Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Occupy Movements and the Universities

The Occupy Movements and the Universities

Mark Naison
Fordham University

The Occupation movements spreading around the nation and the world have the potential to revitalize University life, particularly those initiatives involving community activism and the arts.. The role of arts activists in Occupy Wall Street is a story that has not been fully told,. Community arts organizations in New York such as the South Bronx's Rebel Diaz Arts Collective and Brooklyn's Global Block Collective have been involved with Occupy Wall Street for almost a month, making music videos on the site, documenting the movement's growth through film, and trying to bring working class people and people of colore into the movement. The Occupation has become an essential stopping point for a wide variety of performing artists, none of whom have asked for payment for their appearances ( see videos below)

Musicians Occupy Wall Street - YouTube
2 min - Oct 13, 2011
Uploaded by okayafrica

Bronx Hip-Hop Duo Rebel Diaz, Live From Occupy Wall Street ...
3 min - Oct 6, 2011
Uploaded by democracynow

Occupy Wall St. Hip Hop Anthem: Occupation Freedom ... - YouTube
3 min - Oct 10, 2011
Uploaded by djvibetv

University faculty and participants in community outreach initiatives can only benefit from tapping into this tremendous source of energy and idealism. I have never seen students on my campus so excited about anything political or artistic as they have about these Occupation movements, which have spread into outer borough New York neighborhoods ( We have had "Occupy the Bronx") as well as cities throughout the nation and the world. What the movement has done is reinvigorate democratic practice- much of it face to face- widely regarded as nearly extinct among young people allegedly atomized by their cell phones and ipods. One my students, a soccer player at Fordham said the following about her experience on a march across the Brooklyn Bridge that led to mass arrests

"Going to the protest I felt like this was the closest I was going to get to reliving my father/uncle's young adulthood! While we were stuck on the bridge people were passing around cigarettes, water, food anything anyone had they shared. Announcements were organized so everyone knew what was going on. People were yelling were changing the world! THE WOLRD IS WATCHING. I called my father on the bridge told him I was getting arrested, and I could tell he was proud! It was unbelievable".

Her sense of excitement about the energy and communal spirit at OWN mirrors my own. Each time I have been at OWS I have sat in on discusion groups created on topics ranging from Mideast politics, to understanding derivatives, to educational reform. The discussions I have participated in have been rigorous, political diverse, and to be honest much more virbrant than most comparable discussions I have been part of at universities.

Those of us who work at Universities need to find ways of connecting to a movement which has inspired so much creativity and intellectual vitality.. As someone who has been to many “Occupation” events, ranging from teach ins, to grade ins, to marches, and has spoken about this movement at my own university and to global media, I have experienced this energy and vitality first hand. But most important, my STUDENTS have experienced this and it has given them a sense that they have the power to make changes in a society which they feared had become hopelessly stagnant and hierarchical. Consider the remarks of 2010 Fordham grad Johanne Sterling who works at Fordham's Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, about what participating in this movement meant to her, even though the experience got her arrested and sprayed with mace
"I had plans to attend a peaceful protest on Wall Street . . . I was happy to know that I was offering my voice and my support to a movement I believed in. As a young person in this country, I cannot say that I have not grown more and more unnerved with the injustices I see every day. The fact that our governmet is quietly but surely taking away our democratic rights (First with the Patriot Act, ironically named, and then with new voting restrictions that are being put into law), the fact that so many of my fellow graduates cannot find meaningful, rewarding work no matter how hard they try, the fact that our country's infrastruture is falling apart while the richest 1% continue to increase astronomical amounts of wealth, and the fact our justice system was able to execute and continue to execute and/or imprison innocent individuals disproportionatey based on their socio-economic position and their ethnicity are simply a few reasons as to why I decided to attend the rally."

This kind of civic consciousness and social justice activism is precisely what so many progressive scholars and university based community outreach programs have sought to inspire. It is being brought to life by young people themselves in this growing national movement.

