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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Michelle Alexander On The Perils Of Mass Incarceration In The U.S.

In her influential best-seller, “The New Jim Crow,” law professor Michelle Alexander dissects the devastating racial consequences of “locking up and locking away” more than two million American citizens. And in her frequent public appearances, Alexander elaborates on the paradox of her subtitle: “Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”  She drew a standing ovation on a recent, frigid night at Baldwin Wallace University near Cleveland. Speaking in a steady, clear voice, the Ohio State University professor delivered a portrait of contemporary racism difficult to hear: The U.S. prison population quadrupled in the last 30 years, fueled, Alexander argues, by a war on drugs applied disproportionately in communities of color.  There are more American prisoners now than... Read More →

Vintage Black Glamour Blog Shows Flashier Side Of African-American History

Ask Nichelle Gainer why she decided to create Vintage Black Glamour, and her answer is simple: She saw a need. In honor of Dr. King's birthday, Gainer featured this photo of actor Harry Belafonte and Dr. King sharing a laugh together in the 1960s. As a writer, Gainer learned to research, which often led to beautiful historic photographs of African-American artists, actors and political figures, all hidden away in the corners and file cabinets of libraries and academic institutions. Why haven't more people seen these? she wondered. Out of that question, Vintage Black Glamour was born.  "African-Americans who have an interest in American history that includes black people almost have to become amateur detectives and part-time scholars to track down information and that is ridiculous,... Read More →

Wil Haygood Tells CWRU The Story Behind “The Butler” During Martin Luther King Convocation

Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood stood in the pulpit at the Amasa Stone Chapel on the Case Western Reserve University campus, thanking university President Barbara Snyder for an impressive introduction and riffing on whether he was a strong enough high school student in Columbus, Ohio, to have been admitted to the Cleveland research institution. He doubted it. "I graduated 'summa cum lucky,' he riffed.   All joking aside, Haygood's intellect and credentials are what carried him to the university to deliver its keynote at the annual Martin Luther King Jr convocation. For more than 20 years, Haygood has covered some defining moments across the globe. As an international correspondent for the Boston Globe and Washington Post, he was captured by rebels in Somalia while covering its... Read More →

Connecting King And Soyinka: Some Things Were Meant To Be Looked At Differently

Kerrick Woyshner, 18, was a scholar in the first college-level Anisfield-Wolf class, pioneered by Dr. Lisa Nielson at Case Western Reserve University. Students read essays, poems and books by Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners, attended the September awards ceremony and did original research on topics inspired by the course. “I never realized what motivated my hand to click on the ‘Reading Social Justice: The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards’ class this summer,” Woyshner wrote. “I wanted something new. Though I hailed from a conservative, all-male Catholic high school, I plan on continuing this education my entire life, striving to benefit those who don’t have the resources so that I may one day become the Martin Luther King or, rather, the Kerrick Woyshner of social justice.” A... Read More →

Rare Recording Of Martin Luther King Jr’s Emancipation Proclamation Centennial Speech

Late last year, the New York State Museum in Albany received an ordinary package – reel-to-reel tapes donated by the late Enoch Squires, a radio technician. As staff worked their way through the items, one tape jumped out. It was labeled "Martin Luther King Sept. 12, '62." This bequest is the only known recording of King's speech on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, delivered at the Park-Sheraton Hotel in New York City.   This 26-minute speech featured a more measured cadence than his "I Have A Dream" speech, but the similarities emphasize King's discontent with the slow march to justice. He diagnosed U.S. race relations as a "pathological infection" that has hampered the social health of all citizens. King drew upon the language of the Declaration of Independence and... Read More →

Reflections On Far From The Tree: Quiet, Beautiful and Different Children

Arjun Gopinath, 17, participated in the first college-level Anisfield-Wolf class, pioneered by Dr. Lisa Nielson at Case Western Reserve University.  The class read essays, poems and books by Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners, attended the September awards ceremony and did original research on topics inspired by the course.  “Being an international student, I had this paranoia that my level of writing wouldn’t match the level of an average American student, but the small seminars – such as the Anisfield-Wolf course – have helped me get in sync with writing and not be afraid of it anymore,” wrote Gopinath, who grew up in Bangalore, India. His essay on Far From the Tree is one of a selection from students featured on this site. By Arjun Gopinath There is a huge variety of... Read More →

Shutting Down The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Kyle Thompson, a Michigan student, is the subject of an ACLU video on the school-to-prison pipeline. When Robert Runcie became the new superintendent for Broward County schools, a populous part of metropolitan Miami, Fla., he knew the rising tide of student arrests needed reversing. In 2010 and 2011, police made more than 1,000 arrests at his schools, and nearly 70 percent were for non-violent misdemeanors – such as truancy or smoking. These arrests disproportionately affected his African-American and Latino students. Even though students of color were 40 percent of the student body, they accounted for 71 percent of arrests. A coalition of concerned citizens, community leaders and elected officials pushed for a new policy that would reduce the number of students with criminal records... Read More →

What Race Means To Me: Being Chinese In A White America

Andrea Lau, 18, was a student scholar this past fall in the first college-level Anisfield-Wolf course, pioneered by Dr. Lisa Nielson at Case Western Reserve University.  The class read essays, poems and books by Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners, attended the September awards ceremony and did original research on topics inspired by the course.  “The pieces of literature that we read and the stimulating discussion held in this class have left a profound impact on my perspective of the world and my understanding of how society participates in equality and prejudice,” wrote Lau, who grew up in New Jersey. In coming weeks, this site will feature a selection of work from these students. By Andrea Lau My story of growing up in America as a first-generation Chinese-American is not... Read More →

“CommUniversity” – Bringing African-American Studies To The Masses

Affordable classes on African-American topics for anyone who wants to take them -- that's the gist of Professor Zachery Williams' vision. Beginning in February, residents in Northeast Ohio will have the opportunity to take classes in spaces around the region as part of his CommUniversity, a grassroots effort to provide low-cost African-American history courses to the general public. Community organizations like the National Institute for Restorative Justice have signed on to lend their meeting spaces for classrooms, and professors from local colleges, as well as community members, have been invited to teach.  For Williams, an tenured professor of African-American history at the University of Akron, this is a project years in the making. Williams, 39, grew up in South Carolina, and... Read More →

This Artist Spent An Entire Year Capturing The Beauty and Essence Of Powerful Women

Unlike most of us, illustrator Lisa Congdon kept her 2013 resolution, for the entire year. We—and the internet—are better for it.  In late 2012, Congdon, who lives and draws in Oakland, Calif., decided with writer Maria Popova (a Bulgarian living in Brooklyn, N.Y) to celebrate an influential woman each week in 2013. They titled the resulting collaboration, The Reconstructionists, and set up a Tumblr page to house their work: a new portrait and short essay on each of their subjects went live every Monday.  "We didn't intend for this to be inclusive of all noteworthy women or even the top 52," Congdon said. "That would have been impossible. We didn't come close to featuring all the women we wanted to, but we are hoping we exposed people to women they might not have known about... Read More →
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