Road Trip

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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.

RIP, Professor Julian Bond

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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.”
J. Bond

Straight Outta Compton was Great

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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.

Gender and Churches of Christ

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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.

Straight Out of Compton

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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.”

Harkness Teaching

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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 American Negro: God’s Righteous People

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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.

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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.

Ray Lewis

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

Historical Thinking Skills Text

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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.

The Christian Century

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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.

If I could, I would join Rustin and MLK Jr.

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If you could be a part of any conversation, what would it be? For me it would have been the meeting that transpired when Bayard Rustin first came to the home of MLK Jr. At the time, King had yet to adopt nonviolence; in truth, it was Rustin who forced King and the movement to adopt a pacifist position. It was Rustin who traveled to India and studied the ways of Gandhi. That night when Rustin visited King’s home, which was then guarded by armed men, Rustin was turned away. Coretta Scott King asked Rustin into the home. King and Rustin stayed up well into the night smoking cigarettes and having drinks, while Rustin converted King. It was Rustin who organized King’s protest speech in DC, though he removed himself from the movement out of fear that he would hurt the movement due to being gay. Textbooks have not been kind to this wonderful man. I make an effort to celebrate Rustin with my students.

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AP US History Course Changes

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I will admit that motivated students who get a chance to engage in historical discussions in my classes are fortunate. My students discuss slavery in the textbook, as well as the historiographical arguments and debates that shapes textbooks. Again, textbooks are for students. It gives them a basic narrative to follow. Great teachers introduce students to the complex arguments that shapes their historical thinking skills. This matter changes nothing for my teaching nor what my students read. Give this article a read: AP US History Caves to Conservatives, Will Down Play Slavery and Focus on American Exceptionalism. I am not sure where to start with the problems found in the title.

I Am A Negro Communist

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I am slowly writing an essay entitled, I am a Negro Communist. This essay will reflect the rise of black literary academics in the social sciences who were major actors in the development of the early black plight of academic thinking.

During the course of the 20th century, the emergence of Marxism as an academic philosophy in education set forth a new wave of examining American culture. It was during (and really before) the Cold War and its sub conflicts (Vietnam), as well as the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that promulgated many academics to make an ideological shift to the far left. With social and political instability taking place in the United States, Marxist academics were training young students of history, political science, economics, etc., for an intellectual war; this conflict was set to transform the thought process in classes, lecture halls, professional meetings, and published works.

Because academia was dominated by WASP who saw their plight as elite, other minority groups and women were excluded from various forms of higher education. With so many groups being silenced by early modern academics, the process of infiltration of Marx’s racialist ideology was slow to take hold in educational settings. Once white leftists academics bought into the “conflict analysis” idea of absolute political, social, and economic equality, the academy saw a transformation in the writings of history. The historiography became more about the elements of class conflict in society, rather than about the story of the conflict. One of the biggest challenges Marxist and New Left academics faced was that of conservative academics, many who believed that the educational curriculum in America should reflect the Protestant tradition of Anglo thought. Of course such a traditionalist curriculum would exclude a number of oppressed voices.

voices.

Social Commentary and the Anti-Racist Narrative

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In thinking about the show Scandal, the notion of interracial love and sex has been a contemplative one. As I once noted, white supremacy has conditioned society into accepting whiteness as pure and perfect; black men desire white women because they are the ultimate prize; however, this show offers a bit of a different narrative. I am not a huge fan of the show, seeing that the acting is poor, and the story line is a bit too much for me. This show is not the first to portray the notion of interracial ness.

The above clip is one of my favorites.

As a historian and educator, I have an appreciation for the arts. I particularly enjoy the use of visual arts, music, and the role both theater and television plays in sending positive social messages regarding the evils of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Further, such mediums can have a large impact on behavioral norms and attitudes. The challenge is trusting members in society to understand such central messages, and to grasp the complexity of why such messages are disseminated. My students are too young to recall All in the Family. Better yet, when the show was cancelled in 1983 after nine successful seasons on CBS, I was only nine years old. As a kid who watched a few episodes, I thought Archie Bunker was a racist and thus missed the social commentary. At the age of nine, I am supposed to miss it. However, by the time I reached high school, I was fully aware of All in the Family’s social commentary toward bigotry. In part,  I fully grasped this by noting Carrol O’Conner’s character, Chief William Gillespie, which he portrayed on the popular show, In the Heat of the Night.” If one recalls, O’Conner’s Gillespie character was in an interracial relationship in the state of Mississippi.

