Saturday, August 15, 2009

South Side Scholar is Moving Up in the World!

As of tomorrow will have run its course.

I am proud to announce that I have moved the site over to the bigger, better (and prettier)

Please check it out and let me know what you think. I look forward to continuing the conversation with you all in the new space :)


Monday, June 8, 2009

Be Back Soon!

I apologize for the lag in blogs lately... between my prelim, moving to a new place (the old place got broken into), finals, and a ton of additional work i just haven't had a chance to breathe... but keep checking back throughout the summer for a new design and more frequent updates :)


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Got Courage?

Lately, it seems like facing every morning requires some measure of courage.

Whether it is checking your account balance during this recession to see if you can pay all [or any] of your bills

Whether it is filling out applications in a depressed job market...

Or maybe your trying to find your way back into an intimidating classroom week after week...

Or you are daring to reimagine your life in a way you had long decided wasn't possible...

In some way, shape, or form... everyday requires a measure of courage...

the courage to fight another battle, to face another fear, to change for the better...

its not a question of ability... because we all are capable beyond measure (marianne williamson)... its a question of faith... and your willingness to accept your fear... and fight the battle anyway...


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Are You Compliant with Racism?

this weekend i was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go see the movie American Violet (which you should go see IMMEDIATELY).

the central figure of the film is a black woman who is unjustly arrested by the Texas Drug Force and her decision to fight for herself and for her community by sueing the police and the D.A. of her town.

What struck me about the movie is the way in which this woman jeopardized everything to fight the racial injustice present in her community. She could have easily lost custody of her children, her government housing and she did lose multiple jobs because of her battle.

I couldn't help and think about the way in which we often find ourselves being compliant in the face of racial injustice.

How many times have you found yourself saying, "this is not my battle," how many times have you found yourself thinking "i just can't risk my job for this," how many times have you said... "i'm just going to deal with this 'minor' racism, so that i can get (fill in the blank position) that will give me the leverage to fight the 'big' racism."

We change the way we speak and dress in the name of becoming more "professional" or "socialized." because these are not "worthwhile" battles...

we don't pursue the "radical" project at school or at work, because we don't want to rock the boat "unnecessarily."

we even avoid standing up in the face of overt racism in our homes, jobs and schools because we are (and perhaps rightly so)... scared of losing our paycheck, health insurance, custody, or even credibility in our profession...

and whose to say those things don't make sense? i mean can you really blame somebody for wanting to preserve their livelihood?

on the other hand... if we never fight the battles, how will we ever win the war?


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Growing up in a Waldorf School

Last week a friend of mine asked me about my experience growing up in a Waldorf School... and I told her the following story...

One thing most people don't know about me is that I couldn't read until the summer before the fifth grade, and as pretty much everybody knows, that is unusual for most kids.

Had I been at any other school anywhere else in the country... a young black girl in the fourth grade who couldn't read... I would have definitely been filtered into a "special education" track or simply held back... I could have potentially been diagnosed with all kinds of learning disorders... and been told that I just wasn't as smart, or capable as the other kids...

Instead, nobody at Waldorf ever waivered... my classroom teacher Micheal Martin was convinced that I was intelligent beyond measure... and when my parents began to worry about my progress... he told them... don't worry... she is a very smart child, just give her time, she'll come around. At no point did he, or anyone in my life ever doubt that I was an intellectually capable child...

The summer before fifth grade my parents started working on my reading with me using flashcards, audio programs and other kinds of books... which I think must have helped a lot. Because going into the fall of fifth grade... I was finally able to read...

Within a year I was reading at an adult reading level... In high school I scored a 720 on my english SAT score... and english, the humanities and any other subject that involved reading and interpretation have consistently been my strongest subjects...

I owe all of that to Waldorf...

For those of you that don't know, Waldorf Schools have a holistic teaching curriculum that focuses on integrating the mind, body and spirit into education. While they are not a "Christian" school in a strict sense, they base their mission in Christian and Humanist principles (for more information on what a Waldorf School is, check out this website).

One thing that I always stress to people is that every Waldorf School is different, so if you are trying to decide whether or not to send your child to one, I think it is critical that you check out the school for yourself. Talk to parents whose children are currently enrolled, and try to talk to parents whose children have graduated. If possible, get a sense of what kind of high schools their graduates go on to, and whether or not they tend to go on to college. I think this set of questions is important because the effectiveness of a Waldorf education can be so vastly different.

Parental involvement is also important, as I illustrated in the story at the beginning... I needed a push from my parents to get over the final hump... The Waldorf School I attended did not use textbooks, we did not receive grades until the seventh grade, and we did not always have homework... So I think for parents who want their children to transition into traditional high schools or colleges, it is important that they are actively involved in teaching their kids how to use those tools. Reading textbooks, getting homework done, etc are all skills that have to be honed... the parent that can help their child learn how to navigate them will have a successful Waldorf graduate.

Another thing that helped me was being involved in academic summer programs, where I got exposure to learning tools like rote memorization and regurgitating information... which... Waldorf was adamantly opposed to in it's curriculum... but were critical to my success when I transitioned into traditional schools...

For students of color in Waldorf schools... isolation can definitely be an issue... not so much within the school environment, but back at home in their neighborhoods. The Waldorf student isn't experiencing the same things that other kids are experiencing in school... and since most Waldorf parents are encouraged to restrict television and popular music listening... that can be the cause of further isolation...

My mom was really active in combating this isolation for my sister and I... involving us in after school and summer programs with the Police Athletic League, the Detroit Center for Creative Studies and various summer camps in state and out of state... This was a critical part of us being well-adjusted kids with a diversity of friends...

