Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Crime Against History: A Crime Against The Bronx: The Demolition of St Augustine RC Church

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"
Joni Mitchell
Today, as i was taking Fordham College Dean Maura Mast on a tour of the Morrisania neighborhood, one of the sites I had planned to show her was St. Augustine RC Church, once site of a vibrant predominantly Black parish in that community, and a place where I had once celebrated mass with people from its sister church in New Orleans shortly following Hurricana Katrina. I knew the parish had been closed, but wanted to show Dean Mast the building and explain some of the parish's noble history of serving African Americans in the Bronx largest Black community. But when I drove by the site of the church on Franklin Avenue and 167th Street, what I saw filled me with anguish and rage.
The church had been knocked down and an apartment building- and an ugly one at that- was being erected in its place.
How did that happen? Why did it happen? Why did people allow a beautiful building, first erected in 1853 through pennies saved by German immigrants and which, in another era,became a cultural as well as spiritual home for the Bronx's Black Catholics, get knocked down. Where was the Landmark Commission? Where was the Archdiocese of New York? What kind of world do we live in that a church of such beauty, and with such a history, can be DEMOLISHED.
I cannot accept this. What kind of city do we live in? What kind of country? If we do this to buildings, what will we do to people?
The picture below shows us what the Church looked like

Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When Anti-Immigrant Hysteria Swept the Land

During and after World War I, anti-immigrant hysteria swept the nation, focusing largely on Catholic and Jewish immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. Some of the results of that hysteria were:
The Prohibition of alcoholic beverages by Constitutional Amendment
A Red Scare resulting in the jailing and deportation of thousands of immigrant radicals
The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan as an anti-Catholic, anti-foreign and anti-wet organization as well as an anti-Black one.
The passage of draconian immigration restriction legislation, favoring immigrants from Norther Europe, which restricted total immigration from 1,100,000 in 1919 to under 100,000 by the late 1920's.
The same era also saw pogroms and massacres directed at Black communities in East St Louis Missouri, Elaine Arkansas and Tulsa Oklahoma, including the torching and aerial bombardment of the wealthiest Black community in the nation in Tulsa.
If you want to read a novel which captures the wave of rage and fear sweeping through the nation in that era, read Dennis Lehane's "The Given Day."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

How Charter Schools Have Stifled Educational Innovation and Fought the Opt Out Movement

Although charter schools were originally promoted as a vehicle to encourage educational experimentation, their meteoric growth in influence has actually coincided with a REDUCTION in innovation in schools because those promoting them most have also pushed for national testing and test based accountability measures for rating schools. In New York City, for example, the largest charter chains have fiercely opposed the opt out movement, and used their political influence to support state testing at all grade levels and the continued use of testing to rate teachers and schools. They have also virtually eliminated all instruction outside ELA and Math and used high test scores as a selling point, putting pressure on local public schools to raise their test scores to compete with them. They have helped create a political climate, in New York City and New York state, where teachers and principals in high poverty communities feel they might be subjecting themselves to a state takeover and eventual closing if they do anything to serve their students that doesn't translate into higher test scores. Make no mistake about it, the Charter Lobby welcomes such an atmosphere. It is their version of educational entrepreneurship, even though its results are toxic in high need communities which need arts, sports, community history, and caring teachers and counselors to help students stay and thrive in schools.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Why I Am Against Raising the Charter Cap in NY or Anywhere Else

I am against against raising the charter school cap in New York State because charter schools systematically try to undermine public schools through their lobbying and political activism. They fear strong public schools because their best teachers would all leave if they had the option of moving to a quality public school. They NEED public schools to fail and do everything in their power to assure that they do. They are a toxic force in educational policy in NYC and around the nation, supporting the most abusive forms of testing and test based measures of school accountability. There are individual charter schools which promote creative instruction, but the most powerful and well financed charter chains promote test based pedagogy, draconian discipline and scripted instruction by inexperienced teachers

Why The Bronx Leads the Way

They wrote us off for dead- from the halls of Congress, to the offices of banks and media conglomerates, to the announcing booth at Yankee Stadium, but we
Created a new form of music, Hip Hop, that inspired the world
Rebuilt neighborhoods devastated by fires with town houses, apartment buildings and shopping centers
Offered homes and opportunities for immigrants from every portion of the globe from Africa to Eastern Europe to Latin America and South Asia.
Became the place where those pushed out of gentrifying neighborhoods ended up settling and raising families
Showed how Muslims, Christians and Jews can live and work together in peace.
Sustained great public schools like PS 140, PS 55, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom HS and CASA Middle School in spite of school closings, charters and vicious attacks from leaders of both parties.
We never listened to pundits. We never gave up. We created our own future
The nation has much to learn from the people of the Bronx.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Confidential Conversations With People Who Work in NYC Charter Schools

