[DECEMBER 29, 2009 UPDATE -- I have just received word of this report from the Long Beach Press-Telegram regarding the suspect who had been held for trial.]
[NEW OVERALL INTRO, TUESDAY EVENING, JULY 22, 2008 -- Earlier this evening (a beautiful and serene one, even by Southern California standards) Prof. Barrett's ashes were scattered in the Pacific in keeping with his wishes. My own reflections on tonight and the past week may be read here (this was written and linked the following day).
This blog post should now be considered a further, unofficial general information location dedicated to the memory of Prof. Barrett, with the 'main' text appearing first, in the form I left it in on Wednesday July 16, and overall links and updates to memorial plans, tributes and similar news following in separate sections below that. If anything of immediate importance needs to be added or changed, I will have a brief headline at the top of the blog run for a limited amount of time indicating what this is.
Please feel free to visit or link to this site as you see appropriate, as well as suggesting changes or additions via comments or direct e-mail.
Thanks very much, and let me thank everyone, especially Prof. Barrett's cousins Ann and Kizzy, for all their many kind comments over this past week -- I have tried to my best, and will continue to do so.]
It’s with great sadness I pass on news of the passing of Lindon Barrett, who taught in the UCI English and Comp Lit department during my years as a grad student there in the early to mid 1990s. Dan Tsang here at UCI passed on the initial news via a post on his Subversity radio show site, as well as an e-mail note he sent out to a number of people Monday night, including KUCI staff members and alumni, which is how I heard of the tragedy. The OC Register’s College Life blog had one of the first formal reports on Tuesday morning, including comments from Dan and Prof. Barrett’s fellow academics James Tobias, George Haggerty and Jennifer Doyle. On Wednesday afternoon, the College Life blog posted this further update indicating a formal report on Prof. Barrett’s passing may not be due for some time due to the necessity of a toxicology screen. The chair of UCR’s English Department, Katherine Kinney, issued this statement on Tuesday; at UCI, the Dean of Humanities, Vicki Ruiz, also issued a statement. Further news reports have also now appeared as of Wednesday morning at the LA Times and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Prof. Barrett had most recently been working at UC Riverside, where a memorial page via the English department may be found. His old UC Irvine page may be found here, and Google Books offers up pages of his book Blackness and Value. Retired UCI librarian Eddie Yeghiayan has compiled an overall bibliography of Prof. Barrett’s professional work and made it available as a PDF download via Dan Tsang’s Subversity blog.
Prof. Barrett’s areas of interest did not dovetail directly with my area of research while in the English department and so I did not take any courses with him, and at most we only ever exchanged a few brief words at the time. But as you can see from his photos on the pages he was impossible to miss when over at the department, a striking looking man who always carried himself with a strong sense of grace and power in equal measure. The fact that he was an associate editor for the academic journal Callaloo for three years, from 1997 to 2000, gives a sense of how he was regarded both in the fields of literary criticism and African American Studies; he was director of the latter program at UCI from 2004 to 2007, and there will be many people on the campus who will be grieving.
Over the years a number of people who I knew and/or worked with during grad school have passed on, including two of my advisors, Al Wlecke and Homer Brown, gracious and intelligent gentlemen both. Prof. Barrett’s death now adds to that sad total.
My condolences to his friends and family and all those who were his students and close colleagues.
Prof. Barrett’s family released this obituary via the Winnipeg Free Press a few days after the initial news:
His cousin Kizzy posted this statement on Facebook shortly beforehand:
I am Lindon’s cousin and on behalf of the family we send our heartfelt thanks to his friends and students in Los Angeles, and elsewhere. We are also very grateful for the love and support of friends who have called and visited during this difficult time.
He was a man of independent thought and was fearless in his views. He told you what he thought, made you think, but also made you laugh. He loved his family and friends and would turn up for a visit surprising them and making the most of every moment.
Lindon loved to spend time looking out over the Pacific Ocean and in accordance with his wishes, he will be cremated and returned to the sea. A memorial service will be held in Winnipeg at a later date.
A bright light has gone out, but he will be remembered forever.
