Tuesday, May 13, 2008

At Last! Some Real Talk on Jeremiah Wright

I still stand by my statement on the Pope....still....the Father is to be commended here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mi Cinco De Amor de Mayonesa

I've told this story before in a different way, but May 5th is my unofficial anniversary my love story is a story worth retelling over and over and over.....

"Hey this is Thomas"
"I'm um, not sure what you're doing tonight, but if you're free.."
"Actually I'm going out tonight." (I knew it was a date)
"Well, I'll be up if you want to give me a call later okay."
"Oh. Okay."
"Have a good time."

That night, I got a call. It had been about a week since we first started speaking. The first time I heard her voice I felt like we were kindred spirits. She greeted me as if we had known each other for years. Her voice was smoky, sultry, and assuring." In every sentence I could hear, "I will not hurt you." It was perhaps the most safe I had ever felt with a woman, and we hadn't even met. She had sent me pictures and lord have mercy I kept those pictures with me every where I went. No, literally, in the kitchen, the bathroom, to my boy's house, to work, errrrwhere! She was goregeous. But you know the Internet, folks send you pictures looking like a swan and really...well...you know.

"Hey, I'm on way home, the person I went out with was an asshole you want to meet up?"
"Um Yeah. I know a place nearby we can go. You know how to get here?"

After dropping my drink celebrating my luck I realized...I was broke as hell. I had a total of 34 dollars to my name. Then I remembered the little spanish bar on Bainbridge Avenue. It was cool, it was nearby, and furthermore, it was affordable. I got in the car, and my first thought was (and this is the truth) "I'm going to marry this woman." The picture she sent had not done her justice. She was in person, an enchanting flame. However the look on her face as she turned to me was of utter disgust. I thought, oh my god, this woman thinks: A. Here comes another asshole. B. Damn he's ugly! In fact, she was still smarting from her evening and I knew had to do something to make her forget the Chia Pet (Yeah, i saw a pic of dude...Jesus saves, that's all I'm gonna say.)

When we arrived at the bar, the patrons were celebrating Cinco de Mayo and singing spanish karaoke songs. After a about an hour of conversation, drinks, and laughter I knew she was the woman I needed in my life. In a span of a short date, she had peeled back all of my layers, exposed me, and made me feel good about it. In a span of short date, I was reminded of my own power and worth. It is a rare thing indeed to be embraced in such a way and it actually be real. Its the kinda thing men sing on rooftops about (I sang in the shower). I wanted her to sing on stage that night, but would have to wait for another Karaoke night (I wrote a post about it but Blogger ate it.). I guess I wanted her to sing, because she just looked like she belonged there. You ever meet somebody and they feel like a celebrity? I still feel this way about her. That night I felt like I was with a star, and I wanted her to shine. Its the one feeling that hasn't faded with time. Each day, I want Diva to shine brighter and brighter. She's the type of woman to me that shouldn't be bogged down or caged up. A spirit so strong and so bright should be shared and allowed to supernova. We ended up leaving the bar and sitting in the car until dawn talking. Yes, I asked her up, but like a true lady she declined. She missed out too, cause a brother was JUST GOT OUT OF JAIL ready for some.

If there is a wish I have for my love is that she never forgets what her life has meant to mine. I hope she knows, that yes, I am dependent on her love and spirit. I need both to be as bright and strong. I hope she knows that because of her I feel a greater purpose. I hope she knows how grateful I am that a woman of such style, class, dignity and grace gave a poor schlep like me a chance.

I have no gift for her this anniversary, nor do I expect one. My official anniversary isn't until July. This is just a day when two people, who met on My Space, hooked up and created and created a love that will never, ever die.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Are Historically Black Colleges and Universities Necessary?

