Monday, December 11, 2017

Street Renaming for the Chantels- Pioneering Bronx Music Group


It is with the greatest pleasure that I offer the enthusiastic support of the scholars and community partners of the Bronx African American History Project for a street sign on 166 Street and Prospect Avenue honoring the pioneering Bronx music group, the Chantels. When the Chantels recorded "Maybe" in 1957, they changed the course of music history. Prior to that time, all of the urban harmonic groups who sold a million records were male. "Maybe" broke the mold. Sung by five 8th graders at St Anthony of Padua Elementary School, the song not only sold a million records, it set in motion the phenomenon of the "Girl Groups," which swept through popular music in the late Fifties and Early Sixties. The Shirelles, the Crystals, the Chiffons, even the Supremes, all followed in a path that the Chantels walked first, Honoring the Chantels with a street sign not only gives this remarkable group the respect they deserve, it will inspire future generations of young people in the Bronx to learn how young people from their community transformed popular music in the US and around the world. Community Board 3 and the City Council have the opportunity to do something extremely important for the Bronx and its people. Naming a street sign after the Chantels will not only honor an important group, it will help secure Morrisania's reputation as a community which produced as many varieties of popular music as any place in the world in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's
Dr Mark Naison
Founder and Director, Bronx African American History Project

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Why I Won't Miss Al Franken



When it came to education policy, Al Franken symbolized everything wrong with the Democratic Party. He was a tireless advocate for charter schools, Teach for America, and test based evaluation of schools and teachers- someone who persistently ignored the voice of public school teachers in his own state. I am not in the least bit sorry to see him go. The only way the Democratic Party can become a credible opposition party, and eventually lead the country out of the deep hole trump and the republicans are digging, is by repudiating the neo-liberalism that most of its leaders espouse, and presenting a vision of a future where the voice of ordinary people counts more than that of billionaires. And that means a break with cynicism and the discovery of a genuine moral compass that not only rejects sexual harassment but refuses to countenance demonization of teachers and other important sections of the nation’s work force. Al Franken showed no capacity to do that. I won’t miss him at all

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Young People and the US Political Crisis- A Commentary by Dr Brian Purnell








Personally, I think we frame the issues incorrectly. We are, for the most part, reactionary. The other side is winning because it unifies around single issues - anti-choice, homophobia, guns, and low taxes. It paints its supporters as victims. And it dismisses all opposition as fake and contrived.
What is the counter narrative? I don't think our students have one.
They have an analysis. And it angers them. And they have positions. But being "woke," like the post-60s growth of "consciousness," does not give people a narrative to support, or a story to believe in.
The targets are too amorphous and disconnected: privilege, systemic injustice, inequality, power. They know more about the macro-systems and micro-aggressions, but less about weaving a unified vision of justice, peace, and yes, love.
I have no doubt that individuals and some resistance movements push those greater goods, but as far as advancing a broader agenda that can mobilize, energize, and focus a powerful opposition capable of mounting an effective attack against the neo-fascism taking over our country and Europe -- we have failed to advance a vision that brings people together to do that.
Obama used "Hope and Change," but he was too beholden to the aggressiveness of global capitalism to deal with so many people excluded from the economy.
Bernie and Occupy used "We are the 99%" but it fails to deal with the reality of our culture: we don't want to be like everyone else; we want to be special and different, even when we fight for the collective.
We have "Black Lives Matter," but it has not moved the needle enough on the legal and procedural protections that enable corruption in municipal politics, especially policing.
We have "Me Too" and the pelts of some major sex predators to hang on the wall, but a Predator-in-Chief as our national leader, and a soon-to-be Senator accused of serially preying upon teenagers.

These frameworks are not working. They inform. They inspire self-reflection. But they do not really inspire.

That is why our students do not seem determined. Determined for what, and why, and how?
That is why the other side is hungrier. It fights for its vision of civilization and nation and family.
Until we tell our story in the same types of ways, we will keep losing.


