During my "real education" years, you know, post-undergrad and confused, there were five major players in the shaping of my consciousness: Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Henry Dumas, Toni Morrison and Odetta.

I would sit in my living room in San Francisco, uncombed, Thrift Store gear and read excerpts of Angela Davis, Etheridge Knight with Odetta evoking plenty of folk-blues mood in the background. Me and my crew were about 15 years too late for original appreciation of such greats, but it's what we did in the Bay Area in the early '90s—communed with iconic poets, musicians and thinkers who symbolized grand thought and compassion and offered blueprints for what a growing mind needed: to know there is no other way but to step into yourself and be heard.

This image was lost some time after publication.

I will always remember her for that.

Keith Josef Adkins blogs for The Root at On The Dig .

Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.