All Articles Tagged "black academics"
(The Root) — It’s official. Dr. Cornel West has “stepped in it” with his controversial comments about President Barack Obama. West’s ”petty” lambasting of the president over his alleged racial allegiances and confirmed racial composition have resulted in a Twitter war among scholars, a viral video that literally went to every corner of the blogosphere and the complete demolition of West’s character in op-eds around the country. Google News is listing more than 100 stories about the controversy, meaning that instead of dying down, interest in the story is actually amping up. With West in one corner and Obama in the other, new and traditional media are lapping up the conflict between two of America’s icons — both loved and loathed by a wide variety of people for pretty much the same reason. The simultaneous embrace and rejection of blacks with intellectual and cultural capital, which challenges and confirms America’s complex history with African-American intellectuals, is playing out for the whole wide world.
Public intellectual, celebrity academic, scholar with a media strategy – there’s a lot ways to describe a professor that keeps one foot in the ivory tower and the other in the limelight. Sometimes you will find yourself appreciative of the musings, such as when Henry Louis Gates tackles some new facet of the black narrative. At other turns you may wince at the volume of their views– such as those expressed by Cornel West in a recent face-off with Al Sharpton — even if you agree with their positions. The Atlanta Post looks at these professors and four others who have established a presence far beyond the classroom.
As far as academics in the public eye, very few people get around as much as Cornel West. Princeton and a weekly radio show with co-host Tavis Smiley are regular gigs. Beyond that he’s liable to show up anywhere. Cable news shows are a given, as are an endless array of forums on race. But that’s also him in the studio cutting singles alongside Prince and Jill Scott, or racking up film credits in the Matrix franchise, which is the only time you’ll catch West in anything other than the trademark three-piece black suit.
It has been said that at the end of the Civil War, Black Americans were a race of people all learning to read. From that very encouraging moment in American history, people of African descent — slaves and descendents of slaves– have been in search of a space to cultivate an intellectual community. Excluded from traditional academia, divergent black thought has always trickled into the mainstream as evidenced by the debates of Washington and Du Bois and the explosive creativity of the Harlem Renaissance. With the advent of social media technology African-Americans have once again taken mainstream culture and flipped it. In 140 characters, liked, tagged, and streamed, black thought leaders are taking to the net for challenge and change in the 21st century.
It is an understatement to say that this nation has not always encouraged black intellect. Slavery, Jim Crow, and modern institutionalized inequality have all placed a wedge between blacks and books — sometimes by law and other times by intimidation. Yet, black Americans have entered academia in sharply increasing numbers since Alexander Lucius Twilight became the first Black college graduate in 1823. Despite common notions of black antiintellectualism and academic failure, the meme is still alive. According to a 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the number of associate’s degrees conferred to blacks rose from 55,314 to 95,702 between 1998 and 2008. In the same period, bachelor’s degrees rose from 98,251 to 152,457, master’s degrees from 30,155 to 65,062, first-professional degrees from 78,598 to 91,309, and doctorates from 46,010 to 63,712.
As blacks gather knowledge they are increasingly looking for ways to share it with a larger audience. There are countless Black educators, artists, activists and professionals on Twitter and Facebook engaging in important political and social conversations. They join an already vibrant community of African-Americans online. An article published in Slate last August, “How Black People Use Twitter”, indicates just how vibrant. Among black users (an estimated 25% of all people who have registered on the site) there’s a tendency for “reciprocal” online connections, with users following each other and engaging in conversations in lieu of broadcasting a message. What they tweet enters the ether and becomes accessible and relevant to people who may not otherwise encounter their voice. In a sense, intellectual discourse is opening up and becoming more concise and immediate.
Take for example, the Twitter account of Princeton Center for African American Studies Professor Imani Perry. From @imaniperry, the professor has messaged everything from her weekend breakfast to a celebration of Esperanza Spalding’s Grammy win. She recently shared,
“The cross burning case was Virginia v. Black (2003) Article [Clarence] Thomas cited: “Crimes w/o Punishment” is on my website www.imaniperry.com,” in reference to work of hers cited in a Supreme Court opinion. Although I have never met Dr. Perry, she and I follow 15 of the same Twitter profiles, people from feminist heroine bell hooks to singer Janelle Monáe. What those individuals tweet goes directly to Perry; what she tweets goes out to 2,818 followers.
