Monday, December 3, 2018

Testimony to NYC City Council Education Committee About Discrimination in School Sports

My name is Dr Mark Naison. I am a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham who has written extensively on Race and Sports in US History. But more important, for purposes of this hearing, I was a graduate of New York City public schools who ended up as captain and number 1 singles player on the Columbia University tennis team, and who had two children, Sara and Eric, who attended New York public schools and played varsity tennis and baseball at Yale University, None of us would have had that opportunity had not we played on public school teams in middle school and high school. It is simply unconscionable that many students in New York City public schools, the vast majority of whom are Black and LatinX, attend schools which have a tiny number of school teams or no teams at all.

Not only does an absence of school teams undermine student morale and academic engagement, it maximizes discrimination against Black and LatinX students in college admissions. As James Shulman and William Bowen point out in their book "The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values" being a recruited athlete is the single most powerful admissions advantage in getting into the nation's top colleges, having more than twice the impact of being an under represented minority or a child of an alumnus. Since 20 percent of students at Yale, Harvard and Princeton, and 40 percent of students at Williams, are recruited athletes, lacking access to sports puts Black and LatinX students in New York City at an added disadvantage to those they already experience due to race and class

As my mandated two minutes of testimony comes to a close, let me talk about a specific school where this criminal denial of educational opportunity takes place. On the Roosevelt Educational Campus across the street from Fordham, there are five high schools which have no men's and women's soccer teams, even though a good portion of their students come from West African and Central American countries where soccer is the major sport, What this means is that there is a whole generation of future Fordham, Columbia and Yale students in the Bronx, students who only differ from me and my children in race and class, whose talents and opportunities are being suppressed because of lack of access to athletic teams

This discrimination has to stop NOW. Every New York City public high school student must have, at the very minimum, opportunity to play on school teams, in soccer, tennis, track and field, baseball and softball,  baketball, volleyball, and swimming, Until that happens, New York City is not only out of compliance with Title Six of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is out of touch with the egalitarian values this City claims to stand for to the nation and the world


Jerome Krase, Ph.D.
Emeritus and Murray Koppelman Professor
Brooklyn College
Former Football, Baseball and Track Team Member, Brooklyn Technical High School 1956-1960

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Luis Torres and Steven Ritz- The Heroes of PS 55

When the NYC Department of Education put a Success Academy elementary school on the 4rh Floor of PS 55, an elementary school located in the middle of the poorest and most decayed public housing complex in the Bronx, the Claremont Houses, they probably thought they were dooming the public school in the building. Their expectation was that the charter school would siphon off enough parents that the public school's enrollment would shrink to the point that the charter school would take over more and more floors and eventually get the whole building
What they didn't count on was the brilliance, creativity and tireless determination of the PS 55 principal, Bronx born and raised Luis Torres. Under his guidance, not only has the public school in PS 55 blossomed, it has become a center of educational creativity which people from all over the world come to visit!
How did Luis Torres do this? It was through a combination of old school administrative skills-bonding with teachers, students, and parents- and the kind of new school educational entrepreneurship that is needed in today's hostile educational climate. Not only did Principal Torres fund raise tirelessly with local business like the New York Yankees to bring in funds the school needed for better technology and equipment, he was determined to give his children everything schools in wealthy areas have plus programs catering to the special needs of youth in the Claremont neighborhood.
And here, in addition to bringing in instructors to organize dance teams, basketball teams and a tennis program, he decided to create a home for another resident Bronx genius viewed with skepticism by the NYC DOE, Steven Ritz, the founder of the great science and urban agriculture program, the Green Bronx Machine. Ritz, pushed out of a Bronx high school where he began his remarkable program, was not only given a huge lab on the third floor of PS 55, he was given a large area on the school grounds for an outdoor space to grow vegetables. What Ritz was able to do in those spaces was nothing short of miraculous. Not only did he grow enough vegetables and greens- both indoors and outdoors- to help feed the more than 500 families who attended the school, he created a hands on science curriculum based on his gardens which energized teachers, inspired students, and uplifted the morale of everyone in the building
If you go visit PS 55, as I have done with my students, you will see an oasis of energy, health, and creative activity in the midst of one of the poorest communities in NYC's poorest borough. Vegetables growing out doors and indoors, a full service medical clinic, a schoolyard resurfaced for softball, soccer, and tennis, special programs for immigrant students, and an atmosphere filled with hope.
Luis Torres has created a school that is a gift to the children, parents and people of New York City. But let us not forget that it was once a school designated for failure.
We need more principals to follow Luis Torres example and for the DOE to transform public schools, not charter schools, into showcases for educational innovation

