Talala Mshuja

Oklahoma, 1950s
Current Residence: Los Altos, CA
Email: tmshuja@hotmail.com
Phone: (650) 823-3251

My name is Talala Mshuja, and I lived and grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma from July 31, 1941 (at birth) to June 1959. I was a part of the integration movement in Muskogee, Oklahoma. After attending segregated schools in Muskogee until the eight grade, in 1954 I was among a small group of students who integrated the previously all white schools in Muskogee.

After graduating from West Jr. High school, I attended Central High School. There were only (3) black students attending Central High, (2) girls, and me being the only black male. During my senior year of high school (being the only black member of the high school marching band) our band was invited to march in the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. My band director was notified that I couldn't march in the parade with the band, or stay in the same hotel with other band members, this was in 1959. So the dilemma was (what to do about this lone black member and whether the school band should proceed in attending the parade.

My parents took a stand in saying that if I wasn't able to attend, the whole band should stay home. There was discord in Muskogee, as well as in the band for this descision to keep the band from attending this event. There was an uproar because the band had to stay, which made state-wide news because the lone Negro member wasn't able to attend. That was my first real taste of being rejected because I wasn't able to attend this event, even though I experienced all the other ramifications of growing up during segregation (separate water fountains, riding on the back of the bus, not being able to eat in resturants, etc.)

I left Muskogee 2 weeks after graduating from Central High School and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating from San Jose St. University in 1967 and working in the high tech industry for 1 1/2 years, I was a part of a group of community activist in East Palo Alto, CA (The Black Cumminity Relations Association) that saw the need to develop a cultural center. It was my responsibility to set up and start the Nairobi Cultural Center Inc. Nairobi Cultural Center was the first non-profit (1968) to incorporate the name "Nairobi," starting the Nairobi Movement (Nairobi High School, Nairobi College, and a number of other organizations, businesses and non-profits to inc. the name Nairobi. The Nairobi Cultural Center has continued to this very day developing cultural arts programs that have been presented in schools, community centers, corporations, and other events in the San Francisco Bay area. During the 70's Nairobi Cultural Center supported cultural tours to bay area schools for such groups as the Ishangi Dance Family from New York City, as well as lecture tours by Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure).

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