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Professors Who Were Part of Desegregating UNCA Retire

In the summer and fall of 1984, as part of a statewide mandate that the UNC system hire more black professors, Dr.’s Dolly and Dwight Mullen and Dr.’s Charles and Deborah “Dee” James began teaching at UNC Asheville. This year the four are retiring. Here is a great interview and article sharing about their experiences being part of the small handful of African American professors at that University and the legacy that they have created. I have so much respect and appreciation for the Mullen’s (I have not gotten to know the James’). And I wonder what other ways the efforts of creating a colloquium, a community within a community, might be replicated in Asheville? What can programs and initiatives like My Daddy Taught Me That, My Sistah Taught Me That, and YTL Training Program learn from these initiatives of the past?

From the article:

“James taught a variety of chemistry courses, like molecular spectroscopy, and humanities, and he remembers students writing very comfortably on their teacher evaluation forms that the school needed to “stop hiring just another n-word”.

Mullen taught political science, and he regularly received death threats. Sometimes students would check to make sure he made it home OK.

“I was part of the apartheid movement of ‘88 and there were also klans in Madison County who knew my name,” he said. “I would come in to work and find things plastered on my classroom walls saying ‘go back to Africa’.”

In addition to teaching a couple of classes at UNCA, Dolly Mullen taught night classes at Mars Hill, as the first and only black professor at the school in 1986. She was pregnant at the time. Her husband would never let her go to the school alone, and he would wait in the car for hours while she taught.

The need to address the setbacks and high dropout numbers [for African American students] motivated the four of them as they established the African-American Colloquium in 1991.

‘Black students were failing out at horrifying rates when they shouldn’t have been’

Dolly Mullen felt the real problem was a social one, with many black students repeatedly hearing racist taunts at sporting games and on-campus events, she said.

“If you were acknowledged in class at all you were treated as remedial or pointed out as the representative of all the black students in the school,” Charles James said.

It was a bold idea – to require that all black freshman students take additional classes with them with the hope they would have a better grasp on their identity and what they wanted to accomplish at UNCA.

The colloquium include field trips to historically black cities, like Charleston and New Orleans, and included a mentorship component that often led to students going to the Mullens’ home after hours to keep discussing their future.

“I never had a black male teacher before coming to UNCA,” said Gaipher-Eli, an entrepreneur. “So for me to see a black Ph.D. like Dwight and watch the way he handled the classroom, it was like seeing superman for the first time. He was like a superhero to me.”

The colloquium allowed him to access resources he never knew were available and to stay enrolled in school.

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Institutionalizing Racial Justice in Schools

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As you’re reflecting on 2017 and setting goals for 2018, is there a line-item for addressing institutional racism?

What will it take to spur White Americans to action? We are living during a movement for racial justice. Will you spend the movement enjoying the privilege to ignore it, or will you join it?

Lobby your teachers, principals, school board members, and legislators to mandate Ethnic Studies.

This article asks some important questions, offers a ton of links for furthering your education, and offers some concrete suggestions for how you can be more active.

Thank you Marta Alcalá-Williams for pointing me to this article.

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Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

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Indigenous Youth Leaders & Man Camps

These indigenous youth are badass. So much important information here. Their analysis, leadership and journalism is powerful and clear. They have updates about Keystone as well as other significant things to be aware of. Worth listening to all 27 minutes.

Do you know any farmers in Nebraska?

Keystone XL Pipeline Update from the NoKXL Gathering 2017 in Kul Wicasa Territory -Lower Brule, SD.
Youth voices from:
Seeding Sovereignty
Indigenous Environmental Network
International Indigenous Youth Council – Denver Chapter

I did not know about “man camps” until these videos and their correlation with missing Native women. This is disgusting and unfortunately extremely easy to imagine a sex trafficking industry and violence surrounding temporary housing for oil workers. More about Man Camps.

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Jesus is Coming – Will you Recognize Him?

Driving through rural Georgia I passed a hand written sign in someone’s yard that said, “Jesus is coming.” I wanted to ask the people — How will you know when Jesus arrives? How will you recognize Jesus? What-if Jesus is here and because Jesus doesn’t fit your description you can’t recognize Jesus? This post about a Jesus who is saving lives and taking care of his community, while those in power want to destroy his life, made me think of the other Jesus.

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 11.53.15 PM“This young man is named Jesus Contreras. He’s a paramedic from Texas who just spent six sleepless days and nights saving lives in Houston — rescuing countless strangers from rising flood waters.

(Have you ever done that? I’ve never done that.)

This is what a hero looks like.

But there is a strong possibility that Jesus — this generous-hearted hero of a young man — will be among the 800,000 young people whom President Trump would like to deport soon from the United States.

Jesus’s family came to this country illegally when he was child, but because of DACA protections, he has been able to gain a limited legal presence in America. He has recently been able to live his life in productivity, rather than living in the shadows. He can have a driver’s liscense. He can have a legal job. He can save your life in a disaster. He’s a decent and religious young man, who prays for the President. He is GOOD. He is leader, and a positive force in his community. He is exactly the kind of person this country needs. Getting rid of him doesn’t make this country better; it makes this country dumber. This young man is no threat to you. In fact, he would happily save your life.” (more in this article)

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Our Land, Our Health, Our Economy – In the Hands of Oil Industry

This is not the water we want to give our kids to drink. It’s not the condition of the Earth we want to leave them to try and inhabit. This is greed and addiction and too many of us who are still too weak to face the oil dependencies we have and not yet courageous or creative enough to stand up to this monstrous industry and all the politicians who are being fed by its existence. I know we can do better, humans… but will we?

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A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love

photo by Alyssa L. Miller (no relation to people in the story)

A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love — A Kindness Story
–written by rettak at HelpOthers.org

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, ‘Hi.’ He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. ‘Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,’ the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, ‘What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.’

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, ‘Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.

My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,’ I prayed.

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, ‘God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’

I had just witnessed real love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was blind, holding a child who was not.

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