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Importance of Bring "Brave"

There were many great reflections by the four wonderful panelists at the Town Hall Forum on Fordham and the Bronx held two weeks ago, but the one comment that stayed with me the longest is when Michael Partis, FCRH 2008 grad and executive director of South Bronx Rising asked students to "be brave." Only by getting out of their comfort zone, only by taking chances, only by risking things which might lead some people to dislike them, could students change things, at Fordham and in the country, which they thought were wrong.
What made this remark so powerful is that it is something students are rarely told at Fordham or any other university. They are told to care about the suffering of others. They are told to work for justice. But they are almost never told to put themselves at risk, even in small ways, to make the institution they are part of serve the cause of justice better than it does now.
When Michael Partis said that, it helped me better understand how I have approached teaching this semester. Never have I done more unconventional things with students than I have this fall. I have taken them on walking tours of the Bronx, held a class at a beach, played golf and tennis with them, brought food in to class almost every week, introduced them to 
guest speakers ranging from a newly elected state senator to Regional Chief from a West African country, and invited them to have a class with, and then go to a party with, rappers, dancers and beat boxers from Paris and Berlin.. Tomorrow, I top it off with a full court basketball game and a dinner at a great Bronx restaurant "South of France."
Why have I done all these things? Part of it is that I have the most adventurous, intellectually curious group of students that I have taught in some time. But part of it is the demands of the moment. Our country is more divided than it has ever been, facing daunting racial and political conflicts, made worse by an acceleration of Climate Change that threatens the future of life on the Planet. If young people do not take action we and the world are in deep trouble
But telling them to take action, by itself, is meaningless. I need to provide an example of taking action, of breaking rules, of doing things that no one else dares do, things that bring joy, things that educate, things that build community. And that requires a little bit of "bravery."
So I am doing things that everyone tells me is crazy, ranging form inviting students to a dance party at my home to having a class which involves wading in the water at a public beach, to playing full court basketball with them
But if my students look at me and say "Naison is crazy, but he doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk", then my message
and Michael Partis' had gotten across.
You can't change an institutional culture without being brave, without taking changes
Thank you Michael Paris, for putting words, on something I intuitively understood, but couldn't articular with such clarity

Why Trump Supporters Hate Liberals by Wilma DeSoto

Liberals are the cause of making it socially unacceptable to call Black people N****rs to their faces. 

ALSO Liberals forced White people to have to work with Black people AND not call them N****rs to their faces. That's ALL it is.

They LOVE Liberal programs, Social Security, Medicare, (remember the Tea Baggers with hands off my Social Security and Medicare), The GI Bill, FHA creation of suburbs, Interstate Highway System, etc.

Why do you think so many White people are bent of shape by Black people using the slang word, "N***a" in Hip-Hop music and say, "YOU can say that but I can't because that would make ME a racist?"

Why do think there's been such an upsurge in the humiliation and denigration of Black folk since the 2016 Election? Calling the cops just for existing not to mention the use of racial slurs to their faces?

The President has made it fashionable again. The chains are off. He says out loud what they been all along. They love it! That is worth more than their grandchildren's future to them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

No Music at Brandeis! No Soccer at Roosevelt! The Crime Against NYC Student of Color!

Yesterday, a Fordham alum named Michael Campanelli, a Guidance Counselor at the High School For Green Careers, took three of his students to sit in on two of my classes. In the course of class discussion, his students revealed an astonishing fact- that none of the four high schools in the building their school is located in, which was once Brandeis High School, offers music to its students! There are no bands, no orchestras and no music classes, even though there are hundreds of musical instruments in the building left over from the time when Brandeis HS had a great music program
I found this as depressing as it is appalling. In a city which continues to showcase and produce some of the world's best music, you have four schools, located in the heart of the Upper West Side, which offers NO MUSIC AT ALL to nearly 2000 high school students, virtually all of whom are students of color from working class immigrant families
But it is not just in the arts where criminal neglect of students take place. It is also in sports. The schools at Roosevelt HS, heavily drawing upon students from soccer loving countries in Africa and South and Central America, have no soccer teams. Worse yet, when one of the schools at Roosevelt, Kappa International, tried to create a soccer team, they were unable to get field space for this from Fordham.
As someone who came from a working class family and attended public schools in New York City in the 1950's and 60's, I find this even more reprehensible. During my junior high school and high school years, I played on school teams and was a saxophonist in school bands, even taking my instrument home with me on buses and subways
. That students today lack the opportunities that I, and my counterparts in the Bronx, had when we were growing up filled me with despair. The great sports and music programs that were shut down in the City Fiscal Crisis of the late 1970's were never restored in most of the city's schools, especially those serving immigrant children and children of color.
It's time we brought them back NOW!
What i propose is that the budget for testing be cut in half, most standardized tests eliminated, and that the funds saved be used to bring back the music and bring back the sports,
Our schools and our children will be a lot better off with less testing and more creativity!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

