Sunday, December 6, 2009

AI Grows Up

The holiday season has arrived, which in 2009 means a couple of things for me: It's time to start analyzing dissertation data, it's time to swim fast in the swimming pool, and the holiday gift list will be made with a greater consciousness of the economic times. The Philadelphia 76ers got one such gift last week when they worked out a deal for Allen Iverson to return to the team. No one energized the Philly sports scene in the last decade like AI did with the pinnacle being Game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals where he scored 48 pts. Philly embraced AI in good times and bad, so while it was not surprising to see him emotional at his "Welcome Back" press conference, the degree to which he allowed the public to see what he was feeling was captivating and inspiring. Too often the dominant narrative about athletes, particularly black ones is that they are lawless, defiant, and selfish/greedy. To a large extent Iverson fit this bill for the great majority of his career, but his Friday presser showed that there is complexity to the superstar athlete that cannot be discounted. Instead of talking about how he's the franchise player and minimizing the need for PRACTICE as he did in 2002, he talked about a connection to his fans and family. It shows how perspective is gained with time and we start to appreciate and cherish more than just the material trappings of life. The Iverson emotional display also shows that we can't snap to judgement based on the public presentation of the self that one gives us. I know this seems intuitive and cliche, but given the reaction to Tiger Woods behavior in the aftermath of his car accident and related allegations, we still have not figured that out as a culture. The story of Iverson can no longer be told simply as superstar gunner lead his team to the Finals, but hated practice and couldn't stay out of trouble with the law. His life has been and continues to be more complex than that. I respect him even more now than I did simply as a competitor for being willing to sit in front of the mic and reflect on his shortcomings.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It takes More than just Oprah and Tyler's blessing...

As the movie Precious ascends to the top of the movie rankings this weekend, much will be said about the marketing power of Oprah and the film production wizardry of Tyler Perry. While both lent their names and followings to the promotional effort, the producing couple Sarah Siegel-Magness and her husband Gary Magness deserve equal credit as they acquired the rights to the novel PUSH from author Sapphire. It was the Magnesses who conducted the casting that landed Gabourey Sidibe, believed in director Lee Daniels and got the movie to Sundance where they made a deal with Lionsgate (5mil) who brought in Perry. I am not naive enough to say that having Oprah and Perry out in front of this movie doesn't enhance the profile or insure good draws at the box office, but I am for fair coverage and acutally find it interesting that at the heart of this gritty story about abuse in a black family, you have a white couple from Colorado believing in it enough to believe in Lee Daniels enough to sink the money to get it made. Having read this story, I will be happy for Mr. Perry and Ms Winfrey should Oscars come out of this film, but I'll also be looking to see how the Magnesses bask in their moment of glory on the dais.

Click here for the full story

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Using the Masters Tools: Students at WashU

When Regis Murayi (in the P-coat) set up the culminating party for his trip to Chicago with 200 of his classmates, I'm sure the senior class president at Washington University in St. Louis didn't think he was going to be the one who wouldn't get into the party that night. Unfortunately he in fact didn't get in because apparently the jeans that he and six of his friends, also African American, were wearing were too baggy according to bar officials at Original Mother's. Needless to say Murayi and his peers found this "dress code" peculiar so they got one of their white classmates to put on Murayi's jeans and see if he could get in the club. Fernando Cutz had no problem with entrance, and he took a commemorative pic from inside the club with his baggy jeans so there could be no disputing his entry.

This story is beautiful to me because as inexcusable as the behavior of the bar officials was, the response of the students is a classic example of using new millenium tactics to combat age-old ideologies of privilege and race. It would have been simple for the Black students to resort to violence or act out in some way that would have landed them in jail, creating a police record that would have trailed them as they tried to transition into the professional world. Instead they took advantage of new media to expose the behavior of the bar staff and shape the narrative that would be told as the story hit the national news. It is also of note the role of the White student, Mr Cutz, who was willing to use his privilege as a white dude for justice. His actions underscore the idea that it takes EVERYONE to combat racist ideologies. Now two weeks after the incident, the students and the bar owners are reported to be close to a "resolution" of the matter. The requests of the students have not been released, but it should be understood that the willingness of Original Mothers to negotiate is in part driven by the fact that the negative press they have received has affected their bottom line ($$$). Kudos to the WashU students for using their education instead of raw emotion to combat the racism they faced in Chicago.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Raising an Urban Chameleon

One of the blogs I follow is Home of the Urban Chameleon (HOTUC) edited by a serious sista named Haj, whom I'm honored to know. I dig the site because the idea of an Urban Chameleon is a modern twist on the Duboisian ideal of Double Consciousness. The way I internalize it, an urban chameleon has the distinct ability to morph and change "colors" at a moment's notice to adjust to the context he finds himself in. This ability gives the chameleon the ability to survive and thrive in numerous environments. As I follow the insightful posts on HOTUC, I try to relate the issues raised to my life, a great deal of which is dedicated to ensuring the safe passage of my son through the educational pipeline. So it got me to thinking, how does an old head chameleon teach his young to use the powers encoded in his DNA? These are the lessons I've come up with so far:


Even at 2, my son already recognizes differences in skin color, so it is important to help the growing chameleon understand what color means in this country. My little man must understand that he is never to allow people to put him in a box because of his primary skin color. He is also never to judge others based on their differences from him. As he gets older, he will come to understand that the idea of race is also not about color, but of power and privilege. His color does however link him to a cultural history and lineage which he must also learn because an understanding of this ancestry will give him a sense of how to use his multiple colors wisely.


It is a blessing to have the ability to move in and out of a variety of contexts seamlessly. This skill does not come without practice. The parent chameleon must be able to provide support as the young one struggles with "color expression". The parent must also help the young one understand why they are placed into various settings meant to help enhance their "color quality". As a youngster this meant understanding why I had to take piano lessons when all I wanted to do was play basketball. Why did I have to take Latin in 7th grade when I was already taking Spanish. Why did I have to go to a private school when most of my friends went to public ones? With each new color that the growing chameleon masters, the parent must continue to reinforce that they are not "selling out" who they are at the core, but instead are learning behaviors and skills that will be of benefit throughout their lifetime.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

DAMN! Can We Respect Our Women Please

When the news broke that Rihana and Chris Brown had an incident this past winter, it shined a white hot light on the issue of domestic violence which continues to be a pervasive problem across the nation. Later sports fans learned about Denver Broncos' wide receiver Brandon Marshall's stormy past with girlfriend Rasheedah Watley. Just last week, Cleveland Cavaliers guard, Delonte West, already facing charges for being stopped with an arsenal of weapons, added a domestic violence charge to his resume as his wife filed a report against him that they fought after he tried to take her wedding ring. One would think that the mounting instances of domestic violence in the public eye would cause discussion that might lead to greater awareness on how to curb these issues, but clearly this is not the case as I read about the HORRIFIC GANG RAPE involving an estimated 20 students at Homecoming dance in Richmond, CA.