During the past few months, I have had several confidential conversations with people who work in some of the major charter school chains in New York City. Here is what I have come away with from those conversations.
1. There is a systematic effort to drive away families of children who pose discipline problems in the schools. One method is suspensions, but a more common method is constant harassment of the parents of children identified as troublesome through phone calls whenever those children "act out."
2. The burnout rate of teachers is enormous. It is very rare for a teacher to remain in their job for more than five years and most of the best teachers would leave if they could get a position in a good New York City public school.
3. There is tremendous waste of materials, with basements filled with extra lap tops and books that could be donated to resource starved organizations, including public schools which often occupy the same school buildings
4. The only subjects which get taught, especially in elementary schools and middle schools, are those which are tested-- ELA and Math. Science, social studies, and the arts, are not given any weight in the curriculum, and the schools become test prep factories in the weeks before State Exams, with students drilled relentlessly to make sure their scores are as high as possible
5. There is a great emphasis, on all levels of the institution, on pleasing those who fund the schools, who include some of the wealthiest individuals in New York City.

If you examine these comments carefully, you will see why charter schools can NEVER be a credible substitute for public schools in New York City, which are designed, at least in theory, to serve all students and families. If they have a role to play, it is comparable to what Catholic schools once did for upwardly mobile families living in the city's working class, immigrant neighborhoods

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How The Democratic Party Fatally Damaged Itself By Attacking Public Education

Ever since the Clinton Presidency, the Democratic Party has been an advocate of top-down school reforms whose goal has been to make the nation more economically competitive and reduce inequality.

 Not only have these policies failed to achieve their stated objectives, they have destabilized communities where Democrats have traditionally found support, created widespread distress among teachers and parents, and given credence to the conservative critique of the DP as the province of technocratic elites who impose policies on people without really listening to them

Every Democratic politician who has promoted the following education policies, I would argue, has been complicit in the Party's decline

1. Promotion of national testing and test based accountability standards for public schools.
2. Closing of schools which are deemed "failing" and removal of their teachers and administrators.
3. Preference for charter schools over public schools, especially in high poverty areas.
4. Support for programs like Teach for America which de-professionalize the teaching profession.

These four principles have been pillars of the Democratic Party's education policies on a national level, pushed by President Obama and supported by virtually every major Democratic politician in the nation including figures on the left of the Democratic Party such as Elizabeth Warren, Patti Murray and Al Franken.

What have been the results of these policies?:

1. The have inspired a national parents revolt against excessive testing
2. They have produced a sharp decline in teacher morale and inspired the creation of teacher activist groups like Save Our Schools, BATS, and the Network for Public Education
3. They have promoted an mass exodus of the most talented veteran teachers and led to a sharp decline in the percentage of Black teachers in cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where teacher temps from programs like Teach for America have become the predominant labor force in the newly created charter schools.
4. They have accelerated the gentrification of the nation's major cities and diluted the political power of working class people, immigrants and people of color.
5, The have accelerated the shrinking of the Black and Latino middle class, and the weakening of the nation's unions.

If you are looking for an explanation of why the power of the Democratic Party has declined sharply in a state and local level during the past eight years, the promotion of these disastrous education policies has to be part of the explanation.

No better example can be found of the Party's adherence to the voice of billionaire contributors and technocrats over its traditional constituency into working class and middle class Americans than its disastrous foray into School Reform.

And unfortunately, the current leadership of the Democratic Party shows no willingness or ability to change course.""

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn- Even Teachers Need Love

I want to share an experience I had yesterday which shows that fear of isolation and fear of failure is truly a universal human emotion.
It is 12:30 PM in my Seminar room, the time the Parents Celebration for my graduating seniors is about to begin. I have an incredible spread on the table, wine, pastries, dumplings and egg rolls and No One Is Here! I am thinking, "what if I did all this work and nobody shows up? Are my students glad to get rid of me and just think I am a silly old man for organizing an event like this?"
Then, at 12:40, Bentley Brown, who wrote a 153 page thesis for me on his father, the great artist Frederick Brown, arrives with his mother Megan. We have ten minutes of laughter and conversation, punctuated by sips of Proseco, and I am thinking "If no one else shows up, this still will be cool."
Then, at 12: 50, another one of my great thesis students Emily Putnam, arrives with her parents and sister, and they sit down around the table with us to share the food and the drink. It is relaxed and wonderful and fun.
Then at 1 PM other students and their families begin coming.... and coming... and coming.. until there is no place for everyone in the seminar room, even with all the chairs removed. People are spilling out into the hall, for thirty or forty feet
I have never seen anything like it in all the years I have had these celebrations. Probably 40 people in all! We drink all the beverages, eat all the food, swap great stories, have lots of photo ops and hugs. I even Rap for them
It was one of the great days I have ever had at Fordham.
Yet two hours before, I had feared that no one would show up
This is how we are. All of us. No matter how experienced and accomplished. We have the same fears and vulnerabilities.
And we are much better with one another than alone.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Educational McCarthyism: Racism, Segregation and the Defamation of Jill Bloomberg