My Election Day Pledge

“If my students, colleagues, friends, family members and neighbors come under attack because of their race, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender, I will defend them with every ounce of energy I have and put my body on the line to come to their aid. I will not stand by while vulnerable people are victimized by racists and bullies. Their struggle is my struggle. I refuse to normalize a political climate where they are turned into targets and scapegoats. I will fight every day to make this country a place where they are respected and treated with dignity”

Will You Take This Pledge With Me?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Great Cause of Our Time

There are going to be a lot of people who are going to wake up November 7 shocked at how many people voted for candidates who embraced a message of hatred and division.
I won't be. I am an historian of race and immigration in the United States. Electoral majorities passed the Jim Crow laws, the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and draconian immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 which sharply restricted immigration from from Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America for over 40 years. Moreover, all of these electoral campaigns were marked by violence against the groups targeted
There will be signs of hope in the coming election- great victories, great candidates coming forward with positive messages. But many people will look around at who their neighbors and family members voted for with horror and dismay.
It will take years, maybe decades to undo the damage being done to our communities and our country by those promoting fear of Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, LatinX people, Jews, and LGBTQ people. In many parts of the country , those who want the US to be a beacon of unity in a world filled with hate may find themselves feeling very alone
But no one said this would be easy.. It is our job to challenge those promoting of fear and division every day, where we work, where we live, where we worship, where we gather with friends. For as long as it takes
This effort will define us as a nation for the foreseeable future.
It will be the Great Cause of our time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Power of Sports

I am currently working with a brilliant young man from a white working class Southern family who spent several years in the military before coming to Fordham. After we discussed of our very different upbringings, I gave him a copy of “White Boy: A Memoir” which he just finished reading. He had many questions for me after reading the book, but one question stood out the most “How did you keep from getting discouraged when so many things you worked for and believed in seemed stalled?”
I thought for a while before giving an answer and then replied “Sports. Sports got me through. Because of the athletic skills I had developed when I was growing up and honed in high school and college, I could head to the tennis court, basketball court, squash court or baseball/softball field when I was feeling down and have my abilities and character validated” 
I went on to tell him not only about the games and matches I played at Fordham during my first 30 years there, but all the friends I made doing that -among students, faculty, administrators, coaches, even members of the Jesuit community. Those friendships helped me advocate for my Department and my students, while keeping my morale up,
This vignette helps explain why I am so passionate about making sure every high school student in New York City has an opportunity to play on a team in their chosen sport. This not only strengthens their connection to school and enhances their chances of going to college, it gives them skills which will last a life time.
We need to see this opportunity is available in every high school in the Bronx, especially in the five high schools across the street on the Roosevelt Campus.
Currently, it is not.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A City of Romantics- A City of Dreamers

Every time I hear Laura Nyro sing, or hear Felipe Luciano speak, I get back in touch with the romantic side that was always there underneath my gritty exterior. When you grew up in a tough New York neighborhood, especially in Brooklyn, Manhattan or the Bronx, you learned to cultivate a tough exterior to ward off bullies and aggressors, but there was always something else there. You see, New York is a city of dreamers. You had to be a dreamer to cross the ocean or the border and come here from a distant land. And that quality of dreaming, of hoping for something better, of wishing for love and acceptance was passed on to the children. Even children who joined gangs, or fought every day going to and from school ( yes, girls as well as boys did that, right Maria Aponte?) So in tenements and housing projects, in school yards and alleys, where people were playing stick ball or jumping double dutch, there were always poets,, singers, painters, cartoonists, hoping they could find a safe place to unleash those talents, Some of our best music and best art came out of those places. And that romantic impulse is still there if we dare to find it, recognize it and support it.
Just remember
It was there when Laura Nyro joined to sing doo wop in the 167th Subway stop of the D Train with two Puerto Rican friends.. It was there when Felipe Luciano, former gang member/ Young Lords Founder, came together with Black revolutionaries to form the Last Poets and put poetry over jazz riffs and drum beats. And it was there when young people all over the Bronx, deprived of art and music instruction in financially strapped public schools, covered subway cars with bold, colorful images and created a new music with two turntables and a mixer.that would sweep the world .
In a city of Dreamers the Bronx has often been Ground Zero for romanticism and creativity

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Brett Kavanaugh in Me, And So Many Other Men

