Florida A&M University
(BLACK PR WIRE/FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) – Psychologist and activist Dr. Na’im Akbar says he has fulfilled what he has initially set out to do in the field of psychology. The lively-natured and warm-spirited esteemed psychologist has made his mark on the world. His office itself shows as a collage of how far his knowledge in psychology has gotten him. From the family photos mixed in with photos of civil rights leaders, pictures of his days spent in Africa, college, and other professional ventures with friends and colleagues, his photographic timeline shows he has gone full circle.
Akbar earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan after leaving his humble beginnings in Tallahassee. “I was raised in sort of a black village,” says Akbar. “It was a very close and diverse community. There was a doctor on one street, a seamstress on another and a barber on the next.”
Akbar grew up on the Florida A&M University campus. He started his schooling at the Nathan B. Young dormitories, which ran a preschool center in its basement. Akbar then went on to grade school at the FAMU Developmental Research School from grades K-12. He participated in the first years of the FAMU Creative Children’s Theatre, which is now the Essential Theatre on FAMU’s campus. Akbar said the theatre gave him artistic exposure and offered him opportunities to travel to several colleges across the country, including Grambling State and North Carolina A&T State University to perform.
Throughout high school Akbar aspired to be a pediatrician, but felt that chemistry “hated him,” so he chose a different route. His interest for psychology sparked when he was getting to know himself. Akbar says in order to help yourself you must know yourself. “I saw psychology as a way to explore us as a people,” says Akbar.
Dr. Akbar wasn’t active in any extracurricular activities or organizations while in college. “I was kind of a geek,” he says, “but I came out well.” He completed his Ph.D. and was offered a job at Morehouse College. Akbar says the cornerstone of him focusing on black psychology was a combination of the period of the civil rights movement that started when he was in graduate school and black literature.
“The sit-ins and boycotts that were going on in the south, where I’m from, and the growing issue in Michigan influenced my interest,” said Akbar. “Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X visited the University of Michigan while I was there, and I read a lot of black literature from authors such as James Baldwin that grew my passion for black psychology.”
Dr. Akbar wanted to shift the studies in Social Sciences to begin on focusing on black issues. “By the time I was getting to finish grad school, I was getting ready to change the world,” says Akbar. Once Akbar got the position at Morehouse he created its first black psychology course. “It put me in a paradise because it placed me in the center of working with black students in a black college,” says Akbar. Two years later Dr. Akbar became the department chairman.
Subsequently, Akbar left Morehouse to work for what was then the Nation of Islam after the death of Elijah Muhammad. Akbar took part in the massive reorganization of the Nation and was recognized for his ideas and publications. He then joined the faculty at Florida State University in 1979 and has been working for the Psychology Department since. In 1987, Akbar was elected President of the Association of Black Psychologists after becoming a member in 1971.
Because of all of his accomplishments and experiences, Akbar has traveled around the world from England to several locations in Africa. “I used to like to travel, but I got tired of it because I traveled so much!” Akbar spent summers traveling through West Africa and Egypt to explore the foundation of African thought and to experience the African reality. On his downtime, Dr. Akbar says he likes to read. “I read a lot. I’m still very interested in issues of self understanding, what it means to be human and best effectively use human power.” Akbar also enjoys cooking and eating good food with his family.
Akbar runs his own publishing company and consultation firm, Mind Productions and Akbar Consultants. He started his business in his grandmother’s home where his mother and father first lived and brought him after he was born. He established Mind Productions in the late 1980s to self publish his work. Akbar felt it was important to have control over his ideas. He published and distributed his material in a way he described as “kind of the way Hip Hop music started out of the trunk of a car”. Akbar consultations, which is the respective other half to Mind Productions, focuses on improving the lives in the community. He still runs his businesses in his late grandmother’s home, now refurbished office, and shares it with his son Mutaqee Akbar who runs his law practice right across the hall from his father.
Dr. Akbar thought about if there was anything left in the field of Psychology that he would like to accomplish after being described in Essence magazine as “one of the world’s preeminent African American Psychologists and a pioneer in the development of an African-centered approach to modern psychology,” touching lives across the world, and having his books as educational tools in college classrooms.
Akbar says he’s waiting on the “next birth of psychology.” “Psychology is a narrow view of the human thought process,” says Akbar. He says if he would do anything at this point in his career, it would be to become a psycho-religious leader. “Psychology doesn’t see humans as spiritual entities. I don’t want to start a church,” he laughs, “but I really think the answers we need as human beings are spiritual.”