 



Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Three Goals for the Next Year

1. To tell the truth about what is happening in this country- and explain what we look like to the rest of the world- no matter how much it scares people and how much it hurts.
2. To get in the best shape I have been in for 30 years by sustaining a healthy eating regimen that reduces pain as well as takes off pounds.
3 To show love for the people I live with and work with, to be there for people who need me, and to never turn my back on people in pain.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Toughest Year of My Life



The year since the election of Donald Trump has been one of the toughest times in my life. Not only did Trump's election represent a rejection of many of the principles I have spent my life fighting for, it left may of the people that surrounded me traumatized, depressed and fearful. Never in my life have I felt more pressure to comfort, reassure and defend people who felt vulnerable, whether they were my students, my colleagues, or people I worked with in the Bronx community, And I had to do so in uncharted territory. How much of an immediate threat to people's personal safety were the racists and white nationalists who saw the election as a license to attack? How much of a long term threat were the policies Trump planned to implement, be it the travel ban, mass deportations, the construction of a wall or the destruction of Obamacare and changes in tax law?
All I knew was that people around me needed me to be strong and steady because I had been through crises before and because I was not afraid to take unpopular stands.
But how could i do that when I was filled with rage? Losing my temper, I realized, was a luxury I could not afford. Not only could it get me in trouble, but it could potentially incite the kind of communal violence I desperately wanted to avoid. As much as I wanted to beat up Nazis and white supremacists, I realized that it was more important to calm people down and prepare them for a long hard battle for causes they believed in than to stir them up for actions that might be emotionally satisfying but could land them in jail
And herein lay the challenge. I not only had to organize meetings and forums and private gatherings which brought people together in ways that made them feel stronger and less alone, i had to remake myself into a person capable of being a positive leader in dark times.
I tried everything that would help me do that. I listened to music, both live and recorded, that gave me courage and inspiration. I reached out to people whose activism inspired me and made a large group of new friends. But I also turned to a time honored method I had of dealing with adversity-- getting in shape. Starting in June, I dramatically changed my eating habits in a way that significantly reduced the amount of pain I dealt with on a daily basis, either from playing tennis, or walking long distances. By the fall, pounds were peeling off and i was feeling better than I had in years
. And the confidence from that experience peeled off into my political life. As the pounds came off, I started to become confident that I had to power to outlast Trump and his supporters and make sure they could not undermine all the things i was doing to strengthen schools and communities and build partnerships between Fordham an the Bronx. All of a sudden, living and being active for the next 20 years no longer seemed improbable. I was fitter and in less pain than I had been in many many years
So, with this year under my belt, I not only see my self as a Resistor, I see myself as a Survivor. I will outwit, out maneuver and outlast this malevolent group of leaders that seeks to turn back the clock.
And will do so knowing that many people in this contry support what I am doing.so long as I keep my activities on a higher moral ground than the people I am fighting.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What I Would Do If I Were President


1. Try to create thousands of community schools modeled on PS 55 in the Bronx with in school health clinics, indoor and outdoor agriculture programs, and great arts and sports programs
2. Produce tweets and press releases every day that say "Climate Change is Real" and invest in solar and wind power on a massive scale
3. Make it a National Mission to rebuild Puerto Rico and every other part of the country devastated by recent storms
4. Make healthy eating a National Priority and use the Presidency as a "Bully Pulpit" to discourage meat consumption and urge people to reduce reliance on fast food.
5. Make immigrants of every race and nationality feel at home in the US, halt deportations of children, and refuse to deport heads of households unless they are found guilty of violent crimes in a court of law
6. Rebuild highways, bridges, subways and rail lines and invest in all forms of transportation which reduce reliance on private automobiles.
I will never be President, but I wanted to put these ideas out there as someone may choose to run with them..

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Things I Am Thankful For

1. That I am married to Liz, my hero as well as my partner in life.
2. That I have amazing children, who are married to great people, and amazing grandchildren.
3. That I love my job and have great students and colleagues.
4. That I have friends all over the country and all over the world who represent many races, religions and nationalities.
5. That i work in the Bronx, a place which challenges me and inspires me every day.
6. That i survived situations of great danger in my youth and as a result go through life with very little fear.
7. That I wake up every morning filled with joy and anticipation and remain optimistic no matter how bad things may seem.
8 That no matter how well life treats me, I always feel compassion for those who are suffering, and will make time to support them

Monday, November 20, 2017

Notorious Phd’s 3 Keys to surviving the Trump Presidency


1. Do something every day to support the causes you believe in and defend vulnerable people under duress.
2. Make a concerted effort to take care of your mental and physical health. Eat healthier, get plenty of exercise, and find constructive ways to relieve stress.
3. Love and support the people around you at school, at home and at work. Never let rage and disappointment prevent you from being a good neighbor, a good friend and a good person