Looking and listening to Brett Kavanaugh testify before Congress, and especially looking at photos of his face contorted with rage, I would like to think that I have nothing in common with him.
The truth is much more complicated. The Brett Kavanaugh Face-now preserved for all time in countless articles and memes, is one women are all too familiar with. It is the face men use to intimidate women when they are frustrated, cornered, at a loss for words, or trapped in a lie.
How do I know this? Because when  my wife Liz and I were first getting together, she called me on it! Whenever we got in an argument that I felt I was losing, I produced a "hate look" which Liz refused to accept.
"I will not let you intimidate me," she told me.
She also told me, later, when she decided that we had enough in common for us to spend a life together ( something many people think qualifies her for sainthood) that the hate look was the thing about me that upset her the most.
If Liz, one of the strongest and most confident people you will ever meet, felt this way, you can imagine how many millions, if not tens of millions of women, have had similar experiences with visual manifestations of male rage and frustration, and have equally strong reactions to Brett Kavanagh's testimony.
All throughout this nation, in response to Christine Ford and Brett Kavanagh's testimony, people are revisiting deeply personal experiences, reviving awful memories, and reliving bad times
The strong negative reaction by so many women to Brett Kavanagh testimony arose not because he was an outlier, but because his words, behavior and affect were all too familiar.
The tension and anguish this has produced is not going away any time soon

Monday, August 6, 2018

Why I Support Multiple Measures of Admission to New York's Specialized High Schools

When people ask me what I think of proposed changes in the admissions requirements for Specialized High Schools, here is what I tell them
First, I support multiple measures of evaluation for colleges, jobs, sports teams and anything else I can think of, why should I support a single test as the sole standard of admission to specialized high schools.
Secondly, at a time when more and more colleges are becoming SAT/ACT Optional, it is in no one's interest, other than test companies and those involved in data mining, to put so much emphasis on standardized tests. You are not preparing students for higher education by using a single test criteria for top high schools- you are not preparing them for today's workplace either. Social skills, intellectual curiosity, cultural breadth are among the array of traits that employers in all walks of life look for; that is why they have interviews, or group sessions which expose prospective employees to real life situations
So, while I think testing is a legitimate element in admission for institutions such as Stuyvestant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, especially given these schools long and distinguished histories, it is time to make their admissions standards more broad based.
An excessive emphasis on testing is the bane of public education. Test skepticism, not test reverence, is what we need to deal with children's multiple aptitudes and to create healthier communities

Humiliation of the Blind When Taking Identification Photos- A Statement by Jazz Pianist Dr Valerie Caper


 I am outraged because of the stupid and insensitive  experience I had when I went several weeks ago  to the Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the Bronx to renew my non driver’s I.D. 

    I got to the place early and it wasn’t long before I was called to get my picture taken.  The clerk seemed to have trouble taking my photo.  She tried to no avail several times, but the camera was not getting my picture.   Some what frustrated, the clerk called for some assistance.  I was then told that I must take off my sunglasses.  I was told that their cameras are not programmed to take pictures of anyone wearing glasses.  I explained that I am BLIND, and that I wear sunglasses for cosmetic purposes.    I was then told that I would have to take off   my sunglasses if I wanted to get a photo for my nondriver’s I.D.  I REFUSED TO TAKE MY SUNGLASSES off.    I’ve had a passport with my photo for over forty years! I am an educator and a performer, and I have traveled internationally everywhere with that passport with my picture.  Just for the record, when I went for my passport those many years ago, they requested that I take off my sunglasses; however, after realizing the situation, they went ahead an took my picture for the passport photo. Several years later, I got my nondriver’s I.D. with my photo on it.


     Now I was told that as of 2020, there will be NO I.D.s issued to people wearing glasses.  As a matter of fact, several states have already instituted this practice.


   Sunglasses are very important to the blind.   Sunglasses are recognized  as a symbol of blindness all over the world.   In many cases, sunglasses enable the blind to work side by side in the sighted world maintaining their dignity and putting their colleagues at ease.   If something isn’t done to remedy this situation,the obtaining of I.D.s will become an awkward and embarrassing process.

  The situation can be easily  solved by having a camera(at least one camera in the place) that will take facial photos for special I.D.s!

   I sincerely hope that this issue is taken up and given serious consideration.  I intend to follow this situation until there is a change in policy!