In the late 1940's and early 1950's, one of the ways the FBI tried to determine whether a white person was a Communist was to find out whether they had Black people as guests in their home for dinner or meetings.
Apparently the Department of Investigation of the NYC Department of Education is taking a page out of the FBI playbook and applying the label of "communist" to anyone who complains about segregation in schools or racially discriminatory distribution of resources. This is exactly what they have done in launching an investigation of the great principal of Park Slope Collegiate, Jill Bloomberg, who complained that the predominantly white school in her building got more access to team sports than the other schools located there.
This is absurd for many reasons, First of all, it is not illegal to be a "communist" or a member of a communist party. But secondly, putting the label of "communist" on someone who speaks out against what they see as racial discrimination represents an ill-disguised attempt to discourage open discussion of a major issue in the NYC school system
The entire leadership of the NYC Department of Education is tainted by this investigation, and the absurd charges that have accompanied it. The investigation must end immediately and an apology given to Principal Bloomberg, who is a neighborhood hero for speaking out about what everyone knows is wrong in the John Jay Campus and reinforces the argument made by NYC Let Em Play about the unequal distribution of sports resources by race among schools

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You Can Still Teach With a Broken Heart

No matter what happens in the Fordham health care crisis, I am not retiring any time soon. I have taught 47 years at Fordham and will not be pushed out by people whose vision of the university contradicts everything I have tried to impart in my students- integrity, compassion, freedom of expression, a determination to listen to the voices of the marginalized and the powerless.
But if my colleagues want to leave I will not try to stop them. Nor will I try to recruit talented scholars and teachers to make Fordham their home.
I will be here for my students and former students the way I have always been. And I will speak out on every issue my conscience impels me to as I have always done.
But I will not pretend that my Fordham is still the school I have given the best years of my life to
I am here for my students and the people of the Bronx
That's it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor"

Now that Bill O'Reilly is off the air, I think it is time I provide an account of my appearance on the "O'Reilly Factor," since the tape of the episode I appeared on is nowhere to be found
Ten years ago, I received a call inviting me to appear on "The O'Reilly Factor." The occasion was a controversy in a town in Ohio where a white teacher was chosen to teach a Black History course when the one Black teacher in the school retired. I assumed that I was called because my recently published book "White Boy: A Memoir" described how I ended up as a Professor in Fordham's Black Studies Department.
I had some experience in doing media appearances about this subject thanks to my wonderful publicity agent Marlah Bonner McDuffie, and had just done an appearance on the Chappelle Show which brought me some "street cred" so I decided to accept, despite Mr O'Reilly's reputation for eviscerating liberal guests.
When I got to the studio, I quickly concluded that this experience was going to be more challenging than my other media appearances, including those on Fox Business where I was interviewed on Judge Napolitano's Show.
Whenever I was interviewed on television, I was accustomed to be escorted into the green room where guests were to wait by a friendly person, and offered snacks. None of this transpired. A grim faced woman led me to a small room without food and water with a big television on the wall. As I sat there waiting, I watched Bill O'Reilly tear apart the head of the Republican National Committee, someone far closer to his point of view than I was. I quickly realized that Mr O'Reilly looked upon me, a liberal or left wing professor, as "fresh meat". I quickly resolved that I was not going to play along.
My strategy was to be extremely polite and respectful, but constantly change the narrative that he was trying to establish with points on my own. But before that, I had to win his respect through time honor methods honed in the masculinist working
class ethos I was brought up in. Mr O.Reilly needed to know from the outset that even though I was a liberal professor, i was not someone he could push around, that if in fact, it actually came to a fight, i could kick his ass.
So it had to start with the handshake As I walked into the studio with a big smile on my face, I assumed my most intimidating posture, looked him straight in the eye, and shook his hand with what he must have thought surprising firmness ( I have tennis balls cut in half on my office desk which i squeeze regularly to strengthen my forearm) Then I sat down.
When the discussion started, it became clear that Mr O'Reilly's agenda was to show that what he called "Black Racism"- which he claimed was at play when Black parents and students protested a white teacher taking over their school's black history course- was a bigger problem than White Racism.
So I had to change the narrative early. First, I had to say that the Ohio parents concerns were reasonable. That given how US history had been written and taught, it was hardly unreasonable to look upon a white person teaching African American history with some skepticism. I also said that context was important. When I was hired to teach courses on Black History at Fordham, there were six black professors full time and part time, that students could choose from. That is a very different situation from a school where there is only one Black History course taught by one teacher. The area in which I agreed with Mr O'Reilly is that should be no hard and fast rule about who can teach a particular subject based on their background; but i vehemently disagreed with his suggestion that the Black parents and students in that Ohio school were "racist." Give that there was only one Black history course in the school, it was reasonable that they try to find a Black person to teach it,
We sparred about the Ohio situation a moment,, but then i decided to seize the podium before Mr O'Reilly did by saying "Look, reasonable people may disagree about the Ohio controversy, but one thing we can't lose sight of is that White Racism remains a HUGE problem in American society something that CANNOT be compared to whatever alleged discrimination whites experience at the hands of Blacks."
Then, before he could catch a breath, I said the following. "Look Bill. I am not some Ivy tower Professor. I spent twenty years coaching CYO basketball and sandlot baseball in Brooklyn. Just last week, my friend Gary Nielsen, a NYC firefighter, took his younger son and one of his friends, who happened to be Black, to his summer home in Breezy Point, an enclave filled with mostly Irish cops and firemen. When his son and his friend went to get a snack at a local take out place, a woman came up to them, and screamed at his Black friend "get out of here, you don't belong here" and kicked him! Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing, and much worse, that Black people face every day. To compare the suspicion a white teacher experienced when trying to teach a Black history course to this kind of experience doesn't reflect the lived realities of Blacks and whites in this country"
Mr. O'Reilly never expected this and he ended up being at a loss for words. And just as I finished my remarks, I was told time was up!
As the show ended, I shook Mr. O'Reilly's hand and said " I really enjoyed this, I hope I will be invited back to continue his conversation"
I never was.
And now that Mr O'Reilly is off the air, I guess I never will

