to their race. He wanted help from Dr. Martin Luther King, Adam Clayton Powell, and white people who wanted to help.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple is a fictional book by Alice Walker. The book guides the trauma and victory of Celie Harris Johnson, an African American woman raised in Georgia during the early 20th century. The book takes place during Celie’s teen years and ends into her adulthood. In the novel, Celie is bullied, discouraged, and has low self-esteem due to her husband and stepfather, yet she overcomes it and stands up for herself.

The novel was published in 1982, and the following year won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and The National Book Award for Fiction. In 1985 the book was produced into a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover. With Steven Spielberg as the director.

The book is banned in six red states like Florida, Mississippi, and Texas due to the book subjects on racism, lesbianism, rape, teenage pregnancy, and sexism. An article titled, Texas Prison Bans the Color Purple, on the Guardian website states, “The book is banned because the author leads the reader to believe her father rapes the main character.”

North Carolina Brunswick County Commissioner Pat Sykes wrote in her request in 2021 to remove the novel from the state. She said, “Trash in, Trash out. The immorality, the filth, you need to be 21 to drink, but they provided porn. Reading this as part of their curriculum in High School is Wrong.” The school board voted 3-2 to keep the book in school.

In an article on the Oprah Daily website, Oprah Says She Wanted to Be in The Color Purple More Than Ever, Oprah stated, “When I read the book for the first time, I loved it. It embraced womanhood; the book is cultured. So, when I found out about the audition for the movie, I went out and brought copies, handed them to people, and told them I was going to be in the movie. The book is so meaningful and deep.”

A musical movie of the book is set to be released in theaters on Dec. 25, 2023. Fantasia Barrino will be portraying the character of Celie. 

Ruby Bridges Goes to School

Ruby Bridges Goes to School was written by Ruby Bridges herself and published in 2009. It’s an autobiography about Bridge’s experience of being the first African American to be integrated into an all-white school in New Orleans, LA 1960.

The book is banned in Texas, Tennessee, and Florida due to the CRT law. Moms Against Liberty (MAL) is a conservative nonprofit organization that advocates for what it sees as parental rights in schools; they advocated for the ban of the book.

In an article on titled Moms Against Liberty Against Ruby Bridges, stated MAL’s comment, “The book is too uncomfortable for young white children… There are no black heroes in the book. Such as Justice of the Peace Clarence Thomas, Actor Morgan Freeman, and Secretary Ben Carson.”

The book focuses on Bridges and what she had to overcome as a six-year-old in 1960. This is 31 years before Thomas was Justice of the Peace in the U.S. Supreme Court, 57 years before Carson served as the 17 United States Secretary of Housing, and 11 years before Morgan Freeman made his acting debut.

Dr. Cook chimes in on what the MAL chapters in Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee comment about that novel, “Life is uncomfortable, and life is in no one’s favor…. The book explains to the readers how taking a stand for what you believe in is very important. You can stand up for whatever you believe in at any age, and to me, that’s a hero.”

The novel represents never forgetting the past or those who were there to help a better future. In the first chapter of the book she stated, “A Long time, black children and white children could not go to the same school. I Helped change that and along my journey I made friends too. Some white children did not judge me because of my color. They judge me because of my character.”

Others’ Opinions

Books from the African American Experience inform young, old, black, and white readers of the obstacles they faced in U.S. history. Those obstacles deal with racism, segregation, unjustified laws, slavery, and more that are still brutal to the black race today.

Umoja member and Chabot student Christian Green expressed, “It’s a toleration of white guilt and ignorance. The CRT theory is for black people specifically. Allowing this to happen in allowing any other forms of the practical racial, sexist, homophobic system to continue because someone doesn’t want race and anything else to be talked about in general.”

Libraries are meant to serve the public and all prospective points of view. Chabot head librarian Pedro Reynoso expressed, “Anytime you censor any author, specifically minorities, it’s a way of erasing people’s contribution to this country….as a librarian, I always support and defend freedom of speech and collecting books from prospective that present the full spectrum of the community.”

There is a letter obtained by the Texas Tribune from the Texas House of Representatives stating, “These books might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish,” and then continues, “They’re too young for children to be part of the school curriculum dealing with race and Black Lives Matters Moments.”

Books are supposed to, at times, leave readers questioned, informative, and create their own opinions. As an educator, Dr. Cook mentioned, “My point as an educator is that part of what we do is to be able to expose young people to a variety of topics at an appropriate time. Exposing them to different topics lets them walk away from their perspectives.”

Umoja member and Chabot student Makaylih Chan Welch voiced, “It’s dumb. Why erase or ban books of events that happened? Racism, slavery, and Jim Crow happened over 100 years ago. Years you can’t erase the black experience that happened 100 years or less years ago. There are people alive today that were involved in civil rights. Doing this removes their voice, and young people from different races need to hear or read that.”

More books about the African American experiences from black authors include A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, Beloved by Toni Morrison, I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and more, continue to be banned from red states due to the CRT Laws in those states.

Books, fiction or nonfiction about the black experience, uplift the race, reminding readers of the realities that African Americans faced through their own words. They not only highlight the negative but showcase the positive as well. The continuation of the book ban will further erase black stories for the future generations.