SMART STUDENTS FROM LOW-INCOME FAMILIES LOCK DOWN 4-YEAR, TUITION-FREE RIDES

An emerging nonprofit organization has gotten some of the nation’s best colleges and universities to dish out four-year, tuition-free scholarships to the country’s brightest and poorest kids.

By: Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele; THEROOT.com
Posted: Sept. 17 2014 8:24 AM

here’s an ascending player in the cluster of nonprofit organizations that help high-achieving students from low-income families get into the best colleges in the nation, and it’s employing a simple strategy to entice qualified students: If you get into the school of your choice, you get to go for free, the New York Times reports.
And for all four years, might I add. When the founders of QuestBridge learned about some of the barriers that smart students from low-income backgrounds face, like the complicated, drawn-out financial-aid process—the idea that students often have to accept or decline a college offer before they find out if they’ve been awarded a scholarship; and even if they get a good financial-aid package the first year, they may be expected to cough up money for their remaining school years—QuestBridge decided to cut that out of the picture and lock down a four-year, tuition-free ride for some of the nation’s brightest students.
The program targets high school juniors and entices them to apply by dishing out immediate prizes, like laptops. “To win the prize, the junior would need to fill out a detailed application, which could become the basis for his or her college application. The idea draws on social science research, which has shown that people often respond better to tangible, short-term incentives (a free laptop) than to complicated, longer-term ones (a college degree, which will improve your life and which you can afford),” the Times reports. Unlike many nonprofit organizations that leave it up to colleges to use financial-aid applications to estimate how much aid they’ll have to offer students from low-income backgrounds, QuestBridge’s 35 participating colleges simply fund the full, four years of tuition. According to the Times, scholarship winners can “attend their first choice among any of the 35 participating colleges that admit them. Hundreds of scholarship finalists who don’t win are admitted separately to the colleges, through a more typical admissions process, often with nearly full scholarships.”
Some of the participating colleges include Brown University, Columbia, Dartmouth, Emory, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

Paying The Price For Telling An Educational Truth

“Mute the Messenger: When Dr. Walter Stroup showed that Texas’ standardized testing regime is flawed, the testing company struck back.”…

“The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” –Abraham Lincoln

Thanks Latoya Denise . This was a great article. There is a tremendous movement to turn public school students into commodities. $460 million is a lot of money. Another major player (not mentioned) that help to sink the professor is the cooperate collusion between the so-called reform movement and the news media. For example some news media outlets have a heavy financial stake in the testing business; which means they are never going to seriously evaluate the school systems where they have installed superintendents; and there will never be any serious “reporting” on their performance. Much of this unfortunately is going on outside of the understanding and knowledge of parents whose children are the most underserved in the system. They could stop this madness of artificially creating achievement gaps, where none exist; but what do you (the economy) do with all of those high performing poor kids; what will happen to our criminal justice and social service system? The 70% insensitive to instruction number is startling; but many of us have been saying this for years; we asserted that we are for the most part testing test taking skills, reading skills, vocabulary and algorithm recall ability; and less content, and content application then assumed. We (Science Skills Center) proved this years ago when we were able to get elementary students to pass high school Regents exams. (See Journal: “Assessment in the service of Instruction”; AAAS; 1990; “SSC, Brooklyn: Assessing an Accelerated Science Program for African-American and Hispanic Elementary and Junior High School Students Through Advance Science Examinations” ;( Johnson, M.A.; pg. 103) Updated and reprinted in: “Science in the service of reform”; 1991; Johnson, M.A. pg.267……. The gentleman in question, is a brave guy but I could have told that professor, that if you take on the Black and Latino students are “broken” lobby; its war on your head! There is nothing inherently wrong with the children’s brains; only something wrong with the technical methodology, content knowledge and efficacy put forward by educators on behalf of the students; but for now there is just too much money invested in Black and Latino student “invented” failure. I have spent a lifetime (in many parts of the nation) trying to break the “broken” narrative; and I believe that there is no grater act in America that will invite a furious backlash from powerful and influential segments of the Black, White, Liberal and Conservative forces in our nation. If a Black or Latino acts up they have plenty of resources and space in the criminal justice system; an unemployable Black and Latino can be served by a vast social (patching) service system. But a skilled and educated person of color is perhaps the most dangerous person in America; and thus the great energy that is exercised by a collective voice of denunciation and denial. Yes people will say: “Well, it’s just about business”; and yes $460 million is a lot of business (and just combine that with similar numbers in states like N.Y. and Calf.); but this business (and the other big-ticket item of “remediation”) is predicated on a false and invented phenomena; a myth that many White parents and their communities have already figured out is a joke. But a wasted effort and money is one thing, an educationally destructive policy is quite another. And so the biggest victims of any bad educational policy, are the Poor, along with the Black and Brown members of our school systems.