In 1967, Harvard professors Christopher Jencks and David Riesman wrote a journal article for the Harvard Educational Review entitled "The American Negro College". In it, they called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) "Academic Disaster Areas". The article caused quite a stir on HBCU campuses around the country and there were a number of responses to refute what was obviously a gross mischaracterization of these academic institutions. The damage from that article is still being felt as HBCU's continue to fight not only for their reputations, but for their very existence. A question is being asked in many circles where these issues matter: Are Historically Black Colleges and Universities Necessary? Before I give my answer to that question, I should note that I attended Howard University, an HBCU, and am not sure if my experience could have been greater at ANY other institution, black or otherwise. Having said that, not only do I believe they are necessary, but I believe their demise, will have dire consequences in the African American community for generations to come.

The Difference Is...

Having attended both a predominately white institution (PWI) and an HBCU my feeling is that one of the differences lays in expectation level. At HBCU's expectations of black students are high regardless if you're a diamond in the rough student or not. Many professors will double as guidance counselors to instill in a borderline student the confidence that they can achieve. In other words, they will work with you. I can say from experience that I did not feel that at the PWI I attended. At Hunter College, the attitude of my professors was basically, here's the material, here's the exam, there's the door when your done. Having said that, I cannot say that the quality of education was any different, as I learned a great deal at both schools.

Another difference is that HBCU's campuses are often small and tight-knit communities, complete with reminders of which gives students a feeling that they aren't just another set of student ID numbers. Anyone who has visited a major PWI knows, most PWI campuses are like mini towns, complete with a mall, a bank, a stadium and multiple dining halls. So the experience for young black man or woman attending an HBCU is often more enriching and affirming than it is at a PWI.

I am not going to address the "partying" issues of either type of school in depth since its my belief that "partying" is part of the college experience. How much, and how we party is irrelavant. Whether its keg parties complete with Jello shots or Hennessey and weed parties, to me its all the same ish...gettin' high.

MY story not HIStory

Because of their unique position in the social and political struggle of African Americans, HBCU's have become the gatekeepers of African-American history. Anyone who's has ever been to the Moorland-Spingarn Research Library at Howard University can attest to this assessment. It was in this building that Thurgood Marshall and others began work on the Brown v. Board case. Nevermind the pleathora of doctors, lawyers, educators, entertainers, inventors, that have come from these instituions. We tend to forget that there was a time where HBCU's were the ONLY option a black person had to go to school. We tend to forget that the figures who made and continue to make our history are alumni and alumnae of these schools. When I discovered how many named scholars come from HBCU's I was shocked. Since 1998, Howard University ALONE University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, a Truman Scholar, a Marshall Scholar, 19Fulbright Scholars and 10 Pickering Fellows. This from a school once labeled, an "academic disaster area". Howard University Medical school was described as "a school that would have been closed a long time ago, if it were not the only option for negroes in medicine." Today, Howard produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. Some may say, well, Howard is part of the "HBCU Ivy League" (Morehouse, Fisk, Spelman, Hampton, Wilberforce, etc.). I would submit to you General William "Kip" Ward of Morgan State University in Baltimore. General Ward is the highest ranking African American in the military and its only black four-star general. My point isn't to give you a who's who of HBCU's, but to make clear, that these schools produce excellence. That excellence, is an important part of who we are today. Preservation of these schools ensures that we are atleast on the playing field, even if it isn't always level. These schools tell and keep our story in this country. There is no exclusionist history as there is at PWI's, our contributions to this country is recounted, counted, and preserved at HBCU's and that is yet another reason why they are necessary.

Why Folks Have a Problem

As with everything, HBCU's do not come without their faults. One of the major ones that people bring up is the idea that HBCUs do not provide you with a realistic view of the world. Very few people go on to work in an environment where black people are in the majority. Curiously, I've worked in more than a half-dozen places where that was the case, but I digress. Many people believe that HBCU's provide you with a false sense of reality, meaning that they get you accustomed to the idea of working with people who look like you. The United States is a very diverse place. While there is some level of diversity that can be gained from dealing with black people who are from different places, it is not quite the same as having to work with white, Indian and Asian people for example, which is an experience that you would have at a non-HBCU. It is important to note however that just because you haven?t worked with many people of different races in the past does not mean that you won't be able to at all. Some people are just simply better at dealing with situations like this. Attending a college with a more diverse student body simply allows you to gain more experience with dealing with people who are not like you.