There are now over 100 Occupations in cities throughout the nation. They are part of a global awakening of young people that has caused governments around the world to tremble, and financial elites to face the first real challenge to their power in decades

We in the Universities did not create this movement. But we ignore it at our peril. It brings to life many things we have been teaching. And it does something that we should be doing, but aren't doing enough- it empowers our students!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupy History! The Fall Fundraising Drive of the Bronx African American History Project

October 29, 2011

We live in challenging and exciting times. While the global recession continues to impose severe hardships, young people throughout the world are rising up to demand that governments respond to the will of their people and distribute wealth and resources more equitably.
Never has the uncovering and sharing of historical knowledge become more important and no research project in the nation does this more effectively than the Bronx African American History Project. The BAAHP is not merely an internationally known community history project, it creates partnerships between scholars, community leaders, and ordinary citizens that gives a voice to people who would otherwise be left out of history books and neglected by those formulating social policy. Members of our research team not only write books and articles, and archive oral histories as a data base for scholars around the world, we are out in the community giving tours, workshops and lectures and helping residents tell their stories in ways that empower them and bring needed resources to their neighborhoods.

Here are some examples of ways the BAAHP brings history to life:
Worked with community leaders to rename a park and a street in the Bronx’s Historic Morrisania neighborhood after the great coach and mentor Hilton White and to rename a street in that same neighborhood after a pioneering singing group “The Chords”
Collaborated with social workers, teachers and performing artists to have a third group from Berlin come to New York as part of the Bronx Berlin Youth exchange and a first group from the Bronx go to Berlin.
Sponsored conferences, health fairs, and cultural festivals in collaboration with leaders of the Bronx’s growing African immigrant community to make more resources available to this dynamic new population and to make scholars and public officials more aware of this community’s cultural traditions and needs.
Helped affordable housing groups plan and construct a new apartment building in the Bronx- the Melody- that honors the music traditions of the neighborhood, while working with our longtime community partner WHEDco ( Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation) to create the Bronx Heritage Music Center, an innovative complex which will include apartments, a school, and a performance space.
Worked with educators to create a “Teachers Talk Back Project” which helps teachers in the Bronx, and throughout the nation, fight for more arts, more history, and more community outreach projects in the public schools and encourages teachers to challenge testing and privatization schemes which erase creativity from the classroom.

If you are interested in promoting research that empowers Bronx residents, that creates an archive on Bronx history consulted by scholars around the world and inspires Fordham to place more of its resources at the disposal of people in Bronx communities, there is there is no better way of doing so than contributing the Bronx African American History Project.

Please make your checks out to the “Bronx African American History Project” and send them to BAAHP, 641 Dealy Hall, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458

Or, if you would like to Donate Online, go to Click on “Make a Gift Online” then select “BAAHP” under “Annual Giving and Resticted Funds”

Thank you for considering the BAAHP!


Mark D Naison
Founder and Principal Investigator
Bronx African American History Project

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Response to Police Violence: A Lesson From the Great Depression

The Best Response to Police Violence- A Lesson From the Great Depression

Mark Naison
In 1931, the Communist led Unemployed Councils started a movement to put back the furniture of families evicted from their apartments, and organize their neighbors to resist when the police and marshals tried to put the furniture back. Several months after the campaign began, three black Communists in Chicago were killed by police during such an eviction protest. Two days later, 50,000 people, from every one of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods, joined a funeral march for the 3 men that police looked upon in silence and awe. No one was ever killed again resisting an eviction in Chicago and in some Chicago neighborhoods, it was impossible to kick families out of their homes!! The same was true in the Bronx. By the beginning of 1933, it was virtually impossible to conduct an eviction in the Bronx because so many people would congregate in the street and block the marshals.
When the police and the state use force to suppress protest, and use deadly violence against innocent people, the best weapon of organizers is the mass indignation and mass mobilization of those who suffer from the very conditions that protesters were challenging

There IS strength in numbers. I hope that our brothers and sisters- in Oakland and elsewhere- take this lesson to heart. The Oakland police and Oakland Mayor and those who would take similar actions around the nation must see-and feel- the full strength of our movement

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Progessive Roots and Disastrous Consequences of Test Driven Pedagogy

The Progressive Roots and Disastrous Consequences of Test Driven Pedagogy
A Brief Reflection

Mark Naison

When the nation turned to the right in the 1980's and 1990's and neo-liberalism in its many manifestations began to dominate the policies of both political parties, parents in inner city neighborhoods desperate to do something in their increasingly violent, impoverished neighborhoods turned to schools to try to reverse the growing class and race inequality in the nation which they feared- quite accurately- was putting their children gravely at risk. In looking for help, they turned their attention to the one institution that had not abandoned their neighborhoods, the public schools and tried to figure out some way to have schools serve their needs. In trying to make schools work better, they ended up, making what turned out to be a Faustian bargain with leaders in corporations and foundatioins looking to revolutionize American education through technology. In city after city across the country, inner city parents and their advocates decided to endorse the application of universal testing in the schools to show how far their children were falling behind, and with it, the imposition of a test driven pedagogy, pioneered by charter schools, desgned to bring their children up to the levels of middle class and upper middlle class children in the acquisition of basic skills, and with it give their children an opportunity, in an increasingly hierarchical society, to gain entry into the middle class

