Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Race talk, Feminist ideas, Jazz, etc.

(Dometi, David, and Chris looking over vinyl records that Justin and David collected in the Village).

One of my favorite memories from the trip....

One night around 11:30 p.m., Dometi stopped by our (Chris, Henderson, and my) hotel room to chat for a minute before heading off to bed. Right after he got there, David and Justin (Dometi's roommates on the trip) stopped by as well after returning from their day's journeys.

What started off as a short chat about the day's events turned into a marathon conversation about race, politics, music, education, and ideas about feminism. By 4 a.m., I had to disrupt the conversation and inform the crew that we might need to get some rest.

Perhaps, the energy for the conversation began with some edgy remarks that Dometi made about the challenges he faced as a young, introspective black man (the son of Ghanaian parents to be exact) at a high school in Chicago. He rightly critiqued some of the actions of fellow African American classmates, and I thought what he was saying could be applied to some of the behavior that carries over to what occurs on a college campus, like say, SIUE.

At the same time, I was compelled to push for a broader critique and more narratives that did not so easily let white influences off the hook. Or better yet, in addition to personal and cultural critiques, I thought we also needed to discuss structural factors.

And so we were off.

The crew began covering a wide spectrum of ideas, offering narratives and raising questions that got us...somewhere. In a way, it was like some kind of jazz session, folks taking solos, playing along with the group, diverging, returning, stretching out. Really wonderful.

At one point, our man Henderson offered some insightful points about some approaches we might need to take in understanding the oppressive or disadvantaged conditions faced by those lacking certain privileges. I'm not sure of his exact phrasing, but I remember folks responding "that's deep." Henderson quickly followed by noting, "all of what I was just saying is from the feminist readings" he encountered in his grad courses. Talk about taking graduate education to the people; here it was.

I've often said that my students do their heaviest thinking outside of the conventional classroom context. And so there we were in New York City at the Milford Plaza Hotel in a room at 4 in the morning miles and miles away from our classes at SIUE expanding our educations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The connection to jazz was very insightful, Howard. Good stuff.

---Chris Laird