Black students today now have the option to attend just about any institution that they want to. Due to some affirmative action rules, there are many schools that are trying to diversify their population even more and are offering scholarships to students who attend traditionally white institutions. For this reason and a few others, people feel that affirmative action hurts HBCU's. To understand this, you have to understand that of course, affirmative action was not created just for black people. It is made for people who are in the minority. As far as HBCU's go, white people are in the minority. Part of the thing about HBCU's is their rich tradition. Some HBCU's have been worried that they will lose some of the tradition involved because many of them have had to lower their entrance standards and also accept students of other races. This problem has resulted in some HBCU's not being HBCU's anymore. Some schools have gone from having 80% of their population being African-American to 15% being African-American.

Everybody wants a piece, but y'all want a BIGGER piece

2 billion

That's it.

2 billion.

This is the total endowment of all HBCU's in the country combined. To give you a sense of how small that is, one school, Harvard, has an endowment of nearly 40 billion dollars. That’s the same endowment of Williams College–one school with 1,000 fewer students than Morehouse as a friend of mine pointed out to me today. It is no wonder that so many HBCU's are now gearing up for 5-10 year fundraising campaigns...they're broke! It is clear, that funding for HBCU's is no priority for the Bush Administration as it has proposed to cut 85 million dollars or 35% of the funding for HBCU's from last year. With that in mind, alumnae and alumni have become even more important in sustaining and preserving HBCU's. If alumni participation rates do not improve, we will see more and more schools close and with them generations of tradition and history. It takes five minutes to send 25, 35, 50 dollars to your college. You may not think its alot, but small donations are the foundation of all fundraising efforts. HBCU's are no different.

What this also reveals in my view, is the ability of HBCU's to maximize what little it does have. 80% of all students attending HBCU's still require some form of financial aid. According to Diverse Magazine, HBCUs represent only 3 percent of all colleges and universities, but they enroll close to one-third of all Black students. Forty percent of HBCU students pursue four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, and about half of all Black students in teaching fields attended HBCUs. To me that is amazing, and as the president of Johnson C. Smith College said, " If we didn’t exist, you would have to create us." I concur, HBCU's are that important. Instead of cutting funding and questioning the necessity of these schools, we should be focusing on how we can improve on the already solid successes of these institutions, they are a worthy investment.

The Answer is....Y-E-S!

HBCU's are as vital to the viability of America as they've ever been. They are without a doubt a necessity and those that would find fault with how these schools function, is failing to see the big picture. In a country that gives millions to black men and women who throw, run, catch, sing, strip, and rap, we should be willing to give millions to those who lead, create, and achieve beyond the possible.
We cannot and we must not allow these institutions to fall under the ideas that they are a holdover from segregation or that somehow the quality of education is inferior to PWI's. Both ideas are flawed, and the arguments for either are usually based in racist and elitist thought. HBCU's serve a population of this country that desperately needs them and a majority population that would be wise to support them.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I'm Sayin....

I have to admit, it has been a struggle to write anything of substance. I have tried everything to stoke the fire and....nothing. So I switched the style up

welcome to: the HARLEM experiment.


I owe my wife a public apology.

I scoffed at your pod casting and dismissed it as some passing distraction from things more "practical". Not only did I scoff, I failed to provide the kind of support a husband should always be willing and ready to provide. Love, among other things, means having faith. I should have assured you of and asserted my faith in what is clearly your passion. Yours has been the most wonderful kind of love a man could ask for. With this apology I wish to assure you that you have my support and any insight I possess 100%. I will always be your rock and rock with you through whatever. I love you and all that connects us. Once again, I am sorry.

