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.