Rap star Nas winning a W.E.B. Du Bois’s award medal at Harvard. Du Bois would approve of this; he once stated that Negroes must showcase their talents to white society as a means of integration. Hence, a reason he favored the Harlem Renaissance. This view would change some as he shifted further to the left and then became a member of the Communist Party USA.
A section of my AP World History class welcomed Pulitzer Prize journalist and national bestseller Sonia Nazario to class. She is the author of “Enrique’s Journey.” Our class discussion centered on politics, immigration, economics, race and culture, etc. These 16 year olds were impressive. I was honored to join my department chair and a few other students in welcoming Ms. Nazario when she first arrived to campus; she joined us for a special seated dinner in her honor, just before she delivered an all-school speech.
I am excited to announce that I have been offered a position on the Civil Rights committee of the Christian Scholars’ Conference; it currently consists of Professors Jerry Taylor, Phyllis Hildreth and Tanya Brice who chairs this auspicious group of academics. I am excited to bring my “A” game and commitment to thinking about scholarship, faith, religion, race, and inclusivity.
There are a lot of skills taught in schools. Sure, a residential school like Brooks requires students to own their day-to-day schedule and to balance their time. Think about the skills schools teach that we often take for granted. Often it is the small things that determine if a student can leave home and cope in a university environment or work place. Case in point:
there is something to be said about a student who looks at your syllabus in order to visit you during office hours. I had a young female student who took a VERY mature position in expressing her concerns about the volume of work I assign and the demands of my course. We met and I promised her that she could do it; we looked at the objectives and she discussed them fully. I stated to her that she will crush my impending essay. She left happy and full of confidence — as she should be. She thanked me for my time and stated that she was excited about the rigor and expectations. I loved her comfort in visiting me and having a very focused conversation about her and academic work. This is one of the many small things taught in schools that we take for granted. I think she was elated to see on the syllabus that things are about to get much easier.
Below is the first ever (to my knowledge) Brooks School Amnesty International meeting, which was held at our place. Janette and I are excited to be faculty advisors to the Brooks Gay-Striaght Alliance. I will also be supporting Amnesty. I am excited about these clubs and WINC, which all have shared members and interest in LGBTQ matters, gender, feminism, anti-racism, international inequalities, etc. We will be driving and attending conferences with students from the above clubs this fall and spring.
I get it. He is an impressive individual. But I am not super impressed by the content of Pope Francis’s speech. I guess it just goes to show how incredibly far right we are as a nation when folks get very upset about these kinds of things. Nice to hear him mention Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, though! See here.
I had a conversation with a friend and colleague who is not fortunate enough to teach in a learning environment that values free inquiry, love and openness for others, nor allows for true peace and freedom in one’s own life. I struggle in my understanding of institutions that fail at grasping the human spirit, mind, and ambition. This is particularly true when it comes to faith-based secondary schools and colleges. Yes – you know who you are. To my colleagues who feel trapped in intellectually and socially oppressive institutions, hang in there. You have friends and supporters like me. However, please keep your options in mind. I do believe that people sometimes stay at those places too long. I am hearing that many of you cannot write, present, and publish as you please. I hear that many of you often close your office and classroom doors when challenging students to escape the confines of narrowness. Some of you have had to turn me down for writing and publishing opportunities out of fear. Our students need us. You are loved and supported by many such as myself.
“Black racism is a myth created by whites to ease their guilt feelings. As long as whites can be assured that blacks are racists, they can find reasons to justify their own oppression of black people. This tactic seems to be a favorite device of white liberals who, intrigued by their own unselfish involvement in civil rights *for* the ‘Negro,’ like to pride themselves on their liberality towards blacks. White racists who are prepared to defend the outright subjugation of blacks need no such myth. The myth is needed by those who intend to keep things as they are, while pretending that things are in fact progressing.”
– James Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, 1969
This image was taken for Brooks admission brochure. I like my comment as noted why I teach; I stated, “I want my students to understand how our past issues of race, class, poverty, gender, and sexual identity impact the world today. I want to empower them to be leaders of change in a world starving for social justice.”
Forget college folks here; I too experience these matters. I think I will ask my students to read what not to do. I say this because they do everything on this list.
We drove from Boston to Montgomery, Alabama this past week. While headed down South, we stopped in the Nashville, Tennessee area to spend time with friends. Phil, who was my best man, forged a relationship with me dating back to our Alabama Christian Academy days. We attended Harding University together, too.
In honor of Julian Bond, I offer my recent dinner with him while hearing him speak at St. Mark’s school. My favorite comment after telling him Diane Nash was at Brooks was this: “Diane was the sexiest woman I met. All of the fellas were in love with her.”
“Look at that girl
Look at that girl shake that thing,
We can’t all be Martin Luther King.”
I saw Straight Outta Compton today. I have anticipated this film for two years; it was better than I thought it would be. If you listen to the music now or did growing up, and if you know the story — you will love it even more. They got it right. It did not ignore the cultural evils of the industry, such as capitalism and commercialism. Further, matters of misogyny were clear. It is rated “R” for a reason. You cannot do it justice without that “R” rating. I am shocked at how well they got it. It denotes our past and present problems with police brutality, as well as reminds the world of the consequences for being promiscuous. I was shocked that Public Enemy and Ice T were invisible, but others who should be there were represented.