Unfortunately, the whole strategy was destined to fail. It is difficult, if not impossible, to use the public schools to create greater class and race equality , when tax policy, income policy, and numerous informal dimensions of class privilege maximize those polarities., especially when the pedagogy involved discouraged creativity and critical thinking. The result proved to be the exact opposite of what is intended, despite the enthusiastic support of all levels of government and corporations and private philanthpy. Since No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been institutioned, Black, Lationo and poor pepole, have fallen further behind the white middle class and upper class in every important social indicator, from unemployment rates, to the wealth gap, to home ownership and life expectancy.

And this leaves supporters of democratic education in a difficult position. We have to challenge a strategy that originally had widespread support in inner city communities. But challenge it we must. Just because minority parents, in their desperation to do SOMETHING about rampant inequality, decided to push for more testing and more accountability for schools based on those tests, doesn't mean the strategy was sound. In my judgment, it made schools in poor communities less able to prepare their students for college and a demanding job market than schools in middle class communities- including the ones policy makers send their children- which rely far less on standardized tests.

Moreover, such pedagogy discourages introducing young people in struggling neighborhoods to the critical thinking skills necessary to foster social justice activism--the only force that can realistically reduce racial and class in equality in this society. Teaching students individual mobility skills is a poor substitute for direct involvement in neighborhood redevelopment and in political movements- like Occupy Wall Street-that put demands on all levels of government for a redistribution of wealth.

A test driven pedagogy aimed at reducing "The Achivement Gap" is not only counterproductive in its own terms, it underminds the acquisition of the very skills necessary to reinvigorate democracy and fight effectively for racial and economic equality.

Or to put the matter more bluntly, anyone who supports the imposition of more standardized tests in the nation's public schools is PLAYING THE MAN'S GAME!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Buffalo Story: How School Turnaround Mandates Undermine Effective Community Organizing

A Buffalo Story: How Mindless Application of Federal and State School Turnaround Mandates Undermine Effective Community Organizing

Dr Mark Naison
Fordham University

During mid October, I had the privilege of spending two days getting an in-depth exposure to one of the most radical experiments in democratic urban transformation in the nation- a Choice Neighborhoods initiative in the East Side of Buffalo created by SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Urban Studies in partnership with Buffalo’s Municipal Housing Authority and Erie County’s community action agency. The brainchild of the Center for Urban Studies visionary leader, Dr Henry Taylor, the initiative seeks to engage residents in some of Buffalo’s poorest neighborhood in redesigning and transforming public housing projects, business districts, schools, and vacant properties in the target area. Improving schools is one of the key objectives of the initiative; but it seeks to do that not by insulating school children from the forces surrounding them and educating them to escape the neighborhood, but by engaging them in a democratic community planning process along with their teachers, their parents and their neighbors and by making a problem centered pedagogy part of the school curriculum. Even before the Choice Grant, the Center had gotten students in one of the schools involved in the initiative- Futures Academy- involved in transforming a rubble strewn lot across the street from the school into a beautiful park and vegetable garden and another smaller lot nearby into a bird park. The students had also done remarkable arts work for the initiative, both in public spaces, and the school. They had become agents of neighborhood change

What the students had accomplished was nothing short of miraculous, but unfortunately, such accomplishments did not register on the metrics mandated for low performing schools by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and mechanically applied by the State Education Department in Albany. As a result, Futures Academy, whose school population was drawn from students who could not get into or were pushed out of charter schools and magnet schools, went through three different principals in the ten years the Center had worked in it, each one forced out solely because of poor student performance on standardized tests. Student participation on democratic neighborhood transformation could not save those principals; they were judged solely test performance and Futures Academy, for school administrators, became a revolving door.