Full story on The Root

My reaction is simple, this is disgusting...If it doesn't do something to you emotionally to hear that a 15 year-old girl was raped for over 2 HOURS by at least 4 men, and there were witnesses, then you have no soul. It says to me that clearly the way masculinity is portrayed in pop culture has gone over the top, and that women, particularly those of color, have been objectified to the point where they are regarded as little more than targets of sexual conquest.

The Richmond Gang Rape indicates that WE as a culture have done a poor job of engaging youth in critical conversations about sexuality and how to explore it responsibly. Wrap It Up PSAs during TRL and 106& Park aren't going to make a dent when 8 out of the Top 10 videos of the day feature either a woman being showcased for her parts or an artist celebrating his ability to be a attract any woman he wants. The same is true for our print media. On top of that some of our school systems implicitly give the okay to risky sexual behavior by preventing students from being taught about abstinence. I'm not calling for the banishment of visual forms of expression in any medium, as troubling as they can be. Music videos were a major form of entertainment for me as a teen (as was after hours HBO), but I got checked on what I was watching constantly and sat through many a lecture from John C. Carroll about the responsibility of becoming sexually active before I was ready. These critical conversations are what I'm calling for now and I hope that every young person who gets arrested in connection with this heartless act is forced to sit in and listen to women trying to piece their lives back together after being violated in this way. I can't even begin to imagine the psychological scars, but I can easily see how if it were my daughter, they would have to put me in lockup for at least a week to keep me from committing a more serious crime. The quote below from the parents of the young girl, read in a statement by their pastor, succinctly details what everyone should make time to do in their community. Mass media will not change as long as their are dollars to be made from objectifying the human form. So that leaves it to consumers to make sure that they are responsible and make sure that their young loved ones are just as responsible as they engage with media. The coldness of character needed to perform this act, or standby and witness it is not born overnight. We must all think about how we can help prevent another young girl's life from forever being altered.

"Volunteer at a school. Go help a neighbor. Be courageous in speaking the truth and in holding people accountable. Work toward changing the atmosphere in our schools and in this community so that this kind of thing never happens again. Please do not let this happen again."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Celebrating What Hip Hop Was...Def Jam at 25

I was excited to watch how VH1 would put on their annual Hip Hop Honors event this year with Def Jam Records as the honoree. As I grew from youth raised on Anita Baker to adolescent spending my weekly lunch money on bootleg tapes (yep, Germantown Ave) and later Rap CDs, I became fully immersed in the culture of hip hop and continue to claim it now as a 30+ father. The Def Jam tributes and later the BET Hip Hop awards pushed me to think about how my relationship with Hip Hop has been complicated over the years and is now very much a situation where I sit on the thin line between LOVING & HATING the music and culture which sustained and educated me as an adolescent, entertained me as a young adult, and still often soothes me as an emerging grown a$$ man. So I'm going to do my best Radio Raheem and lay out some of the things that I currently LOVE and HATE as I survey the Hip Hop landscape.

LOVE: Jay-Z still doin' it -- Instrumentation at Hip Hop shows -- Hip Hop is Global -- New Boyz representin' a new style on the West Coast -- Goodie Mob reunion performances

HATE: Hyper-Consumerism (is Gucci Mane's iced out EGG BEATER the new Flavor Flav clock?) -- the death of labels that set the trend as opposed to being dictated to by radio and record labels -- Songs like "By The Time I Get to Arizona" and "Burn Hollywood Burn" are now the exception and not the norm

LOVE: MCs who still have cipha skillz -- DJing is NOT a lost art (I see you DJ Premier) -- Fatima Robinson gets some shine from BET -- MCs who try to give back to their community (good job on the profiles BET) -- Drake owning his publishing rights

HATE: Where are the hits from Rap-A-Lot Records, No Limit, and So So Def? -- How come Talib Kweli and Dead Prez can't get the same number of spins as Soulja Boy? -- What happened to the night time Hip Hop show on local radio (grew up on Radioactive in Philly)? -- Not seeing lady emcees getting a shot -- MCs who have no clue how to do a live show.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Black Man? I'm working on it

One of the pieces of my dissertation proposal that I felt needed the most fortifying was an examination of the accepted ideals of masculinity. As I begin my project on what a Black Male uniquely brings to the field of teacher education, I felt it necessary to have a grounding in the ways masculinity has been written about in general so that I might better be able to describe the ways it plays out in teacher education in particular. An search on "Black Masculinity" lead me to the book New Black Man by Mark Anthony Neal. What drew me to the book was the way Neal, a self described Black Male Feminist, sought to renovate the long standing archetype of the Strong Black Man and upgrade some of his characteristic features. I come away from my reading of this book feeling challenged yet optimistic that while I have work to do distance myself from paternalistic practices, I'm on the right path.

What struck me early in the book was how closely Neal ties a progressive Black masculinity to themes from the Black Feminist movement. I wondered how could a man explore his masculinity while paying a great deal of attention to the plight of women. Neal describes how his foundation as a male feminist was laid spending time in the beauty shop as a youth, and soaking up the adoration of a range of females. The simplistic question that I asked myself as I read was "So am I a feminist because I read and enjoyed Terry McMillan novels in high school?" Ultimately Neal comes to describe Black Male Feminism as being committed to anti-sexist, anti-homophobic politics, and dismantling patriarchial practices in the Black community. The later chapters of the book clearly describe the struggle Neal has faced to match his Male Feminist theories with practice. He notes how becoming a father has had a tremendous impact on his commitment to these ideals as they have a direct impact on the way his daughters will be raised and experience the world.