Friday, April 7, 2017

Requiem for St. Anthony's: A Casualty of Gentrification by Jesse Turner

I live down the block from Saint Anthony's. I have nephews who went to there, it was not only a school that produced great basketball teams. It was a good that produce outstanding, caring, compassionate students who went on to live outstanding lives. It is also the Catholic School with the highest percentage of Black and Latino students. Bob Hurley could have gone anywhere, but he stayed at Saint Anthony's the school he loved, and the school that loved him. It was the basketball power house without it's own basketball court at it's school. If you went to Saint Anthony's you had street respect and academic respect. 
I grew up at the outside city basketball courts between Saint Anthon.ey's and the police station. What really happened in my local opinion is gentrification killed Saint Anthony's. When I grew up Downtown Jersey City was blue collar and poor. It was not unusual to see abandoned houses and factories. Families who could afford to keep their children out of the public schools did. The truth is those public schools were pretty good places for a kid to grow and learn as well. I went to Ferris High School, and we were always glade that Saint Anthony's was not on our schedule. Gentrification displaced many Latino, Black, and poor White families. The wealthy, the connected, and the powerful moved in, and blue collar working families moved out. Everything changed, and immigrant communities were lost. Downtown Jersey City stopped being my Jersey City decades ago. We lose some of our humanity and sense of who we are when gentrification comes knocking.

St Anthony's of Jersey City Closes Its Doors: A Basketball Fan's Lament

When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 50's and 60's, the most powerful force uniting Catholics, Jews and Protestants, at least among boys, was the game of basketball. By the time you were 9 or 10, you knew this was a game that the people around you played better than anyone else in the country because the skills were transmitted with religious devotion in schoolyards, community centers, schools, and gyms attached to churches and synagogues.. Whether the players were Black, Jewish Irish, Italian or Puerto Rican, they were coached well, pushed to the highest levels of excellence by fierce early competition, and inspired by great players who were school and neighborhood legends.
As an aspiring player, and someone immersed in the legends of "The City Game" I followed every high school, college and professional star to come out of New York City and the New York Metropolitan area. And I was totally ecumenical in my fandom! Even though I was a Jewish public school kid, I rooted for all the great players coming out of New York City Catholic High Schools. By the time I was in college in the mid sixties, I knew as much about schools like Rice, Tollentine, Bishop Loughlin, All Hallows and Holy Cross as I did about public school powerhouses like Clinton, Columbus, Boys High and Erasmus.
Which is why when inner city Catholic High Schools that had been exemplars of the best of NY Metoropolitan area Basketball started closing, I felt I was losing a piece of my youth. First Rice, then Tollentine, then Lasalle, then Bishop Ford and now, across the river, St. Anthony's of Jersey City, where the great Bobby Hurley Sr. coached for more than 25 years.
These schools were all places where working class kids Black, White and Latino, found an anchor, a skill, great coaches and mentors and an opportunity to show their skills to the neighborhood the city, and in some cases, the country and the world. And these schools helped kids who were not basketball players do some of the same things through academics 
I know nothing stays the same and change is inevitable, but I can't help feel that what these schools provided to young people still is needed, but is increasingly hard to find in our gentrifying cities. I know this, with these school closings, New York metropolitan area basketball has lost much of its dynamism, and quite possibly, some of its soul

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Carl Paladino's Racism: A Test of Political Courage for the NY State Education Department

