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