While New Black Man was a little more progressive than I thought it would be when I read the synopsis, the takeaway lessons are no less valuable. Neal hits the mark with his description of contradictions that arise from being a pro-feminist "Hip Hop Head". What does it mean when you espouse the equal treatment of women, but yet bob your head to "Drop It Like It's Hot"? How do you embrace Black homosexuals as part of the community and not just tolerate and encourage their closeted existence? Finally, how do you fight against paternalistic behavior in the church and other sacred institutions for the advancement of the community? I recognized upon completion of the text that there is no set formula for what it takes to be a New Black Man, but instead, there are guiding questions leading to an ideal. These questions serve to "check" ones behavior. The question each Black male must ask of himself is: Am I willing to hold myself accountable for behavior that might reinforce status quo notions of gender that will affect the women of my life (be it daughter, sister, wife, cousin, baby mama)? If the answer is NO, then continue to be disappointed by the male depictions promoted by pop culture. I know I've got to do something because I know I don't want my son learning how to find a life partner watching For the Love of Ray J or Real Chance of Love.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We CANNOT Forget Derrion Albert

I was all set to write about how making my way through Mark Anthony Neal's New Black Man, was exposing me to a new lens on masculinity. Very much like when you get a new eyeglass prescription and the optometrist plays with the lenses in front of your eye until he finds the one that allows you to see the fine print clearly. I wanted to write and sort my thoughts on Dr. Neal's depaprture from the archetype of the Strong Black Man. Following a chat with my man Lu, I got up the nerve to watch the graphic footage of Derrion Albert being beaten to death in a Chicago street by fellow high schoolers. Immediately I knew I had to write about this incident which gave us an All-Access pass to the types of murders that occur in major urban centers daily. The tears welled up immediately as I watched the wooden board come crashing down, realizing that a life had just been ended senselessly. The event made me think about how helpless I would feel if my own son were involved in such a situation, and the immediate despondency I'd fall into were I to lose him in such a way. As my man Lu noted in our chat, this event and it's filming was like the facing the open casket of Emmet Till. Having to face that raw visual should be more than enough to spur action to ensure that it never happens again. I worry that based on what we have seen so far, the fallout from this tragedy will not cause the kind of reform that needs to take place in order to avoid a repeat performance.

Now two weeks after the event, myFox Chicago had a story about a student-lead Town Hall meeting where young people were allowed to voice their concerns for their safety as well as talk about the event. Police, politicians and concerned community members were also in attendance. But where were the buses full of protesters coming into town to demand justice like in Jena? Where were Rev. Al and Michael Baisden? Where's the statement from the President? He can defend Gates right away, but to comment on this he has to call a huddle so that he can release a statement "soon"? Does the fact that this is a Black-on-Black crime make it less of an atrocity than the Jena 6 beating up a White kid? All I know is that listening to the clips of youth speaking out at the Town Hall Meeting, clearly they feel that very few people are there to support them. The inaction of the larger Black community to support this hurting group of students and their families speaks volumes.

So I won't be forgetting Derrion Albert anytime soon, in fact ever. That video is imprinted permanently. It means that whatever I need to do to protect my little one from such a situation, I'll do it. It means that if there are less hours of sleep for me because I'm spending more time trying to develop interventions aimed at helping male youth of color navigate the K-12 pipeline, so be it. Derrion Albert deserved better, and I pray that we never have to see another video like that again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Are You Leaving Me Daddy?

It is a common occurrence in the elementary years of schooling that kids will yo-yo up and down between loving school and hating it. On the upside this means, that kids will hardly look at their parents as they run for the doorway to school. On the downside, this means that you literally have to throw your child into the room, and slam the door to get them to stay. In a cruel twist of fate, yours truly, the former elementary teacher who was good at calming anxious parents who had to throw their kids in the classroom and run, now is on the other side of the coin. Little man has gone from pestering Mom and Dad about school from the moment he wakes up to being content sitting in front of the TV watching Elmo all morning. So as I've walked back to my car this week after dropping off my son, it's been hard not to turn around and go pick him up in my arms as I hear him crying. Even harder not to go back into the room and take him home as I see him standing at the window looking at "Daddy's Car" wondering "Why are you leaving me Daddy?" I empathized with parents before, but now it really hits home how difficult it is to go with what is "right" when your natural parental instinct tells you something totally different.

So as I've been trained to do now, I look to the written word for help, and thankfully I have an autographed copy of Stickin' To, Watchin Over, and Gettin With, by Howard Stevenson, Gwendolyn Davis, and Saburah Abdul-Kabir, to refer to. The title refers to the three ingredients of effective discipline that the authors recommend for effective parenting of black children. I knew when Dr. Stevenson signed my copy in 2003 that it would come in handy, and this week was cause to pull the book off the shelf and seek some guidance. As the authors describe it Stickin To refers to "unconditional love and support", Watchin Over means to provide "loving supervision", and Gettin' With means to hold children accountable for their behavior without breaking their spirit. I was relieved as I read to find that the plan the Mrs. and I have intiuitively hatched to deal with our little knucklehead match with what the "Doc" and his coauthors have recommended.
So as this week has gone on. I made it a point to stop in a couple times to day care during nap time to see how the day was going, just in case Little Man needed some extra watchin over. The amount of unconditional love he gets from his nuclear and extended family is endless, especially since he is the first grandson on both sides of the family, but this week he clearly needed a little more reassurance. So for now, I let him know that Mommy and I will be Stickin To him like we're siamese twins, and we'll be Watchin Over every move. We'll also continue to let him know that as he gets older, we're more than ready to Get With him to the level necessary. A week that started out with me watching my son crying in the window ended with reports of much more positive behavior. So while he may have moments when he's wondering why Daddy or Mommy is leaving, in the long run, he'll come to understand that neither I nor Mommy are going anywhere. That's what makes it possible to walk to the car while he's crying in the window.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jigga and Hip Hop Identity

I grew up on East Coast hip hop. KRS1 schooled me in ways my school teachers couldn't. There was Eric B and Rakim, Kool G. Rap, Special Ed, EPMD, LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. If any of these artists dropped an album, that's where my lunch money for the week was getting spent. NWA, Too Short, Ice-T all had moments too, but the music from the Westisde never really stuck with me. None of these artists mentioned above have managed to stay relevant for 11 albums as Jay-Z has, and that is worthy of examination. Not only has Hov been a favorite since 1996 when Reasonable Doubt came out, he has remained one because he has moved the game forward.