While Professor Taylor and his colleagues realize they cannot change educational policies being shaped in Washington and Albany, it is sad to see how these policies place handicaps on what they are trying to accomplish. In a neighborhood where over 90 percent of the residents are black, most are poor, half of the land sits vacant, public transportation is inadequate, and abandoned stores and factories dot local business districts, the public schools are one of the few remaining neighborhood anchors. They are not only the largest remaining buildings in the East Side neighborhood, they contain space and resources – auditoriums, gymnasiums, class rooms computer labs- which could be vital assets to all neighborhood residents as they participate in the planning ,well as underutilized cultural capital in the form of student creativity/ Professor Taylor’s goal, through in school and after school programs is to enlist public school students in every part of the neighborhood redevelopment initiative, from having them involved in public art projects, neighborhood beautification initiatives and urban agriculture, to having them help redesign local business districts, to having them imagine new neighborhood institutions which enhance public safety and democratic participation. But to have students play this role effectively, the project needs on stability and continuity in the administration in the administration of the three public schools included in the initiative- Futures Academy and ML King School, both K-8 schools, and East High School. And unfortunately state and federal mandates are making that difficult to impossible.

Let us take East High School, the one secondary school in the planning zone. Although East has had a rich history serving Buffalo’s Black community, producing many famous and accomplished graduates, in recent years, as the East Side neighborhood has undergone disinvestment, depopulation and decay, it has become a school of “last choice” in the Buffalo school district and a revolving door for principals. Now, a brilliant new principal has been brought in who specializes in “turning around” tough schools and who is an enthusiastic partner in Professor Taylor’s initiative. But as he told me when we met, the first day he entered the school, he realized he would be out in three years because he could never raise graduation rates to meet national and state mandates. Why?
Because of the 160 students in his freshman class, 157 were “1’s” ( on state reading and math tests), 2 were “2’s, and 1 was a “3”! Essentially, ONE student in his freshmen class tested above grade level, 157 below!!

How did this happen? Basically because after magnet schools and charter schools picked their students, those who were left went to schools like East Side. Not only did these students test poorly, they disproportionately came from troubled families that moved from house to house with great frequency and occasionally disappeared. Given this population, it was going to be virtually impossible to meet the graduation rate targets established by the state and the school would have to be placed in receivership once again with the principal removed, and up to 50 percent of the teachers replaced!

Given this tragic and absurd outcome, why did the principal take the job and why did Dr Taylor choose to make East High School one of the anchors of his community development initiative.. The answer is simple. Because both saw East students as more than the sum total of their scores on standardized tests, and the problems they experienced in their homes and places of residence. They saw them as citizens in the making possessed of invaluable knowledge about their neighborhood and a deep reservoir of cultural capital not only in artistic and musical talent, but in resilience, endurance and ability to overcome great obstacles. They wanted to incorporate them in the neighborhood planning process, get their frank assessment of what needed to be preserved and what needed to be retained, and involve them in hands on tasks ranging from cleaning up the local business district, to organizing talent shows and oral history projects to highlight the community’s past strengths and future potential. In the process, their test scores might go up, and attendance might improve. But that was not the major goal. The goal was to tap the full range of East students talents in a process of community renewal and to encourage them to see East Buffalo as a place to be re-imagined and rebuilt, not as human toxic waste site that all people with skill and talent seek to escape/

This kind of idealism and faith in the human potential of students and neighborhoods is at the very heart of what Democratic Education should be about. Unfortunately, it is being undermined, in the name of equity, by federal and state policies which reduce students to test scores and graduation rates,

Dr Taylor,the Principal of East High School, the principal of the other two schools in the East Buffalo Choice neighborhood initiative will persevere no matter what, but wouldn’t it be better if state and federal authorities relaxed automatic school closing triggers and allowed schools the flexibility to become true centers of community empowerment?

We can only hope that at some point, sanity will prevail in the US Department of Education and the New York State Board of Regents. Hopefully, that moment will come sooner, rather than later

Mark Naison
October 21, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Parliament of the People

Parliament of the People: Occupy Wall Street Brings Back a Great New York Tradition of Street Speaking and Open Air Debate
Dr Mark Naison

One of the most remarkable features of Occupy Wall Street is the number of teach ins, discussions and debates that take place at Zucotti during day light hours. Discussion and debate is continuous, some of it one on one, some of it in small groups, some taking the form of large
assemblies. And the range of topics is broad, ranging from education policy, to problems in the middle east, to the sources of the current economic crisis, to problems of racism and anti-semitism, to how to diversify the Occupation. I have not, since the days I was an undergraduate at Columbia in the mid 60’s and participated in debates and rallies at the Sundial in the middle of campus experienced this much intellectual vitality in an outdoor setting. And it was something I had never seen first hand in a New York neighborhood.

