Thursday, March 20, 2008

Barack Obama's Speech on Racism and Religion

As many of you may know (and have already watched or read), Barack Obama gave a speech on Tuesday in response to controversial comments about racism and US foreign relations by his minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Whether you are voting for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or even Ralph Nader, I'm sure we can all agree that what Obama says in this speech is perhaps the most honest treatment of racism and religion that I've heard in my lifetime.
You can read the transcript of the speech printed in the New York Times.
You can also watch the video of the speech.
Many people ask me why I, as a 23-year-old, college-educated, white woman from Eugene, OR would want to be working with predominantly African-American middle school and high school students from inner city Chicago. The reason is the myriad of reasons given in Obama's speech about how our country is still suffering from racism and inequality 143 years after slavery.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shooting at Crane, 20th CPS student killed

On March 7th, a fight at Crane High School, on the West Side, resulted in the shooting and killing of one student and another student being in a coma after a savage beating with a golf club. Police are saying the fight was due to gang rivalries and as of today, more than 200 students who live in the ABLA housing projects where the shooter was from have to be given a police escort to school when it resumes next Monday due to fear of retaliation. There are many fingers being pointed at different directions, but just for curiosity's sake I looked up in our Tutor/Mentor Connection Program Locator, where Crane High School and the ABLA homes are located, and how many tutoring and mentoring programs for high school students are in that zip code. Not surprisingly, there are only 4 programs in the 60612 zip code that offer tutoring and mentoring programs.

Starting in May, I will be transitioning to my role for the next year as the Tutor/Mentor Connection Coordinator. One of my roles will be doing outreach to programs in areas such as that around Crane High School and helping to possibly new programs out there. Another one of my roles will be coordinating the Tutoring and Mentoring Networking and Leadership Conference, which will be held Thursday May 29th and Friday May 30th at Northwestern Law School in downtown Chicago. We are still looking for people who are wanting to hold workshops or be a part of panels. I will be mediating two panels myself, one on Thursday morning on strategies for running successful tutoring and mentoring programs and the other one on Friday morning, on volunteer recruitment and retention.

Finally, on another sad note, 20 CPS students so far this year have been killed by some act of violence. It's only March 18th and that is way too many young lives lost too soon. Almost all of them are from neighborhoods where tutoring and mentoring programs are few and far between. While many of these students who were killed were good students and citizens, they would have certainly benefitted from tutoring and mentoring programs in their areas as safe havens from the violence of their neighborhoods. Even more so, their killers would've also benefitted from tutoring and mentoring programs as an alternative activity to the violence they chose to inflict on another human being.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Love and Consequences, and the consequence of lying

In an earlier post, that you may have read, and which I have recently taken down, I wrote about Margaret B. Jones, a supposed former gang member who wrote a memoir, profiled in the New York Times about growing half-white/half-Native American in an African American foster family in South-Central Los Angeles. I wrote about what an inspiration Ms. Jones was, getting out of the inner city and graduating from the University of Oregon, but still staying true to her roots by writing her memoir. I wrote about how Ms. Jones is an inspiration to my students, who have to face a similar choice of going to college and leaving their neighborhood.

Sadly, this story is not true. Margaret B. Jones is actually Margaret Seltzer, who is all-white, who grew up in a middle class home in Sherman Oaks, CA and who never graduated from the University of Oregon. Ms. Seltzer has supposedly worked in gang reconciliation, but she never grew up in an African-American foster family in South-Central LA, never was a member of the Bloods and is not part Native-American. In an article published last evening in the New York Times, Ms. Seltzer asserts that she based her supposed memoir on stories of "friends," but felt their stories couldn't be published any other way.

Ms. Seltzer is correct in asserting that a lot of the stories that you would've found in Love and Consequences aren't told and need to be brought forth to the public. Unfortunately, the fact that she fabricated the fact that the story is hers (she could've very well written Love and Consequences as fiction, "inspired by true stories"), makes the reality of inner city America less true. Facts, such as 1 out of 9 African-American men are incarcerated (and 1 out of every 100 Americans) or that just this past weekend 3 Chicago Public School students were shot and killed and 5 were wounded are horribly true, just like much of what Ms. Jones wrote about in her supposed memoir is true, it just didn't happen to her.

If there are any lessons to be learned by my students about Ms. Seltzer's story, it is that it does not pay to lie and in the end, you will be caught. An interesting read are the comments to the article about Ms. Seltzer's fabricated story.