My Lord What a Morning

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“My Lord What a Morning” is one of my favorite Negro spirituals. I found myself thinking about this song Thursday after talking to my Mother about the passing of my Grandmother. I keep thinking about her life and what she saw. How I failed to learn more from yet another black woman; she could have taught me more than all the books I have read. I feel my distance daily as I think about what I can learn from my Mother. I need to be with family. I am looking forward to my trip home to Selma, Alabama next week, as I think about the black women who shaped my life. If you do not know this beautiful spiritual, listen to it.There is beauty in those who believe in their God and faith. It is that which offers beauty to a generation of black folks who achieved more than I ever will. This song denotes that.

2014 Brooks Football

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I finally got this framed picture on the bookshelf in my room. We had a great football season, one that reflected the leadership of our head coach and the dedication provided by our student-athletes. Yes, the picture reversed the 2014 Football wording. I enjoyed working with my fellow coaches and the players I coached.

Photo on 12-17-14 at 2.11 PM

In front of a vocal home crowd, the Brooks football team defeated Westminster School to earn the Sean Brennan New England Championship Bowl. It was the team’s first NEPSAC bowl win in school history. The game was much tighter than the 31-12 score would indicate. Strong defense and 21 unanswered points allowed Brooks to overcome a 10-12 halftime deficit in route to the final score.

Here is the team picture on our home football field.

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Storm Juno and Gearing up for Spring Term

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DSCN3697 copy This storm has given me time to read Toni Morrisons’s A Mercy  for an African-American Literature course I am taking at Harvard this spring. The imagery in this work is deep and the narrative is clean. I am not done yet, but should finish it by tomorrow. This storm has forced me to move at a snail pace with my spring courses; I will finish constructing my syllabi and course outlines and assignments today. Having a clear plan is key, particularly with AP courses. We start almost a month later than many schools, and we teach a January Term course which furthers the unique challenges of meeting the AP objectives. Spring Term Above is my home desk with everything needed to get my courses done.

Storm Juno

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Snow

I got to thinking the other day: there is something kind of cool about walking across campus on a Saturday morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, as the snow landed. I spent time drafting student comments for my American Jesus students, and organizing my spring syllabus for my African-American Studies course. That was an okay kind of snow, as you can see from my office window. We have had very little snow this winter. But as one can see below, the winter gods have had a change of thought; we cancelled classes for tomorrow, our first day of the spring term, as we completed our winter term. I am not sure what to make of my VERY first blizzard. We are facing over 24 inches of snow and wind speeds at 60 mph.

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Malcolm X and the Black Bourgeoisie

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I spend a bit of time in my United States History and African-American Studies course talking about the greatness of Malcolm X. I do contend that by his death he had not fully reasoned with his anger, but instead, moved past it toward a conclusion of racial reconciliation. I will admit that I admire Malcolm X — not so much for his early views on segregation and a violent revolution, but for his change; it was his change and the power he held that scared many black nationalist Muslims. While presenting at a seminar in the Dallas area many years ago, I came across this street: N. Malcolm X BLVD.

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As always, I could not help but notice that many schools and streets named after black civil rights leaders are located on the lower socioeconomic side of cities — the black side, whereas it is not unusual to find schools such as Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson located in black communities, too… but one does not see too many schools named after King in the upper side of communities.

After Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington D.C., Malcolm X would state — as noted:

The Negroes were out there in the streets. They were talking about how they were going to march on Washington…. That they were going to march on Washington, march on the senate, march on the White House, march on Congress, and tie it up, bring it to a halt, not let the government proceed. They even said they were going out to the airport and lay down on the runway and not let any airplanes land. I’m telling you what they said. That was revolution. That was revolution. That was the black revolution.

Malcolm X was able to capture the ears of many blacks who grew frustrated with America’s lack of political and economic progress. Moreover, with that heighten sense for change, King started to see his voice silenced within the black community. The recent film Selma showcased this well. However, earlier king would write in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

“You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

King was aware of the challenge Malcolm X and other black nationalist groups presented; his voice was soft and passive, though he was a powerful and articulate speaker. Blacks’ sense of Christianity was one of division. Why follow a church and a God that allows such hatred to take place — many contended. King feared the evils of materialism and comfort as many who made up the black bourgeoisie became comfortable with their status in life. As I stated before, today the black middle class is far more conservative than many realize.