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Growing Up in Morrisania in the Fifties: Oral History Reflections


Spending time with Charlotte Watson Manus and Paul Himmelstein and listening to them talk about their youth in Morrisania brought back vivid memories of growing up in New York working class neighborhoods where your block and your building were the most important communities you were part of, where fighting was a part of life, but when you could come home by public transportation at 2 AM without worrying about what would happen to you, and when the sounds of music were everywhere, coming out of stores and apartments and portable radios and, performed live, were something you and your friends aspired to do and in a few instances, did well enough to make a record. That was New York in the Fifties for young people growing up working class. whether you were Black, Puerto Rican, Jewish, Irish or Italian. There was poverty, there was crowding, there was violence, there was tracking in schools, and there was racism, which kept people out of neighborhoods where they weren't welcome, but there was also camaraderie, community and hope. And great great music being produced in YOUR neighborhood., Which is why there is so much nostalgia for those days among those of us still alive.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Genius of Luis Torres: How PS 55 Responded to the Charter Challenge

One of the most brilliant and important achievements of PS 55’s visionary Principal, Luis E Torres, is that through innovative programming and a relentless public relations campaign, he has totally overshadowed the Success Academy Charter School co-located in his building! Normally, Success Academy tries to humiliate and stigmatize the public schools it is co-located by pointing out how much better it’s performance is! Not at PS 55! Here, the action, innovation and excitement is all with the public school, whether it is the scientific and pedagogical innovations of the Green Bronx Machine, the school based agriculture program housed at the School; the full service Medical clinic Principal Torres has created; or the school’s championship step team and basketball team! People from all over the city and the nation come to see what Principal Torres has done; while Success Academy stays in the background.
This is what should happen all over!! Principals and teachers should not just roll over when a charter comes into their building; they should show everyone what public education at its Best can do, which is draw on the resources of entire communities! And what I mean by community resources is not only the cultural capital of the neighborhood  the school is located, but the skills and resources of everyone in the city and the country who supports public education. Principal Torres has done this brilliantly

Everyone seeking to defend public education against the relentless charter attack needs to visit his school and draw upon his innovative and inspiring strategies not only in programming, but in public relations!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Affordable Eating in the Bronx- Notorious Phd's Favorite Spots

Here are some of my favorite affordable eating spots in the Bronx. I have "field tested" all of them and can give assurance for their quality.

1.  Johnson BBQ.  790 E 163rd St, Bronx, NY 10456 between Union and Tinton Avenues. Been in the same spot for over 50 years. GREAT ribs, chicken, mac and cheese, candied yams, rice and peas. Take out only- no drinks sold. Closed Monday. Say "the professor sent you" and you will get larger portions

2.  Premium Sweets 2104 Starling Ave, Bronx, NY 10462  Excellent South Asian food in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, the site of the Bronx's largest Benjali community. It is actually a neighborhood where you can find a parking space

3.  Pio Pio 264 Cypress Ave, Bronx, NY 10454 Great Peruvian food in a classy atmosphere is a once dangerous, now fully redeveloped section of the South Bronx. The roast chicken, seviche, plantanos, and empanadas are amazing. Also a neighborhood where parking is possible.

4.  The Crab Shanty  361 City Island Ave, Bronx, NY 10464. The best lunch special on  City Island. Has its own parking lot. Excellent garlic bread served with every meal. Excellent broiled fish cooked in many styles and terrific King Crab legs. Friendly atmosphere and a real Bronx crowd

5 Com Tam Ninh Kieu 2641 Jerome Ave, Bronx, NY 10468 Great Vietnamese food at affordable prices on Jerome Avenue near Kingsbridge Road. You know the food is good because most of the people eating there are either  Vietnamese Bronxites or doctors from the Veterans Hospital. I love their Pho!

6. Papeye  2300 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10458. A Ghanaian Restaurant at Grand Concourse and 183rd Street with great food for those who like their eating on the spicy side. II love their goat kabobs, but everything is tasty. Just make sure you have lots of water with you if you do take out

7.  3 Way  384 E188th StBronxNY 10458.  Great Dominican food within walking distance of Fordham. My favorites are the roaster chicken with rice and beans, maduros, tostones, bacala ( codfish) pernil ( roast pork) and mafungo. 