In the same way that racial identity theory (see: William Cross, Beverly Daniel Tatum) examines the ways in which one makes sense of themselves as a "racial" being, I'm going to borrow from that tradition and posit that a hip hop identity allows one to investigate and make sense of attitudes having to do with being a "hip-hop head". As the music has gotten older, the generations identify with it differently much the same way my parents would eschew most of the R&B I grew up on for the Whispers, Temptations, and Gladys Knight of their youth. So follow me as I walk you through how Jay has been like no other in the hip hop game.

STAGE 1: CONTACT - The point at which we are introduced, and made aware of a new phenomena.
Jay comes on the scene with Reasonable Doubt after notable appearances on Jaz's "Hawaiian Sophie" and 'Can I Get Over" with Original Flavor. The album is an ode to the street life he came from and featured the instant hit Can't Knock the Hustle with Mary J. Blige. "Feelin' It", "Dead Presidents", and "Ain't No Nigga" also became classics. What's notable about this album is that it's often hailed as his best, but it took the longest to go platinum in sales. This album also introduced us to Roc-A-Fella records.

STAGE 2: IMMERSION/EMERSION - A period marked by total engagement into all things hip hop, a recognition of the larger context within which the hip hop world operates, and an action plan to institutionalize all that is hip hop.
Following Reasonable Doubt, the parade of almost endless hits continued, and you could not argue that Jay was outside of the Top five emcees all time. In My Lifetime, Vol 1 gave us "Who You With 2", "Imaginary Players", and "Streets is Watching". Vol 2 gave us "Hard Knock Life", "Money Ain't a Thang" with J. Dupri, "Nigga Wha, Nigga Who?" just to name a few. The hits kept coming on Life and Times of S. Carter, vol 3 ("Big Pimpin", "Do It Again"), Dynasty: Roc LaFamilia ("I Just Wanna Love You"). The critical juncture in this phase came when Jay ultimately ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor around the stabbing of producer, Lance "Un" Rivera, who allegedly bootlegged vol 3. In contrast to this incident, the music became more introspective as Jay did songs like "This Can't Be Life" feat. Scarface and Beanie Sigel and "Where Have you Been?" also featuring Beans. In analysis, the contradiction between Jay's actions and his music shows the multiple layers of the self with which we all struggle. In a hip hop sense, this was yet another example of how life and the music often combined like watercolors. Evidence of the emersion became apparent as the Roc launched Rocawear, and later took over distribution of Armadale vodka.

STAGE 3: INTERNALIZATION - Puttting all the BS aside, reclaiming the fundamental components of self, and being comfortable in that skin. The Blueprint came out in 2001, and featured "IZZO" and "Girls, Girls, Girls", but what amplified this album was the Unplugged version where Jay collaborated with The Roots to create a hip hop sound that was more vibrant because of the live instrumentation. "Song Cry" was better live. "Heart of the City" was better live. To illustrate that development is not a unilateral process, this apparent musical move forward came at a time when Jay was butting heads with Nas in one of the biggest rap "beefs" ever. The Blueprint 2 album also showed Jay trying to go in a different direction, and sacrificing some sales to do so. He hit paydirt with his 2004 Collision Course mashup EP with Linkin Park, which sold over 1 million in the US and won a grammy.
STAGE 4: COMMITTMENT - A sustained determination to take the hip hop game to places it has not been. It would have been easy for S. Carter to hang 'em up after The Black Album in 2003. He gave the full repertoire of his skill set on that album working with a top shelf selection of producers including Rick Rubin and Timbaland. There were party jams ("Encore"), bang in the car joints ("99 Problems", "Dirt Off Your Shoulder") and an increasing number of reflective numbers ("Moment of Clarity", "Lucifer"). This album was Jordan hitting a shot over B. Russell, Elway and Bettis winning Super Bowls at the end, and Sampras winning one more US Open. But yet he continues, and while pursuing numerous entrepreneurial endeavors, has given us now The Blueprint 3, where he continues to drop dimes about growing in the game, and how it is ludicrous to think that he would continue to rap about the same things in 2009 as he did in 1996 ("On To The Next One", "Home Already"). The song "Star Is Born" is especially telling as it recounts how the mantle in hip hop has been passed around in hip hop, and yet Jay still stands on top. He's made my MOUNT RUSHMORE of MCs (along with KRS, Rakim, and B.I.G) not only for the flow, but for the way he has influenced the whole culture of hip hop. "30 Something" no longer means the end of a hip hop career nor does it mean the death of your hip hop identity.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Time for School: Who Will You Mentor?

When I was a classroom teacher, I always smiled a little bigger when both parents walked into the room to sit down for a parent conference. My bias was that it was a small symbol of just how important the child's education was to the family. Clearly, this is not universally true because with two teachers for parents, there were inevitably parent conferences that one or the other of my parents had to miss depending on what was going on in their school. Nontheless, I continue to get the warm feeling when I see both parents visible for their child(ren) when it comes to their education. Today I went to school with my little guy for the welcome back half day at his day care, and it was cool to see the number of fathers engaging with their kids on the playground while dressed in three piece suits. If you've ever been to the playground with a little one, you know that that means sand, wood chips, shredded rubber, or some other material meant to make falling down not so traumatic, and here were a number of dads in their business attire and wingtips having no problem riding the see saw, playing house, and drawing with their little ones.

The question that arises for me is what happens to the kid who doesn't have any of that support for their schooling? Who has their back? Our little guy is lucky that he has two parents with all kinds of degrees who can make informed decisions about the direction of his schooling and hold him fully accountable when he slips up. But more and more I think about the millions of kids who don't have that. I can't watch CNN or MSNBC without some pundit referring to graduation rates in urban areas, and more specifically male minority students. So I have resolved to use my skills not only on my son, but on any other kid with whom I come in contact who needs help navigating the educational road, which for minority males in particular, is wrought with landmines and pitfalls. With this post, I make the call for everyone to consider who they might extend their hand to. No one Superman is going to save all the inner city and suburban minority students who struggle to graduate. It will take the effort of many samaritans willing to reach back and share the lessons they have learned and the resources they have accumulated, both social and financial. It is easy to sit in your corner office, or suburban home and shake your head about the behavior and values of some of today's youth, but unless you are willing to do some of the work to fix the problem, then it will only continue to get worse.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Eulls Saves the Day

Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly jaded about the way Black male celebrities get covered in the media, particularly athletes. Negative story after negative story about dudes falling from grace. I am not out to blame the media here, they have to cover this stuff as their job just as they have to report scores and contracts. For some reason, however, it just seems like open season on Black male athletes messing up and I just wonder where the support network is to snatch these dudes before it's too late. It seems that when prominent Black athletes fall, the consequence is far worse than it would be for anybody else. I needed to see a story that offset all the negativity. New York Giant wide receiver Plaxico Burress got two years for shooting HIMSELF in the leg when NY cops get off for shooting Sean Bell. NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, continues to let Michael Vick twist in the wind even after the man served TWO years in federal prison and declared bankruptcy. Michael Beasley had to check himself into a mental facility after years of being coddled for his basketball prowess, but not being held accountable for his schooling (Washington Post, 2007). The underlying message sent by these stories is clear: Black males can't handle the privilege of getting paid millions to play sports. Inevitably they will crumble and the media will be there front and center to cover every second. So whether it is Vince Young, Jamaal Tinsley, Ron Artest, or even Renaldo Balkman, whose lucky to be in the NBA and STILL got a DUI, they will all make the front page when they fall. Thankfully, there was reassurance this week that there is hope.

The reassurance came in the form of Kaleb Eulls, a star HS football player in Yazoo County, MS. While riding the school bus home with kids as young as 5, he confronted a girl walking up and down the aisle of the bus waving a gun, and ended up disarming her by tackling her. In the process he saved twenty plus lives. The story is striking in that the young man placed himself in the center of danger to save other kids when he could have easily just hid behind a seat. As a matter of fact, according to reports, he was not even AWAKE when the girl started pacing the bus with the gun. It is also striking the way the young man has handled all the attention that has resulted from this incident. At a time when we "deify" HS athletes from the time they enter 9th grade and wonder why they are cocky by the time they are seniors, this young man has been humble and understated. Needless to say it is refreshing to see.

While it was inspring to see the story of a young Black man risking so much to help his peers, it cannot be ignored that the 14 year-old female girl with the gun now faces 22 counts of attempted aggravated assault and kidnapping. Her life trajectory has now been altered to the point where it will be incredibly difficult to move past this incident. I pray that she is able to have people come into her life that can put her on a path where she can one day become a productive citizen. Hopefully she extracts a lesson from the actions of Mr. Eulls.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer Lessons from Belize and Marc Lamont Hill

So I got to travel a bunch this summer, more than any other time in my adult life. The usual grind of championship swim meets was book ended by a missionary trip to Belize and a much-needed vacation to Cozumel. Both of these experiences left a lasting impression on me that make me very thankful that I took the time away from my usual summer routine.

I got invited to Belize under the auspices of teaching swimming to a population where swim instruction is a luxury. I know what the statistics are as far as poor minority youth drowning in the US, and it just made sense that if I could in any way affect that in Belize, then I needed to go. Needlesss to say, the swim portion of my week went really well. With each day, more and more kids showed up, often with parents, to learn how to swim and participate in the activities we planned. The more profound part of my time, however, was spent working in Holy Cross Anglican School and learning about the impoverished San Mateo area of the island.

Holy Cross is situated very close to the prime beachfront real estate of San Pedro, yet socially it seemed to be worlds away. While the beachfront was full of vacationing scuba divers, and fishermen, the neighborhood just outside of the doors of Holy Cross featured one-room "houses" many of which didn't have electricity or running water. The infrastructure of this neighborhood consisted of loosely held together planks that were far from sturdy and would deposit you into the swamp if you happened to make a misstep. Yet, despite these conditions, the children demonstrated the type of spirit that one expects to find in children who want for nothing. I found myself doing more observing than "teaching" because I wanted to understand how the children developed such aspirations in the face of poverty that often chokes away the ability to dream. I learned that for these students, the school was a way out. I learned that for the families of San Mateo, there was appreciation of those who came simply looking to help and not to judge. The trip confirmed to me that it is okay to have a "missionary" mindset as long as the MISSION is the focus and not the displacement of local cultural norms because they are viewed from a deficit perspective. In this case, the mission was to help build and prepare a school to open in the fall that would continue to allow children to dream and have access to opportunities that one day might allow them to return as adults and keep their neighborhood from being co-opted by outside interests.

In addition to the quality time with my wife, Cozumel afforded me the opportunity to do some "leisure" reading for the first time in years. It may seem strange that my leisure book was Marc Lamont Hill's Beats, Rhymes and Classroom Life: Hip Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity, but the two days I spent reading this book were as enjoyable as the Mrs. reading one of her Sandra Brown romance novels. I read slowly by nature and the process is even slower when I start an academic text, but given my background as a teacher, and a lover of hip hop, I anxiously tore into this one, and Professor Hill did not disappoint.

Many scholars who study the utility of hip hop as it pertains to educating youth tend to focus on one aspect of the culture such as the linguistics or the sociological ramifications, but Dr. Hill's course, which focused on hip hop songs as texts to be analyzed allowed for the engagement of all aspects of hip hop culture. The course, which he co-taught in a Philly HS hit home not simply because I grew up there, but instead of the fact that through their analysis and discussion, the class dealt with the complexities of being part of a hip hop generation. There is misogyny and love, consumerism and social conscience, and often these contradictions lie within the same artist. How does a hip hop head who grew up on KRS and Rakim receive Soulja Boy and Plies? The same question can be asked in reverse. So for me, the beauty of Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life is that despite the goals that he had for analyzing classic "texts" such as Summertime by the Fresh Prince and Fuck tha Police by NWA, the students had different views. However, because of the exposure, they were able to engage in important identity exploration. The use of the student's own voices adds a distinct autheniticity to Hill's reporting of the study.

Ultimately, my work in Belize and leisure reading in Cozumel taught me that I cannot begin to use the education and training I have received until I am first able to listen and then be willing to share at a level comparable to those with whom I am working. It is these pre-requisites that set the table for transformational learning to take place.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hooray Marriage! 7 Years in the Books

So today, Aug 10, is my anniversary, and I'm sitting in a hotel at a swim meet for the 2nd time in seven years. This alone is reason to celebrate my wife, who I haven't seen in 9 days and counting. More importantly it speaks to the tough work of marriage. Today marks seven years and it has gone by in a flash. The Mrs. and I were one of the first in our circle to get married and sadly we have seen marriages crumble that began after ours. So on this day, I felt moved to share some lessons I've learned that have helped me and also pass along some advice for those who one day hope to "join the club".