Beyond providing a space for black thought, social media serves as an important vehicle for black action. Environmental justice leader and pioneer of green collar job training Majora Carter, maintains a Facebook page where she promotes advocacy on everything from clean water to tougher hate crime legislation.
Institutions are just as eager as individuals to get in on the online conversation. Gerren Gaynor, senior at Morehouse College and managing editor of the student newspaper said, “Twitter and Facebook have become the primary forms of communication for The Maroon Tiger. I think it is more effective for our audience because students are always on the go. It’s the best and most effective way to get information to the masses.” Accordingly, Morehouse’s 86-year-old paper was recently given a wider audience when its site was added to a Huffington Post page for college news and opinions.
The need to connect with like minds and new ideas has always been with us. Online platforms make it easier to achieve this as they make room for scholarship and advocacy too often marginalized and ignored. It’s good news for those who have a stake in analyzing and communicating topics relevant to African-Americans: the community is watching and ready to retweet.
Donovan X. Ramsey is the associate researcher at the Identity Orchestration Research Lab at Morehouse College where he is currently engaged in research regarding the expression of Black male identity in contemporary politics. He has served as a writer for elected officials throughout Georgia and is contributor to several publications. For more of his work, please visit www.dynamicstasis.com or his personal blog, The Perfect Square.
(Diverse: Issues in Education) — On January 18, 2001, Dr. Karin L. Stanford felt like her world was falling apart. The media had set up camp outside of her Los Angeles home and stalked her family after civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson confirmed a National Enquirer story that he had fathered a child with Stanford two years earlier. “I am father to a daughter who was born outside of my marriage,” Jackson said at the time. “I love this child very much and have assumed responsibility for her emotional and financial support since she was born.”
After Jackson’s public admission, old allies turned against Stanford. She was vilified in the media and demonized as a woman out for financial gain. “I couldn’t trust anyone,” she tells Diverse. A decade has passed, Stanford has recovered from the humiliating episode and has gone on to emerge as one of the nation’s most prolific Black political scientists. Head of the pan-African studies department at California State University, Northridge, Stanford has authored a handful of scholarly books focused on African-American politics, race, public policy and social movements, including the recently released African Americans in Los Angeles.
“Dr. Stanford is a superb scholar,” says Dr. Charles Jones, founding chairman of the department of African-American studies at Georgia State University and the co-author of an article with Stanford on Black legislative activity in California. “She has a lot of depth in her examination of Black politics.”
(Political Affairs) — PA: What inspired you to write Right to Ride?
BLAIR KELLEY: It was really sort of a dual idea that drew me to the work. First, when I was an undergrad and working on my senior thesis, I was trying to do a project on Lani Guinier, who had just been a big part of the news during the Clinton Administration who withdrew her nomination to be Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. I wanted to add an historical level to the project, which was my thesis in the Department of African American studies. I wanted to look back at voting rights and Black dissent more widely, back maybe to Reconstruction.
(New York Times) — As DePaul University seeks to improve its academic standing and raise $250 million for capital projects and scholarships, public accusations of bias and discrimination in the tenure process continue to mount. On Dec. 7, professors and students protested this year’s denial of tenure to two minorities, Quinetta Shelby, a black professor of chemistry, and Namita Goswami, an Indian professor of philosophy. Of more than 40 professors who applied for tenure this year, 6 were denied, all of them minorities. Last year, the five professors denied tenure were four women and one minority man.
(New York Times) — Renown came to Jean Toomer with his 1923 book “Cane,” which mingled fiction, drama and poetry in a formally audacious effort to portray the complexity of black lives. But the racially mixed Toomer’s confounding efforts to defy being stuck in conventional racial categories and his disaffiliation with black culture made him perhaps the most enigmatic writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Now Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar, and Rudolph P. Byrd, a professor at Emory University, say their research for a new edition of “Cane” documents that Toomer was “a Negro who decided to pass for white.”
(Chicago Tribune) — When Waldo E. Johnson Jr., a University of Chicago social scientist, decided to put together a book on what’s hurting and helping young black men, he decided to collect the thoughts of several black scholars, many relatively young and with experiences not too far removed from their counterparts who are in peril. ”When I started the project about five years ago, (many of the contributors) were post-doctoral candidates or just starting their academic careers,” said Johnson, an associate professor at the university’s School of Social Service Administration. “They were largely unknown but offering some really amazing empirical scholarship on interesting issues.”