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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Scott

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

colonial atlantic map

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

NAIS People of Color 2014 (Part I)

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I will be attending my fourth NAIS (National Association Independent Schools) People of Color Conference this week. Last year I traveled with two colleagues and six students. This year I am joined by three colleagues as we travel to the city of Indianapolis. I have delivered two well-received sessions at this conference. In 2011, I delivered a session in Philadelphia titled A Vanishing Identity: Exploring How Independent Schools Can Promote True Cultural Diversity. In 2012, in front of a packed room, I presented a session titled Getting Real with Whiteness in Independent Schools,  a session in which I challenged teachers and school leaders to think about the daily micro aggressions experienced by people of color.

I am excited about networking and learning from my peers and colleagues for this 2014 conference. I aim to blog from the conference about the sessions and my interactions with a diverse group of people from across the nation. As an ambitious and passionate teacher, I seek such venues as a way to further hone my leadership skills as well as reflect on my past experiences and future growth as an independent school teacher.

Black Communist and the Injustice of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin

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Much has been discussed about the relationship of circumstances between Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till in recent months; but, little has been discussed about the role of the Communist Party and Trayvon Martin. From the few black communist that I know, they hold the same place as many other black Americans: This is a classic case of injustice promulgated by a flawed system of guaranteed rights. An interesting point about this topic has more to do with Emmett Till and less to do with Trayvon Martin.

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Above: View from an open casket

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Above: It was Jet Magazine that launched on the scene when it placed an image of the open casket on its cover.

The Communist Party of America is in a vastly different place circa 2013 than say 1950. Black intellectuals and social activist have a number of other forums and groups to use as a sound board for change. In 1950, under the auspices of American conservatism ala McCarthyism, the avenues for American expression were not as open as they are in the 21st century. Hence, thinking about the Till murder, I should not be surprised that the Communist Party, led by an African-American female named Pat Ellis, were the leaders in encouraging Emmett Till’s mother to open the casket at her son’s funeral. Mother Till and the Communist Party wanted the world to witness the extent of racism and hate propagated by American injustice. Thus, the world saw the dismembered body of a 14-year-old black kid who was too young to die just because he whistled at a white woman.

In drafting this post, I have taken notes and gathered primary sources on the Negro plight in America, and their relationship with communism. I have long contemplated writing an essay entitled, I AM A Communist. I thought it would be a fun and very engaging essay on the motives that drove black thinkers to join the Party. As some of you know, W.E.B. Du Bois once noted that it is a strange notion being black in the 20th century.

Selma

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I mentioned the filming of this movie in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama earlier this year to a number of my colleagues. Watch the trailer and be prepared to get goosebumps. Wow!!!

I cannot count how many times I have driven over the Edmund Pettis’ Bridge when visiting family in Selma. See at 1:40 on clip. Side note: On the other side of the bridge is NBF homes — a Selma housing project I grew up in before we moved to Montgomery. The bridge links downtown Selma to the more rural areas which is pointed out in this clip. In terms or race and the South, that is a significant point. It amazes me how little black teens ponder the significance of that bridge when I am in town. Today Selma is predominately black due to white flight. I recall my shock when I met or saw a white person in Selma. I am pretty sure Janette was the only white person around when we visited.

Carson’s American Jesus Winter Term Course 2.0

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Hebert Above: Stephen Hebert, St. Mark’s School Religion Instructor and assistant chaplain, served as a guest teacher last year. I am getting ready to teach my Winter Term American Jesus. The course went well last year, thus I suspect it will be even better this year. With new scholarship to add, as well as a greater sense of familiarity with Winter Term, I am aimed at making it an absolute elite course. Here is the course description: The notion of Jesus Christ has been a transformative one throughout history. This course will help students grasp the ubiquitous nature of religion as a force in every day life. Students will explore Americans sense of Jesus Christ through the lens of American traditionalism, popular culture, music, and academic thought. They will delve into issues of race, gender and sexuality, as portrayed on TV shows such as Family Guy, South Park, and Comedy Central’s most recent show, Black Jesus, as a point of conversation regarding societal stereotypes. They will study hip-hop artists, such as the late rapper Tupac Shukar, who identified his rhythmic sounds and lyrics to that of Jesus. Students will also visit spiritual leaders of a variety of churches to learn about the diversity of faiths that are part of the American experience. photoblum Above: Noted American Religion Scholar Edward Blum (center) traveled from his San Diego State University campus to be a guest teacher in my course. Paul Harvey and Blum’s book The Color of Christ was required reading last year; it will remain on the syllabus this year as well as John Fea’s book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? Professor Fea was gracious enough to Skype into my class as a guest speaker. He shared his research and discussed his book with us. John had some great things to say about this experience here at his blog; I also noted his post below: Yesterday we got hit with several inches of snow. School was cancelled for my kids and Messiah College closed its doors at 1pm. Instead of trying to make it into the office I decided to camp out in my basement study and get some work done. Here is what the day looked like: 10:00: Skyped with Eddie Carson’s “Jesus in America” class at the Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts. First of all, I am amazed that Eddie gets to teach an entire course on this subject to high school students. Granted, it is a private boarding school, but it is still impressive. I talked about my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction and the students asked some great questions. We had a good discussion about the racial dimensions of the rise of the Christian Right. Later this week, the ubiquitous Ed Blum will be joining Eddie’s class in person (I hope you are not held up by the snow, Ed) to talk about he and Paul Harvey’s book The Color of Christ.

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