I owe my friend DP aka King Jaffe Joffer of the Palace at Funkytown aka David Parrish an apology as well as I have been the worse at calling and keeping up. This despite the fact that in him I have a true brother in the struggle. We may not always "a" alike, but we be alike in more ways than one. Thank you sir, for your friendship...it remains highly valued...my apologies.

"Its like you gotta be disrespected and thrown out the exit to get the message" -Talib Kweli

Experience didn't do it. Readiness didn't do it. Sex didn't do it. Race didn't do it. What should we expect next from the Clinton campaign? If I had my way, nothing. I thought about Tavis Smiley's view that Hilliary shouldn't drop out of the Presidential race unless she's still trailing in July. April, May, June, July...hmmm. Nah. I don't like it. Its a great thing that Hilliary inspires little girls, women, and a lot of Republicans. Its a wonderful thing that she has the experience of being a first lady, senator, and black woman. But I wonder about Hilliary. There's a "realness" about Hilliary that's missing for me. Its not that I'm a guy. I work for an institution who's expressed mission is to inspire and educate women. I take my work in that mission very seriously. Hilliary just seems more and more plastic every time she opens her mouth. Furthermore, I'ma just say it. There is no way in hell I'm going to vote for a white woman before I vote for a black man with all things being equal...which they aren't. Obama's better and that's that. Yo. Hilliary. Bounce. Nah, for real yo.

The South

This is not an indictment of anyone, but I've officially lost it for southern living. I've been trying to give each of these southern cities (Memphis, now Atlanta) its fair shake. Memphis was just a loser city, and I was losing big time. Atlanta is a fraudulent city. This place is dressed as a progressive city but in reality its just another pretty prison. More and more, i'm feeling isolated between trips to Walgreens and home, trip to work and home, trip to the Wal-Mart, and home. I'm sorry, but I've just decided that I'm going to work to make it back home. I miss New York, not because its perfect, but because I know it, I'm a thirty something and I don't want to feel retired. Living in Atlanta, I feel like I'm retiring, slowly dying, instead of really enjoying my life. I can't take my wife bar-hopping, because you gotta drive every damn where. I can't take my kids to the park, because the nearest park is god-knows-where. My wife will not like to hear this, but the south just doesn't do it for me. I'm ready to bounce. About the only thing keeping me here is her desire to be here and the fact that for the first time, in a long time, I love my job. Beyond that, I want to go home. I came down here to better myself, and put myself in a better position to do something "big". What that "big" thing is I have no idea, but I'm not convinced anything "big" is going to happen here. As defeatist as that may sound, its just a reality. I guess my problem is that I'm just not seeing where the big improvement is besides the fact that cigarettes are cheaper. Places like this make you sit on your ass and become complacent. Some may say, well that's not true, because that's not me, but when you're used to walking around the corner for something, and now you have to drive a half-mile for the very same thing, it fucks with you. I'm not even sure I like the effect the south has had on us as a family, but that's a post I'll never write. I spoke with a family member today and they said something true as hell...there's no place like the home in your heart. New York will always be home for me and in truth its the only city I'm going to be happy in. Leaving, in my opinion was a mistake, but not a fatal one, and not one we can't overcome. For now, ATL it is.....ugh.

Beisbol! Beisbol!

Its April, the season has begun, and I still have the same issues with the game of baseball. Its a tragedy that there are fewer and fewer black men in baseball. I've read article after article that claims it isn't. All of those articles were written by White men. MLB refuses to develop young black talent in a real way. Yes, we have the RBI program, but the RBI program isn't a developmental camp where players are signed to contracts at 14 and 15 i.e. what you have in the Dominican Republic. Everytime I see Dontrelle Willis struggle on the mound, I cringe, because I know he is one the very few black pitchers in professional baseball, and if he keeps getting raked, he's gone. Some will say it shouldn't matter, that's the bullshit they sell you to keep you from really being pissed off. The fact is there are millions and millions and millions of reasons why it should matter. Contracts are have fattened, the game is more popular, and young, black, men have been overwhemingly told they can't join in the reindeer games. Baseball is largely dominated by latin players. Okay, but the only reason why latin players can even step between a major league diamond, is because a black man suffered through vicious racism for their right to do so. It is a tragedy and something ought to be done about it. Go Yankees!

