UCR Mainstay Dr. E.M Abdulmumin Succumbs
By Dianne Anderson
Dr. E.M Abdulmumin was a professor, an intellectual, a butcher, a welder, a naturally gifted and skilled man of great conviction.
The local licensed clinical psychologist specializing in forensic psychology spent decades leading thousands of local youth to a greater sense of self through his Afrocentric empowerment programming.
Community activist Jalani Bakari holds fond memories of his dear friend and mentor going back 37 years, and how he was always ready to help and teach others.
Dr. Abdulmumin passed away last week.
In 1983, when he first studied under Abdulmumin, Bakari recalls handing in his first class paper, and admits that it was far from being up to par.
But he credits Dr. Abdulmumin for pushing him to be the best he could be through the years. Bakari ended up graduating with a Chancellor’s Award from UC. He describes his mentor as having true grit and intellectual depth.
Bakari said he was powerful, yet down to earth, and easily pivoted between brains and brawn.
“When talking to a lawyer and a laborer, those conversations are very different. He was able to do work in both elements so easy,” Bakari said. “Educated folks are very theoretical. He knew karate so he could teach it. He was a certified master welder, a certified butcher – just the eclecticism,” he said.
From the late 1990s, Dr. Abdulmumin was UCR project administrator of the National Youth Sports Program, served as Superintendent of the Saturday Academy and was also director of UCR’s African Student Programs Office.
Later, he taught as associate clinical professor of psychology in the Thomas T. Haider UCR/UCLA Biomedical Sciences Program.
His sphere of outreach continued at the Bobby Bonds Sports Center where he founded the DuBois Institute to mentor Black boys and teens through high school, into college, and those inside or exiting prison.
“He was always trying to show a kid or a youth, a young man, or a 40-something, that action is better than accepting what you can’t do. Action is better. Keep going, keep moving,” he said.
It wasn’t unusual for Abdulmumin to secretly come out of pocket to pay a family’s gas bill, or the rent. Many of his kids thrived through the program, and went on to pursue higher education. Many of the students were high risk.
“It’s amazing they stayed in school. How many kids left prison and got a job instead of recidivism back to the prison industrial complex? How many kids went to college and got their graduate degree?” he said.
Abdulmumin was among the first African Americans to graduate with a Ph.D. in Social Ecology from UC Irvine and the nation in 1982. Early on, he worked with some of the top leaders within the specialized field of Black psychology.
Arbazz Mohammed, founding president of the Sahaba Initiative, doesn’t remember a time when Dr. Abdulmumin was not part of the family.
He spoke at his mom and dad’s wedding, and also at Mohammed’s wedding. They were connected to the same mosque in Riverside. His grandfather would visit the prisons with Dr. Abdulmumin, who then served as a chaplain over 30 years ago. His uncles attended UCR and RCC where they were also students of Abdulmumin.
In the years before that, Mohammed’s family would visit Abdulmumin’s meat store where he was the butcher. Mohammed said he was well respected in the community, and he uplifted everyone around him.
Besides that, he was just cool.
“He was a psychologist, he knew martial arts, he carried himself with a lot of swag. Everyone said I want to be like this guy,” he said. “He was a strong male figure, intellectual and grounded.”
Abdulmumin helped Mohammed get started with his nonprofit, the Sahaba Initiative, focused on feeding and resources for the local low income community. They also partnered in organizing events and worked the annual Riverside Interfaith event.
Abdulmumin’s work overall was enormous, he said. At risk youth had someone to look up to. Every year, the DuBois Institute after school program had 100-200 local kids coming through the doors.
He also worked hard to reach many other youth at the mosque camps. He easily reached thousands of kids, not counting his work as the chaplain and mentor in prison.
“He was strong-willed, but he was calm, cool and collected. You couldn’t get him angry, and you can’t control people that you can’t get angry,” he said.
He was also sensitive. Mohammed described how he helped a skinhead, who had turned his life around to become a Muslim. Abdulmumin took him under his wing, helped him fix his car, and helped him get enrolled in college.
“Just the imagery, you’ve got somebody who is very much about Black pride, and you have a former skinhead being mentored. It was a very interesting sight,” he said.
Friend and colleague, Regina Patton-Stell, said Dr. Abdulmumin brought so much integrity and dedication to the community’s youth.
As a longtime NAACP member, he was dedicated over the years in service on the Board. She said he was a special source of encouragement when she took over as president after her good friend and chapter president, Woodie Rucker Huges, passed away in 2018.
“He was an elder in our village in a really large way, in the development of this branch, and a brother in the spirit and in the struggle with Woodie,” said Patton-Stell, president of the Riverside branch NAACP.
He came from humble Los Angeles beginnings and he understood the dynamics of the struggle and societal oppression, she added. He was a force in raising awareness and strengthening awareness in the African American community.
“The one thing he realized early on in his clinical training is that young African American men needed counseling therapy. He really felt what he could bring was that Black experience growing up,” she said.
From 2008 until his passing, she said he was extremely helpful in guiding her through so many aspects of the local branch NAACP, especially after Ms. Rucker Hughes had passed. In 2019, the organization honored his efforts with a Service to Youth award.
“For those of us that knew him, and for the many lives he touched, he was a gift, a servant. Everyone will remember him. He’ll be forever,” she said.