The debate over true liberalism among blacks still exist. I have found the black middle class to be far more conservative and less active towards civil rights and social policy of late. I am concerned that the black bourgeoisie is willing to shift its focus away from the liberalism that put them in their position. I believe integration is vital to a liberal society as noted by my neighborhood, friends, and place of employment; however, I do not think the black middle class should play the conservative card that carries with it values, attitudes, and behaviors that do not represent progress for all minority groups. Sure 93% of blacks vote in a solid block for the Democratic Party, but that block is not as tight as it used to be. Also, blacks should be mindful of American plutocracy, a norm that usurps progress and works against the aims of egalitarianism.

GSA on Unity Day at Brooks

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Here is the Brooks Gay Straight Alliance workshop for Unity Day tomorrow: FROM BYSTANDER TO ALLY: A CHALLENGE TO BROOKS: Participants will enjoy lively discussion about the legal and ethical limitations of free speech by debating the Sonoma County Superior Court Case, Rice v. Gans-Rugebregt. They will reflect on personal experiences to understand the difference between impact and intention of our language choices, and explore what it takes to move from being a passive bystander to an active ally role. Three workshops will be offered with a maximum number of 12-15 students/session.

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American Jesus 2015, part II

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Professor Edward Blum traveled to Brooks School to work with my American Jesus class. Blum, noted historian on topics of race and religion, is one of those people who inspires me. We spend hours talking about our teaching, research and writing, and books we are reading. It is like bringing a historical conference to me. Further, my students are intrigued by the diverse setting. I have devoted my adult life to becoming a better teacher and scholar. Blum motivates me to find the time to do the research, which allows me to be a better teacher. Thus, I am spending today reviewing my archival notes and categorizing them in my data base.

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Perspective Families Presentation

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I will be delivering a faculty presentation to perspective Brooks families this weekend for “A Day at Brooks,” which is hosted by the admissions department. My session went exceptionally well last year, thus I was asked to give another presentation on behalf of the history department. In front of a jam-packed room last year, I engaged families as though they were a student in my class. I will give a session titled “The Teaching of Point of View in US History” this Saturday. Folks are in for a stimulating treat. Below you can see part of the agenda. You might be able to spot my session. Day at Brooks

What Independent Schools Can Learn from ESPN and the Late Stuart Scott?

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I became a Stuart Scott fan in the early 1990s; he owned a style that attracted not only brothers such as myself to the Sports Center screen, but white people too. He paid his dues and worked to reach the apex of his profession; however, in doing so, Scott took a great deal of criticism for the style he owned. When he arrived at ESPN, he stated that he wanted to be himself. This does not mean he wanted to represent his employer, ESPN, in a poor fashion; it meant that when they hired a black man, they were getting just that. Scott, who had arrived at the pinnacle of his profession, stated that he was more than a black face on the screen; he was first a professional. Further, he stated that his race meant that he was shaped in a different fashion from that of his white colleagues at the Entertainment Sports Network. ESPN was quick in grasping the complexity of Scott, his diversity, and the many wonderful things he offered.

Rather than telling Scott to act more white, they celebrated his style and diversity. They applauded his differences and rewarded him for 21 years. Scott returned the gratitude by staying loyal to ESPN. Over the span of 21 years, I watched a number of anchors transition from the network. That was not the case for Scott, who kept his style and thanked ESPN for its support. I still recall the criticism the University of North Carolina received for inviting Scott to be their commencement speaker. In a sense, he was not conservative enough; he was not white enough; he was too “street” for a school of UNC’s stature. Through all of this, ESPN stuck with Scott and defended his diversity. Keep in mind that he graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill.

I believe school leaders and communities can take a great deal from ESPN and its long marriage to Scott; in an age when people of color leave schools due to countless acts of micro aggressions, ESPN walked beside Scott for 21 years. Many minority faculty members and school administrators discuss the hiring and retention of people of color in two terms: comfort and fit; however, this can mean different things to schools and minority faculty members. I have found that minority faculty members offer a different voice on matters of socioeconomic status, race, and perspectives regarding historical narratives. This can and often is met with resistance. Schools should welcome the whole picture of diversity. It should not be a black face masked under the guise of whiteness. It must look and feel real; if not, students and communities are not getting diversity. They are getting comfort. It is important that all faculty members and students believe in the overarching mission of their institution, but institutions must be willing to take the risk of “real diversity.”