As long as Carl Paladino remains on the Buffalo School Board, the State Education Commissioner and the Regents will be so tainted by complicity with racism that their positions other issues will be compromised

Imagine what it must be like to be a student attending Buffalo schools and know that a key member of the Buffalo School Board, arguably the most powerful person in Western New York, organized a rally where White Supremacists were welcome and the Confederate Flag was displayed

The majority of the Buffalo School Board, thinking of the well being of those children, has called on Commissioner Elia and the Regents to remove Mr Paladino from the Board. That they have thus far failed to do so shows an astonishing lack of political courage.,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Relentless Testing: A Strategy to Intimidate the Next Generation of Youth

The idea that third graders in New York State have to take 6 days of tests, and can spend up to 5 hours each day on each test (the tests are now untimed), is so appalling as to defy words. Who is OK with that? To me, that sounds like child abuse. Every politician, Regents member, superintendent, principal, and teacher who participates in this yearly ritual of torture needs to take a good look in the mirror. What kind of world are we creating for our children by subjecting them to this. When I was in school, the reading and math tests were two days, at most, and lasted less than two hours. And we did pretty well for ourselves. Maybe that's what education policy makers are worried about. Politicians don't want young people asking too many questions, they way we did in the Sixties, while they enrich themselves and their wealthy contributors.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Whatever Party They Represent, Charter Supporters Love Tests

As many of us having been warning for many years, support for charter schools crosses party lines. This is not only true in New York State where Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Senator John Flanagan take huge contributions from the charter school industry, it is true nationally, where President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy Devos are at least as strong a supporter of charter schools as was Barack Obama and Arne Duncan.
Those seeking to protect their children from nationally aligned tests and a curriculum that turns instruction into little more test prep are getting no relief from the new administration. in fact, there is going to be more, not less support for charter schools from this administration. Since the best funded and most powerful charter chains are huge supporters of national testing and the rating of schools and teachers on the basis of student test scores. we are likely to see even more testing.
Nowhere is this more apparent in New York State where the largest and best funded charter school chain, Success Academies, just issued an edict saying that no child in their schools is allowed to opt out of state tests. And this makes perfect sense when you realize that Success Academy's campaign to raise the charter cap is all based on the higher test scores its schools get than neighboring public schools.
So here is something that every parent in New York State and around the country needs to realize- every time someone asks elected officials to support charter schools, it means that testing will become MORE important and oppressive, not only in the new schools created, but in all the public schools forced to compete with them to keep their funding.
Those parents who want instruction for their children free from government mandates informing instruction need to realize that their children's freedom will be constricted, not expanded, if more charters are created. And that testing will become increasingly entrenched in our educational system, at the expense not only of our children's learning, but their freedom to actually enjoy their childhood.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Link Between Broken Windows Policing and Deportation:

Of all the new information presented during last nights forum on Defending Bronx Communities at Fordham University, what I found most disturbing was the revelation of how the DeBlasio Administration's imposition of "Broken Windows" policing- arrests for minor offenses such as jaywalking, drinking in public and jumping over turnstiles- has led to deportation of many undocumented immigrants.

Apparently, all arrests for misdemeanors are automatically recorded in all national law enforcement data bases including those of the FBI and Homeland Security and if the person arrested is undocumented, can trigger deportation proceedings

The head of the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, Zeinab Eyega, gave a chilling example of how this could work. One of the families her organization worked with consisted of a woman from Chad and her teenage sons living in a shelter after they escaped a domestic violence situation. Although the shelter was in the Bronx, her two sons attended school in Queens One day, one of her sons lost his metro card and had no way to get home. So he decided to jump over the turnstile at the subway station nearest his school There he was arrested and taken to the local police station, where the mother was told she needed $150 dollars to get him released. The mother didn't have the money and the Sauti Yetu Center had to give it to her. But that wasn't the worst outcome. Six month later, Homeland Security began deportation proceedings against her son for committing a crime while having undocumented status and at age 17, he was deported back to Chad, by himself. To this say, Sauti Yetu lawyers have been unable to arrange for his return.

This story is horrible in many respects. First, that Homeland Security would start deportation proceedings against a teenage boy, separating him from his family. But second, that an official policy of the NYPD, overwhelming targeting youth of color, would put large numbers of undocumented immigrants at risk

There are many, many others features of "Broken windows policing" which are questionable, including its contribution to gentrification of neighborhoods, but its role in facilitating deportations suggest that the practice is so morally compromised that it needs to be ended, or at least modified so that none of the arrests lead to more than a traffic ticket.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Four Reasons I Defend The Opt Out Movement