P.S. Answer to: Chryssey Schloss-Allen and Mike Williams
Standardized assessments (assessing the knowledge of standards) in themselves are not bad when they are used properly; for example there should be a “standard” that we want all Nuclear Engineers or Nurses to meet (through assessment), or some very bad things can happen. When used properly as a diagnostic tool to improve student learning, and to inform the direction of instruction, they are essential. The examples you guys gave (entrance exams for specialized high schools), I agree are the bad usages of standardized testing. Here they are being used to sort children unfairly, and give children who have an unfair advantage (an even greater advantage) linked to: “parent push”; access to a strong k-8 educational program, with very effective teachers, teaching in a “time-efficient” learning environment (“efficient” meaning–middle schools can have vastly different “productive” learning time period, that can translate into months, or a year or more of less learning over a 3 year period.) They have special tutorial programs that focus on test taking technology as opposed to greater content knowledge. For poor kids and children of color; the odds of having 3 (6th, 7th and 8th grades) consecutive years of really good certified instruction is extremely rare. Therefore, these standardized assessments are not fair in any sense of the word; because the children being tested have not been exposed (treated in research language) to the same standards. Testing, is like a vehicle; if it’s an ambulance that is a good use; but if it is being used as a “get-away” car in a robbery, then that is not good.

http://www.texasobserver.org/walter-stroup-standardized-testing-pearson/?

Day #7 of Naimah’s request that I: “Share 3 Things that I am grateful for every day, for 7 days.”

“Whoever among you wakes up in the morning and is safe in his home. In good health and has enough provisions for the day, it is as if he has all the good things of this world”

#1 First of all I am grateful to you Naimah for giving me this challenge, it really gave me an opportunity to reflect deeply on the many things that I should be grateful for, every day. In a way I am going to miss this daily obligation/commitment. It has also help me to understand the power of one consistently performing Salat; we need powerfully good habits that repeatedly remind us to glorify God, and show our appreciation for all that He has given to us. And so from now on I am adopting the habit of reflect each morning on the many things for which I should be grateful. And I am grateful that you and other former students have: “flip the script on me”; and now all of you have fulfilled the dream, and primary objective of the teacher; to switch places with the student.

#2 I am grateful for being a lifelong learner and seeker of knowledge. I feel that when you reach the end of learning; then you have in essence come to the end of life. I can divide the world into those who have stopped learning; and those who never stop learning. The latter are the group of people who I most admire and want to be like in this world. A committed life learner requires a type of humility that says: There are (a lot of) ‘‘somethings’’ out there that I don’t know; and there are ‘’somethings’’ about the things that I think I know, that I don’t know. You must also be open to learning from someone who may not have the same or similar examples of a “formal” education or training. In every human interaction there is a lesson to be learned; the true learners fear is that she will miss it; and in fact will agonize over the encounter until the lesson is revealed. The “teacher” may not fill our concept of positive or pleasant; however the lesson is still important. You also learn as much from what people don’t do, or don’t say, as when they do, and what they do say. Finally, I always seek out people who are excellent at whatever job they perform; watching a master of any effort or task is a priceless lesson.

#3 I am grateful each day for hope. Now this is not a fantasy or a rootless wish. This is a hope based on the hope of others in history, and on your own individual story. It causes you to understand that you are not alone, but rather you represent a long line of others who passed on their works and hopes to you. I wake up optimistic, with the idea, that this is the day that evil, oppression and wrongdoing will surrender. It is like every day is the first day of the battle; a battle I am wining, if I just don’t get tired. No matter how disappointing or dismal things may get, I believe that truth, justice and love will outlast all that is inflicting pain and suffering on the world. I understand this is a bold claim because those who suffer the most in this world have the least amount of money, communication capabilities and access to political power. And so this is not a rational hope based on the logic of this world; if I were a betting person (which I am not); I would probably see my not winning as a good bet, if we look at the present conditions and our access to tools, supplies and resources ; this hope would seem impossible. But the impossible will be made possible; and those who have chosen an unprincipled peace and power over justice, will eventually find that they have made a bad deal. And I am grateful to have a daily spirit of resilience and resistance, which is fueled by this great sense of hope.

Day #6 of Naimah’s request that I: “Share 3 Things that I am grateful for every day, for 7 days.”

