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 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.