1. It defends the integrity of childhood against those who would seek to standardize and routinize instruction so that creativity, spontaneity and play are excised from our classrooms, preparing children to be obedient and submissive employees when they enter the workforce or fodder for the prison industrial complex.
2.. It denies the data to those seeking to privatize education and undermine the teaching profession by using computerized learning as a substitute for the mentoring, relationship building, and creative thinking that real teaching involves.
3. It unites people across lines of race, region, religion and political ideology the way NO OTHER MOVEMENT IN OUR NATION DOES, in a common defense of children's right to learn, and teachers right to teach.
4. It calls attention to the misuse of test data to close schools in high poverty communities which are true community spaces and who refuse to sacrifice everything in their building to the production of high test scores.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Love Letter to Immigrant Working Class New York

I may live in Artisanal Park Slope, but immigrant working class New York is where I feel most at home.
It's all because of where I grew up in the 1950's- in Lower Crown Heights, sometimes known as "Pigtown." 95 Percent of the people in our neighborhood were Jewish or Italian. The grandparents, who were mostly foreign born, spoke Yiddish or some Italian dialect, the parents, mostly American born, spoke English and we, the children, spoke the language of popular culture. The mixing of cultures, and languages created conflict, confusion, and an almost electric level of energy. Nowhere were you safe from being yelled at, threatened, instructed or hugged. There was no privacy, Arguments were in the home, the street, in the stores, even in school. But God forbid someone should come from another neighborhood to hurt us or challenge us. As much as we fought with one another, we were together when facing outsiders.
And even though none of us were rich, we had the best food, the best music, the most colorful language, and the confidence that given half of a chance, we could succeed in this strange and wonderful country which we were not only turning into our home, but were changing as much as it changed us.
This is why I love the Bronx. When I walk the streets and go into the schools, I see myself and my friends from 60 years ago-re-invented as Dominicans, Albanians, West Africans, West Indians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and South Asians- as crazy, confused and full of energy as we were, and making America a better place for their presence-- just as we did.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Worse Donald Trump

During the election campaign, several of the Trump supporters I know told me not to be put off by Mr Trump's rhetoric, that he was at heart a reasonable person and would rise to the occasion and make a good President.
Although i was skeptical of their arguments, they were right in predicting the outcome of the election and I hoped against hope that Mr Trump might try to unify the country once he was President and concentrate on policies, such as job creation and infrastructure development, which had broad appeal..
Unfortunately, their predictions were wrong. Mr Trump has been a more divisive President than he was a candidate, attacking the media even more bitterly than he did during the campaign, picking cabinet members designed to elicit the maximum opposition from those who voted against him, and issuing an executive order on immigrants and refugees that was widely perceived as a direct attack on the nation's Muslims.
There is no new Donald Trump. We have the old Donald Trump on steroids, a thin skinned President determined to shove his policies down the throat of anyone who opposes him, who makes up facts to suit his arguments and who heaps abuse on anyone who dares to challenge him
He has not grown into the job, he has shrunk in stature to become the most hated President in modern history, not only in the US, but around the globe.
I am not sure if he can reverse course. If he doesn't we are entering uncharted territory

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Donald Trump's Rude Awakening

The last few weeks have been a bit of a comedown for Donald Trump. After an historic campaign where he beat the odds and attracted huge adoring crowds, he now finds himself under siege in the White House, unable to go to any large city in the US without inspiring huge demonstrations, mocked by comedians and journalists in mainstream and social media, and regarded with fear and contempt in many of the nations the US once viewed as allies.
Now you might say that Mr Trump should have expected this rage because it was his own words and actions which provoked this reaction, but it is one thing to expect this level of protest and another to experience it. Never in all his years as a developer, entrepreneur, media personality, and public figure, had Donald Trump had millions of the people in the streets denouncing him. In fact, before he ran for President, it is hard to recall a recall a single incident where as many as a hundred people picketed one of his appearances and even during the Presidential campaign the size of the crowds cheering him far exceeded the size of the crowds attacking him. No more. Donald Trump is now hands down the most unpopular person in the United States and the most unpopular person in the world.
Yes, many of the people who voted for him still support him and even love him. But for the most part, they are not the residents of the nation's largest cities, or the Washington DC metropolitan area. Indeed, in the two cities where Mr Trump now lives, the people who hate him far outnumber the people who love him and take every opportunity to show their displeasure in the most public way.
I don't care how arrogant or narcissistic you are, that can't feel very good.
is this what Donald Trump bargained for when he began his campaign for President? Or when he was showered with love during his campaign?
I doubt it. And how he is going to react, as the hostility, mockery and even ostracism further escalates is anybody's guess

Saturday, February 4, 2017

When There Really WAS "Carnage in Our Inner Cities," Donald Trump Was Nowhere to Be Found

