A New Beginning

January 20, 2009 marks a new beginning for the United States. The year itself will become an historical marker for the nation much like 1607, 1776, 1865, and 1945. The English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 marked the possibility of new contacts among a variety of human beings and the onset of multiple crises that tested the culture and knowledge of every person involved. Divisions among British citizens on the island and the new continent showed the product of that initial possibility nearly a century and a half later. Unresolved debates among the body politic in 1776 exploded into internecine warfare that forged the broadest definition of human equality as law, ever. The consequences of the nation’s new commitment to democracy and equal protection compelled a new vision of the world that defeated the ideology of fascism in 1945. As the world debated the viability of democratic free markets on a global scale, a generation of human beings who understood our interdependence endorsed the leadership of a new kind of American president whose insights and policies will guide humanity forward starting now.

President Barack Hussein Obama embodies the joined possibility of Asian, African, and European intellectual achievement. The worldwide acclaim and national political election of his person as world leader is a result of the struggles for human dignity that connected Mohandas Ghandi, William E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, and Rigoberta Menchu. His opportunity in the face of unprecedented global economic, military, and political emergencies will stretch his understanding and praxis of the inheritance he has taken from the greatest leaders who preceded him. By balancing his prodigous abilty to reason with his unparallelled ability to intuit, Obama may chart a course towards a future better than any previous federal executive could imagine.

He could win the War on Terror over the next four years by enlarging the world military commitment to defeat Al Qaeda and its sympathizers. As a reward for military service, soldiers and officers might receive federal assistance to begin new business ventures in the developing world, particularly transportation, communication, and recycling enterprises rooted in an energy-efficient global economy. Creating stronger connections between the World Bank, United Nations, Red Cross, and International Monetary Fund would improve the efficiency of those institutions and increase their collective accountability to the most vulnerable and impoverished nations in southeast Asia, central America, eastern Europe, and central Africa. Canadians, Mexicans, and his own constituents may rally to a vision of the world citizen where engagement in their communities requires connection to the larger world. Educational reform in the European Union and throughout North America could develop methods and strategies of conglomerate and political leadership that began with sacrifice and concluded with a more inclusive idea of profit.

President Obama represents the largest potential turning point in human history over the last five hundred years — the possibility that not only Americans can unite to confront their problems, but that humanity can find more common ground and inspiration to achieve excellence in our lives. I hope he will embrace the largest possibilities of his power in all its facets. I hope that he will remember the restraint and consent that he will need to convince his supporters around the world to do the hard work that lies beyond his ability. Tomorrow, our hope must become work. The reward for our labor will be the achievement of humanity’s First President’s vision.

KING: The Substance of Our Soul (PA): January 19-30, 2009

If you haven’t called already, leave your message celebrating the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by calling 1 – 888- 887 – 3127.

You will need to enter the Channel Number (25481) and a Password (1234) to record your message. Spread the word!

THEN…

Ursinus College presents

“The Substance of Our Soul”:

A Celebration of

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 19 ~

Friday, January 30

2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ecumenical Service

12pm

Chapel, Bomberger Lower Level

Candlelight Vigil

6pm

Unity House with procession to Olin Plaza

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day Celebration

11am-5pm

Lower Lounge, Wismer Hall

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sheree Renee Thomas, author of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction

Campus Lecture

7pm

Black Box Theater, Kaleidoscope

Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter is an interesting mix of reprints, original stories and essays. Seventeen of the stories are original, with eleven reprints dating back to 1887. Steven Barnes, Samuel Delany, Due and Butler have established reputations within science fiction and Hopkinson has made quite a splash in the couple of years since she made her first appearance, winning the Warner first novel contest with Brown Girl in the Ring. Other authors have names which may be familiar, but which are generally associated with other fields of writing, ranging from Walter Mosley’s mysteries to the history and sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

“Profiles in Excellence: Student Leadership at Ursinus College”

Join this panel discussion on the importance and intellect of collegiate activism. Panelists include Sabrina Clark (’09), Dane DiFebo (’09), Danielle Harris (’10), and Geovanni Velez (’11).

3pm

Musser Auditorium, Pfahler Hall

Friday, January 30, 2009

“The Substance of Our Soul” performance event

7pm

Lenfest Theater, Kaleidoscope

Ursinus College’s best singers, dancers, artists, and leaders come together to celebrate the connections between the legacy of Dr. King and the start of Black History Month.

“Without Progressive Consensus” (NJ) : Friday, November 14 at 1pm

This Friday, November 14, Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey is hosting a major conference on race and its importance in the twenty-first century.

I will present my paper “Without Progressive Consensus: Black and Gay Relations in Asbury Park, New Jersey, 1970-2000” that afternoon at 1pm. Panel location and directions to campus are located at the website.