                      Dr. Valerie Capers                   

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Uneasy "Prosperity"

Those who think that the low official unemployment rate signals a return to prosperity for working class and middle class Americans or that it guarantees Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020 are not seeing what I am seeing on the ground.
In the working class neighborhood of Eastern LI where we have a home ( we are the only dual residence family on our block) almost every house has 4-6 cars parked in front of it, meaning that families are doubling or tripling up or taking in boarders. This has been going on for more than ten years, but you actually see MORE cars parked in front of houses than you did five years ago, even though the unemployment rate is lower. And this is not just a sign of the Latinization if the neighborhood. White, Black and multiracial families also have multiple cars in their driveways.
What is going on? Some of this is the result of inflation-in the past year, food and gas prices have gone up, and medical expenses have skyrocketed. But the major reason is wage stagnation and the disappearance of stable, high paying jobs. Everyone, young middle aged and old, has to piece together multiple jobs in a “gig economy” to assure themselves 
of the basic necessities of life and have little left over to afford homes and apartments on their own.
The profound sense of economic unease this inspires contributes to the tense and volatile political atmosphere in the nation. It also explains why some working class and middle class people who voted for Barack Obama turned around and voted for Donald Trump.
The majority of people in the country are struggling economically and are worried about where we are heading
That is our reality in 2018, no matter what statistics tell us
To quote Bob Dylan:
“It’s tough out there. High water everywhere”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Putting Our Worst Foot Forward

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

The High Price of Using Racism to Fight Liberals and Leftists

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When Privilege Fails to Bring Peace of Mind

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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

My Education Platform for the Next New York City Mayoral Race

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

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

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

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bargain With the Devil

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Today I Saw The Future at PS 140 Graduation- Where Immigrant Optimism Met the American Dream

Today, I had an opportunity to attend the 5th Grade Graduation of a remarkable school in the Morrisania Section of the Bronx, PS 140, led by a brilliant principal, Paul Cannon, who grew up in and still lives in the community where his school was located
For two magical hours, I not only forgot about Donald Trump and his followers, I began to think that their ascdency is only a blip on the nation's radar screen and that before we know it, the celebration of racial and cultural diversity would return as a major theme in the nation's political life.
Because the graduation I attended was not only filled with energy and vitality, it was pervaded with an optimism that many would not expect in an overwhelmingly Black and Latino school during the years that Trump was president,
The theme in every single song, in every speech in every single student presentation was that the future belonged to the graduates, that if their talent was accompanied by hard work, nothing could stop them from achieving success in the United States. Some would do it in medicine, some in law, some in teaching, some in business, some in the arts, but for students in PS 140, as one speaker proclaimed "there is no such word as can't". Their talents were so great that if they worked hard and avoided the pitfalls of peer pressure and cynicism, they would have happy and productive lives
There was absolutely no cynicism in the students responses to these message. The students marched into the auditorium swaying rhythmically, to gospel, R &B and Hip Hop. They chanted the Pledge of Allegiance at top volume, thrilled to the singing of the Spar Spangled Banner by a teacher that was so powerful it almost raised the roof, and chanted "I am Somebody" and "Nothing Can Stop Me" every time a teacher or administrator asked them to
And what made this all the most remarkable is that these students were overwhelmingly the product of immigrant families, coming from more than 20 nations in the Carribean, South America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. That almost none of them were "white" or European ancestry did nothing to dim their conviction that the American Dream was for them. They were convinced that they were so talented, do driven to achieve success, that the world would open up to them.
And you know what, they may be right. Sitting on stage and listening to these students sing, rap, play musical instruments, watching them dance and sway to the music, listen to their valedictory talks, it would have been hard to imagine them being anything BUT successful
Best of all, there was not a single note of bitterness in the entire two hour ceremony, not from the teachers, not from the administrators, not from the parents, not from the guest speakers
It was not only a celebration of a great school, it was celebration of what American society, at its best, means to our recent immigrants.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Penalizing Racists in the Age of Trump

Since the Trump Administration has legitimized open expressions of racism in the public sphere, more and more people are developing grass roots strategies for documenting and penalizing racist speech and action through social media. If you are going to be yelling racial slurs, or calling the police on Black or Brown people for actions which pose no threat to anyone, expect to have your actions recorded on a cell phone and broadcast on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And if you are a public official or media personality calling for attacks on vulnerable people, don’t be surprised to have your home and workplace picketed or see companies that sponsor you made the target of consumer boycotts.
In the face of Trump’s cynical mobilization of racism for political gain, anti-racists are teaching those who drink the Trump Kool-Aid that their actions have consequences and that openly expressing racism may compromise your reputation and livelihood.
And this is only the beginning of a wave of revulsion and disgust in response to the politics of division and rage this President has used, and still uses, to fire up his supporters.
The message here is very clear
Voting for Trump is your right under our Constitution. Acting like Trump may very well get you fired.