"Why I am Opposed To The War In Vietnam" by Martin Luther King Jr.

40 years ago today, this man was shot dead in Memphis, TN denying my generation the benefit of his physical leadership. For those who seek to corner this man as a "peaceful dreamer" I submit....

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

25 Billion Dollar Endowment Should = Free Admission

Elite Colleges Reporting Record Lows in Admission

The already crazed competition for admission to the nation’s most prestigious universities and colleges became even more intense this year, with many logging record low acceptance rates.

Harvard College, for example, offered admission to only 7.1 percent of the 27,462 high school seniors who applied — or, put another way, it rejected 93 of every 100 applicants, many with extraordinary achievements, like a perfect score on one of the SAT exams. Yale College accepted 8.3 percent of its 22,813 applicants. Both rates were records.

Columbia College admitted 8.7 percent of its applicants, Brown University and Dartmouth College 13 percent, and Bowdoin College and Georgetown University 18 percent — also records.

“We love the people we admitted, but we also love a very large number of the people who we were not able to admit,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard College.

Some colleges said they placed more students on their waiting lists than in recent years, in part because of uncertainty over how many admitted students would decide to enroll. Harvard and Princeton stopped accepting students through early admission this academic year; that meant that more than 1,500 students who would have been admitted in December were likely to have applied to many elite schools in the regular round.

Many factors contributed to the tightening of the competition at the most selective colleges, admissions deans and high school counselors said, among them demographics. The number of high school graduates in the nation has grown each year over the last decade and a half, though demographers project that the figure will peak this year or next, which might reduce the competition a little.

Other factors were the ease of online applications, expanded financial aid packages, aggressive recruiting of a broader range of young people, and ambitious students’ applying to ever more colleges.

The eight Ivy League colleges mailed acceptance and rejection letters on Monday to tens of thousands of applicants. Students could learn the fate of their applications online beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, so three of the colleges said they were not ready to make public their admissions data. But the expectation was that they would also turn out to have been more competitive than ever.

“For the schools that are perceived to have the most competitive admissions processes, there has been this persistent rise in applications,” said Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale.

Ten years ago, slightly fewer than 12,000 students applied to Yale, compared with the 22,813 who applied this year, Mr. Brenzel said. Yale’s admittance rate — the proportion of applicants offered admission — was nearly 18 percent in 1998, more than double the rate this year.

“We’re really happy with the class,” Mr. Brenzel said of the students offered admission. “On a day like today it’s also easy to be aware of the incredible number of fantastic students who you have to turn away, because you know they would be successful here.”

At Harvard, as at Yale, the applicant pool included an extraordinary number of academically gifted students. More than 2,500 of Harvard’s 27,462 applicants scored a perfect 800 on the SAT critical reading test, and 3,300 had 800 scores on the SAT math exam. More than 3,300 were ranked first in their high school class.

Admissions deans and high school guidance counselors said they spent hours at this time of year reminding students who had been put on waiting lists or rejected entirely that there were other excellent colleges on their lists — and that rejection was often about the overwhelming numbers, rather than their merits as individuals.

“I know why it matters so much, and I also don’t understand why it matters so much,” said William M. Shain, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin. “Where we went to college does not set us up for success or keep us away from it.”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Usually they're wrong but sometimes.....

Have you ever been polled before an election?

It occured to me today that I have been of voting age for almost two decades and no one has polled me on how I felt about the current administration, a potential candidate, or the issues facing this country. Does my voice count in the polls? If so, I can tell you now, no one has counted it yet.

I click on Yahoo, and I have to read this:

The latest RCP Poll: (head to head)
McCain 44% Obama 44%

If they did call I'd tell them to watch this:

I've had enough.

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