8. Venice Restaurant 772 E 149th St, Bronx, NY 10455. A South Bronx fixture for 50 years which is half the price of Arthur Avenue. Huge portions, friendly service. They do an excellent job with shrimp and calamari.  And also have some great hot hero sandwiches

9. Randazzo's Seafood.2327 Arthur Ave, Bronx NY 10458 -  If you love clams on the half shell, this is the place to get them. Strictly take out, but incredibly delicious!

10.  Estrellita Publana III   2328 Arthur Ave, Bronx, NY 10458. It may seem odd to recommend a Mexican restaurant in Arthur Avenue, but this place is a slam dunk. Excellent food, big portions, reasonable prices. Passed over by most of the tourists, but not by eaters in the know!

11. Bronx Beer Hall   2344 Arthur Ave, Bronx, NY 10458  in the Arthur Avenue Market. Surprising good food, as well as excellent beer because they order from the legendary Mike's Deli. An excellent place to hold a party, a seminar or a discussion group!

12..The G Bar   150th Street just West of the Grand Concourse.   Live Jazz, terrific happy hour, big drinks and excellent Italian food. This is where Bronx professionals gather after work. A fun spot which also has a great Sunday Brunch

13  Liebman's Kosher Delicatessan  552 W 235th St, Bronx, NY 10463. The best old fashioned Jewish delicatessen in the Bronx.  Hug stuffed sandwiches, matzo ball soup, chopped liver. i grew up on this stuff! Maybe that's why I am still teaching at age 71!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thoughts on Harvey Weinstein and Male Socialization


Any man who has not been shook up by the Harvey Weinstein revelations or think his actions have nothing to do with you is engaging in a certain amount of self-deception or wishful thinking. Virtually every man in this society- and for all I know in most other societies- has been socialized to judge his masculinity on his ability to attract and exert power over women. To be sure, not every man acts on those pressures by engaging in acts of violence toward or overt harassment of women, but every man felt them growing up, and quite likely feels them now.
As a teenager, my major goals, other than keeping my parents at bay, were gaining the respect of other men and attracting female attention and the latter two were often hopelessly confused. 
I fretted endlessly over my appearance, thinking that wearing glasses was a fatal flaw in my attractiveness to the opposite sex, but that only added to my fanaticism in trying to excel as an athlete, thinking that charisma on the ball field, or tennis court, would compensate for my lack of it off it. It also made me work hard on my dance moves, and even my singing, hoping that those skills would gain me the female attention i craved
But what did I want this attention for?. I was hopelessly confused about that. There was sex, such as it was in the 1950's, there was love, which I longed for, but didn't really expect to find. And there was prestige, which was probably the only clear motivation. In short, i was a confused mess, pulled in many different directions, with women as objects of my attention without their subjectivity having much impact. And in that state, it is easy to turn mean.
I didn't. Thank God. And to this day I can't figure out why. Maybe it was that, when it came to sex, i needed love more than power-since I had ample access to power through sports, and even academics. Maybe it was that I was so scared that women would reject me that i couldn't be aggressive. Maybe it was that somewhere along the line, i had morals. Or really craved women to talk to since I couldn't really talk to men
So I kind of stumbled through my teenage and college years with lots of dates, most of which didn't turn out all that well, until two things happened- not exactly at the same time- I fell head over heels in love and was exposed to the Women's Liberation movement. The former taught me that being loved was the best thing ever; the latter gave me a moral and political commitment to women's empowerment that i could use to fight off more destructive elements of my male socialization, launching a lifelong battle between how I was brought up, and what I knew was right.
But early socialization never goes away. Through my entire life, I have never been immune to how other men judged me based on my relations with women. And that can be a pretty destructive impulse.
From a woman's point of view, the situation has to suck. Knowing that even the most respectful, sensitive men-- not that i would put myself in that category- are fighting off pressure to make women extensions of their own quest for power, prestige and recognition.
I have no solutions to offer. Being a decent person requires constant struggle, and a firm moral compass, because what is inside us, emotionally, is anything but firm and trustworthy

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Partnership Between the Bronx and the City of Cape Coast in Ghana