#1 I am grateful for a pension and health insurance. One of the things that hit me recently about a pension is this: A large number of young post high-school people in America are unemployed; have been unemployed for a long period of time; and some will remain unemployed for many years in the future. And then there are people who are forced to work at a no-benefits part/time job; and/or more than one part-time job; none of which offers benefits. I wonder what will happen to these young citizens when they reach senior status, and have no pension to help them to live comfortably. Having health insurance allows me to not worry that I will be a burden to others if I become seriously ill; but also it gives me a great deal of preventable healthcare options with access to a full spectrum of medical specialist (and the older you get the longer the “specialist” list grows :-) I am always amazed at the difference in the cost of health care service and my co-pay. Of course health care cost are totally out of control; I once ask my pharmacist how much my prescription really cost, since I only paid $10.00. You know you really have a “serious senior” prescription when it does not have an end date! In any event, he told me jokingly “Mr. Johnson, you really don’t want to know”. Me ever inquisitive: “Yes, I really do”. He went to his computer and punched a few keys; and then he turned and gave me the per/pill cost. “What!” I said, “you must be kidding”. I did the calculation for the number he gave me X 30 X 12 in my head; I was stunned; $10.00 would not even buy me ½ of one pill! But we have (we have been given), only so that we may help those who don’t have.

#2 I am daily grateful for my website/blog. I have always enjoyed writing (I think it started with my high school creative writing elective class). But as a professional administrator I spent great deal of my time during the day writing things like memos, reports and letters. These activities draw from another section of the brain (other than the creative writing section). Blogging has become a form of meditation and meaningful work for me. It can be both a therapeutic, and spirit lifting daily exercise. Every day I am able to “speak to the universe” about something I find interesting, it can be a personal encounter, a news story or event; or an educational issue that I find important or interesting. Very often a topic is generated by a question or comment from a friend, a former student, as in the case of this “grateful” writing activity. I often wonder, now that I do it every day, what was I doing (thinking?), before I took this on as regular activity. I believe that every person has some type of creative art form inside of them. The society does its best to distract and cause us to deny that creative expression. And In a commercial driven society, people are told that they can’t act if they are not on Broadway, can’t dance if they are not a member of Alvin Ailey, can’t paint if they are not a Jacob Lawrence; I think this is wrong. Connected to creating meaning in your life is the ability to create art in your life. If you can engage the mysteries of the world; by exploring the mysteries inside of yourself; then you should do it; not for the money or fame, but for the joy of making sense of the world; and at the same time, make sense of the world inside of you.

#3 I am grateful on a daily basis for my sense of humor (and how many times have I heard: “I can’t believe (didn’t know) that you have such a sense of humor.” There are days you may need to tell a joke about yourself; and then follow-up by laughing at yourself. It is a wonderful way of not taking yourself, and this life too serious. I have found that over the years there is no better place to practice your stand up routine then in a high school. You will find no better audience or material for jokes; teenagers are the funniest members of our species; and despite what most people think, if they trust your intentions you can joke with them! Now my humor inclines towards the ironic, subtle and or mildly sarcastic. A minister once remarked after hearing me speak at an event, that my humor often requires that the listener have some “additional information in their mental libraries”. But no matter how well stocked your mental library; you must have a sense of humor, if you want to survive the daily madness of this world (a world ruled by money-changers and Madmen). If you respond to every insult, every attack on your personhood, every dismissal or denial; you will either end up crazy, in prison or dead. And so every day I look for, and I am grateful for the little funny things that can happen (or that I can make happen) in life; so that I can continue to daily do the very serious things in life.

Day #5 of Naimah’s request that I: “Share 3 Things that I am grateful for every day, for 7 days.”

