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In memory of Mwalimu Imara (1930-2015)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Reverend Doctor Mwalimu Imara died on October 6, 2015 at the age of 85.


Mwalimu was born on April 21, 1930 to Blanche Irene Allen and Cyril Gomez. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH in 1964, and obtained a Doctor of Ministry degree from Meadville Theological School in 1968.


Mwalimu was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 1968, by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana, IL. The congregation called him as their Senior Minister, and he held that role until 1970. He went on to serve as minister to Arlington Street Church of Boston, MA from 1970 to 1974. In 1974, he moved over to community ministry, and was voted Minister-at-Large to the Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian Churches (now Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministries). That same year, he founded the Boston Center for Religion & Psychotherapy, Inc.; and he served as the Founder and Executive Director of the foundation from 1974 to 1979. In recognition of his work, he was accepted as a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors in 1975. Rev. Dr. Imara went on to establish the Hospice Program at the Methodist Hospital of Indiana in 1979, and from 1979 to 1983, he served the program as Founder, Director, Program Developer, Trainer and Pastoral Counselor. In 1982, he reconnected with his Anglican background and was ordained to the Episcopal Priesthood in the Dioceses of Indianapolis, Indiana.


Rev. Dr. Imara fought tirelessly for racial justice, both within the denomination, and the United States as a whole. In 1967, as a response to deep injustices occurring daily, and the murders of Black leaders and activists, Black Americans organized riots and protests. The former UUA Committee on Religion and Race and Department of Social Responsibility, headed by Director Homer Jack, called an Emergency Conference in 1967, to address the racial unrest. Mwalimu was one of four Black seminarians who attended the conference. The conference was a pivotal event in Unitarian Universalist history - many think of the conference as one catalyst for the Black Empowerment Controversy. The Black Empowerment Controversy continued until the mid-1970s, and Mwalimu was involved throughout. He was a member of the Black Affairs Council, and the Greater Boston Black Unitarian Universalist Caucus. The wounds from the Controversy are still present.


Rev. Dr. Imara’s academic career was extensive. From 1978 to 2009 he taught at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, OH. His teachings included post-graduate training programs, organizational methods, and workshops on grief and loss. From 1983 to 1988, he served as Chairman of the Department of Counseling Services and Director of the Human Values in Medicine Program at Morehouse School of Medicine of Atlanta, GA. Additionally, he served as Associate Professor of Human Behavior in the Department of Psychiatry with a cross appointment with the Department of Family Medicine; and as Institutional Chaplain. He continued in the Priesthood during his academic career, and served as Priest-in-Charge at St. Stephens’s Episcopal Church in Griffin, GA from 1984 to 1991.


Rev. Dr. Imara was instrumental in adopting the principles of Maulana (Ron) Karenga’s Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. He was a revolutionary leader in the Kazana extended family of Philadelphia, and led his family and community in special celebrations for birthdays, Kwanzaa, births, and deaths.


Sala Hilaire remembers her father as, "The greatest man I ever met.” She explains, "He was able to meet people where they were at. He was able to sit down with someone and make them feel like they were the most important person in the world.”


He is survived by his devoted wife, Saburi; his children, Sala Hilaire (John), Hiari Imara, Akosua Davis (Tarik); seven grandchildren: Kidist Getnet, Aminah Hilaire, Nzinga Davis, Emeka Davis, Ashe Davis, Amirah Jabbie, and Kabiyesi Davis; nephews, Michael Van Smith and Marcus Smith; sister-in-law, Nia Latimore; cousins, Bobbie and Charles Pearson; and countless friends and loved ones.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Imara Center’s Rev. Dr. Mwalimu IPD Mentorship Program. The Imara Center, LLC is a behavioral health agency that provides quality behavioral health services and utilizes a trauma informed approach to empower individuals and their communities. The Rev. Dr. Mwalimu Imara IPD program is designed to provide mentorship to youths as they transition from adolescents to adulthood. The program was launched in 2015 in the legacy of Dr. Imara. Please make checks payable to the Imara Center, with "Mwalimu IPD Mentorship Program” written in the memo line, and mail checks to The Imara Center, LLC, 3915 Cascade Road, SW, Suite 205, Atlanta, GA 30331.


Condolences may be sent to Saburi Imara, 4550 Orkney Lane, SW, Atlanta, GA 30331.

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