But as a historian of social movements, who had once written a book about Harlem in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s this was all familiar to me. There was once a time in the history of New York City when Harlem, and to a lesser degree the Lower East Side, Brownsville and the South Bronx were filled with speakers on every corner explaining Socialism and Capitalism, promoting or attacking organized religion, extolling the value Zionism, Black Nationalism, or Irish Independence, and at times, giving impromptu courses on world history.

No place was this tradition of street speaking more developed than in Harlem, the nation’s largest and most diverse Black community during the years in question, where one commentator referred to it as the “Parliament of the People.” On any afternoon in
1919, you might fight Marcus Garvey, A Phillip Randolph, Richard Moore and the Hubert Harrison on different street corners, each espousing their particular philosophies before large and enthusiastic crowds. During the 1930’s, those same streets featured debates between Communists and Garveyites, while leftists organized community members to put back the furniture back of evicted families, nationalists urged them join “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns,” and religious orators promised salvation in various forms. This tradition continued on into the 50’s and early 60’s where on a given day, you could hear Malcolm X holding forth about the Nation of Islam, Queen Mother Moore and Carlos Cooks talking about reparations, or Charles Kenyatta urging the community to “Buy Black.”

This open air forum created an atmosphere where working class people in Harlem and other New York neighborhoods, whether domestics, Pullman porter, cab drivers, factory workers or teachers and nurses,, had an almost daily exposure to politics, religion, history and current events right in their own neighborhood. It created a working class public that was alert, vigilant, and politically active and fought for its interests. It was no accident that in the post war years, New York was a city which had free zoos and museums, great after school programs and sports and arts in its public schools, and free tuition at its City Universities, as well as a vibrant civil rights movement that fought discrimination in housing, education and employment.

Through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s this tradition of street speaking and public debate gradually disappeared. The streets of working class neighborhoods retained their vitality, but it came largely from street vendors and religious speakers rather than people promoting political activism or knowledge of world history.

Now however, at Zuccotti Park, the Parliament of the People seems to have returned. Debates, both organized and spontaneous, break out at all hours of the day (and for all Iknow, the night!) and people are able to get many points of view across to eager listeners. All of a sudden, political discussion has become cool again, but more importantly, people are beginning to feel their views matter because they have seen, as the Occupation evolves, how ordinary people when joined together for action can do things they previously thought were impossible.

Now you can say that Occupy Wall Street is an elitist movement and that the political vitality in open space displayed there once spread to the working class communities where it is most needed. But there are signs that it is spreading to communities of color around New York
On Saturday, I was at an Occupy the Bronx event on Fordham road which began with a Teach in about green cooperatives and ended with a speak out on conditions in the Bronx at which more than 15 people presented their views. There were 75 to 100 people assembled, but passerby’s often stopped to listen. When I got up to speak, it was an incredibly moving experience because I had not given a speech on Fordham road since the heyday of the anti-war movement in the early 70’s. But the issues here were not ones that were going away-unemployment, the mal-distribution of wealth, poor health care , lack of affordable housing, police harassment of Black and Latino youth. If the Occupation Movement continues to grow, discussions like this may proliferate, bringing with it a renewed confidence, not only that ideas matter, but that people can change their communities through collective action

Space matters. The ability of the Occupy Wall Street movement to hold Zuccotti Park in the for more than five weeks in the face of first profound skepticism of the movement’s staying power and more recently of efforts by authorities to evict it has turned that park into a center of grass roots democratic practice and discourse. But thought the occupation is new, the discourse is not! It is something we once had in many New York working class neighborhoods.

So let us follow the example of the Occupation and transform streets like Fordham Road, 125th Street, Jamaica Avenue and Fulton Street into “Parliaments of the People” where political discussion and debate and thrive and people can plan the next steps to revitalize neighborhoods without driving working class people out, and to use the wealth created in our city to advance the common good rather than the interest of the 1 Percent

Mark Naison
October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy The Public Schools?

Occupy The Public Schools? Will ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Trigger A Movement to Reclaim Our Schools From Test Driven Pedagogy

Dr Mark Naison

Yesterday’s Global Day of Protest was a milestone in modern history. Demonstrations in support of Occupy Wall Street took place in more than 950 cities around the world, with more than 300,000 coming out in Madrid, and 100,000 in Rome. In the US, demonstrations and marches took place in more than 240 cities. Young people in the US, watching the news, listening to the radio, or even seeing first hand what was going on in their neighborhood, or their city’s downtown business district, couldn’t help but be aware that there was a protest movement taking place that involved many people their age and that the mood of these protests was alternately defiant, festive and joyful.