For Immediate Release: The Emerging Partnership Between The Bronx and the City of Cape Coast in Ghana
Yesterday, the Bronx African American History Project and my Bronx class were host to a distinguished group of public officials from the Central Region of Ghana including the Regional Administrator, the Mayor of Cape Coast, and the Paramount Chief of the Cape Coast Region. As a result of this meeting, a Partnership Agreement was signed linking the City of Cape Coast to the Bronx for tourism, cultural exchange and educational collaboration. The first fruits of this Agreement will be the arrival of a Ghanaian Dance Troupe at Fordham in February 23, 2018, where they will perform for my Rock and Roll to Hip Hop Class at an event open to the University and the Community, We will also be opening up internship opportunities for Fordham students in the City of Cape Coast and planning for a big Ghanaian Festival at Fordham for Black History Month 2019
It is hard to put in words how thrilled I was to meet such a distinguished group of public officials with such a powerful message. I want to thank Kojo Ampah Sahara for setting up the visit, and my graduate assistant Lisa Bettyfor working on the details of their arrival at Fordham. I also want to thank the students in my Bronx class and my colleague Dr Jane Edward for being such great hosts, my students Siobhan Loughran and Julia D'Ambrosio for taking the group on a tour of the Fordham campus, and principal Jamaal Bowman of CASA Middle School for sending a representative to sign the Partnership Agreement
So many great things can come out of this emerging relationship between the Bronx and one of African's great cities Cape Coast is a city on the move, with exciting development projects and arts festivals, as well as some of the most important historic sites in West Africa.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How I Have Dealt With An Increasingly Common Condition- Rage At Trump! ( R.A.T.)

 
Anger is one of those things that can motivate you to heights of accomplishment. It can also destroy you and poison your personal relationships.
Ever since Donald Trump was elected, I have been in a perpetual state of rage, not only at Mr Trump himself, who gets more outrageous every day, but at those who supported him, and those who look the other way in the face of the racially divisive rhetoric that is his trademark
Given how explosive my emotions are, I made a few decisions: First, I would make sure that this anger never spilled over into my teaching, and my relations with students and Second, I would not let it spill over into my face to face relationships. I am very proud that I have never, since the election, lost my temper with a Trump supporter in face to face conversations, of which I have had many.
But at the same time, I realized that I couldn't suppress the level of anger I had without putting myself under intolerable levels of stress so I decided to direct the anger in two ways
First, by posting my opinions about the Trump Presidency on social media on a daily basis, and welcoming interviews about the subject on broadcast or print media. I have used whatever forum available to me to say what I think, using scholarship and experience to support my arguments, but letting the rage come through
Secondly, I have used the anger to motivate me to launch a diet and conditioning program more radical than any I have attempted in the last 40 years, and to actually succeed in sticking to it!
All in all, I feel very positive about how I have handled the challenge of Trump Rage. I have lost some friends on social media and gotten a lot of hate mail, but have not lost a single friend that I have made through face to face encounters.
Plus I am leaner and in better shape than I have been in many years. And the best is yet to come!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why I Will NEVER Stop Challenging the Trump Presidency

 
Donald Trump's drive to the Presidency began with a demagogic appropriation of the most paranoid symbol of White Resentment of Barack Obama- the Birther Movement- and marched to success, first in the Republican primaries and then in the general election by stoking fears of conservative whites that they were losing "their" country. As a result, whenever Donald Trump feels embattled or under attack, he tries to rekindle the racialized resentments of the whites who supported him by flamboyantly attacking Black or Latino public figures or highlighting policies which target Latino or Muslim immigrants. The damage this is doing to our social fabric is lasting and profound. The targets of Trump's demagoguery are taking it to heart and looking at their white neighbors, co workers and fellow students with suspicion, disappointment and in some instances rage. In this political tinderbox, it is critically important that some whites take a stand against Trump's demagoguery so fiercely that they become targets of his followers wrath. That is the role that I will be playing. I will not let my Black Latinx or Muslim family members, friends, colleagues, students and community partners stand alone. That is what Friendship and Solidarity means.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Trump's Culture War on Black America

Trump’s Culture War on Black AmericaIn the last month, The Trump White House has launched a culture war against Black NFL players, a Black ESPN commentator and now a Black Congressperson who have dared to speak out on issues of the day in ways it finds offensive. This is hardly coincidental. It’s Trump’s version of base building and political hardball. It also puts Mr Trump in the company of some of the worst demagogues in US History and some of the worst dictators the world has seen. Attacking members of the most stigmatized group in a society has always been an invitation to violence, be it by state action or the hands of private citizens. People who have signed off on this bear a fearful level of responsibility for the consequences. The whole world is watching. And historians of the future-some of whom are my students- are taking notes.

