UM-Dearborn Mourns the Loss of Dr. Ahmad Rahman

Photo Courtesy of Prof. Ahmad Rahman
Photo Courtesy of Prof. Ahmad Rahman

By Ghadeer Alaradi, Opinions Editor

A memorial in honor of Dr. Ahmad Rahman was held in the Social Sciences Building on Thursday, Sept 24. The memorial was hosted by the Black Student Union (BSU) and the African-American Alumni Affiliate.

Rahman, an associate professor of history, passed away Monday, Sept 21. He taught African-American Studies and history courses at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The memorial started with the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which Rahman would play during his first class of every semester. The Dean of CASL, Marty Hershock, introduced the event with some words about Rahman.

Hershock expressed his condolences to the family of Rahman.

“Rarely did I pass by his office without seeing at least one student consulting with him,” Hershock said. “I cannot even begin to count the number of students who have identified to me that Dr. Rahman was the one person who was most influential in their UM-Dearborn education.

“I know he would be humbled by this outpour of love and respect.”

The next person to speak was Leah Johnson, who graduated from UM-Dearborn in May 2011 and was a student of Rahman’s.

“Dr. Rahman was one of the few and effective resources that black students had on campus,” Johnson told the gathered mourners. “ He kept it 100 percent real, but he knew how to guide you to the path of success… I doubt that I would be in law school if it were not for his encouragement.”

Johnson also read the remarks from Rahman’s colleague, Dr. Deborah Pollard, who wrote: “The words ‘life of the party’ and ‘professor’ don’t go together, but when I think of my late colleague, I usually chuckle. I can see him walking into an African-American studies meeting with a smile on his face, knowing he was about to say something witty.

“He was amazing at challenging students to re-examine history and see where people of African descent have been major players and voices within it. No one was a bigger supporter of students than he was.”

Johnson told the story of how she walked into her first class with Rahman. He started off the class by playing the Black National Anthem, and he told the class:

“This class is African-American history, which means we will discuss history through the eyes of black people, and if you have a problem with that, then you can leave now.”

The crowd erupted in laughter.

“His students all knew his teaching style and accepted it as a loving, yet firm, kick in the butt,” Johnson said.

Another student of his, Choice Ford, gave a few words in his honor.

“I remember him telling me: ‘You’re a dreamer now, but you need to be a visionary,’” Ford said. “I feel like he was my school dad.”

The Black Student Union then played a YouTube video tribute to Rahman, compiling videos and photos of him. In the video, Rahman was the keynote speaker of the first UM-Dearborn Black Celebratory, an annual event celebrating graduating Black students.

Next, it was time for students who were close to Rahman to share their words with the audience. Student Saidah Murphy had a statement from Dr. Gloria House, the former director of African and African-American Studies, who could not attend.

“He has been imprisoned wrongfully, but with the help of many individuals, I organized a 15-year campaign to win his release,” Murphy read from Dr. House’s statement.

Murphy also had a few remarks herself. She said that her parents were close friends with Rahman. When she started taking classes at UM-Dearborn, she took his class because of her mom.  

“Just to know that there was somebody like my mom or dad to watch my back on campus was a blessing to me,” Murphy said.

Brittane Mcgough, who served as vice president of the Black Student Union in 2012, spoke next. Rahman was the BSU’s advisor at the time.

“He treated us like family, and made sure we stuck together like family,” Mcgough said. “The difference he made in my life will be one I will never forget.”

“I left a voicemail, sent a Facebook message, emails, no response,” said student Laura Michelle with tears. “He was the first person who made me feel a sense of pride in myself and instill in me a sense of responsibility for my people, and that it’s okay to be myself.”

“We need more professor Rahmans. We need that, and the students need that. I started to see improvements in myself,” Michelle said.

“His presence instantly filled a void that I didn’t know I had,” student Charday Ward said.

Ward explained that he was always challenging students’ minds, and that her perspective of the world changed.

Paul Evans, a 2013 graduate, said that Rahman helped him become a ferocious reader, and is the reason that he is an educator today. According to Evans, Rahman would always say: “Be an agent of change.”

Rob Brown, who graduated from UM-Dearborn in 2011, said that Rahman was a very outspoken, smooth individual.

“He was our campus father,” Brown said. “Everyone has to meet a Dr. Rahman.”

The closing remarks were from faculty members Dr. Claude Jacobs and Dr. Joe Lunn.

“I’m going to miss the warmth, the smile, the jokes,” Jacobs said. “There was another journey he was on, and it was a spiritual journey. He was a deeply spiritual person.”

Lunn said that Rahman had three important traits which were integrity, generosity, and being at peace with himself. He said Rahman exemplified determination.

“I’ve never been so moved by an individual,” said Natasha Gilbert, president of Black Student Union.

“I wouldn’t have received my bachelor’s degree without Dr. Rahman,” Daryel Peake, a member of the African-American Alumni Affiliate and former student of Rahman’s.

Peake closed the event by thanking all who helped and attended.