But when Monday comes around, will there be any discussion of these events in our public schools? The Occupation movement would be a perfect subject for classes in History or Social Studies. It could
Involve discussion of the global economic system, the impact of the current recession on employment prospects for young people , the history of social justice movements, the role of young people in movements for social change and many other important issues. It could allow students to connect what is going on in their own lives to historical events, something which any teachers knows is a great way to get students excited about studying history.

But given the pressure put on students teachers and principals to register high scores on standardized tests, there is little chance of this happening unless these constituencies join together in a mini-revolt. The way current social studies curricula are set up in most public schools, virtually every day is devoted to some form of test prep, and since teachers and administrators job prospects are increasingly determined by results on those tests, little risk taking can be expected in opening up classes to free discussion .

Or can it? Could this be the moment that teachers say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and actually teach about something that students are interested in, and which open up avenues for students to become critical thinkers and social activists who think they have the power to make history.

We have seen hundreds of thousands of people in the US, during these past weeks, overcome their fears and apathy, to step forward and protest against an economic system that has left large portions of the nation’s population without employment, without security, without hope. They have marched, they have chanted, they have camped out in the cold and rain to make their point.

And they have prevailed in the face of police violence, and threats of eviction from the spaces they have gathered, to build a movement that grows larger every day.
Perhaps the same thing can happen in our schools. Perhaps teachers, students and parents can step forward and demand that schools make standardized tests secondary, that they set aside time for students to discuss issues of the day, that they give students outlets to express their thoughts, and over time real influence over what goes on in their schools.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has marked a new phase in US and World History. The Global Economic system is broken and those of in education must adapt to the times. This is the moment to begin transforming our schools from centers of obedience into center of critical thought and action that will allow young people to participate in the greatest change movement of the 21st Century. They have little to lose The tests that are being shoved down their throats prepare them for jobs that no longer exist. It’s time to tell them the truth, let them draw their own conclusions, and take actions they deem appropriate

Isn’t that what education is supposed to be about. To give students confidence in themselves and the power to make positive changes, not only in their own lives, but in the lives of those around them

The Revolution in our nation’s classrooms can begin Monday. It’s time to “Occupy Our Public Schools”

Teachers, students, and parents, are you ready?

October 16, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

At Occupy the Bronx

In the early afternoon of Saturday, October 15, Bert Schultz, an old Frodham SDS comrade and I spent an hour and a half at "Occupy the Bronx" in Fordham Plaza and came away totally inspired. There were between 75 and 100 people there, the vast majority of them Bronx residents and people of color, plus maybe 10-15 Fordham
students and a handful of old timers like me and Bert. We proudly held up the Fordham SDS banner, handed it to current Fordham students and got some pretty good film footage of the event

But what was most impressive was the people running the event and speaking at it. Passionate, clear, well organized with a message of community empowerment that rang very true with the people passing by as well as the folks assembled there and a clear straegic message- we need to take the Occupation movement to "the hood" so that working class peopleand families can have input to it and draw strength from its power. The main local issues they raised were the need to take control of the
Bronx's economy through worker cooperatives and the need to combat police harassment and violence against Black and Latino youth.But the overarching message was that the Occupation needed to establish a major center in the Bronx or Harlem

I will have more to say about this in the future, but for both me and Bert, it was an experience we will remember for some time. The energy here brought back memories of some of the best days of our movement

And the best is yet to come. The young people who organized this- Bronx Residents of Color All-, which included people in their teens through their early 40'swill not be denied

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why We Are Having a REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale At Fordham

Why We Are Having a REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale At Fordham

Dr Mark Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University

The REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale, organized by the Affirmative Action Senior Seminar at Fordham University, not only represents my classes’ outrage at the “Promote Diversity” Bake sale organized by College Republicans at the University of California Berkeley, it reflects my own frustration at the misinformation about Affirmative Action that prevails among large sections of the American public.

