Tag Archives: education

Speaking for a Cure

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A dawn without the sun
A night without the moon
Is a day without the light
A life gone too soon
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it
With hope in the wind
Tomorrow in the skies
Til the cure is in our grasp
we keep our eyes on the prize
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it

Leaves turn and fall in autumn
We rake the ground clear
and wait for Mother Nature
to begin the process again
To restore the forest in what was there
But what happens when the trees stay bare
When a winter’s cold
Springs into a summer’s heat
When deficiency in your immune system
keeps the cycle from being complete
Each infection or complication
Takes it’s toll
T cell count lowered
until trees weaken
Decaying at the root
When they touch ground
With no one but their loved ones around
How does the pain sound
Is it jarring enough to face the truth
We need a cure
Support for those dedicated to an answer
Awareness raised
Initiatives backed
Stories heard
Until lives can be saved

A dawn without the sun
A night without the moon
Is a day without the light
A life gone too soon
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it
With hope in the wind
Tomorrow in the skies
Til the cure is in our grasp
we keep our eyes on the prize
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it

More than 1 million in the US affected
So many more around the world
Developing nations struggling
for necessary medications
Minority communities here juggling
the rise of new cases
I just see the faces
Heaven made amazing
that will be lost too soon
They are the reason we seek
Optimism held
Berlin, France, Mississipi
It’s the reason to be in these streets
Passion ignited
Courage to persevere and endure
Inspires our search for a cure
Antiretrovirals maintain
Vaccines and topical treatments
being sought to prevent
But those faces
They shed tears for a cure
So we push
we learn
we test
we examine
until we win
restoring the fading light
that make the smiles
on those faces shine bright

A dawn without the sun
A night without the moon
Is a day without the light
A life gone too soon
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it
With hope in the wind
Tomorrow in the skies
Til the cure is in our grasp
we keep our eyes on the prize
So I’m gone speak about it
So I’m gone spit about it

Piece submitted for the 2BeatHIV’s Innovation Challenge http://www.2beathiv.org

Video submission

Requiem for Change

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The words don’t always
seem adequate enough
of my tongue

I’m still choking back tears
after all this time
I guess it’s learning
you can never be good guy oblivious
for too long
You can’t be enough royalty
to not need to keep challenging
yourself
Ain’t no ribbons for books read
and chivalry
This here is a long road traveled

The first shared tears came in high school
She was trying to reconcile what happened
I was trying to use balled fists in revenge
She was telling me she didn’t want that
I never realized I was making her
manage him and me
It took too long to recognize her strength
Good guy said you should have stayed with me
Good guy said let me fix it
Good guy still made it about good guy
I guess I felt
I couldn’t make it about her because
I wasn’t good at tears falling

Daddy liked liquor and women
Liked to swing heavy hands
I never asked to know about
anything else
But I know the dangers of that recipe
Good guy wanted to redeem
him by being the first
good decision he ever made
Wasn’t I the one who had to go
pick up his pride
from houses he was no longer
wanted in?
Good guys learn to fix things early

Good guys ask stranger if he
can walk her to her car
Never wonders why she might refuse
Might get mad at the answer
He be good guy
Good guy ask questions for understanding
Never bother to ask if it is ok
to ask questions first
Might take too much time trying to grasp
the reason for the answer
Good guy wears badges like boy scout
earned by completing deeds and tasks
Good guy don’t ask why the shirt
makes some run
Never realized that he didn’t get
the only badges made
That boy scouts also learned to hunt

The best goodbye
I’ve ever been a part of
was packing good guy’s baggage
and sending him on his way
The search for a new tenant
in this man’s understanding of self
was intensive
Thank God for the caretakers
who saw fit to share
with this fractured dreamer
The only lesson that never
settled home
is the freedom in letting
cheeks wet
I’ve never been good
at tears falling

What I did learn is priceless
I was inspired by the number of
times I was betrayed
by good guy instincts
Confided in by partners who
survived
Didn’t need to be saved
Found comfort in the midst of my eyes
I was challenged by fighters who
gave me books and lessons on
accountability
Pushed by men who were willing
to sit with each other in examination
of our own masculinity
Checked by soothsayers who had
seen where ignorance would lead me
Supported by a defiant band of clumsy
who were finding out how to stumble
but not fall
We had been learning to walk a certain
way for so long
The steps were unfamiliar but liberating

