Choosing one teacher to profile can be a daunting task. Automatically, a number of favorite professors from the past and present come to mind, acknowledging Temple’s talented and well-rounded faculty. One particular teacher who never fails to leave a lasting impression is the Rev. James Clarence.
“He’s a much-needed black male father figure that demands respect, but deserves it,” said Focus Bowser, a communications major currently enrolled in Clarence’s Black Family course.
Clarence is known to students throughout campus, whether they had a class with him or not. A Harvard and Moore House graduate, Clarence uses his strong upbringing to explain basic theories in an intriguing fashion.
Standing outside the door as Clarence lectures his class, junior Mist Miller stood in awe. “He’s a phenomenal speaker. I would like to be in his class.”
Former pupi, Kim Jackson, shares the sentiment: “The Black Family class should be an essential course for every African-American. It teaches us every fundamental principle to uplift the black family.”
At the age of 17, Clarence looked up to his mentor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for guidance and tutelage. At the urging of King, he decided to accept his calling to be a preacher, a task he fulfilled at 21. However, the assassination of his mentor tempered that milestone. Choosing to honor his memory each day, Clarence chose to educate students on the importance of black empowerment.
“I never expected to be a teacher,” Clarence said. “But I found out that I loved teaching.”
Before bringing his talents to Temple University, he began his career in education at the age of 30. First he established Harvard University’s African-American studies program, a role model in curriculum for many schools nationwide. He then went to Northern Illinois University’s Moore House School of Religion to continue his mission.
Clarence doesn’t believe in the division of church and state. He feels it is wrong that science and religion often discount one another. The adage, which implies the two are mutually exclusive, does not sit well with him. Just as medicine aids in physical ailments, other aspects were beyond contemporary cures.
“All humans are crippled by our mortality. Therefore, we all stand in need of the divine crutch to make it from one day to the next. Everyday we are challenged by our human infirmities,” he said.
The Reverend, exuding passion in everything he teaches, is easy-going and approachable. At one of his latest lectures, Clarence spoke of the time he spent as youth director of Operation Bread Basket during an era of intense racism.
“It’s a very inspiring talk,” commented Dr. Leonard Rovner, a colleague and fellow Temple professor.
When he is not teaching, Rev. Clarence listens to blues, jazz and old school rap. He also enjoys playing basketball and tending his garden.
Clarence is awaiting the publication of his book, a feature on the black male, tentatively entitled “Lost Generation,” later this year.
Aware of the importance of strong role models, Clarence strives to be one. He has not forgotten how Dr. King took him under his wing and guided him as a young man.
“[King] was extremely personable and funny. He was very good at putting people at ease even though he was a great man,” Rev. James describes his mentor.
The very same words are what his pupils now use to describe him.
Stephanie Guerilus can be reached at Luv2BSteph@aol.com