As noted in the work by Pearl Rock Kane, The Excellence of Color,

People of color, be they African-American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.

I am dedicating this post to the late Stuart Scott. I am and will be among one of your many fans. They will be talking about you in journalism and media classes for years to come. We all recall hearinh him say,”You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

Thanks, Stuart.

Hannah Storm on Stuart Scott:

Gang History in the Black Community

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I discussed this topic some in a recent essay I drafted for a publication titled From Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas to Ferguson’s Michael Brown: The Reality of Indignant Forces in Post-Racial America. I touched on this topic mildly, but since gangs were not the theme of my paper, it lacked a great deal of depth. The video below is fantastic as it notes this way of life is a dead end. One is either killed by a fellow gang member, by another gang member, by a cop, or will spend the rest of his/her life in fear or jail. Rap culture and Hollywood have romanticized this life style. White kids, Asian kids, etc are caught up in this false lie. The video points to the fact that gang related violence and murder are at new lows thanks to intervention programs by community groups and former gang members. Bloods Above: I am a Blood for a Halloween dress up day on campus. As I stated to folks on campus, there are 35,000 Bloods throughout the USA. Thus, there is no way I would leave campus in this outfit. The video below is a great historical take on this matter. See video on their history: The pervasiveness of this lifestyle is now embedded in popular culture, as seen in a season five episode of the popular animated show, South Park. Like the coolness of being from the hood, white kids in the suburb of South Park can participate without fearing the consequences. South Park …yet as noted in the above video, gang life extended beyond urban borders. The image below shows gang members skiing in Aspen, Colorado. Gangs skiing The rap group NWA talked about street life and police brutality. I do not think they were seeking to romanticize the life as much as they wanted to profit off of the image. Further, due to LAPD attempt at cracking down on gang violence, groups such as NWA felt it was important to respond to the brutality that followed the crack down. See their hit video here:

Look what just arrived at the Brooks’ Henry Luce III Library. I am EXCITED to delve into this work over the holidays as I map out my winter term American Jesus syllabus.

Black Jesus

About: Dietrich Bonhoeffer publicly confronted Nazism and anti-Semitic racism in Hitler’s Germany. The Reich’s political ideology, when mixed with theology of the German Christian movement, turned Jesus into a divine representation of the ideal, racially pure Aryan and allowed race-hate to become part of Germany’s religious life. Bonhoeffer provided a Christian response to Nazi atrocities.

In this book author Reggie L. Williams follows Bonhoeffer as he defies Germany with Harlem’s black Jesus. The Christology Bonhoeffer learned in Harlem’s churches featured a black Christ who suffered with African Americans in their struggle against systemic injustice and racial violence—and then resisted. In the pews of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, under the leadership of Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Bonhoeffer absorbed the Christianity of the Harlem Renaissance. This Christianity included a Jesus who stands with the oppressed rather than joins the oppressors and a theology that challenges the way God can be used to underwrite a union of race and religion.

Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus argues that the black American narrative led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to the truth that obedience to Jesus requires concrete historical action. This ethic of resistance not only indicted the church of the German Volk, but also continues to shape the nature of Christian discipleship today.

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Teaching the Atlantic Market Thesis

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I have taught this before, and as my students will tell you, it is a staple in my history course. I started the session off by presenting an illustration that conceptualizes the growth of European modernity and the birth of what Arnold Toynbee would call the “Industrial Revolution,” as students looked at the transformation from Lynda Shaffer’s article Southernization to what is called Westernization.

“The Industrial Revolution”is a term coined by Toynbee in the late 1800s and used by Marxist and socialist historians to attack “the captains of industry” and expose “the conditions of the working classes;” after World War II, conservative social scientists like Rostow used Britain as model for industrial “take-off.” Recent scholarship suggests the story is not so simple. See e.g. Peter Sterns.