One of the many reasons I am appalled by Donald Trump's world view are his comments about subjects I know first hand. A prime example of this is his apocalyptic promise to end "carnage in our inner inner cities." Not only do these pronouncements ignore gentrification and the suburbanization of poverty, they come 25 years too late! Where was Donald Trump when there really WAS carnage in our inner cities in the height of the crack epidemic? No where to be found. How do I know? I was there, on the ground, in the some of the most affected areas in New York City and Donald Trump was no where to be found, and had nothing to say.
Let's go back. The year is 1992. The murder rate in New York City is more than 2000 a year ( it has been under 400 for the last few years). Bullets are flying in drug wars between rival crews in many of the city's poorest neighborhoods. People are afraid to go to and from work, to go to the corner store, to send their kids to school. In one parish near Fordham, St Martin of Tours, 25 young men between the ages of 17-25 were killed in a single year. In Red Hook, a legendary principal ,Martin Daly was killed by stray bullets fired in a shoot out between drug gangs when he went into the projects to see why one of his students didn't come to school
At that time, I became involved in two anti-violence initiatives. One of them, in the Crotona Neighborhood of the Bronx, was called "Save a Generation" The goal was to provide educational and employment opportunities for out of school out of work youth who were drawn into drug crews. In it, I worked with amazing religious leaders like Father John Flynn and Sister Barbara Leniger , the great leader of South Bronx churches, Lee Stuart, and Astin Jacobo, a dynamic tenant leader and organizer with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. We got some help from, the NY Achdiocese, Congressman Serrano and the Bronx Borough President. for the Americorps program we eventually created. Donald Trump was no where to be found.
The other program was called "Shield the Children" and it was organized by a group called "United Community Centers of East New York" after a drug dealer in the Cypress Hills Project used a three year old in a stroller as a shield in a gun battle. East New York was the closest thing we had to a war zone in NY during those years. Five students were shot to death in a single year in the local high school, Thomas Jefferson, drug dealers had once taken hostages in the local public library, and police only patrolled the neighborhood in cars. At one point, residents actually asked for the National Guard to be sent in to patrol their streets because they felt afraid to leave their houses. Where was Donald Trump when this was going on? No where to be found. The violence was far away from the precious Manhattan neighborhoods where his buildings were being erected
THIS was real carnage. And it took years of organizing by residents, and hard work by police, to get it under control. Once the violence passed, new immigrants moved into these communities, bringing their energy, their businesses and their hope. Today, East New York and Crotona are bustling though still poor communities with far lower crime rates than they had 20 years ago. They hardly need federal intervention, especially attacks on immigrant communities which threaten the very real progress already made..

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Steve Bannon 24/7 Campaign

Steve Bannon's dominant role in the White House is both the most frightening feature of the Trump Administration and its weakest link. It is time to launch a campaign that I call "Steve Bannon 24/7". Some of its features should be:
First, demands directed at your elected representatives that Steve Bannon - an unrepentant White Nationalist- should removed from the National Security and from any official position of government bodies
Secondly, that twitter and social media campaign should be launched portraying Donald Trump as a puppet of Steve Bannon and warning Mr. Trump that he has become the laughing stock of the nation and the world because he is being controlled by a White Nationalist.
Third, our graffiti artists and meme makers and light show experts should deluge public spaces with messages like "Impeach President Bannon" "Bannon Must Go" and "Trump is Bannon's Puppet"
The safety of the nation and the world requires Bannon's removal from any official capacity in the Government. Every public official who fails to push for this will have their reputation compromised. Bannon's influence taints this Administration and the entire nation

Friday, January 27, 2017

There Have Already Been Deportations in the Bronx; Thoughts on Current Challenges from Eileen Markey