#1 Grateful for each new day; in the morning when I realize I am alive (I know because I can realize that I am alive); and I able to make the “decision” every new day. That decision to do the least amount of harm (today) possible to another human being on the planet. I am also grateful to know that when I fail in this effort by something I have said or done; or something I should have said, but failed to say; or something I should have done but failed to do. Each new day I get a chance to correct a mistake; or to prevent a mistake. I am grateful that life is a multi-act experience; and so I get a 2nd, 3rd, 4th…… chance to get it right. Those repeated “failings” help me to understand the limitations of my own humanity; and to be patient and understanding with other humans; who limited like me, are just waiting for that chance, each day to bring, do, act and speak kindness into the universe.
#2 I am grateful for my daily Yoga teacher, practice and class. When I moved to a new city I was worried that I would not find a Yoga teacher like the one I had in DC. But as I wrote earlier:
“I guess we can often take our daily blessings for granted; and could also fail to tell the blessings how much we appreciate them! It is like we did something to earn or deserve them in our lives. I have come to realized that I have encountered two inspiring, wonderful, spiritual and gifted Yoga teachers Anacostia Yogi and Doella Miller-Thomas back to back. It is like God said, don’t worry I have people in that new town who worship Me in mind, body and spirit; you are not alone….”
These two phenomenal women are so phenomenally alike it is amazing. It is like God performed a “spiritual reproduction” in designing these spiritual twins. They are both kind and gentle; and yet will push you to your personal best. And Like DC I love spending time with the other Yoga practitioners in my class; everyone is so positive, giving, encouraging, supportive, non-competitive and very spiritually inclined. One amazing thing that I have noticed. When I am in Yoga practice I can’t think of anything else in the world; except the practice. This Yoga experience has dramatically changed my daily lifestyle and routines; I now pay attention to health, fitness and diet in a way that I have never done in the past; and for this daily change in my life I am truly grateful.
#3 Grateful for my daily involvement in a “Devine Resources” principle. This is not the “get rich” (at the expense of others) philosophy; and not to be confused with the gospel of prosperity theology. This belief operates on a type of “super logic” that could only be understood if one is willing to accept the “givens” as living truths. (1) God cannot lie (2) It is impossible for God to act against His own will. (3) A promise or covenant made by God can resist any, and every human attempt at interference. (4) God will not give an assignment; and then not provide the tools, pathway, people and resources that would enable the assignee to successfully complete the task. (5) A Blessings may not be in the “currency” of this world. (6) Ultimately, your salvation is found in the same place your faith is found. (7) Poverty is being disconnected from your meaning and calling. Proof: I can start this story as far back as I can remember, but I will start in a place that would make sense to most people; although it is in no way the most powerful example. I was 19, and working full-time at night in the Post office and going to school full-time during the day. One day my next door neighbor called me over; and I would have never guessed at what he was about to say. He said: “You know Michael I have been watching you for years; and I watch how you carry yourself, how you speak and treat other people; and how well-mannered and respectful you are. My wife and I are moving down south; I don’t have any children; and I don’t want to leave this house to any jokers in my family; my wife and I decided to give you our house when we leave NYC.” Needless to say I was in a state of shock; I never imagined those words I heard. I was so young that my mother had to sign the transfer of ownership documents. And so that is how I got my first house! But this story is an example of my entire life; I have never found myself without an abundance of whatever I need in life. I have heard the phrase: “I am not going to charge you” so many times, and I am greatly appreciative, but no longer surprised! And I am sure that I don’t even have a clue of all of the blessings I have received in life; it took me a year to figure out that my Brooklyn doctor wasn’t cashing my checks! And so I am grateful every day; because God is faithful to care for us when we focus our care on others; I understand that it counters the logic of this world; but it works for me.

WHERE THE LEARNING CURVE FOR FIGHTING TERROR BENDS TOWARD STUPID

What can you say about a Nigerian army that does its best fighting against unarmed civilians?

PBS Frontline: Hunting Boko Haram…. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hunting-boko-haram/

“What’s this ol’ world comin’ to
Things just ain’t the same
Anytime the hunter
Gets captured by the game”— The Marvelettes

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”—Martin Luther king

This was perhaps one of the hardest Frontline programs I have ever watched. Not only was the incompetence and moral bankruptcy of the Nigerian government on full display; you are forced to wonder: If this is one of the “best” organized democracies, and one of the most resource rich nations on the continent; then Africa is in serious trouble. You would think that this misguided political-military strategy; based on a misconception that one can defeat an opponent by a practice of active dehumanization, ignoring the most fundamental rules of human rights, and the rule of law; by engaging in acts of terror against civilian populations; would be seen as unworkable by the recipients of this very same tactic, well not so. If any of us thought colonialism was bad; we needed to wait until we saw the sequel: “The son of colonialism”; (neo-colonialism) starring the most corrupt, ethically challenged and clueless Black leaders (for a brief fleeting moment, I had memories of Washington DC). It is a case of: We can do evil better than you”. This is: “You thought you were beat down by European colonialism, well watch what we can do!” If this is the “anti-Boko Haram” plan; then we are in for a long difficult future. I think the U.S. Ambassador (I was impressed with his understandable restraint) interviewed, should receive some type of Emmy; as he astutely verbally maneuvered around calling the Nigerian military’s behavior what it was: A bunch of fools, led by fools, on a foolish mission that will empower rather than eliminate the problem. One of the most amazing segments was when Boko Haram freed the innocent civilians from the prison (here unlike the Army’s “bravery” in fighting civilians, they folded and retreated quickly); the civilian prisoners escaped and refused to leave with, and join Boko Haram. They went back to their homes; after the “brave soldiers” returned the former prisoners were then systematically hunted down by the military and tortured (literally) and then horribly murdered. What can you say about a Nigerian army that does its best fighting against unarmed civilians? Every military school in the world should use this video as a teaching tool as to: What absolutely not to do when fighting an insurgency!” Why no serious African continental response to Ebola; well here is part of the problem. The most amazing revelation and irony in this documentary was that the Nigerian Army were not even able to raise to the “moral-ethical” level of Boko Haram. They rounded up (clearly in a random fashion) Muslim boys and men; and did not even give them the false option to convert from Islam or die; they only gave them the option of death.