1. DON'T LET THE SNOWBALL GROW. The biggest blowups that I've lived through have been more about the small issues that were left unresolved than the straw that broke the camel's back. No matter how much you dread having that convo about money or how you messed up, have the talk, and make sure to own your culpability, because if you supress it, it will come up again, most likely in a situation where it has little relevance. Even if you need to take a time out to process before you can chat calmly (like I do), make it known that you will be having a discussion later.

2. NEVER TAKE SPENDING QT FOR GRANTED. In the hustle and bustle of trying to "make it" in our professions, it's easy to lose track of just being able to check in. This gets even more complicated when kids come into the equation because even when you're in the same house, the demands of a child(ren) take up attention that used to be reserved for husband and wife. The Mrs. and I used to have date night WEEKLY, which was a simple dinner and movie. Now we're lucky if date night is QUARTERLY, so it means that we have to be purposeful in planning when we hang. So even though I've seen my wife in TWO out of the last TWENTY-ONE days, I've got a week ALONE with the Mrs. coming up in a Mexican resort that I'm SO looking forward to.

3. CHOOSE YOUR COUNSEL WISELY. Some marital issues don't need to be kicked around the friend network for their input. It only makes things worse. ESPECIALLY, when the friends have little on the resume as far as relationship experience. Your road dog who's still doing Happy Hour and First Friday's religiously and thinks marriage is for chumps is NOT gonna have good insight into how you finesse attention issues with your wife who's juggling motherhood and a career. The same is true for your girlfriend when you're trying to deal with your man who feels less than whole because he all of a sudden makes less $$$ thn you. I've found these things are better bounced off marriage OGs or parents. My parents are divorced, but Id still run my deepest marriage insecurities past them before 98% of my friends. And as a sidenote to this point recognize that because your issues will change the longer you're married, the nature of your relationships with single friends will change. The friendships don't HAVE to end, but they will change.

NOTE TO THE SINGLE FOLK. Though it gets put out there often that marriage is the way to go, I'm here to tell you it's not for everybody. Some people TRULY enjoy the freedom of single life and ability to chase as many partners as they want. Some people don't want to be tied to someone for the rest of time as you pledge when get hitched. When I was trying to pledge Kappa, the old heads would always say "Pledging begins when you cross". That is true for fraternity life and the same sentiment can be applied to marriage. However, it is a beautiful thing to find someone who wants to love you, build with you and support you through anything. These are the rewards of marriage that make the struggles worthwhile. Even on the way to Seattle I was describing the many professional hats the Mrs. wears (economist, filmmaker, writer, mother) and he responded "So you married up!" I comfortably replied "No doubt". I recognized that in 2002 when I stood at the altar, and I'm constantly reminded of it seven years later. So shout out to the Thorntons and others who share my anniversay date. If you're married, work like hell to hold it together. If you're single and looking: Don't settle. If you're single and loving that freedom: Play on...But play fair!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Black Professor vs. White Cop...A Powder Keg That Exploded

It was quite shocking to see the initial pictures of Professor Henry Louis Gates in handcuffs outside his house in Cambridge. If you're making a Mount Rushmore of Black Scholars he is certainly part of the discussion. As the details of the incident between Professor Gates and Seargent Crowley have come out, it has become more and more clear that this case was going to have staying power because of the profile of Dr. Gates. Now the President has gotten involved and managed to breathe more life into the flame before coming to his senses and moving as quickly as possible to squelch it so he can get back to pushing his Health Care Plan, a plan that is taking heavy fire from BOTH sides of the ailse. Let me break down each party involved so we can learn what NOT to do the next time a high profile Black intellectual has trouble getting into his house, and maybe start that REAL conversation on race I hear people talk about, but never engage in.

Professor Gates you had every right to be mad when the police showed up at your door talking about a robbery when all that really happened was that you had to force your way into your house after the door malfunctioned, but you should have also realized that from someone else's vantage point it could have legitimately looked like you were breaking in, and walking the cops through that would have kept the situation from escalating. I recently took a class on the LAPD, and four seargents audited the class to add insight from the field. What I took away from the course is that officers are trained not to take anything for granted when they are called to a scene, if they do, they are liable to end up leaving that scene in a bag. Dr. Gates, your alleged answer to Officer Crowley's request for you to identify yourself should not have been "Why because I'm a black man in America?" as noted in the police reports of both officers. I know there have been times that I've had to break into my own house as a teenager, and I was well aware how it might have looked to anyone passing by. I can see where you were trying to exert some of the privilege you have earned as a Harvard professor, but you took it too far by apparently failing to realize that the Officer was just trying to do his job. I must also say that I'm very surprised that you would go on CNN and say that this incident helped you realize "How vulnerable all Black men are." Really? Then I'm glad you got this awakening now, so that you can channel some of your considerable intellect into addressing issues of race and power that Black men deal with on a daily basis.

From all reports, I find little fault with your initial approach to this situation. The tipping point for you was simple. Despite the low level of cooperation you allegedly received from Dr. Gates, once you established that this elderly man was the lawful occupant of the home, then it was time to walk away. Eliminating threat is job #1 of an officer, and the threat was gone after Professor Gates produced his identification. If you couldn't calm him down, then perhaps Officer Figueroa should have tried, or one of the other officers who had arrived on the scene. Perhaps despite your record as a decorated officer, something that Professor Gates said ticked you off, and you decided he needed to be taught a lesson. Who knows, but in your position, you are held to a higher standard of being able to do what's right so that a situation does not escalate and you didn't. Neither did your colleagues for that matter, and that is disappointing.

When initially asked about the incident in a press conference where you were supposed to be talking about Health Care, you did the smart thing and admitted your bias towards Dr. Gates and noted that you didn't have all the facts. Given your bias, you should have stopped right there until you either talked to Gates or gotten a briefing from an aide. As soon as you went on to say that you felt the Cambridge Police had acted "stupidly", it was like you poured water on a grease fire. As President, you don't get to use words like "stupid" and "dumb" when describing situations like you're at the crib with your homies. Your position requires that you go for adjectives like "inappropriate" or "insensitive" as if you were still editing the Harvard Law Review. You did this on Friday when you readressed the issue, but the damage was already done. Now instead of being able to hammer Republicans about Health Care and make sure your Democratic supporters have your back, you've had to arrange a Happy Hour Picnic to put this story to bed.