If you would believe Donald Trump --who claimed Barack Obama only got into Columbia and Harvard Law School because of Affirmative Action--and millions of other Americans, including many of my student’s friends and relatives, you would think that preferences given minorities are the major departure from an otherwise meritocratic admissions process at the nation’s top college.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As I know from both my own research and from personal experience, preferences given recruited athletes and children of alumni are far more powerful than those given under represented minorities and affect a far larger number of students. According to James Shulman and William Bowen, in their book The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values, recruited male athletes, in the 1999 cohort, received a 48 percent admissions advantage, as compared to 25 percent for legacies, and 18 percent for minorities ( the comparable figures for women athletes were 54 percent, 24 percent, and 20 percent, respectively). Not only do athletes get a larger admissions advantage, Bowen and Shapiro report, they constitute a larger portion of the student population than under-represented minorities at the nation’s top colleges, averaging 20 percent at the Ivy League colleges and 40 percent at Williams. And the vast majority of the recruited athletes at those colleges who get those admissions advantages are white, including participants in sports like men’s and women’s lacrosse, golf, tennis and sailing, which few minorities participate in.

But it was not the material in The Game of Life which most outraged my students, it was the analysis offered in a book I used in my course for the first time, Peter Schmidt’s Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning The War Over College Affirmative Action. According to Schmidt, higher education has become a plutocracy, where “ a rich child has about 25 times as much chances as a poor one of someday enrolling in a college rated as highly selective or better.” In the last twenty years, Schmidt claims, universities have quietly given significant admissions advantages to students whose parents can pay full tuition, make a donation to the school, or have ties to influential politicians. Schmidt’s statistics, showing 74 percent of students in the top two tiers of universities come from families making over $83,000, as compared to 3 percent come from families making under $27,000 a year, enraged my students. They had no idea that students from wealthy families had such a huge advantage getting into college and when they read a September 21, 2011 New York Times article by Tamar Lewin, “Universities Seeking Out Students of Means” which confirmed all of Schmidt’s conclusions, they got even angrier

Enter the College Republicans “Increase Diversity” Bake Sale at Berkeley which charged Whites, Asians and Males higher prices than Blacks, Latinos and Women, and left athletes, legacies and children of the wealthy out of the equation. When I suggested that we might consider organizing a bake sale whose categories and pricing structure were based on the materials we had been covering in class, they jumped all over the idea. They formed committees to write press releases, secure support of campus organizations, develop a price structure consistent with what really goes on in college admissions and make sure we have an ample supply of baked goods. Thanks to all their hard work, thee sale will take place Friday, October 7, from 11 AM to 3 PM, in Fordham’s McGinley Student Center, and use the following price structure, based on the latest research on actual advantages in college admissions

Women (General Admission) $1.30

Men (General Admission) $1.25

Under-Represented Minorities $1.00

Legacies (Children of Alumni) $1.00

Recruited Athletes $.50

Children of the Very Wealthy $.25

We are also calling on students in other Universities to follow our example and organize bakes sales of their own based on sound research, not rumors and myths. The goal is not only to dramatize the extraordinary power of great wealth in American society- something highlighted by the Wall Street Occupation and the protests inspired by it around the country- but to remove the stigma that has been placed on minority students as recipients of unfair preferences. These students are tired of being attacked as an affront to American “meritocracy.” Enough is enough!

My students are excited and confident, looking forward to the discussion and debate on and off campus their bake sale will inspire

I am very proud that of the courage and energy they have displayed in organizing this ground breaking event!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale

October 4, 2011
The REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale
Sponsored by the Affirmative Action Senior Seminar, Fall 2011, Fordham University
When: October 7, 2011, 11 AM to 3 PM
Where: McGinley Center Lobby, Fordham University
To: Fordham Students, Faculty, Administrators, Representatives of the Media
On Friday, October 7, 2011, Fordham University’s Senior Values Affirmative Action class will host a REAL Affirmative Action Bake Sale held at the Rose Hill campus’ McGinley Center. This is in response to the UC Berkeley’s bake sale, which did not factually represent the breakdown of affirmative action. The Berkeley sale showed underrepresented minorities and women to be the primary beneficiaries in college admissions. The Fordham students, in conjunction with the University’s Jesuit Tradition, hope to raise awareness on the realities of preferential treatment in college admissions with corresponding bake sale pricing. The prices are as follows:

Women (General Admission) $1.30
Men (General Admission) $1.25
Underrepresented Minorities $1.00
Legacies $1.00
Recruited Athletes $.50
Children of The Very Wealthy $.25

This project was undertaken under the guidance of Dr. Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History, Principal Investigator, Bronx African American History Project. All Donations Go to P.O.T.S. Soup Kitchen.