Friday, October 20, 2017

An Inspiring Bronx Immigration Story


Just had an amazing experience in my office. The delivery man who brought me my lunch from the Webster Cafe looked around my office and said " Man, you have a lot of books." He then want on to say " I only had four years of education in my country, but I love to read." I looked at him with admiration, gave him a big tip and then said "Here, I have a present for you." And I gave him a copy of a great book I helped write called "The Rat That Got Away: A Bronx Memoir."
Oh yes, one other thing he said. "Some people who graduate from college, they have trouble finding jobs. And some people who don't have an education can find a way to make money, maybe create their own business."
I wished him luck with a big smile on my face. This is why I love the Bronx!

And why I abhor those who think deporting undocumented immigrants will "Make America Great"

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Face of America to the World

When Donald Trump's face is contorted by hate and rage- which is often- that is the official face of the United States of America to the world. It is also, whether people want to admit it or not, the face of everyone who elected him and still supports him. No President in our recent history, no matter what they did with their power, has ever allowed themselves to look like that in public- not Jimmy Carter, not Ronald Reagan, not Bill Clinton, not either George Bush, not Barack Obama. In our last Presidential election, voters selected someone whose facial expressions resemble Hitler and Mussolini, or a Southern demagogue from the Jim Crow era, more than any American President. And that face will be forever be preserved in our history books as symbols of a time when America lost its bearings and embraced some of the worst impulses in its history.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Toast to the Bridge Builders Among Us

 
It's been a brutal week, a time when many people have lost faith in the decency of the nation they live in, or at least those leading it. It has led to disillusionment, despair and rage among many who have spent their lives working for justice.
In this difficult and challenging time, I want to raise a glass- of Jack Daniels to be specific- to everyone who has spent this week crossing barriers, building bridges, disregarding gates and creating ties of community with people who differ from them in race, religion, nationality or economic status. In particular, I want to toast my students at Fordham, who were incredible hosts to two student groups from the Bronx, one from PS 140, one from CASA Middle School, as well as the teachers and principals who arranged for their visit. You showed Fordham, the Bronx and the nation what real unity is about and set an example that all of us need to follow.
Salud!
Peace!!
To A Better Future!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Many Trump Supporters Are Thnking and Not Always Saying

What Many Trump Supporters Are Thinking And Not Always Saying
"Get real liberals! As long as you keep attacking Columbus Day and tearing down Confederate statues; desecrating the flag and the anthem; attacking our police and ruining The NFL, and denouncing everyone who disagrees with you as “racists,” we are going to keep electing assholes tough enough to keep you in your place- which is down, out and on the defensive. This is war and Trump is our warrior. If he wasn’t cruel ruthless and crazy, we wouldn’t have elected him. And yes, liberals, we are making war on you!"
This is so realistic that some of you are worried that I am a secret Trump supporter, right? Don’t worry, this is me summarizing the arguments in the hate mail I get as well as what I overhear in random conversations
When Trump goes there will be others to take his place. Trump MARKETED white rage, he didn’t invent it.
This war for the soul of our country -and yes, it is war- won’t be ending any time soon

Monday, October 9, 2017

The President and Race


The President is someone born to a wealthy family, privileged even by white standards, the recipient of the kind of “ affirmative action for the rich” at top colleges that dwarfs admissions advantages given to Blacks or Latinos. It is utterly astonishing to watch him try to intimidate Black players in the NFL who not only have both the lived experience and historic memory of multiple forms of discrimination, but who for the most part grew up in far harsher circumstances than the President did. That he is doing this for temporary political gain makes it all the more reprehensible. His actions will be seared into the memory of this generation of African Americans and of all people who care about Racial Justice. Mr Trump will not be treated kindly by historians of the future; his racially provocative actions assure that result. We are living through a shameful period in US History.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wake Up Call


The way I see it, Donald Trump is boxing a lot of good people into a corner where they find themselves defending things in their heart of hearts they know is wrong. It is very sad to see this. Because it not only divides friends and family members, it leads the nation down a moral precipice where unacceptable behavior becomes normalized.
I have tried to convince people that they had to stop this juggernaut of racialized nationalism before it swallowed them up and took them to places they really didn't want to go, but few listened
I just don't have time for those conversations any more. I am just going to say what I have to say and do what I have to do and let others figure things out for themselves.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Children Are Listening: Boy Culture in the Era of a Boy President by CarolynJohnson Ed.D.