I was recently engaged in a great discussion via Facebook on this matter a few days ago. I listened to an interview/talk in which a Harding University friend, who is also a beautiful academic and mom, discussed why she left the church of Christ. She pointed to how relationships and therapy embolden her. She did not leave Christ, but the denomination. I arrived at her talk after following a discussion by a group of ladies who came to three conclusions about the CoC, and its schools regarding identity matters women in the CoC face. Keep in mind that I am just the messenger. 1) Young ladies insecurities are reinforced due to constructs shaped by men, not God. 2) Young ladies who do manage to grow in their self-esteem have done so via struggles and support. 3) Many young ladies accept they have a role, and moving beyond that role has little benefit. Their private sex lives with their husbands are weakened. Their sense of autonomy and respect by their kids are weakened. And, their drive and ambitions are unattained.
I have been looking forward to this movie for two years now; I teach a unit on the 1980s in which I center my lesson around the rise of gangsta rap and N.W.A. I showcase this narrative in an attempt to link social history to macro political matters of race, class, and oppression. I grew up in this world and listening to this stuff.
I am writing a new winter term course that looks at urban violence and oppression, under funded schools, riots (Baltimore, Detroit, Tulsa, L.A., etc), vice, poverty, and racism as prison pipelines. I will draw a great deal from Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow.” For the past 6 years, I have taught the 1980s through the lens of gangsta rap; I highlight N.W.A. as students critique F**K the Police and Straight Outta Compton. Our commentary centers around attitudes of national politics and economics. In teaching historical contextualization, I link Cold War ideology and Reaganism to violence in Compton and the rise of gangsta rap. I have flipped this lesson into a paper to be published.
I hope to use this paper in helping teachers think about contextualization as a historical thinking skill when teaching race and politics during the 1980s. I have a number of pragmatic ideas for students in this course. I am working to link my scholarship and academic interest to urban ministries, prisons, and community reforms. I love what my former student, Grace Elizabeth Munford, said about this lesson: “Did a small happy dance and freaked out when I saw the Straight Outta Compton trailer. Brought me back to my favorite day in your class.”
I have been a Harkness seminar teacher for 11/12 years now; I cannot imagine teaching in any other capacity. There is something great about sitting at a seminar table with students and training them to talk to each other. My best teaching has come when I say very little in class. Poor teaching for me is when I talk too much. This is a fantastic interview, particularly the part that discusses iPads and lap top computers in classes. They address the weakness of dependency of such tools, rather than students who work collectively to solve a problem and come to a conclusion. There is room for such, but only as a mere tool. How can students fully engage in listening to each other when they are looking at a screen or playing on the Net? Phillips Exeter Academy is an amazing school. I have enjoyed my visits and observations.
The Negro soul is a complex soul. Black folks will tell you that the black soul hides the burdened of millions of Negroes who suffered due to white supremacy. The march from the oppression of slavery to the injustice of Jim Crow has left the soul marked with millions of burdens that only God can remove. Black oppression was God’s design. Black folks have long held on to the Jewish-Exodus narrative as they relive the accounts of their bondage, which involved centuries of slavery to the migration from mass injustice and lynchings found in the racist South.
As noted by the drawing published in Crisis Magazine by editor W.E.B. Du Bois, the white South represented a moral contradiction to the Gospel of Christ. Hence, Christ reminds the white South, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. This 1916 depiction showcases the fear that encapsulated blacks to the point of drawing on biblical narratives about freedom.
However, as noted in an earlier post about black religion and oppression, not all blacks hold close to the Christian narrative. Better yet, many have seperated themselves from the narrative of being God’s righteous people. Being a black atheist in America is a challenging position to reside. A black atheist within the black community is criminal. Black folks have long used religion as a way to find answers for their historical suffering within the confines of white America. And though there are black folks who live a life of moral contradictions vis-a-vis scriptural rules, there is no place for nonbelievers. Remember, God rescued the American Negro from bondage. Centuries of lynching and years of Jim Crow created a universal sense of “togetherness” as it relates to the black church.
Above: Ray Lewis, the once arrested but not convicted of murder is seen here on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Lewis, who is quick to thank God for his many blessings, was captured in an image of baptismal renewal. Lewis will tell you that God gave him a second chance, seeing that many felt he was involved and guilty of at least destroying evidence.
Black entertainers represent one of the greatest misrepresentation of normative black-religious culture. After one scores a touchdown, he pauses to give thanks to Jesus, pointing to the heavens or saying a prayer, while marking his uniform with a cross like action. Speeches, interviews, and award acceptances are easily engulfed in a thanks be to God reference. So when NFL running back Arian Foster recently stated that he does not believe in God, it caught many by surprise. Foster’s denial of God will receive greater criticism from the black community. God has blessed him with riches and fame, yet he rejects a God who rescued his race from oppression. Thus, Foster and others have rejected their righteous place in the kingdom of heaven
I have been working on this text this summer. It will be done by September, which gives us time to edit, revise, and make changes as needed. I am already under contract with Norton Publisher for this work, which is set to be published in January 2016. The work challenges students to think about historical content in a fashionable and analytical way; it moves them to think like historians.
Historical Thinking Skills in History, co-authored with John Irish, helps students hone the skills essential for success under the new AP history redesign courses. It includes chapters that utilize graphic organizers, cause and effect, chronological reasoning, compare and contrast, contextualization, continuity and change over time, defining the period, historical argument, and turning points as measures of skill building and refinement.
I recently joined the editorial board for The Christian Century Then & Now section. I officially started this month. I will write, recruit authors, and review submissions. My first article, which comes out later this month, relates to my teaching here at Brooks School. It is titled “Jesus Arrives at a New England Prep School: Students Explore Race and Nationalism as a Construct of American Exceptionalism, Part One.”
I am excited to do this work with two other American-Religion scholars.