Waldorf was exactly what I needed, and although I am just now reaching a point in my life where I can appreciate it, I can now acknowledge that if it were not for Waldorf I would not be working towards my Ph.d today... Waldorf taught me how to think, how to trust my intuition and how to be creative.

But most critically... Waldorf taught me to never doubt my own intelligence... to accept challenges as par for the course... and to always remain confidant in my ability to do the work... even if I have to do it a little bit differently, or it takes me a little bit longer...

If you have any questions about my experience or about Waldorf schools in general, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email...


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why We've Yet to Have a Conversation about Black Greek Life that Makes Sense

During my time at the University of Michigan I had the honor of serving the student body in a number of different capacities. I was the vice-president of the UM chapter of the NAACP, I was a member of the Michigan Student Assembly, I served on the honorary degree committee, the diversity committee, the National Ginsberg Center committee, as well as led many efforts against racist publications of the Michigan Daily and defending Affirmative Action in the state of Michigan.

I crossed Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Nu Chapter on April 14, 2007 (2 weeks before I graduated from the University of Michigan) with 13 of the most strong, intelligent, sophisticated, self-reflective and kind women I have ever had the honor of meeting.

I am now at the University of Chicago pursuing my Ph.d in Political Science.

I say that first, because I think it is critical that every author be transparent about who they are and what their motivations are before they decide to write about anything.

I have lived/been a part of institutions of higher education for six years now, and in all that time I have NEVER heard a conversation about black greek organizations, and the ways in which they do and do not uplift black communities, that actually makes sense.

Instead, all I ever hear on both sides is unsubstantiated madness.

On one side you have the black greeks, who to often just shrug off anyone who questions them or their organizations as being people who tried to join and couldn't make it.

On the other side you have people who have never been to a black greek party, black greek program, had a conversation with a black greek member, let alone been privy to a black greek initiation process, making insane accusations about the nature of black greek organizations, based on what "they heard from their girl/boy." Or, based off of what their parents' sixty year old memory remembers from being part of an organizations that have changed in profound ways since the forty years he/she pledged.

As any decent social scientist will tell you.... people lie... they lie all the time. which is why survey data and interview data are fraught with inaccuracies... people lie to protect their reputations, to protect the reputations of others or just simply because the truth is to painful. They will also tell you... that people's memories aren't really worth a damn thing.

Yet and still time and time again, people write shockingly hurtful things about groups of individuals that they know absolutely nothing about (on both sides), based only on what they think they know.

Black was shockingly (or maybe not so shockeningly), the most recent author of these inintelligble, unsubstantiated and personally motivated additions to this unnuanced conversation. In "Manifesto... Why You Shouldn't Join a Black Greek Organization"... Dustin Seibert fails to make a single claim that he 1. can provide evidence for and 2. has a logical, or useful purpose. Instead, he slanders groups of people (my chapter included... labeling them "those sadistic Delta dames on the University of Michigan campus")... without once considering the consequences.

The entire article is an explanation of why Mr. Seibert failed to adequately research these organizations and move beyond hearsay to adequately evaluate whether or not joining would be in his best interest.

It is articles' like these that continue to prevent both black greeks and black non-greeks from having a conversation that makes sense. If we never move beyond fabricated and emotionally driven stories, how can we ever expect to come together as a community and uplift the neighborhoods and cities that we come from.

I would be the last one to sit here and tell you that I think that black greek organizations are perfect, or that they are completely without fault in this absence of conversation. But I will say that if community members are sincerely concerned about what goes on in these organizations then they must DO BETTER.

So today... I challenge all of you to DO BETTER. If you are a black greek and have a problem with the way that non-greeks depict your organizations, say something, and say it respectfully and intelligently.

And if you are a non-greek that has a problem with black greek organizations, come to the table with facts, an openness to what black greeks have to say about their own organizations, and tangible and realistic solutions to the problems which you have concretly identified.

We're all educated folks right?

Lets start acting like it.


p.s. and lets remember... one or two chapters doesn't represent every chapter...

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.~Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spontaneous Tea Parties?

I CLEARLY don't have time to write a blog post... but I couldn't resist attempting to [briefly] write about this foolishness...

I woke up this morning and turned on CNN... and was AMAZED that they were giving full coverage to this orchestrated craziness...

According to CNN "spontaneous" protests were emerging all over the United States, in protest of the proposed tax increases by the Obama administration. They reported that citizens are gathering across the country to have "tea parties" reminiscent of the American Revolution. They even went so far as to create a digital map of all the different places where these tea parties are occurring.

The problem is this... it has been well documented and widely reported that there is nothing remotely spontaneous, let alone authentic about these protests. As reported in the New York Times, these protests have been orchestrated by the RNC in a mis-guided attempt to get some attention (and predictably have been supported by Fox News).

As a political scientist, what is most interesting to me is the facade of the co-optation of protest politics by the GOP. It's fascinating if you think about it... the same conservative party that came down hard during the Reagan era (and continues to today) on "identity politics" and protest in general... attempts to use both protest and riots when politically convenient. When people of color do protest, let alone riot, it is deviant, disruptive and disrespectful of the political process. But when representatives of the GOP do it, it is a reflection of the American political ethic. Of course one also has to wonder whether ultimately, what renders these protests "inauthentic" is the fact that the GOP has to pay participants to show up.

I could go on and on about what does it mean for the GOP to co-opt the language of protest, social movements and "grassroots" particularly after the recent Obama campaign. But unfortunately I have no time! So... I will leave it to you... what do you think?


p.s. I can't help but wonder... what are the GOP's motivations when their economic messages no longer have resonance with the majority of the American population?