If you are in the area and have a few minutes, it would be a pleasure to see you there.

Here’s the link …
http://futureofrace.googlepages.com/home

True Triumph

Congratulations to all American voters for fulfilling the promise of political independence that stretches back centuries on this continent. The 2008 election campaign transformed the will of a global society to take responsibility for the ideas and actions of its leaders and conglomerates. It also reaffirmed the goodwill of most human beings towards a nation that represents the best ambitions of humanity in its commitment to the rule of law.

Barack Obama has achieved the first step in the process of reuniting and redefining the United States of America for the twenty-first century. However, he is most correct in his assertion that the victory belongs to the people he is elected to serve. As you watch the news and read the blogs over the next six months, mark the shifting rhetoric that the President-Elect’s opponents will employ to enforce their will on his agenda. The same advocates who claimed a political mandate for a permanent majority in 2004 (with a 3 million voter margin) have already attempted to negate last night’s margin of (at least) 5 million votes. Outlet after outlet continues to dissect the results by gender and ethnicity to begin the formulation of Obama’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

All Americans — not just those who voted for the winner — should recognize these habits of partisan politics. In the face of challenges in our economy, world climate, and the wars on terrorism, we cannot allow business as usual to continue. Our conversations and lines of thought must change, and those processes begin with questions — not the standard guesses at analysis. More than anything, the 2008 election result opens the door for the American people to hear and take advice from the scientific and intellectual professionals who serve our country.

Their voices rarely pierce the blogosphere (what does?) or the broadcast media. You can find them in many places, but one particular favorite is the series of H-Net discussion lists at www.h-net.org . Take one step today, and join a list that looks interesting to you, so you can be more informed about the major decisions you face over the next year.

The new President will only be as successful as the American people who understand, debate, and embrace the policies of change that his campaign and election symbolize. It is quite possible that your listening, reading, and talking with the people on your jobs and in your lives will dictate the political outcomes of federal and state healthcare, investment, and energy debates. Now, more than ever, YOU have the power to command the direction of new laws and the use of public money.

It is this accountability that is President Obama’s greatest gift to American democracy in the twenty-first century. Across partisan divides, continuing racism, and the legacy of patriarchy, he opened the door for all people to take control of the political forces in our lives. The forces of the status quo are already gathering to stymie this singular opportunity for regular people. Only with your vigilance and commitment to new ideas can the tree of freedom finally bear its greatest fruit.

Please respond and share the web resources you use to learn about the most difficult issues we face. Your advice and guidance will go viral through networks of filmmakers, educators, financiers, and students to redefine the meaning of change in 2009. It is our world, our nation, our state, and our town — together, today, we manifest a new process and product of global democracy.

Yes, we can.

Can You Compete? (Africana Economic Standards)

Hi, everyone,
Here are a few basic assumptions about our financial pursuits of happiness. Your questions and comments are welcome.

INCOME (2008 estimates; household, annual)
—–

under $60k … poor
$61k-$125k … working class
$126k-$320k … middle class
$321 and over … wealthy

NET WORTH [Assets minus liabilities] (2008 estimates; individual)
—–

under $12k … poor
$13k-$260k … working class
$261k-$500k … middle class
$501k and over … wealthy

:note:
the wealthy category can also be subdivided here. In the interest of providing goals, here is my sense of wealth stratification at the top. These figures are also based on 2008 data for individual property owners.

$501k-$2m … marginal
$2m-$10m … new wealth
$11m-$50m … established
$51m-$100m … global investor
over $101m … citizen

—–
Yale University, 2006. 

Yale University, 2006.

Career Paths

So much of our lives under the age of 25 receives structure from parents and government that the opportunity to ‘become adults’ and live with fewer limitations on our choices feels like freedom. However, the absence of authority can also frustrate the achievement of career goals.

In the Africana Studies program at Ursinus College, I try to help people develop a set of parameters for career achievement across the 20-40 years of working life they will experience after graduation. The annual publication of the most ‘diversity-friendly’ corporations in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine provides a useful starting point. However, the larger lesson is to devise a set of adaptive strategies for career growth that will increase salaries and benefits as well as offer social and public recognition for professionals as they continue to work.

Part of this approach to developing career path strategies involves the recognition of concrete corporate hierarchies within economic sectors and industries. For Philadelphia-area professionals, I have advised people to begin working in smaller corporations like Citizens Bank, PECO, Pennsylvania America Water, Comcast, Rite Aid, and K Hovnanian — depending on their academic strengths, research interests, and personalities. The next step beyond those employers has involved (respectively) Sunoco, PHENND, Penn/Temple University Administration, Jefferson Hospital Administration, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Finally, these professionals considered moving into senior executive roles with Wells Fargo, General Electric, Microsoft, Pfizer, and WalMart.

