Scholar steps down
Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 21:12
"(Atheism is) the only logical and rational position for an educated person to take," he said. "There's no need for supernatural intervention. I'm not even doubtful — there's no supreme deity."
Pointer attended McClymonds High School in Oakland where he saw the need for black studies courses and a black student union. He later came back to the same community to help establish such services by meeting in students' homes to read African-American literature. He also helped establish a Northern California chapter of the Black Panther Party.
He then went to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. on a basketball scholarship along with his cousin Paul Silas who later became an NBA champion and a coach. Both Pointer and Silas were chosen as All-American players during their time at Creighton.
During college, he faced a difficult time passing freshman English.
"I had to take two full years of English 1A," Pointer said. "Ironically, I ended up majoring in English."
He eventually earned bachelor's degrees in English and sociology.
He soon came back to the East Bay and began teaching at Merritt College in the late 1960s.
It was here where Pointer faced some problems with his viewpoints that would lead to physical pain for the rest of his life.
During a lecture, Pointer began speaking against the violent ways of the Black Panther Party. Some Black Panther members were in the classroom and were not happy with his non-violent approach to social problems.
"I'm an advocate for education, open-mindedness and peace," he said.
Pointer was later assaulted by six Black Panther members and was put out of work for a whole year. To this day he faces permanent back pain and spasms.
Through his experiences, some regard Pointer as an asset to African-American history.
"He is one of the most profound people in African-American history," Mitchell said. "He was one of the dudes that was there. He is a pure intellectual."
He eventually received his master's degree in African history in 1971 and a master's degree in African literature in 1979 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Fueled by literature
Pointer had his book "A Passion to Liberate" published in 2002 as a literary biographical tribute to South African novelist Alex La Guma. Since then, he has been working on a second book based on mythical epic stories. It will compare the myths of West Africa with those of the rest of the world.
Mitchell, who is now a novelist and teacher himself, said that he sees Pointer just as influential as earlier African-American writers.
"He's right up there," Mitchell said. "People like Fritz continue that legacy on."
One of those writers Mitchell thought of was James Baldwin who Pointer met and spent a day with in 1982.
"That day was the highlight of my life," Pointer said.
As much as he wishes his students of the current generation would pick up books more often, Pointer said he is coming to accept that books are not popular anymore.
"I'm really mentally frustrated with the level of education and preparation of students who come to college," he said. "They don't see the value in reading."
Pointer said that earlier generations of students would take advantage of much the literary works the world has to offer, unlike many of his recent students.
"Fritz wants students to develop a love for books," Cromartie said. "He loves books; he's always reading."
He attributes the apathetic attitude of students part of the reason why he has become less excited about teaching. He has wanted to teach an African-American literature class which has failed through the years to meet enough enrollments to survive.
"It's not the faculty's fault; you have to look at the product we get," he said. "These students don't give a shit so I've been relegated to teaching white English."
Always learning something new
While his apathetic students are ignoring their education, Pointer plans to pursue his own further with his wife, Liziwe, through traveling.
"I'm tired of teaching," he said. "We want to see the world before we leave the world," he said.
After retirement, Pointer plans to explore South Africa, Argentina, China, Venezuela and Brazil.
He plans to give himself more personal time to write and appreciate more literary work. He wants to spend more time with his children Shegun Toure, 44, Nandi Toure, 40, Somori, 32, and Thiyane. 28.
Pointer said he will miss his colleagues and friends that he has made over the years of teaching at the college.
Although he said he does miss the energy that once came from teaching and challenging students, Pointer will be gaining more energy from learning and challenging himself.
Contact Sam Attal at firstname.lastname@example.org.