Day #4 of Naimah’s request that I: “Share 3 Things that I am grateful for every day, for 7 days.”

“What is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads”–Albert Camus

“May I be I is the only prayer-not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong.”–E.E. Cummings

#1 I am grateful for house and home. Sometimes the most “ordinary” can be the most extraordinary. We could very easily take something we are so accustomed to having, something that we expect to be there; for granted. This is particularly important when the world is so full with people without permanent housing in “stable” nations; and living in daily desperation in refugee camps in areas of armed conflict. I say “house and home” here, not because I intended to cover a song that was so well covered by Luther Vandross; but rather, because there is an important difference with a distinction here. I am grateful for my house/home because I have constructed/developed it as a place of peace, inspiration and instruction. I think first that a home must be a “temporary” retreat, a sanctuary and soul restoration space; away from the twisted values, insincerity and inauthenticity in the world outside your door. It’s the place where you can find and be you. The house/home will follow your lead (taste), won’t be judgmental, and will reflect your personality. For me that means art, art and more art; it means “collecting” things of interest to me. It also means having a study that transforms me when I pass through its doors; the floor to floor, wall to wall books (and a library system that probably does not resemble any known system in the world; and yet I know where everything is!); the drafting/painting table, the writing desk; and of course the little wall space allowed, covered with art. I always feel at home, at home. Not living in a place of peace would seem to me to defeat the whole definition of “living-space”.

#2 I am grateful for a family who exhibit the most extraordinary patience and understanding with me. I pray for them, and think about them, without failing, every day. Since I was in my 20’s I have been on a sort of mission; and so I have missed a lot of events, and a lot of transitional events particularly in the lives of the young people in my family. When I was a principal in Brooklyn I had a cousin (Imecca Welsh) who was also a student; and for 4 years, every time I saw her, I grew a little sad, (I was happy to see her!); I was sad because she caused me to remember my family, and how much I missed them. If love is the true motivation in the call on your life; then it will truly motivate every part of your life. I think two of the most overrated and useless emotions are regret and revenge; and so I try to avoid them both; but there are some human times, when I wonder if my family knows how much I love them and miss being more involved in their lives; and what I do, I do for them. When I look at how wonderful and positive they have turned out; I realize that the divine “promise” (service will build a hedge around your family) made to me many years ago, still remains unbroken.

#3 I am grateful for the really few friends (true friends) I have; these brave few resist every effort on my part to play the part of what one of them called: “The most outgoing introvert she had ever met in her life!” I grew up with this terrible habit of really enjoying (usually with a book, but it could be baking, planting trees or working on my stamp collection) my own company. I probably don’t fulfill any of the standard regulatory requirements for what is usually associated with the title: friend. I will however, make great sacrifices for them when it is required (they say I am a good friend, but I don’t see it!). I hate talking on the phone. I like to be around people I trust and like; and so when the social group gets larger than 2, I can get nervous and uneasy. I don’t do “home visits” (I am trying now, but it’s hard); I don’t want home visits; don’t do “male bonding stuff”; parties, sporting and social events are a no-no. But the amazing thing is that all of these folks are unbelievably intelligent, knowledgeable, confident, and powerful and have full creative and productive lives. And so they don’t mind if, as occurred a few weeks ago; I called one of them to help a former student with a situation. We had not spoken in months; but it was as if we had just spoken last week! One of the important lessons I learned recently; (and here we go with the ordinary showing up as extraordinary) is that a friend must “like” you, (Sound simple right? And someone is saying: “I knew that”.) But I mean, really like you; as in liking, respecting, and (if not sharing at least) appreciating, understanding your idiosyncrasies and creative interest. I think that ultimately your friends, and you must be members of the same cultural-intellectual-spiritual, “tribe”.