The specific paths were:

(finance) Citizens Bank –> Sunoco –> Wells Fargo

(environmental studies) PECO, Pennsylvania America Water –> PHENND –> General Electric

(media management) Comcast –> University Administration –> Microsoft

(pharmaceutical marketing) Rite Aid –> Jefferson Hospital –> Pfizer

(real estate development) K Hovnanian –> Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission –> WalMart

The importance of these paths are not the specific choices individuals make as they develop their careers. Instead, the broad attempt to structure a long-term strategy for career improvement and satisfication can secure a deep sense of personal investment and empowerment about your work.

I welcome questions, suggestions, and new insights about this process. Thank you for taking the time to consider your own career path.

A College Education

Here’s a glimpse at what’s possible if you apply yourself in college.

http://www.houstonpress.com/2007-11-29/news/priscilla-slade-and-the-tsu-three/

A Prototypical, Modern-Day, Stable Sinister System-Texas Southern University

In August 2006, flamboyant Texas Southern University president Priscilla Slade, along with three board members, was indicted for “misapplication of fiduciary responsibility” in relation to millions of dollars of misspent, misused, and disappearing funds. Many of Slade’s apparent accomplishments were ultimately shown to disguise a sordid reality. For example, TSU’s doubling of enrollment brought a dangerous element to campus even as the tuition helped fund her flamboyant lifestyle-Slade was eventually caught illegally spending $260,000 to landscape and furnish her home, $10,000 for limousines, and $9,000 for a bed. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of TSU students graduated in four years-one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Freshman class president Justin Jordan and his friends Oliver Brown and William Hudson-the “TSU 3”-were motivated to investigate the school after the death of a student bystander who died when a firefight erupted in a campus parking lot. Their investigation uncovered rampant corruption on the TSU campus. Christina Asquith, a reporter for Diverse Issues in Higher Education, related how the TSU 3 discovered a paper trail of evidence revealing that associates of campus administrators were being paid thousands each month even when they didn’t work for the university. State representatives were paid by TSU to be “guest lecturers.” Two highly publicized parking garages were built for tens of millions of dollars over budget. Administrators at many levels appeared to be stealing state funds. Through their diligent efforts, the TSU 3 built a slam-dunk case against TSU’s administration that immediately provoked indignation from the board and state authorities and resulted in the immediate firing and indictment of the guilty parties.

JK, as the instant messengers say. Just kidding.

Instead, despite the increasingly squalid nature of the material the TSU 3 was uncovering, the administration responded by offering semesters abroad and other bribe-like inducements to the trio of would-be whistleblowers. When the TSU 3 brought their evidence of corruption to the university’s board, board members responded with a vote of confidence for TSU’s corrupt president- neatly shifting blame for the problems on lack of funding from Republicans. When the students met with Texas state governor Rick Perry to provide evidence for criminality, the governor simply referred the matter back to the TSU board-who ignored it. The young men were harassed by campus police officers and ultimately arrested on trumped-up charges. Then, as Asquith relates:

‘In late Spring 2005, administrators brought the students before the

Student-Faculty Disciplinary Committee on charges that included “inflicting

mental harm,” “insubordination, vulgar language” and “disturbing a meeting.”

They say they were denied legal representation and told to write a letter to

Gov. Perry saying that “everything was OK now” at TSU. One of the TSU 3,

William Hudson, was suspended for a year and required to take anger

management classes in order to return. He was also fired from his campus job

in the office of enrollment management. Each of the TSU 3 was forced out of

his role in student government. . . . By the fall of 2005, the three were

feeling demoralized and ready to give up. “Every time we took information to

someone, we ran into a brick wall,” said Jordan. (Asquith, “Trouble at Texas

Southern,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education, December 14, 2006.)

Finally, luck turned their way-a sympathetic DA took on the case and the goings-on at TSU came under legal scrutiny. The indictments came down, and Slade lost her job, after a fashion. She was a tenured professor, so she was simply moved to a teaching position.

“With corruption, everyone pays,” Jordan says. “Now the faculty has to teach more classes, the students have had a tuition increase, the taxpayers-they’re sick of paying more money, and people in the administration are going to jail. We are all paying somehow.” Adds Jordan: “Dr. Slade and the administration did a wonderful job of charming the board. They were mesmerized by her. People were mesmerized by her.” (Asquith, “Trouble.”)

One can easily imagine that, if the charismatic Slade had had friends in the DA’s office, Jordan and his friends would have been further harassed until they had no psychic resources remaining. The lives of the TSU 3 would have been derailed, and corruption at TSU could have gone unchecked for decades to come.

NOTE: A coda to the affair: In July 2008, a federal jury found that Texas Southern University had acted illegally in arresting and expelling three students in retaliation for whistle-blowing.