 

This analysis is more anecdotal than scientific, but as an educator and mother of teens, I am concerned about the deteriorating boy culture I see in the New York/New Jersey suburbs. The Don Draper “Mad Men” vision of manhood my teen students, daughters and neighbors have shared with me is no longer a passing phase, but has taken root and is flourishing in our current climate. It is no longer entertaining.

 

In​ the two-year election campaign cycle, and in the wake of the election, many middle and high school aged girls who dared sport Hillary pins or SWAG, or voice divergent opinions in class or online, were publicly ridiculed by loud individuals or mobs of pro-Trump boys.

 

This taunting and teasing has been relentless and exhausting: it sucks the life, enthusiasm and creativity from hearers. ​I know a self-possessed young woman who gave up a beloved extra-curricular activity in her last year of high school because of the harassing taunts of a few boys about her support of Hillary and feminist issues. Even at her progressive private high school, the Sanders and Trump supporters bullied Hillary supporters loudly, and used misogynist, foul language, e.g. “choke on a (male body part).” It is pervasive: in the classroom, lunchroom, gym, hallways, buses, social media, forced small workgroups, football games, and Main Street, boys can be seen chanting with an in-your-face loudness that diminishes anyone who disagrees and threatens their voices at a critical developmental age. These young boys march in the town parades in their “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts, and are seen stealing dozens of opposing lawn signs from neighbors after school. They are emboldened daily by their role model world leader. He bullies immigrants, people of color, and women; they follow like toddlers in parallel play.

On November 9, boys chanted at Hispanic students in their school during lunch, "Trump won. You are getting deported, you are going back to Mexico." These matters are taken seriously in many well-run high schools filled with mostly well-meaning people. Yet, how do we learn to be respectful humans, citizens, friends, and partners?

This boy culture appears to be fostering a greater divide between the sexes ... a phenomenon of less dating, romance, intimacy, and love in a country where campus rape is normalized, as is racism and sexism, and other biases. I know of a brown-skinned boy who reads Breitbart, shaved his black hair, and tries to blend in with the white skinned boys at school. Otherwise he'd likely be scapegoated, or alone, which is death to a high schooler. A girl of Palestinian descent was called a terrorist as she rode the bus to school. To counter this daily onslaught of toxicity, a group of girls asked a teacher to start a club to support each other. They're looking to create a safe space for themselves and their voices. 

Politics is dividing people by gender because many girls don’t feel comfortable being with boys who are so pro-Trump and its associated “grab her by the pussy” behavior. Many boys don't seem to know how to coexist with empowered women, so they end up diminishing girls to enhance themselves and hide their own insecurities. How do feminist and other boys navigate this terrain?
I asked a few large closed Facebook groups I belong to if they noticed this trend. A teacher responded:

“Absolutely. Last year, I heard an 8th-grade boy shout at an 8th-grade girl, ‘Feminism is a cancer.’ I'd never heard any boy in my school say anything like that before, and I've been there 13 years now. I was also told by a group of girls that when they made and wore shirts that read, ‘Girl Power,’ they were mocked by some boys and called (among other things) 'feminazis.' This is an affluent, left-leaning town. Please don't use my name.”

Other women who had shared similar stories declined to comment publicly. If adult women are forced into hiding in secret Facebook groups, imagine how hard it is to speak up if you are a teen.


The media is covering this President 24/7 because he is Commander in Chief yet his behavior befits more the Spoiled Boy in Chief. The ubiquitous coverage of his every tweet and rant has made him a role model for our youth whether we like it or not. Before we disregard his behavior as the fleeting attention-grabbing antics of an entertainer as president, perhaps we should pay mind to the words of Stephen Sondheim from “Into the Woods:”

“How do you say to your child in the night?

Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white

How do you say it will all be all right?

When you know that it might not be true? What do you do?

Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see and learn

Children may not obey, but children will listen

Children will look to you for which way to turn

To learn what to be

Careful before you say, "Listen to me"

Children will listen

Careful the wish you make

Wishes are children

Careful the path they take

Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you” Into the Woods soundtrack

 
Carolyn Johnson Ed.D. is a graduate of Fordham University and the Founder of Not So Common Application  https://notsocommonapplication.org/