Professor Emeritus Toni-Mokjaetji Humber, a longtime educator and pioneering researcher, died May 11 after a battle with lymphoma.
Humber, a former elementary school teacher, joined the faculty of the Department of Ethnic and Women’s Studies in 1995 and taught courses on African American studies, Africa and Black culture. She retired in 2010 but continued to teach on campus until 2016.
Fellow Ethnic and Women’s Studies Professor Emeritus Patricia de Freitas joined the university faculty eight months after Humber and said they became fast friends.
“That was my buddy,” de Freitas said. “She was loyal. She had my back, and I could always count on her.”
Humber was dedicated to her work and her students, de Freitas added.
“Toni’s students loved her,” she said. “She demanded excellence. She pushed her students, but she would sit down with them and spend hours going over their papers with them.”
La’Keisha Beard, interim director of residence life, worked with Humber on programming when Beard served as the coordinator of the African American Student Center.
Beard describes Humber as a person with big vision who was also charismatic, generous and direct.
“She was extremely energetic,” Beard said. “She was very passionate about educating students and the campus community about Black history. She was always very positive and always very aspirational.”
Humber exemplified learn by doing, Beard said, adding that she wanted her students not just to listen to her lectures but to participate.
Besides her work in the classroom and on department committees, Humber also was active on campus. She served on the Academic Senate, the International Center Advisory Committee and the Black Faculty and Staff Association. She was also involved in the McNair Scholars Program, the Black History Month Program Committee and the Cross-Cultural Retreats.
She introduced the annual Kings and Queens Pageant and Kwanzaa celebrations through her classes and worked closely with the campus’ African American Student Center, Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education and Native American Student Center to integrate cultural programming. Humber also served as a faculty mentor for the Diversity Ambassador Program, which initiated and developed the annual trip to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana to tour Underground Railroad sites.
Humber, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Cal State LA, her master’s in education from Loyola Marymount University and her doctorate in sociolinguistics from Howard University, also was an avid researcher and traveler. Her research took her to Panama, Brazil, Mexico, West Africa and the Caribbean to study African and African American culture and history, ethnic studies, the educational implications of Ebonics, sociolinguistics and inter-cultural communication.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that all donations be made to CAAP’s (Council of African American Parents) inaugural Dr. Toni-Mokjaetji Humber Memorial Scholarship. The goal is to award this scholarship to a deserving CPP student in June 2023.
Visit https://mycaap.org/payments/donate/ to donate.