Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Putting Our Worst Foot Forward

 
When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950's, the product of an immigrant family which had pulled itself out of poverty in two generations, there was one image that stood out in my mind that captured most why I was proud to be an American.
It was the picture of a US soldier, walking in a war torn country, with his arm around a terrified child, reassuring him that he was finally safe.
What it suggested to me was that the powerful, wealthy country I lived in was a force for good in the world, using its wealth and power to help people being persecuted and impoverished and save them from dictators. It gave me added motivation to try to excel in school and in sports so that I become part of the leadership of this great nation
I would learn, as the Civil Rights movement erupted and as the war in Vietnam unfolded, that this image was only one part of a much more complicated and troubled history, but the ideal reflected in the photo was one I still kept close to my heart
Now segue to the present. The most powerful image of the US we have been presented with in the last few months is of children in cages and courtrooms, crying as they have been separated from their parents. They have the same haunted look in their eyes as the children being comforted by GI's in the photos from the 1940's and 1950's, but this time it is Americans, including Americans in uniform, responsible for their pain.
What does this image say to my counterparts today, impressionable young people trying to figure out their place in the country of their birth? What does it say to people around the world trying to make sense of what the United States stands for.
Have the people of this country become so cynical and angry that they are comfortable with the United States inflicting cruelty on children rather than healing their pain? Are they prepared for the US to be seen as the latest installment of the dictators we fought in World War 2.
Make no mistake about it, children in cages, and Donald Trump's angry words and contorted face, define this country to America's youth and the people of the world, the way images of GI Generosity and JFK's inspiring image and words once did.
How the mighty have fallen?
Will we fall further still?

Monday, July 16, 2018

The High Price of Using Racism to Fight Liberals and Leftists

I understand being angry at liberals and leftists. But when you are willing to first tolerate, and then applaud open appeals to racism to get back at them, you are walking down a very dangerous path, the path trod by Hitler and his German supporters. Make no mistake about it, those who continue to support Trump no matter what he says or does because it pisses off the "snowflakes" and the "libtards" are not going to be very happy where this all ends up. Everybody loses when a society declares war on its most vulnerable people. Including those who think they were going to be immune to the consequences
Remember: Hitler said that everything he did, including the death camps and killing squads, was necessary to "Fight Communism."
As for the broader consequences, including its impact on those who supported Hitler: When WW2 ended, there wasn't a blade of grass left in the Tiergarten, Berlin's largest park, because every piece of vegetation had been eaten by the starving people of that city.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tribute to a Great Bronx Teacher on His 80'th Birthday

Tribute to a Great Bronx Teacher on His 80th Birthday:
Hi, this is Dr Mark Naison of Fordham University, When I look back on a career that has spanned nearly 50 years of University teaching, I view Jim Pruitt as one of the ten most impressive educators I have encountered at any level of our educational system. He had a tremendous influence on me when I arrived to teach at Fordham in 1970, and played a central role in providing intellectual guidance to the research project I direct, the Bronx African American History Project, which began in 2003 and has become one of the most respected community based oral history projects in the nation
Shortly after I arrived at Fordham in the fall of 1970 to teach in the Institute of Afro American Studies, Jim was appointed the director of Fordham Upward Bound Program, which had offices across the hall. I quickly saw that he was a force in our Department as well as his own. A tall imposing person, dignified in carriage, precise in speech, knowledgeable about history, passionate about justice, Jim had a profound influence on the Black and Latino young men in his care. Here was someone from the same communities they lived in, who shared their feelings and understood their world, who commanded the respect of powerful white people, from college administrators to faculty to security officials through depth of intellect and force of character. His Upward Bound Students not only listened to him, they watched him carefully, and over time, began to model themselves on him. Thus began the shaping of a new generation of Black and Latino leaders, people who would make an impact on many walks of life from education, to business and the arts. Jim was at Fordham for less than ten years, but he is still in touch with many of the now not-so young people in his charge. I have rarely seen a teacher/mentor command such reverence, and have such influence, on a groups of men from inner city neighborhoods
Now segue to the year 2003 when community leaders asked me to start an oral history project documenting the experience and achievements of African Americans in the Bronx. The Bronx African American History Project, as the initiative was called, began with oral histories of Black women and men who had lived in the Patterson Houses near Lincoln Hospital, but soon began to focus on the largest Black community in the Bronx in the 1940's 1950's and 1960's, Morrisania. I had know that Jim had grown up in that neighborhood and that members of his family still lived there so I called him for advice. It was the best decision I had ever made. Jim not only introduced me to his brilliant sister, Harriet McFeeters, who still lived with her sister Bessie in a row house on East 168th Street, he provided the crucial intellectual framework for understanding the middle class Black community that emerged in Morrisania
Jim explained the path that took Black postal workers and Pullman porters from churches in Harlem like Grace Congregational to an exciting new community in the Bronx. But he also identified key institutions which became the basis of that community as it emerged- St Augustine Presbyterian Church, Forest House, Camp Minisink and Morris High School. Armed with this knowledge, we started recording what ultimately became more than 100 interviews with Black residents of Morrisania, all of which have been transcribed, archived and digitized. People from all over the world consult these interviews, many of which were recommended by Jim and Harriet
So happy 80th Birthday Jim Pruiit. You have truly been an educator who changed the course of history