I love this description of my community. It's the analysis I use when I explain to people how the Bronx began to recover. Immigration (and community organizing and massive government investment) was key. 
And many of us are outraged, obviously, by Trump's xenophobia, racism and general wretchedness. But the Bronx has been under a deportation regime for several years with deporter in chief Obama who deported more than 2 million people (nationwide) while in office. 
Places like the amazing Bronx Defenders (legal services) have been swamped, scrambling to delay deportation orders and find ways to keep families together under Obama. A few years ago a retired appeals court judge and Robin Hood Foundation and others came together to launch the Immigrant Justice Corps, an infusion of lawyers posted to community organizations across the city to help staunch the flow of people caught in Obama's dragnets. 
The thing is, while ICE indeed conducts raids and delivers years-old removal orders in person,  they don't come for immigrants with pitchforks and torches in a way that neighbors can romantically and cinematographically resist. It's bureaucratic. It's an arrest on a drug charge, a plea and then suddenly a series of immigration court dates- often stretching over years. 
There was a long campaign to get ICE out of Rikers, but I don't believe it is completely won. My friends who work as immigration lawyers saw most of their deportation-at-risk clients deported under Obama. It was heart breaking. Clearly we are under more threat now from an administration that doesn't even share Obama's belief in a multi ethnic America. But if we are going to be able to fight we need to have clear eyes. 
When Trump talks about deporting people who have been convicted of crimes he's talking about continuing an Obama administration policy, that was made possible by the 1996 immigration reform signed by Bill Clinton. I remember marching on D.C. against that law as a sophomore at Fordham. 
More relevant for us, I think, is to know this: Trump is not going to come and "round up" all the immigrants in a way that we can easily see and chant down.  It happens slowly and invisibly and therefore needs to be fought by sharing information, by speaking out loud about status in order to remove shame, by offering to accompany our neighbors to court, by referring neighbors to legitimate nonprofit lawyers who can help them and by educating across ethnic groups about these issues. We need to organize 'know your rights' seminars in our schools and workplaces and places of worship. We need to educate each other about what is possible and where the levers of power are to make legal change. And we need to acknowledge and fix the divisions between groups in the Bronx.  Because I don't live around many white people, I don't hear much white racism (I'm not saying it doesn't exist and I do believe it utterly shapes the structures of our society, etc). What I do hear is vile anti immigrant talk from African Americans, ugly anti Black talk from Latino immigrants and Islamophobia from everyone. The times the Syrian student who lives with us has been accosted and called a terrorist, told "we're going to get you" it hasn't been a white person talking. 
Anyway, I write all this to say, yes, Doc, that's a heart-warming vision of the Bronx but the devil is in the details and in the suspicious between ethnic groups - and the blue print for how to resist or not resist Trump's immigration plans are in how we did and didn't resist Obama's. 
We've been complacent.

Why The Bronx Will Defend the Undocumented

One thing I am fairly confident about: the political, religious and educational leaders of the Bronx will defend the undocumented immigrants in their midst. Why? Because these hardworking, family loving people have helped the Bronx rebuild and recover from the multiple tragedies that plagued the borough from the Sixties through the Nineties- ranging from redlining, arson and abandonment; to drug epidemics and crime waves; to the cutting off of vital city services. In the last 20 years, when immigration has been at its height, once abandoned Bronx neighborhoods have been rebuilt; crime rates have plummeted; business districts have revived, schools have improved and new churches and Islamic centers have opened all over the borough. Wherever you have new apartments and homes and businesses going up, you can find immigrants from West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the West Indies, South Asia and Eastern Europe. Whether legal or undocumented, they have been part of a great American Success Story.
The Bronx was once the place people came from all over the world to see how neighborhoods could be abandoned and destroyed without warfare. Now it is a place where people come to see how such neighborhoods can be completely rebuilt, and, increasingly, to hear great music and eat great food.
Immigrants have been an integral part of that success story. Anyone seeking to deport them- no matter what's their legal status- will meet fierce resistance

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thank You Mr.President

I campaigned hard for President Obama in 2008, cried tears of joy when he was elected, and yet found myself in almost immediate opposition to many of his policies-not all of which could be blamed on Republicans. When it comes to issues like education and financial policy, I have more than a little ambivalence about the 8 years of the Obama Presidency. Yet I have a deep admiration for how he and the First Lady have conducted themselves as public figures, as parents and as our First Family. They have set a standard for dignity eloquence and grace under duress which will last a very long time. Facing levels of hatred, suspicion and contempt rooted deep in our racist history, they responded by creating a moral high ground for discussions of race and justice that we would be well to retain. The policy legacy of Barack Obama will be critiqued and discussed for years to come. But the huge positive impact he and Michelle Obama have had in providing a model of dignified leadership for families as well as our nation is something we can cherish for years to come. Thank you Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Proud to Be A Loser

If being married to the same person for 43 years and still seeing her as the love of my life makes me a loser-- then I am proud to be a loser

If teaching at Fordham for 47 years without trying to move to an Ivy League school makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If refusing to apply for merit increments for ten years so my younger colleagues can get bigger salary increases makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If cheering on people I know-including former students- who publish more important books than I have makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

If working with attractive people without viewing them as objects of sexual consumption or sexual assault makes me a loser- then I am proud to be a loser

and finally

If reaching the age of 70 with no ambition to gain great power or wealth makes me a loser- then I am so proud to be a loser that I will even wear a "loser" tee shirt and hat!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Subversive Thoughts About Crime and Social Policy

New York has half the murder rate of Chicago even though it has twice the population-and this is AFTER drastically reducing "stop and frisk."
Why? Two big differences come to mind
First, Chicago knocked down many of its large public housing complexes while New York has not (yet) taken that step. Doing that not only destabilized neighborhoods, it sharply reduced the supply of affordable housing, and put added stress on low income families
Second, New York City attracts far more immigrants than Chicago, undocumented as well as legal, and immigration works to REDUCE crime in decaying working class neighborhoods because immigrants bring energy, optimism and hope to places which have been neglected by business and government

We need to look very carefully at these two cities before defunding public housing and launching a crusade against immigrants. Both of those policy initiatives could have disastrous consequences