Unsung Heroes of Black History: Walter Turner

Every February, the United States commemorates Black History Month. Throughout the month, Ella’s Voice will be profiling some of our favorite unsung heroes of Black History To contribute to this series, email ellasvoice@ellabakercenter.org. Walter Turner is an scholar, author, journalist and friend. Turner is a leading authority on social, political an economic developments in Africa which he reports on every Monday night on Africa Today on KPFA. He is co-author of No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000. He is the President of the Board of Directors for several San Francisco Bay Area non-profits, including Global Exchange. He has assisted human rights projects around the world, working closely with political prisoners and sustainable community development. I first met Walter in his role as Professor and Department Chair of History and Ethnic Studies at the College of Marin. I was 19 years old and a ton of drive but no direction. My friend Laird had taken a class with Walter and recommended I do the same. I looked him up online and found a picture. I also wrote a list of all the things I wanted to study and do with my life; everything from being a farmer to running for elected office. About a week later, on a sunny day I sat on a bench at College or Marin between classes and Walter was about to pass. Recognizing him from his picture, I said, "Excuse me, are you Walter Turner?" Walter replied, "It depends on who wants to know." That moment began a friendship that has guided me to become the person I am today. Walter has been my compass in life. Encouraging my drive but also helping me focus my direction. Walter has touched the lives of so many people both young and old. Moving forever forward towards justice at home and around the world. This Black history month, I would like to recognize my mentor and friend, an unsung hero, Walter Turner.