THE RAY RICE SAGA: A GOOD LESSON PLAN FROM THE HYPOCRISY PLAYBOOK

I guess my confusion (concern?) with this entire Ray Rice scenario is how did the revelation of the “new video”, change things so dramatically (beyond the physical shock aspect)? How did the criminal Justice system, the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, the: “sports commentators”, and the sports community imagine that she ended up unconscious on that elevator floor? I think that there is some general misunderstanding as to the title: “NFL Commissioner”;it has the sound of authority (and he has some); but in the end he is essentially an employee of the team owners; and his primary job description is to protect their (economic) interest. And so, I think it very much matters who is overseeing, and who is specifically investigating this type of incident. What is the intended outcome of the investigation? Why was so much weight given to the “testimony” of the victim, essentially blaming herself (the victim) for her own victimization; which is not uncommon in these types of cases? I am not buying: (1) “Ray did not tell us everything” (you knew what you wanted to know) (2) “Oh my, where did that 2nd video come from?” I know sports fans don’t want to hear this, but the NFL is first and last a business. They have a very thorough, competent and effective “criminal investigation department”; that is structured so well, so that it protects the business interest of the NFL. No one inquired (for business interest/protection purposes?) about the video inside of the elevator? Each step in this sad saga has been driven by a lack of concern for the victim, or for abuse victims in general. I think their primary plan and objective was to: “just get through this”; the heck with domestic violence. I believe the young lady’s “confession of joint responsibility”; and the related “instant marriage” was part of the cover up plan. I think that the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens have been orchestrating, coordinating their efforts, and cooperating from the beginning; and they were prepared to have Ray Rice eventually kill this women; as long as it minimally subtracted from his playing time, and financial value to the league, and the team. One sports commentator on ESPN (and we may never see him again!); said it best: “If we were talking about a “low-impact” player, he would have been cut loose based on the original incident/charges.” I watched the Ravens coach’s press conference yesterday; the body language (a smirking non contrition), and theme was: “Let’s just move on”; most of the questions were unbelievably bad, and weakly sympathetic (toward Ray and the coach). Players in the NFL definitely got the message; as did young men across this nation who look up to those players; and further, those youngsters who aspire to join the NFL ranks. Don’t hit your wife or girlfriend because it’s bad for business, can hurt your team; and when we are forced to suspend you, can cost you money. And the final lesson, we are going to drop and abandon you, as a business liability(“it’s business not personal”)…The question as to whether this type of behavior is wrong, is not part of the (lesson) Plan. But who knows if further lessons are waiting to be taught, and learned; Ray could go rogue and of-script (for personal business interest/purposes), and tell who knew what, and when.

Day #3 of Naimah’s request that I: “Share 3 Things that I am grateful for every day, for 7 days.”

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within strength, courage, dignity”–Ruby Dee

#1 I am grateful on a daily basis for the opportunity to be immersed in spiritual-pedagogy. This worldview allows me to properly frame the past, present and future. I offer no criticism here of anti-theist or agnostics; nor do I make any judgment about the quality of their contribution to humanity; their morality or ethics; I am simply stating what works for, and drives me; each person must choose their own path. 3 Things are important here (1) that I believe that there is the presence of a supreme justice and good, who is not oblivious, and unconcerned, as to the acts and behavior of humans. If the universe is not inclined toward justice and the good; then the entire “thing” makes no sense to me. If evil is just and right, and will triumph in the end, then we are, in my view, all lost. The world then is forever left to the rule of the most brutal and emotionally callused, those who have accumulated the most “gold”; those who are the most efficient at exploiting their fellow human beings; those who have crafted a technique that essentially disregards and suppresses the humanity of the politically disenfranchised. And therefore; (2) the full realization and restoration of that humanity is of divine interest; slavery, exploitation and oppression is not the destiny, nor the divine intention for humanity. (3) The divine aim of each human, is to find their purpose and reason for entering history (no person is a mistake, regardless of the conditions of their birth); they must know God, and know themselves; and know God for, and in themselves, in the full meaning of a call to some category of service; that service is identified by the unique gift that each human is given before they are born.

#2 I am grateful on a daily basis for all of those in human history who fought in any way available to them; for freedom, justice and the equality of attention and concern for every human being. I am grateful for the “fighters”, both known and unknown. Specifically I am grateful for my own ancestral heritage of those who fought to affirm their humanity while under the most brutal conditions of violent exploitation, cultural aggression and dehumanization. For those who could only dream and imagine a “normal” family life, “citizenship”, fair compensation for their labors, the opportunity to go to school, where they could fully exercise their gifts and talents. I am grateful every day for their inspiration, their hopes and dreams, that one day in the future; that some people who look like them would appear and honor their suffering and prayers with good works and service.

