“Lorn S. Foster” by Isiaiah Boone

Lorn FosterI decided to interview Lorn S. Foster, one of my current professors at Pomona College. He has offered support and advice to me since I first met him at the beginning of the semester.

Lorn S. Foster was born on the 27th of April in 1947 at the White Memorial Hospital in Boil Heights, Los Angeles. He lived at 1423 East 18th Street, between Naomi Street and Hooper Street, which is now an industrial district. In 1950, his family moved to 1926 Victoria Avenue, where he lived with his parents and grandparents. His family lived in that home until 1988. Professor Foster was a product of the Los Angeles Public School system, attending Arlington Elementary School, Mt. Verne Junior High School and Los Angeles High School during his pre-undergraduate years. He received his B.A. in Government from CSU Los Angeles and went on to get his Master’s Degree and PhD from the University of Illinois. Professor Foster currently a Professor of Politics at Pomona College, and has been for the past 36 years. He teaches American Politics as well as Urban and Ethnic Political thought, his principle research is on African-American church and Civic Engagement.

Professor Foster was born to Ms. Selena Alberta Rhodes Foster and Mr. Lorenzo Napoleon Foster. Ms. Foster was born on the 20th of October of 1909 to Sam and Ellen Rhodes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Rhodes family moved to Los Angeles in 1911, and purchased the house at 1423 East 18th Street. They then rented the home and brought another house at 1508 east 20th Street. Mr. Foster was the 2nd of 4 children born to Robert and Lani Foster in Mart, Texas. Both parents graduated from high school and had some college. They were also very civically involved with his father being a probation officer and active in the Democratic Party.

He had an older brother John Elliot, 17 years his elder, and he was raised by his parents, grandmother, and three grand aunts. “The whole concept that it takes a village is very appropriate”.

Here is a part of my interview with Professor Foster.

I asked Professor Foster, “What aspects of your childhood/upbringing do you think have most influenced you today?”

F: “Family, the notion that you are first and foremost a representative of your family and your race was instilled in me at a very early age.”

I: “What was it like being raised in LA and then going to school in Illinois?”

F: “Great experience. When I arrived in graduate school, the University of Illinois and of Chicago had a long history of training African-American political scientists from the 1930s. There were two other African-Americans in my class, one from Fisk and one from Jackson State. Two black males were also there finishing their degree, 4th year PhD students. Graduate school wasn’t a place where I was alone and lonely.”

I: “What was the impact of black men/mentors in your life?”

F: “My godfather, mother’s first cousin, christened me. My godfather was always one of my biggest supporters. Also having a brother, 17 years my senior was helpful. I was born in April he graduated from school in June. There was always these male presences, when I went off to graduate School I met Arnold Yarber, through best friends mother of law. During graduate school, I had a black man who wasn’t in the academy as a surrogate parent. If I needed to find out where to go to get brakes for my car and where to get my hair cut. October of 1969 to October of 2007 Walter Lee Gordon Junior, interviewed Mr. Gordon for church project, he developed a level of trust for me and asked me to help him write his autobiography became executive of state and conservator. Always had my best interest at heart, he was some who wanted to make sure I was in the forefront, and even though he had two sons, I was the son he didn’t have. Having the influence of other AA besides your father or grandfather to help you sort through things has been instrumental. Teaching is a calling, and I’ve attempted to give my students access to me, not only as a knowledge center, but also someone to help show them the ins and outs of how to survive in a majority white institution and to grow up to become young men and women.”

Although I’ve only known him for a semester, Professor Foster has been a mentor to myself and countless young men and women that have taken his class before me. He has given them the tools to succeed, connecting his current students with his former students in different professions, and giving them advice on which courses and opportunities will be most useful to them in the future.

Professor Foster’s academic achievements and his mentorship with his students have clearly separated him from the stereotypes black men have been limited to. One of the main stereotypes he counters is the brute/buck black man. While black men have in the past been generalized as aggressive, violent and intellectually inadequate, Professor Foster has used his education to signal his progressive black masculinity. Although Professor Foster is over six feet tall and a physical presence, rather than using physicality to get his point across, he instead gets his point across through his powerful knowledge and choice of works. Professor foster attained the highest academic degree one can attain. He not only exemplifies the importance of education through his actions and his life, but he also emphasizes the importance of education to those who walk through his door.

In addition, though Professor Foster has taken an alternate road than many black males to accomplish his success, he is anything but a sellout or what we sometimes refer to as an ‘Uncle Tom.’ Teaching a course titled “Blacks in the Political Process,” Foster never attempts to be unnecessarily objective and simultaneously uses his personal experience as a black male growing up in Los Angeles to further discussion amongst his students.

At the same time, Professor Foster combats the stereotype that black men flee from responsibility. Professor Foster was fortunate enough to have numerous black men looks out for him, and help guide him in the right direction. Professor Foster, however, didn’t turn his back on other blacks, like the stereotype suggests, but instead decided to give back in a very meaningful way. Teaching at Pomona College gave Professor Foster the perfect opportunity to help some of young black men that would need his help the most. Many of us, coming from a variety different backgrounds, needed help not just transitioning to a new environment, but also learning how to navigate through predominantly white institutions. Professor Foster has provided this resource for students for over 36 years and has represented a new type of black masculinity.


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