“Sometimes we devalue ourselves; we don’t really look at ourselves in the whole picture. Sometimes it’s good to take a minute to look in the mirror and assess yourself— and really realize how powerful, how talented, and how important you are.”- Masai Minters
The images on the walls of Masai Minters’ office in Campbell Hall on UCLA’s campus symbolize power.
A stoic Miles Davis, A couple Black Panthers, and this one photo of a young man with an afro holding a gun.
All of that is interspersed with powder blue UCLA logos and photos of students in caps and gowns.
The educated African American men and women who appear in the photos are Minters’ sons and daughters. He has five of them. All of them are college educated.
The UCLA logos are a bi-product of his occupation: Associate Director of the Academic Advancement Program on UCLA’s campus.
He says that the program assists over 5,600 students with academics, job placement, scholarships, and peer mentoring. The program is the new version of a program Minters was once a part of— The High Potential Program.
When Minters was a teenager, he had the opportunity to travel all the way from his residence near Sentinel High School in Compton to participate in the High Potential program, which was housed on the UCLA campus. A lot of students came from the underserved communities of Los Angeles County and joined the High Potential Program as a way to transfer into UCLA.
Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, former leaders of the LA Chapter of the Black Panther Party, were involved with the program as well.
Their photos are now in the back of Minters’ office—on a wall not too far from the photo of the gun and the guy with the afro.
Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were shot and killed on the campus of UCLA in January of 1969.
Minters wasn’t on campus at the time of the incident, but he knows all about it.
Minters not only has their images on his wall, their photos are also in the main corridor of Campbell Hall; which is where the shooting occurred.
Minters says that it was this shooting that eventually caused him to graduate from California State University Northridge instead of UCLA.
While at Northridge, he focused on Psychology and Pan African Studies; he also joined the Black Panther Party For Self Defense and trained in marksmanship. Somehow, he also found time to do some photography: The photo of the gun and the guy in the afro is a self-portrait that he took.
Years removed from that period in his life, Minters is the head of the counseling department of a program that assists disadvantage students, and he’s a proud father.
Given his life experiences, when asked what he would tell young people if given the opportunity, OG Told Me:
“I would encourage young brothers, like yourself, to really take an honest assessment of yourself— because you are a talented brother,” Minters said as he sat at his desk.
"You know the data, you know the challenges, we are under attack, we’re under siege!" Minters looked me dead in my eyes, and continued:
"I would encourage brothers such as yourself to do a real close self assessment. You have more talent than you imagine. Take a minute and do your own personal resume: Many of us have trained ourselves in so many different areas because we didn’t have the support we needed; we kind of made due.”
He said if he made a resume of the “renaissance” things he could do, it’d be 4 or 5 pages long; And didn’t smirk nor leave room for a suspicion of exaggeration.
I imagine his resume would include his ability to aim both a camera and a gun.