Not In Our Town Princeton

December 6: Men of Color in the Age of Obama


LeRhonda Greats joins Marietta Taylor to lead the discussion on Monday, December 6, 7:30 p.m. at Princeton Public Library conference room. Sponsored by Not in Our Town and the library, it is part of the series “Continuing Conversations on Race.” LeRhonda explains how the topic will be a follow-on to the November 3 lecture by Melissa Harris-Perry.

“The topic for our Continuing Discussion will follow-up on something that Professor Melissa Harris-Perry said about the rat in The Tale of Despereaux who talked about what it was like to have his name be a slur. A Newsweek article, “Black in the Age of Obama” highlights some differences that still occur even though President Obama is in the White House.

“The main focus of the discussion will be what it is like for men of color in the age of Obama. In the times of heightened security at the airports and the latest dismal reports highlight the challenges. Our discussion will center around possible solutions and the article about what colleges are doing right for black male students.”

Here are excerpts from, and links to, the articles:

It’s only at places like Princeton—selective, self-sufficient institutions that have spent many years (and millions of dollars) cultivating climate-controlled biospheres of diversity—that anything even remotely resembling a post-racial America is supposed to have taken shape.. . But living in a post-racial bubble—a place that expects everyone to have gotten over race—isn’t as easy as it looks, especially if you happen to be black. Excerpted from Newsweek’s “Black in the Age of Obama, April 18, 2009.

As white male air travelers take up the cause of YouTube hero John “Don’t Touch My Junk” Tyner, a snicker of schadenfreude may be shared among working class and lower class men of color. They may well wonder why he revelation that pat-downs are a degrading imposition of power by government agents has taken such a long time to emerge. From David William’s article in TruthDig “Pat-Downs Hit Middle America Where it Counts.

“A new documentary about black males and education, Beyond the Bricks, now touring the country, suggests that maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe, instead of looking at black males who are falling by the educational wayside and asking what they and the schools they attend are doing wrong, we should be looking at the black males who are succeeding, and asking what the colleges they attend are doing right.” From Karl Reid’s November 19, 2010 article in The Griot.

Thanks go to the Princeton Public Library for offering these opportunities to have honest discussions on race-related issues of relevance to our community and nation.

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Melissa Harris-Perry: After the Election

Melissa Harris-Perry was witty, smart, and incisive in a post election talk that dealt as much with LGBT inequalities as with racial injustice. Her talk at the Princeton Public Library on Wednesday, November 3 packed the community room. It was the culmination of three events there, arranged by Princeton Friends Meeting and co-sponsored by Not in Our Town, in a series that celebrated the life of civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin

Who gets to be righteously angry about the breach of the social contract of the United States, a contract that makes certain promises to U.S. citizens? Not the Tea Party, suggested Harris-Perry. If there are going to be complaints about the quality of life in our communities, about schools that fail children, about 10 percent unemployment, about the instability of the housing market, about environmental degradation – all those conditions have long been par for the course in minority — black and brown – communities. The majority’s response to vulnerable and marginalized communities has been “act nicer, work harder, and you will get want you want.”

The minority community, in our democracy, gets to sit at the table. For Democrats worried about losing the House of Representatives, this is a solace. Minorities get a say. Unfortunately that isn’t true for all minorities in all situations. As Harris-Perry said, “If you don’t get to renegotiate your contract, you are a subject, not a citizen.”

Presidents need Kings, she said, showing a picture of President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the man who helped him renegotiate the nation’s social contract, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But advisors like King also need their own advisors. She cited Ella Baker, who insisted that young people must speak for themselves. Fanny Lou Hamer, who educated King about rural poverty and economic justice versus urban segregation. James Bevel, who insisted on consistent pacifism and edged King to speak out against the Vietnam War. And Bayard Rustin, the subject of the talk, who urged King to commit to non-violence in every aspect.

