Oakland native Lee Cherry, a dedicated scientist, engineer and advocate for science education among African American youth and an active leader in the Black Freedom Movement in his youth, passed away on July 24, 2021. He was 76.
As a young teenager, Cherry was greatly influenced and involved in the Black Freedom movement. He became involved with his older brothers in the Afro-American Association, which was influential in Oakland during the early 1960s before the start of the Black Panther Party when the struggle for racial justice was evolving from the Civil Rights Movement to the rise of Black Power.
The Afro-American Association brought leaders like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali to the East Bay for public discussions of philosophy, religion, economics, politics and other issues. Members and associates of this group – Ron Dellums, Judge Thelton Henderson, and Cedric Robinson – became some of the most influential cultural and political Black leaders of their generation.
Cherry organized Dignity Institute of Technology in 1967, which was later renamed the African Scientific Institute (ASI) in 1975. The ASI, which is on the web at https://sci-tech.squarespace.com/, is a network of scientists and technologists who participate in their communities. The organization is particularly interested in addressing the problems of developing countries, with special emphasis on capacity building, offering a forum for the exchange of technical information and expertise.
Historically, ASI concerned itself primarily with mentorship programs for minorities entering the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Over the years, the organization expanded its objectives to become project-development oriented.
The fourth of 11 children born to Knorvel Sr. and Lucy Cherry, Lee Cherry attended Clausen Elementary School, Oakland Middle School (now Oakland International HS) and graduated from Oakland Technical High School. He attended UC Berkeley and graduated from San Jose State University. Working as an electrical and environmental engineer, he had a professional career that spanned IBM, Lockheed Aerospace, PG&E, and the Department of Defense. He managed electrical defense contracts for the U.S. Navy.
Cherry met and married Lauran Michelle Waters of Wash., DC. The couple has two daughters, Dr. Aminah Cherry and Dr. Jamilah Cherry-Woodard.
He loved to travel, read, promote science, technology and the environment, highlighting the accomplishments of African Americans in this country and throughout the African Diaspora.
He was a dedicated researcher, which enabled him to converse with anyone on multiple subjects. If he didn’t know the subject matter, he would thoroughly research the topic so he could engage. He had an insatiable love for learning.
Lee Cherry leaves to mourn his passing his wife, Lauran Michelle; daughters Dr. Aminah Cherry, Dr. Jamilah Cherry (Terrell); brothers and sisters Loye, James (Cynthia), Bernice, Betty, LaVance and Louis; mother-in-law Faye Waters; uncle Al; grandchild Amari Woodard; nieces Chaleda/Corey, Aleiya, Baniah and many more nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and colleagues.
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