ID: Gary Djata Bumpus

Last modified: Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Gary Djata Bumpus, author of the book “The Voice of a Panther” (AuthorHouse, 2005), is a former heavyweight boxer. He trained with New England boxing coach Val Boston, and was managed by former heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier. He fought in New York, Michigan, Canada and Massachusetts.

Full name: Gary Djata Bumpus

People know you as: My mom and all others who know me call me by my middle name, Djata

Date and place of birth: Jan. 26, 1954, Newark, N.J.

Job: Owner/operator of Pioneer Valley Boxing School in Northampton

Children: A son, Kwame, 38, and two daughters, Namandje, 32, and Tia, 28

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Russian studies in 1985 from Temple University in Philadelphia

Pets: My imaginary racehorse, Wishful Thinking

Hobbies: Maintaining and protecting my innocence

Book you’d recommend to a friend: “The Future of an Illusion” by Sigmund Freud

Favorite movie: “Putney Swope”

Four items you can’t live without: Food, water, clothing and shelter

Life-changing experience: Having to tell my mother that I’m not really her child

Strangest job you ever held: Being a bouncer and salesperson at an adult store in Philadelphia

A little-known fact about you: I can be mean

Dumbest thing you ever did: Not paying close attention while zipping up

One fashion you’d like to see return: The more natural look of women in the 1960s

What really sets you off? Selfish and greedy people

If you could spend the day with a celebrity from any time in history, who would it be? In 1965 my mom, Rhoda Vivian Olufemi Bumpus, who was active in the civil rights movement, brought me to a benefit concert where we were seated with Martin Luther King Jr. I was a young but extremely vocal up-and-coming black militant. Consequently, in spite of his constant attempts to strike up a conversation with me that night, Dr. King saw in me only the anger and disgust that was common in so many black youth at the time. Now, all these years later, I would like to sit with him again, as I now understand his message: If we could learn to love ourselves, based upon our love for other people; like our work and our communities; and be satisfied with our ability to create and produce (instead of worrying about how much we possess), we may realize what Dr. King was talking about.

Best advice you ever got: Deal with each person one-on-one, not according to his or her skin color, income, social status or culture

What does your ideal weekend look like? It depends on where I’m at. If I’m in Northampton or Amherst, it’s not the same as being in Philly or New York City. Nevertheless, somewhere in all four places are hot tub parlors, jazz venues, art galleries, poetry readings and restaurants with nearby parks in which we can walk off a meal, hand in hand, before cozying up in a hotel suite

One thing you would change about yourself: I’d like to be a little less deferring to others, frankly

What gives you the creeps? That’s an easy one! The Martians. They’re all around us. I’m not sure if you should print that, though. Don’t want any retaliation

People who knew you in high school thought you were: It depends on who you ask. I’m sure that some would tell you that I was a bully. Yet others would say that I was a real cool cat. Still, all of them would say that I’m real smart

Whom do you most admire? I admire my three children. In 1993, in my son’s senior year at Amherst Regional High School, he was the Western Massachusetts 100-meters champion in track and field, and the Western Mass High School Chess Champion. He later became an undefeated professional boxer who fought on TV a couple of times. In January, he returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. My daughter Namandje is a scientist and professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. My daughter Tia is about two years away from finishing the MD/PhD program at University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. I also admire my students. As Confucius taught us, “Teaching is half of learning.” I’m honored and grateful to have gained so much as a person from them


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