Monday, December 5, 2016

Turning Tragedy Into Opportunity-The Creation of Fordham's Bronx Course and the #BronxHistoryCollaborative

Last Fall there were a series of racial incidents at Fordham that traumatized the University community. The administration responded with powerful statements that condemned what took place and reaffirmed Fordham's commitment to becoming a diverse and caring community, but it was the student response that I found most gratifying. Students in my classes, including captains of 3 important teams- Garrick Lloyd MayweatherMikela Ryan and Danielle Rowe-, came up with a "Zero Tolerance for Racism campaign, complete with armbands and stickers which gave students, faculty and staff a way of affirming their support and solidarity with those targeted by the attacks with visual symbols. At the same time, another group of students decided the University needed to address the underlying layer of contempt for the Bronx and its people that helped fuel the incidents and asked me to create a new course on Bronx History and Culture. Within two weeks, with their help, I was able to create a syllabus for the course which was approved by the appropriate committees and introduced in the Fall of 2016
It has now been nearly three months since the Bronx Course opened its doors and its impact has been profound.With the help of educators involved in NYC's test exempt high schools- the Consortium Schools- we were able to have sections of my Bronx course taught simultaneously in two Bronx High Schools with provisions made to bring students in those course onto campus to meet with my students, and students in my class to come to the high schools to be interviewed by their students or make presentations on their research. . At the same time, the Bronx course alowed me to reconnect with two of the Bronx's and the nation's greatest principals- Paul Cannon and Luis E Torres- and give Fordham students the opportuity to see how they had turned their schools into centers of energy and creativity in some of the Bronx's poorest communities.
And this boundary shattering experience will only continue to grow in influence and important. One of the two brilliant teachers involved in teaching the Bronx course Aixa Rodriguez, introducted the term the #BronxHistoryCollaborative to describe the unique interaction of college and high school students and educators taking place and set up workshops and seminars to encourage others around the city an the nation to follow our example. On March 18, 2017, there will be a Conference of the #BronxHistoryCollaborative at Paul Cannon's amazing school, PS 140. And my Department at Fordham now be offering a section of the Bronx course every semester for the next two years, two of them offered by me, one each by my brilliant graduate assistants, Damien Strecker and Lisa Betty, I will also be turning my Rock and Roll to Hip Hop course into a Bronx centered offering and training my students to be able to go into Bronx schools and talk about the Bronx's role in shaping these two important musical genres.
I offer this experience for two reasons., First to congratulate the amazing Fordham students who pushed me to create the Bronx course- Madelyn Murphy (Maddie Leigh) and Danielle Rowe. Thank you and congratulations. What you set in motion is truly making history, both at Fordham in the Bronx.
But I also offer it as a reminder to those depressed and enraged by the wave of bias incidents that have been dividing the nation during and since the election that bringing people together to repudiate and halt this outpouring of ugliness might actually end up strengthening our communities in unexpected ways.
We cannot go backwards. We cannot stand still when hate stalks the land. Let us use our creativity and ingenuity to bring out the best in our communities.That's what my Fordham students did and the results of their efforts have been profoundly gratifying,.

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