For all those who try to spin this incident into something that has nothing to do with race, spare me. As the President noted in his initial press conference, there is a long history across the nation anecdotally and statistically about racial profiling. If you think that the race of Professor Gates and his driver had nothing to do with Ms. Whalen calling the police, you need to wake up. If you think that Officer Crowley made no initial judgment of Dr. Gates based on his race, the same is true. We all carry biases and prejudices based on our lived experiences as "raced" and ethnic beings. And please don't try to argue that Officer Crowley was above bias because he taught a workshop on racial profiling which he was selected to do by a Black Police Commissioner. Just because he can mechanically teach and understand the concept, does not mean that he's incapable of exhibiting racist behavior, especially when he's being called a "racist police officer". Issues of power, class, and race are laced all through this incident and only when people stop trying to look the other way and face it will we be able to have real conversations on race that help us all move forward in our understandings of one another.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Racism 3.0

One of my favorite professors often talks about how fighting racism has gotten so nuanced these days that it is often hard to see, hence the "3.0" tag. Couldn't help but think that we got a rare public view of what that looks like this week as we watched the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Eight years ago the judge, who appears to have a stellar record on the bench, made a comment about the ability of a "Wise Latina" to draw upon her experiences and come to a more fair conclusion than a White man who has not had the same experience. As she prepared to take a seat on the highest court in the land, she had "some 'xplaining to do" about what this comment meant.

How is this racist you may ask? Simple, only when Judge Sotomayor was about to access one of the most coveted positions of power in this country did she have to be reminded, by people of far less ethical fiber than her own, that it is not the experience of the Wise Latina that is most coveted in this country, and while she may be able to get on the bench, it would behoove her to remember that her rise has not been of her own making, and there are are still forces waiting to smack her down the first time she "steps out of line". Racism today isn't necessarily about overt acts of discrimination, though they certainly still happen daily, but more importantly racism today is about maintaining long standing power structures that favor a white, eurocentric tradition. Only when it makes sense for the best interest of this power base is a minority allowed access, and not until they have had their "hazing" about who they should thank for getting there. Hopefully Justice Sotomayor will continue to draw upon the experiences that have gotten her this far and show just exactly why the Wise Latina will be an asset to the high court.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Leave BET Alone....

I've had a chance to sit and marinate on this one because I had a proposal to get done, but I had to comment on the discussion around the annual BET Awards. A lot of the commentary I heard was from middle-class circles whose values and ideologies are closer to mine, but are CLEARLY the polar opposite of who BET is targeting. I realized a long time ago after growing up watching videos on BET that they were not targeting the late twenties and early thirties version of me like they were the teenage version. How else am I to understand the canceling of almost every show that had anything to do with engaging the intellect and informing the community. I loved TAVIS... they cancelled it. I loved Ed Gordon...they cancelled it. I enjoyed the BET Nightly News...they cancelled it. If the one station dedicated to the Black community cannot even support a news broadcast when we are constantly saying that we are not covered fairly by the CNNs and FoxNews networks, then clearly, their value system is different than mine, and I can either enjoy Tiny and Toya or not. I choose not.

So if you're like me and expect BET to be so much more than it is, you cannot be surprised when Soulja Boy is one of the main Michael Jackson tribute performances because his audience is who BET wants to watch. You can't be surprised when T-pain rolls out the BIG ASS CHAIN, and you just have to shake your head when you see Lil' Wayne with his daughter on stage while singing about "loving" every girl in the world. You embrace that they tried to give "Grown Folk" something with the Ojays tribute, and keep it moving by doing something about your disdain for BET's programming. Support BETJ for example, where all the "Grown and sexy" programming is supposed to be. Find TVOne on your dial and support that, but don't waste your time hoping that the flagship is going to care how "ghetto" you think their awards show is. Clearly it's doing well enough to satisfy the Viacom folk, and that's all that matters. As long as College Hill, and Baldwin Hills and Keyshia Cole get ratings, then who cares how what the message is, or how it's perceived. So leave BET alone, you'll keep from popping some blood vessels that way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cousin Kamal and Ridin' with Jim Brown

Just last week I got into one of my now ritual "discussions" with Cousin Kamal about the civic responsibility of Black athletes, namely Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  So imagine my sense of irony when I found out during my daily viewing of Pardon the Interruption (PTI) that legendary running back and community activist, Jim Brown, has again called out an athlete (first major target was Michael Jordan) for not going all out to be agents for social change.  This has been a war cry of Jim Brown's for a long time, and everytime he takes aim, the pot gets stirred.  Given my current position, and the argument I had just had with Cousin Kamal, I was particularly interested in the insights of  folks whom I respect.  With my new thinking space now functioning, I couldn't wait to get home and take a big swing at this pinata.

To lay the background, Cousin Kamal went so far as to say that when folks like Tiger, MJ and any other ridiculously rich and powerful athlete do not actively involve themselves in the improvement of the lives of the underprivileged, then they are less BLACK.  We disagreed on that, and I'll get into that later.  First let me address the main reasons I'm ridin' with Jim Brown on this issue everytime.

Athletics is one  of the few areas where Blacks, particularly men, have been able to access an opportunity structure where they can reap handsome financial rewards for their physical gifts.  Those with a sense of history would point out that this system is no different than the chattle slavery of 400 years ago, except that the wage is higher.  While athletes get paid well compared to your local garbage man, it pales in comparison to the team owner who rakes in revenue from numerous streams off of the labor of his "laborers".  Many athletes do not have great motivation to rock the boat because they have the financial resources  to purchase all the material symbols of privilege of which  they were often deprived growing up.  Meanwhile it is the rare athlete who seeks to use his good fortune to create meaningful change for his community like David Robinson (built a school), Dikembe Mutombo (built a hospital), and Derrick Coleman (purchased a strip mall in financially stricken Detroit).  Listening to today's banter on the sports talk radio shows that I frequent, it just seemed that many were missing the point of what Jim Brown was really trying to say, and when I heard him speak on a local radio show this evening, I was even more convinced that his message is not sinking in properly.

