Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why Children Need After School Programs: A Message To Donald Trump


Clearly Donald Trump didn't grow up in a neighborhood where after school programs were a life line for children. I did. Many of us needed a safe space not only to get away from tough kids and bullies, but our own parents. My parents, though they were hardworking people who had troubles of their own, rarely had a kind word to say to me and often hit me when they got frustrated with my rebellious personality. Having a place where I could shoot baskets or play nok-hockey or just know that I wasn't going to be yelled at was a God send. i spent countless hours in the after school program and night center at PS 91 in Crown Heights. And i clearly wasn't the only one because those places were always packed.
It was the same way in the Bronx. If you read the Arthur Crier and Howie Evans narratives in "Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930's-1960's," you will see how the after school programs and night centers of the Bronx not only saved lives of children who lived in gang ridden neighborhoods, they launched many careers in music and sports.
The mentoring young people received in those programs was as priceless as the safe spaces they provided. You find a successful person who grew up in a poor or working class neighborhood, likely as not you are going to find an after school mentor played an important role in their success.
Taking away after school programs from children is a crime.It was done once in my lifetime during the 1970's fiscal crisis in New York and now Donald Trump wants to do it again. For shame! Our children deserve room to grow, to relax and to feel safe and find adult mentors to protect them, nurture them and inspire them.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Without Immigrants, NYC's Economy Would Grind to a Halt


You cannot launch a program of mass deportations without totally destabilizing the New York economy. First of all, the business districts of many outer borough working class communities almost totally dependent on immigrant run enterprises In New York, there are at least ten times as many bodegas, pizza parlors and Chinese take out spots- almost all immigrant owned and operated- as there are fast food restaurants. They supply the food for the workers of "the city that never sleeps" not McDonalds and Burger King.

Secondly, the taxi and car services that EVERYONE in NY, especially its wealthier residents depend on to take them to and from airports, the theater and restaurants, and in many cases work, all are driven or operated by immigrants. This is true of Uber, Lyft and neighborhood car services as well as of yellow and green cabs. If you ever REALLY had a "day without immigrants" in NYC, the city would grind to a halt, literally.
And finally, we have child care
. The vast majority of child care workers and nannies hired by middle class and wealthy New Yorkers are immigrants. Should THEY stay home, their would be collective hysteria in a significant portion of the city's two income, high end families

In all of the areas I indicated, the immigration status of those working varies markedly, and includes significant portions of undocumented people . If you terrorize them, and create panic in their ranks, the entire city will pay the price of such a misguided and inhumane policy

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Tribute to Teachers

Here's to all the teachers:

Who feed kids who need food
Clothe children who need clothing
Hug children who need hugs
Love children who need love
Respect children no one respects
Listen to children no one hears 


In a country where cruelty and indifference are too often glorified, you are the nation's moral compass and its true heroes

Monday, March 6, 2017

Immigration Control Through Intimidation: Deportations The Trump Way


It is not clear the ICE is deporting more people under Trump than it was under Obama. What is changed is who they are deporting and how. In a number highly publicized incidents that are now too numerous to be accidents, the Trump ICE is going after people who have committed no violent crimes, who are part of families well.established in local communities, and doing so with "shock and awe" tactics that spread fear among immigrants of color. The goal seems to be to create such fear that immigrants of color will chose to go home, or will cancel their plans to come to the US.I call this strategy "Immigration Control Through Intimidation." It has pitted neighbor against neighbor, traumatized tens of millions of people and made many others wonder what kind of country they are living in. Any policy whose conscious goal is to create fear in large number of vulnerable people deeply compromises the society which chooses to implement it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Why Fighting for Schools and Fighting for Immigrants is the Same Battle


If my stance as a fierce defender of immigrant rights loses me some friends I acquired fighting Obama Administration education policies, so be it. To me, the two issues are inseparable. You cannot fight to defend the public schools of the Bronx without defending their students, many of whose families are recent immigrants from West Africa, the Dominican Republic, South Asia, Mexico, the West Indies and Eastern Europe. Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to 150 brilliant high school students from the Bronx who reflected the vitality that immigration has infused into Bronx schools and neighborhoods. They represent a future of our country that some want to deny, or curtail. I will fight for them with every ounce of energy I have, just as I fought to protect the hardworking teachers and staff in the public of the Bronx from unfair attacks.
Anyone who seeks to demoralize, intimidate and destroy the dreams of the immigrant students of the Bronx will have to go through me. The way I see it, fighting for their future is fighting for everyone's future

Friday, March 3, 2017

Where the Music Came From: Mourning the Loss of Great Music Programs in Our Public Schools


Just had a thought. So much of the amazing music we had in the 50's and 60's- whether it was the beautiful harmonies of doo wop singers, the girl groups and the Beach Boys; the incredible horn and guitar playing of soul and funk musicians like Sly and the Family stone and the Famous Flames, or the supremely talented back up musicians at Motown and Stax Records, was a product of great music programs in the nation's public schools after World War II. There were bands, orchestras and choruses, all taught by trained music teachers, and talent shows and musicals, and in NYC, great original student written shows called "Sing." Great musicians and great singers were being turned out all over the country by the thousands and tens of thousands.
Today, especially in our cities, especially in our poor communities, many of those music programs have been shut down. And an appreciation for harmonic singing and instrumental musical performance seems to have dissipated.
Yes, there are electronic substitutes and all those sounds can be replicated synthetically. But there is nothing like live music to lift the spirits, whether you play it or listen to it, and those skills, unfortunately, are no longer being nurtured and cultivated in our schools to the degree they were fifty and sixty years ago.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Hunger Crisis in Our Schools Is Nothing to Joke About


When Betsy Devos jokes about cutting school lunch programs, I think back to the day 6 years ago when my colleague, Dr Jane Edward, joined me in visiting a school in the Bronx which had a large number of African students. After showing us some of the great programs they were doing with this new, largely Muslim population, the principal and parent coordinator took us into the office closed the door and said:
 
"Now we're going to tell you what really goes on around here. On Friday, many of our students start crying because they are not sure how much they are going to eat over the weekend. School is the only place where they can count on being fed"
 
It will be a cold day in hell before I forgive Betsy Devos for making light of the hunger crisis facing many our public school families. She should not be given any position of authority regarding education, schools and children