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When Privilege Fails to Bring Peace of Mind


I am healthier than I have been in years. I have a great job. I am economically secure. I have terrific friends and a loving family.
But I am deeply unsettled by the state of the country and the pain being inflicted our most vulnerable people.
I cannot be happy while others suffer, especially when that suffering is being inflicted in a cruel, vindictive manner, accompanied by a flood of racist stereotypes
I am not an island. I have Black and Latinx grandchildren. I have students whose families came to the US as undocumented immigrants . I have Black friends, colleagues and family members who have suffered grievously from racial profiling. I work closely with leaders of Bronx Muslim communities and know first hand the fear they feel in this political climate
In Donald Trump’s America, my status as a white male professional confers material benefits, but it does not bring peace of mind
I first experienced true happiness when I started using what skills I possessed to help people less fortunate than I was
I certainly cannot be happy when my prosperity comes at their expense or when I am expected to look the other way while they are being attacked

Sunday, July 1, 2018

My Education Platform for the Next New York City Mayoral Race

 
1. End charter school expansion. Every city with a higher percentage of charter schools than NYC- Chicago, LA, Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington DC- has much higher crime rates than New York.
2. Make sure every middle school and high school in the city has a full complement of athletic teams. Sports are a life line for young people and pathway to college. It is unacceptable that there are small high schools all over NYC which have no athletic teams.
3. Bring back the night centers. Every elementary school in the city should be open 3-5 and 7-9 with free supervised activities, ranging from sports, to arts, to instruction and immersion in technology. Our young people need a haven from tensions in their homes and conflicts in the streets. Night centers are the best gang deterrents we have
4. Bring instrumental music back to ALL our public schools, along with training in computerized music production Let music once again fill the air in our city the way it did in the 50's 60's and 70's when NYC had the best public school music programs in the nation, producing artists like Barbara Streisand, Carol King,Luther Vandross, and Eddie Palmieri

Saturday, June 30, 2018

What Made the Night Centers So Attractive to Bronx Youth of the 70's

 
by Principal Paul Cannon of PS 140
What made the Night Centers so attractive for youths during the 70's is that they were organized and definitely structured around homework, intramural games that were no less spirited than ABA or NBA games in our young minds,evening snacks, ( a treat was chocolate milk)‎ arts and crafts ( occasionally a cool custodian would venture off and challenge the BOE rules around access to shop classes and resources for us during our nightly stays), and definitely mentoring sessions around avoiding drugs and gang banging. In fact, I recall gangs ( Savage Skulls, Young Immortals, Baby Aces, Black Spades, etc) getting their only real lessons in "staying alive" at those centers: They would check their weapons at the door( mostly pocket knives), adjust their attitude towards authority and their peers, and flow with the program. While I would never condone gangs and the ills associated with them, they operated on a very different level from today's misinformed youths that glorify being part of madness without a cause. Gangs back then settled matters for the most part with knuckles and occasionally knives and homemade objects. They also had a degree of respect for babies, elder folk and definitely the disabled. And if you were a kid with hope, promise and a good head on your shoulder, they'd be the first to steer you away from even the most remote thought of following their footsteps.
Lastly, and when a village certainly raised the community (Morrisania in particular) ‎let's not forget about the beat cop who looked like us and felt compelled to do his job to the highest of expectations!! He had a rapport with everyone vested in the neighborhood, especially those educators who also lived in the hood and understood the importance of giving back. As for the night center hours, I recalled Monday through Friday from 6 pm to 10 pm. ( and if you were a great athlete ,( mostly ball player) they person in charge would keep it open a few extra minutes.
Thanks, Mark and keep up the fight because like everything--the world and times are just a revolving circle.
Keep it "old School" with a new school flavor for sure!
Respectfully,
P Cannon( AKA -"The Mayor of the South Bronx")

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bargain With the Devil


Many conservatives who privately have huge issues with Donald Trump’s character are feeling vindicated these days. Thanks to his election, conservatives will have control of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary for a generation, shaping the way the courts rule on issues such as abortion, labor rights, immigration, affirmative action and restrictions on voting.
But the price for this victory may prove to be high-a country that is at odds with its allies, that is accelerating climate change, and is rapidly becoming a racial and political tinderbox. Everywhere you look and listen; hatred is in the air and its sights and sounds leave no one untouched.
This is what happens when you make a bargain with the devil. Conservatives may be getting the Supreme Court they want, but will it be worth it if their children feel unsafe in a country where neighbor is pitted against neighbor?
We are in danger of turning into Yugoslavia, a country made ungovernable by ethnic hatreds, which ultimately had to be divided in order to bring violence back under control
And if that happens, Donald Trump will not be the only one to blame. So will be all the people who enabled him to move their own agenda forward , knowing full well the dangers he posed to the health and safety of the nation