#3 I am grateful (and I guess everyone can make the same claim about their own history); for the time-period in which I spent my youth. Although the 50’s and 60’s were full of racial discrimination, racial violence, and apartheid (written and unwritten) laws. I think I learned some important principles from that age:
• Segregation, created a type of solidarity and a collective reliance on other Black-Americans.

• There was a sense that “elders” (part, or not part of your family) were given “respect” and honor.

• Discrimination had an unintended outcome of creating a sense of strong “racial pride”.

• I am not one of those who “glorifies poverty” (there is no glory in poverty!); but not having access to a lot of financial resources; created a sense of creativity, inventiveness and ultimately a sense of self-reliance. Old cloth into kites, “retired” brooms transformed into “stick-ball” bats; “cannibalized” bicycle repairs; old skates turned into “skate-boards”; making a “go-cart” out of the raw materials of “things cast away”; creates (unknown at the time) a life-long sense of pride in one’s own capabilities; and that “life is what you make (out of) it”. I spent many years living in a “cold-water flat” (Now illegal in NYC, and probably unknown to anyone under the age of 60!); that experience and the many other “not having”, created an adult (me) who feels that I can endure any situation; because of what I endured and survived in my childhood. If I only had 2 suits, and 2 pairs of shoes; then that’s 1 more suit, and 1 extra pair of shoes, than I had as a child! To quote the recently departed Joan Rivers: “What more can they do to me?”

• Segregated housing patterns meant that the Black community was richly diverse. This diversity allowed me to see and interact with a wide spectrum of Black professionals and skilled workers.

• Starting in high school, we knew something was wrong with the way America was “organized” (that “promissory note thing” that Dr. King spoke of); it took us awhile to figure, and sort things out; we did this with the help of writers like: Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin; but figure it out we did! Most importantly, we also figured out that we had to do something about it!

• At every moment we were reminded that we did not represent ourselves alone; that we represented something more, something greater. The HBCU’s institutionalized that concept.

• The weak and insincere “giving back” concept now in vogue with a lot of celebrities; was a serious general standard concept and behavioral expectation; you saw older people who made great sacrifices, and who quietly braved daily humiliation at their places of employment. You owed them your best efforts and service. In college our conversation was less about a career; and more about service; we felt we were destined to fully give our all; not just “give back”.

• “Act like you belong to somebody”; was the daily charge given; that was our realty show.

And so I am grateful for my age, and the age of my youth; because it has so much to do with how I live my daily life!

Day #2 of Naimah’s request that I: “Share 3 Things that I am grateful for every day, for 7 days.”

The first thing I realize is that this exercise gets harder each day; and second is how each “grateful” is inevitably linked to every other “grateful”. But in any event here I go!
#1 I would probably start in an area that perhaps most people would not think of as a source of “gratefulness”; and that is the area of adversity, disappointment, loss, failure, setbacks and denials. My thinking and reasoning here begins with my theological thinking and reasoning. I believe that Satan faces an impossible (no win) situation; primarily because he can’t contemplate the mind of God. This essentially means that people can act with the worst, and most evil intentions; but the outcomes (often unknown to us who also lack the ability to fully understand the mind of God; and thus, “faith”) have a purpose and meaning that lead to our good, and “the good”. For example that job you lost, or never received, was because you were supposed (needed) to be some other place. The person you wanted so much in your life, who left (and you cried!); needed to leave as they were blocking you from being and meeting, “better”. Now I understand that this is a strange, and difficult way of looking at the world but if a priest, minister, Imam, rabbi, or any type of spiritual leader (if they are to truly leading spiritually), must assist people in understanding this essential principle of life; or the people will have a very distorted and destructive perception of God. This is beyond: “learning from your mistakes” (which is important); this is that mistakes, problems and setbacks have meaning, as part of our personal meaning in this life. Further, these events are revelatory; as when there is adversity what clearly surfaces is our “true character”. We can’t truly discover who we are (really); if we don’t face great difficulty. Denials and loss are also a way of our “shedding” a situation so that we can evolve to the next situation. If you are underappreciated, unwanted, then there is a good possibility that you are “serving” in the wrong place and to the wrong people. Rejection points us in the direction of our calling, the work you should be doing and, to the people who truly need your work.

