Thursday, October 30, 2014

Public Thinking Event: East St. Louis (Oct. 28)

For our October 28 Public Thinking Event, we followed up on our previous focus on East St. Louis and creativity. We produced more haiku and expanded our contributions on a shared sci-fi narrative that we're producing about the Spivey Building. 

More on the vulnerability of collegiate black men

A year ago this time, I was thinking and writing about the vulnerability of collegiate black men in relation to an incident where a group of white students shouted racial slurs at a few of the guys in my class who were riding skateboards. Shortly after that incident, someone wrote and posted a threatening letter, filled with racial epithets, on the car of one of my other students. And now this month, I've been thinking about an incident where an anonymous student wrote the word "nigger" on the hood of my student's car.

Those incidents happened on campus.The targets were black men.

As I talked to those guys and various other black men about the incidents, I started noticing a pattern of responses that go basically in this order: hurt, surprise, confusion, anger, more confusion, more anger, resolve (as in, well, that's what happens). That's what I picked up on; I'm sure there's  probably much more that goes unstated or that I miss.

In this most recent incident, by the time the young man found me to tell me what happened, he was moving  between those surprise, confusion, and anger stages. "Can you believe this?" he asked me a few times.

Later when we talked, he acknowledged that his first feeling was hurt. A couple of days later, we talked and he was raising questions like "what kind of person does this? What does the person think of me or think I did? Who is it?"

A week later, after learning that he was not the first target of such treatment on campus, he seemed resolved. I checked up on him one day to see what he thought about the  "That's just how it is here" he said.

He had filed a police report, and he's fairly certain that we'll never know who did it. He then told me that his family advised him to "just be careful" and "watch where you are and who's around you." Of course, part of the struggle involves the notion that he was not doing anything wrong in the first place. He was not being careless. Yet he still found himself in a vulnerable position.    

 Collegiate Students

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mapping East St. Louis

Last year, Kacee Aldridge, who was serving as my graduate student assistant at the time, sent me this map, which she had marked with locations. She and I had been conversing about various sites in East St. Louis, so she wanted to clarify the conversation with a visual. Her map and the notes have been really useful for what I could see and consider.

Goose Hill runs from about St. Clair (South) to Exchange (North) and 1st Street (West) to 4th Street (East)
Downtown runs from about Broadway (South) to 8th Street (North) and Collinsville Ave. (West) to St. Clair (East)
Rush City runs from about Elisabeth Street (South) to 8th Street (North) and Rt. 3 (West) to Rail Road Tracks (East)
South End runs from about Rail Road Tracks (West) to Missouri Ave. (East) and 8th Street (North) to 25th Street (South)
Pollock Town runs from about Rail Road Tracks (South) to Rt. 15 (North) and 25th Street (West) to 36th Street (East)
Edgemont runs from about State Street (South) to Marybelle Street (North) and 69th Street (West) to 89th Street (East)
Loisel Hills runs from about Lebanon Rd. (South) to St. Clair Ave. (North) and 89th Street (West)

**Loisel Village is encompassed in Edgemont and is difficult to separate. Golden Gardens is not in East St. Louis, it’s near but it’s separately incorporated like Centreville, Alorton, and Sauget.**
An East St. Louis Sketchbook

Outliers and PDI - Chapter 7

[Outliers Reading Group]

In chapter seven “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes,” Malcolm Gladwell discusses the activities of a tragic Korean Air flight and readers get a sense of how the interactions between pilots and co-pilots relates to the larger discussion of cultural legacies. Gladwell explains that some airplane crashes can be linked to the modes of communication (and lack thereof) among the officers within the cockpit.

In addition to pointing out that airplane crashes are the result of a combination of several factors, Gladwell identifies Geert Hofstede’s concept “Power Distance Index" (PDI) – a measuring system “concerned with attitudes toward hierarchy, specifically with how much a particular culture values and respects authority” – as a crucial issue for understanding why, for example, pilots from some nations may have been at a cultural disadvantage for effective and essential communication in an airplane cockpit.

What idea or scene discussed by Gladwell captured your attention most? Why or how so? Please identify the page number for the idea or passage that you cite.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Chapter 15: "Ice"

[Behind the Beautiful Forevers]

In chapter 15 “Ice” of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the Husain family struggles to maintain a dying business while the trail of Karam and Kahkashan continues on. Abduls younger brother Mirichi, often noted as the lazy one, is forced to find work.

Boo writes “Water and ice were made of the same thing. He though most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably little different, constitutionally, from the cynical, corrupt people around him – the police officers and the special executive officer and the morgue doctor who fixed Kalu’s death. If he had to sort all humanity by its material essence, he thought he would probably end up with a single gigantic pile. But here was the interesting thing. Ice was distinct from – and in his view, better than what it was made of” (360).

What’s one scene from the chapter that drew your interest? In brief, explain why that scene intrigued you. Please cite the page number(s) of the scene you identify.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Chapter 14: "The Trial"

[Behind the Beautiful Forevers]

In chapter 14 “The Trial” of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo describes the trial of Karam and Kahkashan, which takes place in the city’s Fast-Track Sessions Court. Several witnesses travel from Annawadi to testify in the trail where corruption blackmail take place leading up to the final moments before the trial begins.

Boo writes “The Annawadi witnesses might remember new, devastating details of the night in question, the special executive officer had told Karam. She herself might have to testify about Fatima’s dying declaration in such a manner that a guilty verdict was all but guaranteed” (338).

Priya, Dinesh, Abdul Shaikh, and Cynthia are all called as witnesses for the prosecution during the trial. Which testimony did you find most interesting? Why? Please provide a page citation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Big Smoke & the Anisfield-Wolf Award

[The Big Smoke reading group]   

Earlier in the year, Adrian Matejka's The Big Smoke was honored as an Anisfield-Wolf Award recipient. The Anisfield-Wolf Awards "recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity."

Question: based on what you've read in The Big Smoke so far, what's one notable thing about the book that assists with understanding "racism" or "human diversity"? Why or how so?

 Basically, we're trying to think and write through some of the ways that the selection committee for the Anisfield-Wolf Award may discussed and then ultimately awarded Matejka's volume of poetry.

An East St. Louis Sketchbook

This semester, I’ve been working with various people on projects related to East St. Louis. Some of the people are residents of the city; some are students at SIUE; some are from other places. Since so many pieces of the projects are in process and developing, I’ve been inclined to refer to what I’ve been gathering as an East St. Louis Sketchbook.

The sketchbook includes photographs, haiku, short writings, Post-Its, illustrations, notes, annotations, you name it.

Links to page sketchbook:
Public Thinking Event: East St. Louis (Oct. 28) 

Mapping East St. Louis 
The Majestic in 17 Syllables 
Chess & GRIT 
Public Thinking Event: East St. Louis (Sept. 17)