Each experience makes my heart full
Sobbing seems like thank you sometimes
I guess I know the reason I feel I’ve never
shown enough gratitude
I’ve just never been good at tears falling

Good guy sends me postcards
and texts saying he wants to come home
I tell him no
I’ve seen too much
I ain’t the same man no more

I remember leaving a workshop
after talking to a group of young men
feeling heavy
I remember telling the community
organizers that brought us
that there was so much work to do
What a crippling feeling it is
to do all that you know how to do
but still worrying
To fear that an angel’s fall at night
could lead to a devilish dawn
I remember stopping on the side
of the road on the way home
because what wasn’t being said
was deafening
I couldn’t get out the car
fast enough
I remember
the comrade
who held me up
The brother who loved me
band-aid enough to make it home
I remember the tears

The years doing workshops with men
The programs developed
The organizations worked with
The activists I have been trained by
The survivors I have stood by
The conversations
The broken
The determined
The death threats
The resilience
The everyday reflection
The camaraderie
The betrayals
The challenges
The dismissals
The reiterations
The struggle

The beauty of healing
The burden of sustainability
The necessity of the work

The realization that silence
means that nobody ever
considers that you can
hear them
see them

I promise
The tears are never too far away

I read a comment online today
I wanted to go numb
I couldn’t
I wanted to break things
but demolition is too familiar of a fancy
I wanted to cry
But I’ve never been good at falling tears

The water has welled in my chest
One day I will see monsoon
Or one day
I will vomit tidal waves

Theatre of the Mind

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“There’s a war going on outside, no man is safe from…” Prodigy of Mobb Deep

There is so much being done at various fronts in terms of Higher Ed and I think this quote summarizes why it’s such an intense playing field for multiple entities. It’s also why movements to “transform the academy” have been met with so much backlash. Folks in the Humanities and any minority studies scholars can tell you how hard they fight on their campuses. We have to really think about how we move and what we do going forward. There is this push to frame certain academic and intellectual offerings and flights of fancy. Mainly because they enhance critical inquiry, critical analysis, and critical thinking overall. They foster a greater sense of understanding, nurture social and political awareness, and reinforce and affirm a sense of self.

Take a look at this article in The New Yorker on politics and the UNC system in North Carolin by Jedediah Purdy,  “Ayn Rand comes to UNC”.

See, there is this rhetoric about focusing on skills and subjects that employers need. It falls in line with thoughts around having employable graduates. It increases attention to pre-professional majors. What it doesn’t do is fall in line with what is being discussed (see Daniel Pink and others) in the professional world about marketability. Marketability isn’t about what job related skills you learned or what subjects related to the work environment and industry you took. It’s about your ability to think in ways that grows profit margins and market share. It’s about your ability to navigate relationships. It’s about your ability to manage stress and to make necessary decisions. Much of that involves crafting a well rounded student in an interdisciplinary fashion. That involves the humanities beyond narrowing modes of traditional discourse. That is, if you want to graduate a student that isn’t intended to just be a cog in wheel that tends to underpay and overwork and doesn’t like organized labor.

We are not talking eternal truths and morality of capitalism here.

What’s funny is that the very people who are making these decisions will sit with a glass of wine and talk high culture. They will go on about the works of literature that have impacted them. They will credit music, the places they’ve visited, etc. They will speak the value of philosophy. They also endow programs at private institutions that offer classes that they don’t feel are right for public state supported campuses.

Do not believe that the trying to level the playing field of public and private is well intended. It is a filtration process that puts prospective into manageable pools of thought. Public is the control, private is the experimental. This is a white lab coat power struggle mixed with political gerrymandering and right wing ego.

Think about the C Bradley Thompson quote in the article, “If they really want to change the culture long-term in this country, it’s not going to happen through politics. If you think the political system is corrupt, what you’re really saying is the American people are corrupt. And if you’re saying the American people are corrupt, then what you have to do of course is change American culture. And the way you change culture is through ideas…. If we’re giving tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to political campaigns and we’re giving one-tenth of one per cent to trying to change the intellectual culture of this nation, you are by definition going to lose.”

