Runoko Rashidi Okello: Greetings Family, How are you? Things are okay on this end. I just spent five full days in and around New York City. I gave lectures in Harlem, Newark, Brooklyn, and White Plains. All of them went well. I also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Schomburg Library. I took some excellent photos that I hope to share with you over the months to come. And, on Sunday afternoon, I went to the borough of the Bronx, New York and visited Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan. The status of Dr. Ben has been a source of great controversy over the past few months and, for many, a source of tremendous anguish. Previously, I had talked to him over the telephone. I also had multiple conversations with a number of concerned people about Dr. Ben. This was combined with long discussions with distinguished Elder and long time Harlem resident Queen Mother Kefa Nepthys and our brother, historian and Egyptologist, Ashra Kwesi. I also got a long phone message from brother Jarvis Butler. All of these folks have been very close to Dr. Ben for a lot of years. They are not new to the scene and I respect their viewpoints. I hope to soon have detailed talks with Dr. Leonard Jeffries and Professor Tony Browder. And, to cap it off, last night I had a long conversation with Dr. Ben's oldest daughter and primary caregiver--sister Ruth Ben-Jochannan. We have all promised to carefully monitor the situation and to keep each other well-informed. In other words, I wanted to do my homework and edit my research before putting out information that no matter how well intended might only serve to make matters worse. As you know, Dr. Ben is in a nursing home in the Bronx, New York. He has been there for about a month now. He is much smaller than I am used to seeing him but I did not see any signs of physical abuse and neglect. While I was with him he seemed lucid and alert. He receives many visitors. Indeed, he receives so many visitors that I can see how it might be disruptive to the care provided to the other patients. In spite of some the reports that I have seen he has plenty of clothes or, at least, all of the clothes that he could possibly need in a nursing home! Upon his request I actually looked in the drawers and closets in his room to examine his apparel and to see things for myself. He seemed quite clean and, while I was there, he was served a hot lunch that even made me hungry. He seemed to have a healthy appetite and had a small basket of fruit on a nearby table. Someone called me the next morning and told me that he had brought Dr. Ben even more food, including some of Dr. Ben's favorites. Let's just hope that they did not bring him any pork! Make no mistake about it, Dr. Ben does not want to be in a nursing home. Who would? And I was told several times by his daughter that the family is doing everything possible to get him better situated and as soon as possible. The family hopes to have him out of the nursing home within a few weeks and right after the height of New York's bitter winter. I also want to note, and this is perhaps a bit personal, that the family is operating with very limited resources. They are not rich people. And so I am asking everyone to take all of this into consideration as we report on the status of this great man. I repeat, Dr. Ben does not want to be in the nursing home. He makes this quite clear. And we don't want him in the nursing home. We should be clear on this also. But sometimes what we want and what we need and what we can afford does not equate. Dr. Ben's family is under great pressure. They are receiving threats to their physical well-being and are even afraid now of walking on the street for fear of coming under assault from irresponsible and misinformed people. Is this what we want? I don't think so. For his family, Dr. Ben is not only a treasured icon but a father and a grandfather. Rather than castigate the family we must support them. I am asking that we not make a bad situation worse. As we have seen with our own parents, getting old can be tough. At this point Dr. Ben cannot take care of himself and is in need of constant attention. I am simply asking that we continue to show our love and affection for Dr. Ben, but, that we also show our love and respect for the family and put ourselves in their place--a place that is becoming increasingly uneasy. So that is my report for today. I will issue others, and I know that you will also, in due time and as further information becomes available. In love of all things African, Runoko Rashidi Okello runoko@yahoo.com February 2009
Votes: 0
E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of TheBlackList Pub to add comments!

Join TheBlackList Pub


  • NYMetro
    How is Dr. Ben now? I just heard on CSPAN book TV that he was in attendance at the Harlem Book Fair, July 18, 2009 in a wheelchair. Is he still in the nursing home? Does the family have any requests? Does he have any requests?

    Be well,
  • Chicago-Midwest
    Thanks for the update. I am concerned about Dr. Ben. The nursing home leaves him too exposed. Most people are respectful but we must protect Dr. Ben from people who don't know better. While visiting YouTube, I came across two videos that made me upset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIdLFBj0AUY and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-oL-ZgvkJo. This Seti person did not think about his actions. First - it is not ideal for people to send cash to Dr. Ben. There is no need for Dr. Ben to have cash on his person at a nursing home. It is unsafe. Plus - all fundraising should be endorsed by his family or legal guardian. Second - it is not ideal to video Dr. Ben who is clearly vulnerable in the twilight of his life. Please follow up with Dr. Ben's family ASAP to encourage them to protect him better. They can work with the nursing staff to create ideal circumstances for Dr. Ben, create ideal guidelines for visitors.

This reply was deleted.