O’Conner on the problems with bigotry.

Gillespie, who dated then married an African-American female on the show, offered a thought against perceptive attitudes against interracial marriage. Having seen O’Conner play the role of Archie Bunker, I was delighted to observe the messages both All in the Family and In the Heat of the Night presented. 

The Cross and the Flag

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This piece here by Roger Owens got me thinking about Romans 14:13-23. In thinking about scriptural matters, I pondered the confederate flag. I ask why do some of my Christian brothers and sisters say and post things on the Internet that are hurtful to me and others? Some of them use Romans to explain why Christians should not drink or engage in things that might cause another brother to struggle, yet they are okay telling others that I am too sensitive to the confederate flag. They offer claims that it does not represent white supremacy, though we continue to tell them it does. How can a brother seek to walk with Christ when another brother exhibits symbols of hate? Christianity offers too much good for individuals to promulgate mixed messages.

My Dream Course

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I have been thinking about the religion of Ellison’s Invisible Man. As I have given it yet another read, I am thinking about writing a course on the racialization of religion as a normative form of black ideology in Ellison’s Invisible Man. You folks who have read this book, what do you think? What a great course. I think this is my dream course. It is more important today than ever.

Classic Ellison Scene

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Ralph Ellison’s protagonist in his Invisible Man addresses the woman question, as a wealthy female and comrade to the movement discusses her wealth. I love this scene as she admits the pleasure but sins of her wealth. “You can see, Brother…it is really the spiritual values of Brotherhood that interest me. Through no effort of my own, I have economic security and leisure, but what is that, really, when so much is wrong with the world? I mean when there is no spiritual or emotional security, and no justice?”

Thinking about Race, Nationalism , and Mending the Color Line on the 4th of July

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Happy 4th of July. Because my work requires me to read more on black nationalism of late, I am going to chill today with Ralph Ellison and W.E.B. Du Bois and think about their concept of two-ness, while pondering Frederick Douglass’ “4th of July Speech” by the hotel pool here in Ft. Worth, Texas. There is much to celebrate as more and more Americans have crossed Du Bois’s proverbial color line here in the 21st century. This is reflected by the interracial solidarity following the Charleston massacre. Further, for the first time black Americans can embrace the notion that many of our white brothers and sisters are calling for the Confederate flag to be removed, seeing that flags are the greatest symbol of national identity. There are a few blacks that argue the 4th of July is a day blacks should not embrace since its inception was not about black national identity. I say it is about black identity.

Douglass spoke to enslaved Negros through his “4th of July Speech” about their plight, and questioned American churches, democracy, ideology, and the make up of capitalism as driving forces for stagnation. We have seen today that we have overcome the past complacent narrative and must now use today to think about our future narrative. Du Bois’s double-consciousness describes the two-ness of being African and American. Ellison’s “Invisible Man” ponders identity in thinking about the American journey of race. So, I say let us not party too much. Let us think about Du Bois’s problem of the 20th century, which he saw as the color line. How might we forge past the old calculus and start anew. Let us focus on one national flag: a flag that encompasses the ugliness of slavery, Jim Crow, and poverty; but a flag that is beautiful in its ability to advance multiracial gatherings and celebrations of how far Americans have mended the color line. Let us make the American flag one of love; it can be used to think about poor people, solving problems of homelessness and food insecurity, embracing Christians, Muslims, Jews, and non-believers. The flag is now mended in the equality of love for our LGBTQ neighbors; it offers hope as being a flag not seen by others as a driving machine for imperialism and the evils of capitalism, but one that seeks to advance all other nations.

TCU|Week One Down|2015

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I arrived in Ft. Worth on June 28th; I am here until July 10 leading an AP history institute. Week one was a blast, with another week left. So, I will be spending a total of 14 days here in Ft. Worth. The folks who attended my AP history institute this past week here at Texas Christian University were fantastic. They were engaging and intellectually curious. They sought me out for my expert opinions on how they should move forward under the history redesigns. I love TCU. I love the APSI director. I love the way I am treated while working to help teachers be better history instructors. There is not a better institute in the country. This place and its people are simply amazing.

 

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