I got particularly heated during the verbal backlash against Jim Brown when Keyshawn Johnson, former NFLer, and by all accounts a socially active person in his South LA community, kept ranting "What are they (Tiger & MJ) supposed to do?" referring to the notion that because of Tiger's foundational work and Michael Jordan's charitable work, that they have done enough.  Gone are the days when an athlete could take a political stand like Brown, Bill Russell, and Muhammad Ali did during the 1960s.  The other part that struck me was that Keyshawn kept giving Tiger a pass on being able to affect social change because he grew up in the OC (Orange County, CA).   So since I didn't have time to call into the show and wait forever to get cut off after a minute, I'll give two examples of the type of social change Jim Brown is calling out athletes for not pursuing.

It is known that when Tiger is in a tournament and near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday, the ratings are much higher than when he is out of contention or not even competing.  Tournaments where Tiger is playing do much better financially than the ones where he doesn't so he literally has the ability to make or break an event by his mere entry.  One PGA tour event founder, Jack Vickers, indirectly blamed Tiger for the extinction of his event in Denver because he hadn't played it in years.  Another, speculated that giving proceeds from tournaments to Tiger's foundation is the only way to get him to certain events.  So if event creators know this, and Tiger is already using his drawing power to support his foundation, then why not take it a step further and ensure that the places where he does play are clubs that have a have a half decent membership policy and track record when it comes to minorities and women?  For years the great tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, railed against South Africa being part of the Davis Cup competition because of it's Apartheid practices.  He did not singly crumble the institution, but he brought awareness to the plight of Black South Africans struggling for equality in their country.  Instead of just hosting clinics at clubs, Tiger could be making sure that policies change at each country club green he sets foot on.  Keyshawn rhetorically asked today, "What do you want him to do, buy up a whole block of homes?" YES, that would be a start.  Buy a whole development in Long Beach, or the OC, or wherever and stipulate that the housing be affordable for minority homeowners in the same way that Warrick Dunn has done for single mothers in Florida.  So does Tiger have to walk the streets of South Central and facilitate gang truces like Jim Brown?  No, but he can go beyond, charity, which is a form of civic engagement that allows him to continue to craft a safe, marketable image, and take the types of stances that will ensure that those he is helping with scholarship dollars will not only go to college, but thrive.

Long ago (1992), Brown first called out Jordan for his aloof response to the report that sweatshop labor was being used to create his Jordan brand sneakers, which are never priced below $100.  Had Jordan ever sought to make a change in the world (which he said he couldn't), this is one possible way:  Following his retirement and increased involvement with the Jordan brand, he could have actually taken the trip to Asia to see what the labor conditions were actually like, and reported back, that would have been a story in and of itself, but what would have been transcendent would have been to demand that the manufacturing of his personal brand be based in the US, perhaps Chicago, or some other midwest city that depended on manufacturing jobs, which continue to be outsourced overseas.  This would have brought jobs and commerce back to the States and would have turned the business on it's ear.  Institutional change is what Jim Brown is talking about, not just status quo living.  I refuse to believe that both Tiger and MJ are ignorant of racism and the way it prevents minorities from gaining access to quality education, jobs, living spaces and health care.  They can do better, and if Jim Brown wants to call them out until they finally get it, I have not problem with that.  Don't try to discredit him with talk of his past legal troubles, and don't say that athletes in the position of Michael and Tiger don't have to do better than what they're already doing because they should.  Watch Black Magic and see what players had to go through to gain equal footing in the pro basketball leagues, and then read up on Charlie Sifford, the first black member of the PGA, to understand how there's even the possibility of a Tiger Woods.

One last thing that got misconstrued and I heard clarified today is the notion of Tiger Woods' blackness.  We know that Tiger famously identifies himself as "Cablanasian", and that was a sore spot for Cousin Kamal because he took the position that Tiger is saying he's not black, which isn't the case.  He's identifying himself based on all of the ethnic heritage he draws from his parents (Chinese, Thai, African American, Native American, Dutch).  I have no problem with him supporting all of these groups, and it does not make him less Black.  The African diaspora is rich with ethnic blends, and we have to move past grading each other on some "Blackness" scale that we didn't even create.  I will say, that Tiger must realize, that many see him as a Black man, so he should be less reticent to discuss his ethnic heritage.  It could go a long way to helping people move past singular notions of color in the same way that President Obama identifies himself as a Black man, but is quick to note the ethnic history in his family, particularly his White grandmother, the late Ann Dunham.  I'll stop there for now because I know that this will keep coming up as long as Jim Brown is still breathing and athletes are content to have their civic engagement come in the form of a tax write off donation instead of trying to change institutions that adversely affect their communities.

Reaching Lap 16...

As an age group swimmer, I often had to swim the 500 yard freestyle.  I wasn't quick at all, and I was skinny, so I had to swim the distance events.  Initially, I hated this as distance events are way less glamorous than the sprint events, but the harder I trained, the better I got, and eventually I started to embrace the 
20-lap race as my "event" and the training that went with it.  Whenever I would swim the 500, I would take it out hard and get to the front as that was the mantra of my coach.  Around lap ten the lactic acid pain would set in, and I'd have to face the mental challenge of having ten more laps to go.  Once I got to lap 16, however, no matter how bad I was feeling, I could always pick up the pace and finish the race strong as Lap 16 was the point at which I could see the end.  The Lap Sixteen mindset has stayed with me long after I competed in my last 500 freestyle. 

Three years ago, I started another kind of distance event: A Ph.D. in Urban Education at UCLA.  In the same way that my physical attributes led me to the distance events in the pool, my mental attributes have led me to education.  As of the writing of this post, I'm about to submit my dissertation proposal, which to me has become the Lap 16 marker.  I can not only see the finish line, but I can feel it.  I went to UCLA's graduation to see a few friends get their hoods, and I welled up just watching.  so now it's time to pick up the pace and finish.  The creation of this blog is part of that process.

For the last three years, I've sat in classrooms learning new theories, gone to conferences and digested lectures, and have still managed to hang on to a wife, raise a son and coach a swim team.  This blog will be my space to explore where all of that information intersects, understand what it means to me and ultimately the children I want to serve when my Ph.D is done.  One day it might be the merits of public schools, another it might be asking how our most privileged can better serve the poor.  I hope you visit often and enjoy the race to the finish of my Ph.D program and beyond.