Flowers are gratefully declined. Because of Lindon’s love of reading, if so desired a donation to the Winnipeg Public Library or a charity encouraging literacy would be most appreciated.
If you would like to make a donation in Prof. Barrett’s name, here are some recommended options:
The Winnipeg Public Library’s donation page is here:
I have spoken with Arthur Cohen at the WPL — he sends his condolences to all. He has confirmed that all currencies are welcome and that conversion to Canadian dollars are not needed; also he has confirmed that electronic submissions such as PayPal are not available at the present time, so please print out the form as the page indicates and send a check or money order. Thanks to Arthur for this information.
An initial resource page for other charities supporting literacy can be found at this blog entry at the Well-Read Child.
On Facebook, Tara has also suggested further donations to the Long Beach Public Library since, to quote her, “There are a lot of local youths who would really benefit from that.” I fully concur, and recommend the Long Beach Public Library Foundation in particular:
To quote its mission statement, “The Long Beach Public Library Foundation dedicates itself to raise funds to provide supplemental programs that assist the Long Beach Public Library to promote literacy and meet the educational and informational needs of our culturally diverse community.” Its donation information page is here:
Also on Facebook, Benjamin Huang has suggested, to quote his post, “Room to Read, which promotes the development of children’s libraries in native languages in Africa (South Africa and Zambia) and Asia (Vietnam, Nepal, etc.). Founded by a former Microsoft executive, it is a nonprofit which is unaffiliated with any governmental or religious organization.” Its link is:
Any further suggestions for links or updates to these sites are gratefully encouraged.
On Monday morning July 21, Dan Tsang, host of the show Subversity on KUCI, broadcast a memorial show to Prof. Barrett. In-studio guests included former UCI Ph.D students Arnold Pan (now teaching at UCI) and Lelia Neti (now at Occidental College) as well as Jamie Park, a former UCI undergraduate student now pursuing her Ph.D at UCR. Calling in were Katherine Kinney, who chairs the English department at UC Riverside, and her UCR colleague, George Haggerty, as well as Prof. Winston James, a former chair of the African American studies program at UCI. Many statements from friends and colleagues were read over the air during the hour long show.
The show was a copresentation with KUCR in Riverside. You may access a podcast of the show directly via this link:
Further memorials to Prof. Barrett’s life were held at UCI on September 30 and at UCR on October 1. My thoughts on the UCI memorial may be read here.
MLA 2009 PANEL INFORMATION — Benjamin Huang posted this suggestion on the Facebook group: “According to the MLA website, July 25th is the deadline for a Call for Papers for the 2009 Convention for the Fall 2008 Newsletter. Is there an Americanist out there familiar enough with Lindon’s work who could write a CFP and head up a panel?”
In comments below, Jennifer Brody responded: “I would be willing to organize a panel for next year’s MLA. I can write a call for papers on “Blackness and Value” which was published in 1999–which seems fitting. Thank you.” She has since confirmed that this has been sent to the MLA and encourages everyone to look for the call in the MLA newspaper.
A list of links to tributes follows:
- Oh! Industry (plus a follow-on post at Inland Emperor)
- A Daily Kos diary entry
- A Facebook group in Prof. Barrett’s memory
- SEK at the Valve (also at Acephalous)
- Lindon Barrett: Tributes
- J’s Theater
- Rise Up Hip Hop Nation
- A tribute from the University of Pennsylvania
- A tribute from the African American Studies program at UC Irvine
- A report from the UCR Newsroom
- Rhetoric and Memory
- The Baffled King
I would also be very happy to post links to any further remembrances or tributes to Prof. Barrett as they appear; the comments I’ve received on this post and other comments I’ve noticed elsewhere, as well as some brief private discussion, emphasizes how much more directly and closely others worked with him and felt inspired and energized by him than I ever had the opportunity to do. Theirs, not mine, should be the words and memories that describe the professor and the man, and they should receive the most attention.
On December 25, 2009, the man accused and held for trial in the passing of Prof. Barrett was found dead at LA County Men’s Central Jail. He had been scheduled to go to trial on January 22, 2010.
Finally, this was one of a set of flowers left at the door of Prof. Barrett’s apartment building by his friends and colleagues:
Rest in peace.