What is happening in North Carolina is a sign of what is at stake during this political climate. It includes a fight to shape the nature of intellectualism and learning today. Those of us dedicated to widening the scope of thought have to prepare for one wild ride. They ain’t too privy to our kind unless we are teaching where they want us to teach to who they want us to teach.

Now about that increased funding to community colleges….

Superheroes

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“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve

My mother always told me I’d be a teacher

I ignored her as many young people do their parents

Set my sights on grander and more lucrative endeavors

So I proceeded to chase an illusion

Someone told me I should have

Spent time lending my talents

To a Tin Man of a system

Only to find myself the victim of heartless disloyalty

But along the way

Me and my pen

Came to terms with the marriage of purpose and blessing

Took a title, then accepted responsibility

And found ourselves in front of a classroom

 

When I called her and told her

I was promoted from artist-in-residence to a professor

My expectation

Was that I’d receive an “I told you so”

She didn’t let me down

Then lifted me up

In prayer

To the God that kept her son from harm’s way

Helped him find his way

Gave him gifts

Taught him how to use them

Then allowed him to teach others

 

I remember the smile I heard through the phone

I carry it with me to campus

Show it off to the students who enter my class

I am shepherd to the extraordinary

Who haven’t been helped to understand

The power they possess

My job is to teach them how to use their talents

Harness their uncanny abilities

And oh my do they have superpowers

 

A young man from southern California

Who had his heart ripped out by betrayal

So he replaced it with burning desire to succeed

Covered in resentment like a suit of armor

And I have to show him that what’s possible

Is in stark contrast to what he’s been told

 

A beautiful young woman in tight ripped jeans

Who only sees the world in shades of grey

Telekenetic, willing objectivity into well crafted essays

With elder siblings who try to murder her self esteem

I tell her that like a phoenix

She will be reborn even stronger

 

I have learned that invisibility

Is the ability to be in a room and be ignored

There is a girl in the back of my classroom

Not unseen

I know that she is there

I let her know

The force field of apathy she puts up

Will not keep me from showing her

That she is fantastic

 

I teach composition and rhetoric

Creative writing

Alchemy

If you believe that learning to work the elements of craft

Can alter what matters

Think and you can write

Listen and you can learn

Read and you can react

Aptitude is a desire

Let me show you how to harness hard work

 

Javonte was trying to claw his way out of the streets

Adamantium mentality said don’t ever be broke

So he stuck to his ways instead of the books

Until he was struck

I keep expecting him to wake up

Because I believe in quick healing factors

 

The freshman cheerleader

Whose desire to fit in

Has her adopting the bad habits

Of the people she comes in contact with

Keeps going rogue from my class

I want to convince her it is her potential

That is untouchable

 

The kid they all call strange that wants to be a doctor

I help hone his eloquence so he can cast spells

On those who might doubt his promise

The football player ashamed of his brilliant analytical mind

Because he is more celebrated for his hulking presence on the field

The NY native who is so absent he’s a ghost

Who randomly straddles desk chair like a motorcycle

Trying to navigate the parallel dimensions

Of the hell at home and the responsibility of school

 

I know people with superpowers

I marvel at the possibilities

Some change into costume before leaving their room

Some can’t mask who they were born to be

Mutants don’t get to have an alter ego

The nerds, cool kids, and jocks

They come to me for answers

I try to help them uncover the secrets

To finding them on their own

I never expected to be here

But I couldn’t imagine not being here

Using my ability to read and influence minds

To school these gifted youngsters

 

I called my mother to tell her I was a professor

My expectation

Was that she would give me an “I Told you so”

She didn’t let me down

Then lifted up my purpose
When she asked “Do you enjoy what you do?”

I replied

Mom, I get to train superheroes

 

Teachable Moment

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On Wednesday I had one of my more diligent students stay to speak to me after class. He commented on my use of Pop Culture (Hip Hop, Entertainment, and such). He said he doesn’t really take interest in such things (his words exactly). He asked if I had interest in more international things. He was hoping that I was going to talk about ISIS (you should have seen my face).

See that day I was going over what I consider to be the foundation for an English course with me. This includes critical reading and critical reading approaches, writing strategy, and the steps of the writing process. I told them my job is to push their thinking to enhance their writing. As an activity, I took them through an exercise of analyzing a poster (the message, visual design, etc.). Then I talked about Mark Wahlberg offering advice to Justin Beiber and began comparing and contrasting the two. I knew they would find it amusing and mildly interesting to talk about. I knew they wouldn’t completely grasp the levels of things that were at play. I was just setting the table.

