‘Even The Hate Mail I Get Reveals the Contours of White Privilege’

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 2.52.50 PM.pngWritten by Mark Naison, professor of history and African American Studies at Fordham University in New York:

My Black friends have always told me, “Mark, if you were Black, saying the things you do, acting the way you do, you would have been dead a long time ago.”

If you think they were exaggerating, read the article “The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor” in the April 29 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education about the death threats and insults the African American philosopher George Yancy is repeatedly deluged with when he comments about issues in commercial media. The great Fordham Theologian Father Bryan Massingale has had a similar experience, as have my friends Johnny Eric Williams and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who teach at two of the nation’s top colleges.

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Dr. Naison with colleague Father Bryan Massingale

This is startlingly different from what I have experienced when I comment about race in America for CNN (“‘White supremacists by default’: How ordinary people made Charlottesville possible“), or other media outlets. I get hate mail. I have scores of people telling me I should never be allowed to teach. But I have NEVER received a death threat or a rape threat or an email that begins ‘Dear n…..r Professor.’

Black people in positions of academic leadership, commenting on the issues of the day, bring out a kind of insecurity in too many whites that is easily transferred into violent fantasies, and in some cases, into violent actions.

No one should underestimate the power and prevalence of White Rage in this country. It is quite literally life threatening to Black people, even when they reach positions of influence through their talent and hard work.

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Cultural Groups Bring Live Music and Dance to Fordham University Campus on Bronx Celebration Day

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Marzarte Dance Company performs at the Second Annual Bronx Celebration Day at Fordham College at Rose Hill. Photos by Michael Dames

At the second annual Bronx Celebration Day on April 21, a Mexican folk dance troupe, Marzarte Dance Company, held hands with Fordham students and local residents for an energetic chain dance around the Walsh Lot of the Rose Hill campus.

Folklorist and choreographer Martha Nora Zarate-Alvarez, who heads the Bronx-based ensemble, said the group’s lively performance represented the traditions of the Huasteco and Jalisco regions of Mexico.

“We wanted to showcase the importance of Mexican culture in the Bronx and traditional Mexican dance,” said Zarate-Alvarez, who was dressed in a multicolored tiered skirt. “Mexican culture is more than just mariachi music.”

Bronx Celebration Day was presented by the Bronx Collaboration Committee, a division of the Fordham Club, and co-sponsored by Bronx Community Board 6, Fordham University Commuting Students Association, Fordham Road BID, and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer at Fordham University.

Read more here.

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Yasser Tejeda & Palotrév

BOOGIE DOWN AT THE BRONX ZOO”

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 10.09.57 AM.pngYou guys know I LOVE the Bronx Zoo. What could make them even cooler? Well, they’ve teamed up with legendary rappers and street artists from the Bronx for a new series, “Boogie Down at the Bronx Zoo!”

First off, there’s a song, which you can stream below. Nothing like legendary MCs rapping about zoo animals! This is wonderful for school-aged children, but I love it, too!

These events, starting on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, and continuing weekends from May 5 through June 3, will include artists and performers from a diverse representation of Bronx cultures. Think Sugar Hill Gang, breakdancing, Doo Wop music, and salsa and mambo, too! And there will be Cuban and Puerto Rican food, as well as Italian food from Arthur Avenue.

And there are great video teasers for the series. For instance, in this one, Grandmaster Caz talks about how the the Boogiedown borough inspired them. And he says the Bronx Zoo (and the Yankees) are synonymous with the borough!

Here’s a video starring Garndmaster Melle Mel:

Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio of the Furious Five take the stage April 21, May 12, and May 13. You don’t want to miss it. Learn more.

Purchase tickets here.

Young immigrant voices shatter stereotypes about Islam at event at Fordham University

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The young speakers included: Mariam Agbelusi, Maryam Mohammed, Farida Ahmed, Memuna Abdul Rahman, Salwa Mohammed, Mouhamed Kaba, and Tijay Mohammed
By Mark Naison, professor of history and African American history at Fordham University.

Anyone who thinks immigrants from Muslim countries are here to wage war on Christianity, or that Islam is a “terrorist religion,” would have left yesterday’s “Young African Immigrant Voices” panel at Fordham, organized by the Bronx African American History Project, with their belief system shaken to the core.

On the outside, the panel looked like White Conservative America’s worst nightmare. Five of the seven young women on the panel wore hijabs and both of the men–and one of the women–had “Muhammed” in their names.

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The writer: Mark Naison, Ph.D.

But once they started speaking, every stereotype started to shatter. One young woman, a recent immigrant from Ghana who attended Kappa International High School across the street from Fordham, wore an Army ROTC sweatshirt along with her hijab, and spoke how much she loved the military and of her plans to pursue a career in the United States Armed Forces.

One of the men on the panel, an artist and teacher whose work promoting peace and gender equality has taken him all over the world, spoke of how his father, an Imam in Ghana, sent him to a Catholic boarding school, allowing him to sing all the same songs as his Christian friends and endowing him with a lifelong commitment to bringing people of different nationalities and faiths together.

A young women recently arrived from from Nigeria, now a student leader at Lehman College in the Bronx, spoke of how her Muslim faith did not separate her from her Christian siblings and spoke proudly of her family as a model of mutual understanding between people of different faiths.

And finally, three of the elders in the group–two Muslim, one Christian, who had worked for groups ranging from the Mayor’s Office to the City Commission on Human Rights to the offices of Bronx City Council members and Congressman Serrano, spoke of how you could not work effectively in the African Immigrant communities of the Bronx by dividing people along religious lines. They said Christians and Muslims faced the same issues and lived and worked in harmony.

On a panel that was diverse in age and experience as well as religion, there was not a single moment where anyone spoke critically of people of other faiths. And when people spoke of their own religious background, they invoked that tradition as something which promoted peace and the building of strong families and communities.

At a time when fear of immigrants, and Muslims, is being promoted in the highest places, the Bronx African American History Project provided an extremely valuable counterweight to misinformation and hysteria.

Special thanks must be given to the organizer of this panel, Jane Edward, Ph.D., a brilliant scholar brought up Christian in South Sudan, who has worked closely with the African Islamic Community of the Bronx since her arrival at Fordham ten years ago, and who has won their respect through her writing, speaking and advocacy.

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Jane Edward, Ph.D.

The young people she brought together exemplified, for all who wanted to see it, the promise of an American future where people of all faiths, and nations and values live together in harmony and mutual understanding.