Khalif Rasshan founded The African American Museum of Beginnings in 2010 after retiring from a three decade teaching career at Garey High School. He attended the school himself after moving from Compton in 1965. Pomona was the whitest place he’d ever seen. But he felt fairly welcome. The Civil Rights movement had influenced his classmates – to the point where he didn’t realize they were living in a fantasy.
During his time at La Verne College (now a University, of course) the image cracked. Then named John Gordon, Rasshan began to expand his consciousness with the radical black thought of the time. He decided the way he would enact reparations would be by giving back to South Pomona as a teacher. By the time he became credentialed in the late 70’s, the area was experiencing white flight.
Lessons on colonialism for Pomona’s brown and black youth gave way to the founding of a black bookstore downtown on Second and Garey – The Nile Garden. It was there that Rasshan received the message that his mission as an educator had larger implications than he had ever thought. In 2010, after retiring from Garey, he and his wife founded the African American Museum of Beginnings.
We visited the museum off hours, and Rasshan told us of his life in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, how his consciousness came to fruition, and what he believes that can do for other African Americans. The museum is currently in a transitional process of changing locations, but will be around for the future after Covid restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, join us for this intimate conversation on hidden African history and strategies for self-repair.