#2 Education: I know I am a little bias here; but I really believe that “unrepentant ignorance” (don’t know, and don’t want to know; and even worse, don’t know that you don’t know) is a great cause and source of suffering in this world. I believe that the best chance we have in helping humans to feel the true worth of being human, and therefore to be able to honor the humanity of other humans, is in that K-12th grade window. I start with my gratefulness for my “formal” teachers (97% White-Americans) who had, and held me to very high standards. They had high expectations for us, and did not use poverty, or any other excuse as a reason we could not learn and succeed. There was one long continuum of my being able to expand my mind; from learning to read in early childhood classes; to Shakespeare, Shirley Jackson, Guy de Maupassant, E. E. Cummings and Langston Hughes in a high school English Regents class. From my 8th grade “sputnik inspired”, resource rich science class; that really opened me to a love of science; to a high school Chemistry class that greatly expanded that opening, and sealed that love. I learned that the love of wanting to know, and knowledge itself was the most important weapons in the fight to succeed in life. In every way my professional life was/is the attempt to reproduce that power I was given as a school age child. As a principal I consciously (unconsciously?) sought to hire teachers who mirrored the wonderful teachers I had in my public school life. I am also grateful for my “informal” educational experiences. Growing up in walking distance of the: Brooklyn Public Library (BPL-Main branch); The Botanical Gardens, The Brooklyn Zoo; Prospect Park; The Brooklyn Museum and The Brooklyn Children Museum(BCM) was a wonderful childhood gift. The BPL and the BCM were places that I would spend timeless days in deep exploration and imagination; and for a young Black man, these institutions were most importantly, places (like school) where I could be “safely smart”! But this rich learning environment also gave me a weekly intellectual lift that grew my inquisitive mind, and help me to know that there was something called “the world”, which took in my world, but also included a much larger world. This also provided me with an emotional retreat from the challenges of urban life; I was in, and at the same time, was not in Brooklyn. But here goes that divine component again, as you can’t possibly choose (as a child) where you end up living. This had to be a blessing, for which I am eternally, and daily grateful!

#3 My Mother is, without a doubt, the single most important influence in my life; and for her, I am gratefully in debt forever. Let’s start with my name. I have always been fascinated by names. I believe what you name a baby has very important spiritual qualities, of which I can’t quantify and prove utilizing the existing scientific methods. But names I suspect have some form of cosmic connective power, and are not accidental acts (which is why parents ought to take better care of how they approach this task). As a principal, I once teased a teacher named Ashley; that in all of my years in education I had never encountered an “Ashley” who was not very smart (please don’t get upset this is not a scientific poll; it’s only my experience). On the other hand I have never met a Michael who was not to some degree, an “up setter of the order of things”. Michaels’ bring an innate challenge to what they believe is unfairness and injustice (Martin Luther King was actually born a Michael!). There are some really deep spiritual reasoning’s here; but I will offer the very sort version: In Christian theology Michael is that angel who is assigned to directly confront Satan, and subdue him “underfoot”. Michaels’ will necessarily generate (bring to the surface) the worst or the best in people. And so the first great act is to “name the child”, or to speak their calling into being. I am also appreciative of my mother’s efforts of encouraging good habits (many of which I mentally resisted; no physical resistance in those days); they range from seemingly small things like: Getting up early on weekends and non-school days; making my bed every morning (and don’t get back in it); Church every Sunday; honesty, even if it means taking a lost; perseverance and persistence in getting to a situation, and through any situation (“you won’t die”); delayed gratification; hard work has its own reward; “You must give more to the world, then you take from the world”; taking more responsibility than credit; thinking independently, “don’t follow the crowd”; and having compassion for those who are less fortunate. My mother was also the first person to identify and verbalize my calling in life (back to the name thing). As a teenager, a part of me was secretly more in love with Nietzsche and Ayn Rand; then Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I thought that kindness and compassion were traits I did not like about myself; I thought of them as the weaker emotions (not an uncommon response by a member of the politically disenfranchised). But my mother once said that: “God made you who you are, and you can’t escape from it”. She was right, you cannot escape from yourself (you can try, but at a great cost—an inauthentic life). I hate (a word I rarely use) injustice, unfairness, exploitation, dehumanization and oppression, with an innate passion; even at the cost of my life, I can’t feel comfortable in their presence. Finally, my mother enthusiastically and consistently fed my intellect by acquiring books, magazines, magnifying glass, magnets, a microscope, science kits and experiences that nurtured my curiosity and intelligence. When I was in middle school, she once told a group of “talkative” visiting neighbors: “You folks gotta go, Michael is studying!” Although she did not have a vast “formal” education; she was seriously committed and invested in anything academic I pursued; as if she sincerely believed that education was the best tool of liberation, for those who the nation had not entitled; and so, I am daily grateful for having inherited that belief from her!