Harris-Perry listed three steps that are necessary for fulfillment of the social contract: recognition, respectability, redistribution. In illustrating the requirement to be respectable, she compared a question from the Tale of Desperaux to one from W. E. B. Du Bois, How does it feel to be a problem? In the children’s book, it was “What does it mean when your name is a slur?”

Among her startling observations and responses to questions was her comment on President Obama’s emphasis on strong black fathers. She noted that, if Obama had had a strong black father, he would never have become president. It was his access to white privilege that came to him through his white grandmother that lined his path to the White House.

The Immigrant: From Haiti, From the South

Two book signings, exactly a month apart, relate to issues that concern Not in Our Town.

Edwidge Danticat, author of “Create Dangerously: the immigrant artist at work,” speaks at the Princeton Public Library on Friday, November 5, at 7 p.m. As part of the library’s Thinking Allowed series co-sponsored by Princeton University Press, the Haitian-American author talks about the extraordinary artists, writers and regular citizens who inspired her. As New York Times reviewer Amy Wilentz points out, Danticat’s diaspora conflict “is particularly painful in the case of writers and artists who live elsewhere but use Haitian material in their work.” Dandicat expresses feelings of shame, “because she writes from the diaspora and is therefore not sharing the pain and misery (and now disaster) that the people she fictionalizes have suffered.”

Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, will speak at Princeton University on Tuesday, December 7, at 4:30 p.m., sponsored by the Center for African American Studies. Her book, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” has had wildly enthusiastic reviews. with the New York Times calling it “a landmark piece of nonfiction.” The reviewer, Janet Maslin, says that Wilkerson “makes a case that people who left the South only to create hometown-based communities in new places are more like refugees than migrants: more closely tied to their old friends and families, more apt to form tight expatriate groups, more enduringly attached to the areas they left behind.”

Black in the Age of Obama

During our Continuing Conversations meeting at the Princeton Public Library on Monday (November 1), I mentioned the article that was written in Hun’s student newspaper. I said that I would post it just in case people are interested in hearing what our young people are thinking these days. To compliment that article I am also including an article from Newsweek that I believe adds to the discussion. Also below is the email that I sent inviting students and faculty to join our Black Student Union discussions.

I am so inspired by our monthly discussions about race and I enjoy comparing the historic battles for civil rights with my daily challenges right here in Princeton. My ultimate goal is to make those who fought and died for the cause of diversity to not have done so in vain. I do not have to battle dogs and water hoses but I do feel like this continues to be a cause worth fighting. I am grateful to those involved with NIOT and Continuing Conversations because you remind me that I am not alone.

LeRhonda Greats

Below is LeRhonda’s email re the Black Student Union:
On Thursday, November 4 the Black Student Union will meet in room 119.

All are welcome.
Come out for food and lively discussions.

The club’s mission is to act as an affinity group [common interest relating to a particular characteristic commonly associated with diversity, such as race or gender] for black students. It is NOT on campus to divide our student body. There are a small group of students who identify themselves as black and Hun is attempting to offer a time and place for them to share their experiences together.

Even if you are not black but are interested in hearing about topics that affect the black community both here at Hun and in the world, please join us. If you have ever just wondered why there is a Black Student Union on campus, come and find out why this group is important. I have attached an article from Newsweek that illustrates some of the topics that we discuss in the Black Student Union. This open invitation is designed to let everyone know the overall goal of having different affinity groups such as BSU, The Cultural Exchange Club, The Diversity Club, Gay/Straight Alliance and others that are here on our campus.

We hope to see you there during activities period!

Ms. Greats

Schiraldi: White Man on the Rez

Roberto Schiraldi, a counselor at Princeton University, has shared a paper he wrote, White Man on the Rez, College Counseling in a Culture of Fear: Power, Privilege, and Healing. The paper has been submitted to the White Privilege Journal.

Not in Our Town’s series, “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege,” co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Library, continues on Monday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m.

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