For Further Information, Please Contact:
Thomas Gill - (201) 919-5134 –
Angel Melendez - (617) 304-0317 –

For Access to Campus (for Media) Contact Bob Howe at Howe@Fordham.Edu

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Wall Street Occupations and the Making of a Global Counter Culture

The Wall Street Occupations and the Making of a Global Counter Culture

Mark Naison
Fordham University

Yesterday, I spent about an hour in Liberty Plaza sitting, walking around and talking to people before the event I had come for- a Grade In organized by teacher activists- finally began, and was stunned by how different the occupation was from any demonstration I had attended recently.

First of all, in contrast to the last two protests I had participated in – a Wisconsin Solidarity rally at City Hall, and the Save Our Schools March on Washinton-I saw few people my own age and no one I recognized- at least until the “Grade In” started. When I arrived, at 11 AM, most of the people in Liberty Plaza were the ones who had slept their overnight, and the vast majority were in their 20’s and 30’s- a half to a third my age. They were drumming, sweeping the sidewalk, talking to curious visitors- whom were still few in number- eating or chilling with one another and their relaxed demeanor blew me away given the tumultuous events of the day before when more than 700 protesters had been arrested by the NYPD after marching onto the Brooklyn Bridge.

They were also, to my surprise, thoroughly international. Many of the people I met at the information desk, or who spontaneously started conversations with me, had accents which indicated they had been born in, or had recently come from, countries outside the United States.I felt like I was in Berlin or Barcelona, where you could always count on meeting young people from all over the world at any music performance or cultural event, only this was a political action in the heart of New York’s financial district.I felt like I was in the midst of a global youth community I had certainly seen emerging during my travels and teaching- after all, I had helped organize a “Bronx Berlin Youth Exchange”- but I had not expected to see at this particular protest. But it was there, no doubt. And definitely made the discipline, determination and camaraderie of the protesters that more impressive

But as much as the age and global character of the occupation seemed strange, it also seemed oddly familiar, though it took a while for that familiarity to sink in. The longer I stayed at Liberty Plaza, the more it felt like the countercultural communities I had spent time in during the late 60’s, from Maine to Madison to Portland Oregon, where discontent with war and a corrupt social system had bred a communal spirit marked by incredible generosity and openness to strangers. During the years when I traveled the country regularly as a political organizer and revolutionary- 1968 to 1971- I never had to stay in a hotel or pay for a meal in the more than 20 cities I visited. Every one of these cities had a countercultural community and I was always able to “crash” with people I knew or with people whose names I had been given by friends. And I did the same for people in NYC. My apartment on West 99th Street was a crash pad for people around the country who had come to NY for demonstrations, or for revolutionaries from other countries who had somehow gotten my name. I still remember making huge pots of chili for anyone who showed up with Goya chili beans, canned tomatoes, chop mean, bay leaves and chili powder. And it was not unusual for 20 or 30 to show up.

I had feared those days would never return- erased by decades of consumerism, materialism and cheap electronic devices— but when I visited Liberty Plaza, I realized that the global economic crisis had recreated something which I often thought of as an artifact of my own nostalgia. Because right here in New York were hundreds of representatives of a whole generation of educated young people around the world, numbering tens if not hundreds millions of young people, who might never land in the secure professional jobs they had been promised or experience the cornucopia of material goods that came with them. Described as a “lost generation” by economists, a critical mass of these young people, in cities throughout Europe and Latin America- and now right here in the United States-- had decided to build community in the midst of scarcity, challenge consumerism and the profit motive, and call out the powerful financial interests whose speculation and greed had helped put them in the economic predicament they were in.

Serious questions remain about the long term significance of this global movement. Would these middle class( or ex middle class)protesters connect with the even larger group of people in their own countries- workers, immigrants, minorities- who had been living in poverty well before the current crash? Would their community survive even a modest revival of the world economy, sending them back into a lifestyle of acquisitive individualism which the global consumer market depends on to yield profits? Could they connect with people in poor or working class neighborhoods who were already practicing communalism and mutual aid to create a truly multiracial, multiclass movement?

The jury is still out on all of those issues. But there are some promising signs. The chants of “We are all Troy Davis” during several of the movement’s marches. The increasing participation of labor unions in the protest. The involvement of more and more activists from the city’s Black and Latino neighborhoods in support for the Occupation.

And those who lived through the 60’s should remember this. Oppositional cultures of all kinds-ranging from hippie communities to the Black arts movement-represented the soil in which political protest flourished during those heady years

And the same is true in this era. The emergence of a global youth counterculture should be be seen as a powerful complement if not an actual component, of a global movement for freedom, democracy, and economic justice

October 3, 2011