Dr. Amir Jamal Toure: The Living Legend

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Professor Amir Jamal Touré, J.D., Africana Studies instructor at Savannah State University (SSU), is a trailblazer in our community. Touré is a Georgia and South Carolina native who is passionate about history and where he comes from. Professor Touré is an expert in African and Gullah Geechee culture and history; he is a historian, community advocate, and alumnus of SSU. He takes pride in spreading the message of his African ancestors' spirits', sharing his deep knowledge of history and culture, planting seeds in the minds of everyone he encounters, and making sure Savannah State is positively represented everywhere he goes. Touré is well known for promoting Lowcountry and Gullah Geechee culture and communities and for Day Clean: The African Soul and Day Clean Journeys, his African culture and history tour company. Just last year, he was selected to receive The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus “Soldiers of Justice” Award: Touré was also selected as a recipient of the “Outstanding Georgia Citizen” award by the Georgia Secretary of State.

Christa: What made you decide to come to Savannah State and begin teaching Africana Studies?

Professor Touré: I had been doing history and culture in the area since the 90s. There was a situation at Savannah State and they needed someone to teach a Gullah Geechee class because a professor left during the semester. So then they asked me if I could teach the Gullah Geechee class. Then about two years later, another professor left and they needed someone to teach the Intro to Africana Studies the 1501 class— so I’ve been teaching in that area since that time around 2008 and 2009.

Christa: Have you taught at any other institutions besides Savannah State?

Professor Touré: No, just Savannah State. What happened before is in the 90s, I used to do lectures and assist a professor in his constitutional law master’s program.

Christa: What do you enjoy most about being a professor at Savannah State?

Professor Touré: My thing is always about planting seeds no matter what I do. I tell folks, history and culture that's what we do, that’s our business, that’s what we do. Being able to share history and culture for people then to make connections. Some people make the connections immediately and others eventually make the connections and that's the thing I enjoy, and anytime I’m giving history and culture in all phases that I do.

Christa: I know many students look up to you, you’re a big public figure and leader at Savannah State and in the community, and lots of students identify you as their mentor. How do you stand out and connect with the student body?

Professor Touré: To me it goes back to being from Savannah State. I tell folks I’m not an employee of Savannah State, I’m an alum of Savannah State who teaches at Savannah State. And some people don’t understand the magnitude of when I say when I see you, I see me. I’m from here so I identify with you. Other people don’t have the concern, it's just a 9-5 (to them).

Christa: What are your biggest accomplishments in your career so far?

Professor Touré: I would say being able to plant the seeds. For instance, when we go on our Day Clean tours I can see how the things we have done have planted seeds. Young people have been exposed to information on our tours that had them go do something that the adults in the city of Savannah hadn’t even thought about. That's a testimony to the work of Day Clean. I can go down to Franklin Square and look at the monument and know that I was a part of the people who brought the monument. Seeing the value of the living history work that I was doing, they used me to represent the historian on the monument on the Haitian monument. Never could I ever imagine as a little kid on Hilton Head and Savannah, Georgia that by me knowing history that I would be on monuments. There are now two monuments that I have been the model for. Never could I have ever thought anything like that. That is divine!

Christa: As a Savannah State University alum, how do feel the institution has grown and changed?

Professor Touré: I’m disappointed. I am absolutely disappointed. Dr. Carl Walton said something that I think it is fitting about here, he said that we have Savannah State University but we don’t have Savannah State College love. Savannah State College had love.You loved this place, you cared about this place, you handled yourself a certain way. Of course we had problems and disagreements but you had a love for Savannah State. I asked the question the other day what happened to the student government and the person answered and said Jamal when y’all were here y’all always had something to fight for. Now there's nothing to fight for and the student government was not about fighting for anything, so now it's about popularity. It's no longer about plotting, planning, and changing the game plan of Savannah State. I share with people in my classes and I tell them, you do not bring the hood to college, you take college back to the hood. So now, we have a whole bunch of people who now accessorize, accentuate, and promote the hood mentality in college. It's not just Savannah State, other HBCUs are going through it too. We have the hood element immersed in the collegiate atmosphere and we think that’s okay.

Christa: What message do you leave to the students and future students of Savannah State?

Professor Touré: You don’t let anyone define who you are. Take college back to the hood, back to the church, back to your family, back to your neighborhood, back to your community, back to your city. You take the positive things back to the people who have not had the opportunity. You now go and become a servant to the people, you now provide service to the people. Whatever you do, do something to help your people. If you’re Asian, do something to help your people, if you’re caucasian, do something to help your people but then help people overall. Fight to help lead your people out of oppression. Speak out!

Christa: Who are the people who inspired and built you up to be the person that you are today?

Professor Touré: My mama, my daddy, my grandmothers, and my grandfathers, and my family as a whole, along with my neighborhood called Dodge City. Dr. Haynes Walton, Dr. Annette Brock, who allowed us to speak about cultural things in her classroom, Marilyn Stewart, who conveyed the confidence in me with regards to understanding my history, and Adrian Houston, who was the president of student government before I was; we got involved in student activism.

Professor Jamal Toure has been a tremendous blessing to Savannah State University, the students who attend, and the Lowcountry community. Many describe Jamal as the "heart, soul, and platform of SSU", "a hero with no cape", "the epitome of Tiger pride", "a human library", and a soul that permeates the community. Professor Jamal has inspired, motivated, enlightened, and changed many lives. The 1501 family (Africana Studies program at SSU) will forever thank Dr. Toure for his many hats at SSU and in our community as well as his time, mentorship, service, and dedication to the illustrious Savannah State University. Before I close, I would like to personally thank Dr. Toure for inspiring me to dig deeper into my heritage, advocate for my people and community, and for planting seeds in my life that I know will stay forever. Much love to you, Dr. Toure, we are PHAM(ily) always! #1501 #SSU #Tigerpride #SSUisseriouslyimpressive

-Christa J.

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