So today, with the request to talk about ISIS still on my mind, I decided to help my students and the class understand what was going on. Next up was for them to grasp that I setting them up for critical inquiry, critical discovery, and critical analysis. I started with the same Pop Culture reference (Mark and Justin) and showed how there were intersections of Patriarchy, Privilege (male, white, class), Capitalism, Race, and Gender present. Then after discussing those terms I proceeded to bounce from US soil across the globe and back briefly analyzing various events, issues, and happenings utilizing those terms. We talked Boku Haram, Marrion Barry, China and employment, perceptions of New Jersey and Detroit, Baltimore and “The Wire,” Arab Spring, Ferguson, and more. They shared what they knew, offered their insights, and I facilitated the journey. Good class, but it started with Mark Wahlberg and Justin Beiber.

I am a scholar who believes in the value of Pop Culture. I also know Pop Culture is global. That’s not my only reason for referencing it. It’s also an accessible way to begin to dissect other conceptually complex things. It’s a great training ground. For me, it helps me push past propaganda when discussing layered world issues. It’s also a way of showing how perception shapes both our understanding of and behavior towards things. If a students gets that, then I can show how propaganda and rhetoric shapes our understanding (especially here in the US) or foreign affairs and global concerns.

Uncovering the Subtle Narratives (a video clip)

40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

I enjoy facilitating workshops. I enjoy guiding folks through discovery and pushing them to make connections they might not have thought about before. I learn a lot from hearing their perspectives and I hope they learn a lot also. I work hard to pull together sessions that are engaging, insightful, and relatable. This is an excerpt from a session I conducted as part of a colloquium I co-organized at SAU.

The goal was to think about the subtle narratives that exist in many of the cultural artifacts we engage with. There are so many things that can be pulled from them. It is also enlightening to hear what different people see and why. We are each informed by our own understandings, experiences, and beliefs. So when analyzing an artifact with other people you get introduced to so many angles and interpretations.

I Was Taught By Warriors (valuable lessons pt. 1)

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40to40: 40 posts for 40 days until turning 40

I want to take a moment and thank the amazing advocates, activists, and survivors that have educated me, allowed me to be an ally, challenged me, inspired me, and modeled the strength, vision, and compassion it takes to do anti-violence work.

Durham has been a special place for me because of these freedom fighters, these women. I carry them with me when I move and I try to hold their lessons dearly. I owe a lot to the NCSU Women’s Center and the Duke Women’s Center for their leadership and support in the work I got to do. I thank Bryan Proffitt for being the brother and spark that changed my politics, understanding, and sense of purpose. Thank you to the men who joined Bryan and I in pushing to be better and worked to help other men be better.

Men Against Rape Culture (MARC) was one of the most transformative things I was ever a part of. We talked with lots of men about ending violence, particularly domestic violence and sexual assault. Helping to start it at NCSU and moving it from that campus into the community with Bryan was work that wasn’t just needed, it was what I needed. The 6 years working with the state coalitions against domestic violence and sexual assault taught me so much. The work with various organizations and institutions was eye opening. I cried, shook, panicked, grew, learned, shared, and fought.

As I became more rooted in the arts community, my activism became part of my artistry and my role as an arts educator and mentor. I wasn’t able to continue my work with MARC as actively as before. I have not forgotten what it stood for or why it was necessary. I have not forgotten the fighters we aligned with and supported and how they shaped us.

I am so thankful because all of the work I was apart of and supported was done with thought and care. There were missteps, disagreements, and challenges. Still, there was a vision. A vision that included a multi-pronged approach to fighting, healing, and sustainability. A vision that made room for various voices and experiences and fought identity politics. We saw the way women leaders worked and followed suit.

I was able to be involved in helping secondary survivors like myself. I was able to create resources for survivor support. I was on campus at Duke last year and noticed they were still using resources created by Ubuntu and MARC. I got teary eyed.

I know my work is not done including my work with myself. Everyday brings new challenges and new insights. I am honored to have stood beside the folks I have stood beside and everything they have imparted on me. You have no idea how much I owe you.

In Love. In Solidarity. In Peace.