I worked to draw a conclusion on the relationship between European constitutionalism, mercantilism, geo politics, and the expansion of capitalism. Because of these factors and a number of others, the British middle class promulgated the growth of Atlantic slavery while modeling a new economic paradigm that the French bourgeoisie and nobility would desire. Unlike the traditional Marxist’s interpretation of the revolution that claimed it started as a matter of class conflict between the third estate (peasants & bourgeoisie) and the first and second estates, recent interpretations claim the revolution was a result of the Atlantic market system. Feudal lands and titles no longer carried the wealth that the Atlantic market offered. With an ancient system in existence that prevented the French nobility from prospering in this newly minted Atlantic market, the second and third estate unified to overthrow the French ancient class system. The change in market forces ultimately contributed to the demise of feudalism in Western Europe, though this process was much slower for the East.

Besides the colonial wars fought for geo-political gain in the Atlantic market, the dawn of neo slavery emerged. Paradoxically speaking, this institution heightened during a period in which the literature addressed both natural rights and racial inferiority. I believe the process of understanding European history from 1450 to 1815 rest on students’ understanding of the Atlantic market.

History Department Gathering

I have long valued being a good colleague; I am pretty much the YES person when someone in my department (or in another one) needs help and support. I have found that good colleagues and friends have done the same for me. When I arrived at my last school in Houston, I pushed to have dept gatherings — be it at the beginning, middle, or end of the year. Holiday gatherings have always been a favorite. We are hosting a history department dinner tonight. It should be fun.

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NAIS SDLC (Part II) 2014

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Look at all of these young high school folks here showing that their hands are up, don’t shoot at the People of Color Conference/Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Indianapolis. They remind folks that Black Lives Matter in the age of Ferguson. I love the energy of being with all types of people from some of the best private schools in the country. You are looking at future leaders here. I think I handed more cards out to young students than I ever have before. I told them to send me an email so that I could learn more about what they will do to transform their campus upon return.

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My New Spring Course

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Next semester after I teach my winter term course, American Jesus, I will teach an African American Studies course; I have worked developing this course. Here is a rough draft syllabus:

Course Description

The African American experience spans almost 500 years in the annals of world history. The dawn of the European arrival in Africa to the advent of forced migration across the Atlantic amidst the trepidation of the most noted middle passage is only the start of the African American journey towards political, social, and cultural emancipation. This course looks at the early stages of this journey, in which African Americans will endure slavery, Jim Crow, and full citizenship by the 1960s. In addition, the course addresses the impact this narrative had on the emergence of African American religion, literature, poetry, music, art, dance, food, and science. Works by Ralph Ellison, Countee Culleen, Toni Morrison, and “Nikki” Giovanni, Angela Davis, and Tupac Shakur are a few of the works that are studied. Conversations regarding the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the rise of “black as beautiful” during the 1960s allow students to critique the changes witnessed for African Americans. This course is a hybrid of the study of English literature, religion, race, history, and film studies, and includes a field trip to the African-American History Museum in Boston.

Course Components

Instructional Method: African-American Studies is a seminar course in which daily discussions involving the analysis of primary and secondary readings, as well as the viewing and listening of African American film and music are addressed. Success in the course is predicated on the student’s ability to engage in the discussions and offer independent thought to the conversation.

Exams, Papers, and Participation: There are two take-home exams per semester. Exams are intended to measure growing knowledge of historical, sociological, and anthropological themes addressed in the course. Students engage in a case study, examining an aspect of their life in which the dynamics of African American culture is a featured construct regarding racism, gender, sexuality, and class.

Grades:                                                           Assessment Value

  1. Two 5 – 7 page papers                                            15%
  2. Independent case study                                          15%
  3. Take-home Midterm                                                25%
  4. Take-home Semester Final                                      25%
  5. Participation & Oral Presentations                            20%

Required Texts

  • When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings
  • There is a River by Vincent Harding
  • Introduction to African American Studies by Talmadge Anderson
  • Native Son by Richard Wright

Course Outline

  • African Heritage and the Slave Trade
  • The Slave Community: Oppression and Resistance
  • The Free Black Community
  • Civil War and Reconstruction Period
  • W.E.B Du Bois
  • The New Negro
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Great Depression to the Cold War: The Rise of the Communist Negro
  • Black Folks and the 1950s
  • 1960s and Civil Rights
  • The Rise of the Cosby Decade
  • Black Culture and Political Rap
  • Changing Black Thought in the Age of Tupac
  • Obama and Post-Racial America
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