Category Archives: Education

Report Back From Kingian Nonviolence Training in Rochester New York: School 17

When Jonathan “GLOBE” Lewis invited Cynthia Wanjiku and I to join him in Rochester, New York for a Kingian Nonviolence training of the administration, teachers, and students of school “17,” I was both skeptical and nervous because I have never conducted a training like this before. I questioned what it is that I have to offer given that I had not completed the training myself nor had I read all the material. However, as I completed the readings I began to see why Globe selected me; it was because I am an activist and I also practice many of the principles that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proposed, and I also share many of his thoughts—though less developed. I was full of fear about how helpful I could be to the students, but I was also excited to work with a group of youth who were interested in solving the problems they were confronting in their schools and lives.

On July 6, 2015 Globe, Cynthia and I began the workshop with 14 other participants at 9 am in the morning and began with introductions. The young people in the room did not reveal their full personalities until we had established relationships with them. They were very cautious when it came to participation, especially when it involved speaking in front of the group, which included their teachers and principal. It seems, and this is only conjecture at this point, that they were dealing with some previous traumas associated with their identities and feeling empowered to shape the directions and outcomes of their own lives. Ironic, but not surprisingly, in the beginning of the first day the teachers answered for the students, even when the questions were directed at the students themselves.  Since we were attempting to engage with the students, get to know them, and to identify how they felt and thought about the situation and conditions at their school, this was particularly problematic. It seemed as though the teachers who were present did not trust that the students were capable of answering the questions we posed or at least not to their satisfaction. Regardless of what the reason for this behavior was, it nonetheless, silenced the students and invisibilized their experiences.  Violence does not have to be physical; it may also be psychological, emotional or intellectual. Being silenced or invisibilized can be interpreted as violence when considered through this lens and it is my opinion that the dynamics of this relationship was part of the harm leading to problems in the school’s environment.

None of what I have stated is intended to suggest that the teachers were not well intentioned. Quite to the contrary, throughout the course of the two days that we spent with the faculty and administration of School 17, it became readily apparent that they had devoted their entire lives to ensuring the success of their students. In fact, that is precisely why the teachers devoted themselves to participate in the two-day training. Most of the teachers expected to learn how to create a safe learning space for the students by participating in the training, and one of everyone’s core values was to have a safe community. The first major shock to the teachers and the administrators was that they shared many values with their students; students they thought they knew. This did not stop them from speaking for the students, or from occupying much more space than any student, but it did begin to bridge the chasm that had separated the two parties. I think the values exercise we introduced was the first major step the teachers and students took to healing their relationships and working toward reconciling the grievances they had toward each other.

Globe made it clear that the similarities in values between parties and individuals who knew each other or not prior to the training and across the world, all tend to share a few of the same basic values; the most common being honesty.  What this did was shatter the isolated and individualistic perspective that both the students and the teachers shared, both among themselves and among communities far and wide. The power in this recognition is the realization that began to settle in that they were not in a relation with some distant other, but rather, with people just like them; furthermore that they were and are on the same side. Immediate to the group at hand, the students and teachers began to wrestle with the realization that they were and are on the same side and share common objectives. This was the next step in the reconciliation process and the healing of their relationships.

In the space of an hour I witnessed two groups of people who entered the room as opponents in creating a safer learning environment begin to join forces. I have never witnessed such a transformation in people; it was inspiring. I also saw the power of shared values and ideals. We humans love to categorize and compartmentalize everything because we have an intrinsic desire for order, but we so often prejudge wrongly, and fail to dig deep enough beneath the surface of a person to discover how much we have in common. Young people are too often disregarded as if they do not have the sense necessary to form complete and complex thoughts and analyses, as too immature to care about sophisticated issues, and as not being intelligent enough to be worth an adult’s time to form a deep and meaningful relationship with. It was a true pleasure to watch this pattern come to an end before our eyes as the teachers and administrators truly began to see the similarities they shared with their students.

The student-teacher relationship is of course not the reason that our crew was invited to Rochester, but rather, the inner-school violence that has been pervasive, and while we did address some of those concerns through the training, much of our attention was focused on healing the relationships between teachers and students. The reason for this focus on relationships pertains directly to the method by which the problems will be solved; primarily through the collective and inclusive actions of both teachers and students. The two groups will have to work together, top-down and bottom-up, if they intend to heal the culture at their school.  It is beyond question that adults have had vastly more life-experiences than adolescents have had, but that in itself does not discredit the very real experiences that the youth have had. Nor does it diminish the very real opinions and feelings that the youth have about the experiences they have had. However, it also does not mean that the youth do not have anything to learn from their teachers. I think Globe put it best, “We are all human beings. No one is better or more important than any other human being.” So, in terms of working together to solve the issues with violence that School 17 is having, the two groups have to be able to respect and value the opinions and feelings of each other to come to satisfying conclusions and plans of action that will be acceptable and beneficial to all.  This is why much of our training focused on the healing of relationships between the students and teachers who were present.

Through conducting the nonviolence training an implicit agreement formed that became explicit by the end of the second day that it was this particular group of teachers and students who would be leading School 17 into a nonviolent future. This however, was not so apparent when we began the training on Tuesday morning. As a matter of fact, even though they all provided the expectation of achieving a safer learning environment for the students and teachers, most of the participants looked and emanated the feeling as though none of them really wanted to be there. I think this may have stemmed from a mild skepticism that this training would actually prove to be helpful to them. Many of the teachers have been teachers for years and have attempted countless methods to earn the respect and trust of students to minor avail. Given that, it may have seemed like another ditch effort, like it was just one more plan that was destined to fail. For instance, one of the teachers had resorted to bribing his students with chocolate to get them to conform to school standards and to garner information about violent incidents that had occurred. This threw up all kinds of red flags when he mentioned it, but none of us were really quite sure what was wrong with it at the time. It seems problematic and like a failure in the teacher-student relationship that has not developed, wherein respect is earned by the teacher. It also seems that it was sending the wrong message to the students about how to solve problems. Notwithstanding those concerns, the point is that many methods had been attempted to solve the problems to no sufficient conclusions and I think they were skeptical about the training because of it. At the same time however, they were all desperate enough to show up and invest their time. So, it was really encouraging to watch as their eyes began to light up at the potential of what Kingian Nonviolence could do for their school community. One teacher who was about to retire revised his decision and declared that he would remain with the school for another five years to see the program through. That decision was made at the end of the training though.

When we walked into the Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence on Tuesday morning the teachers were having a tense discussion among themselves about what names to write on their name tags. There was a separation between teachers and students that the teachers wanted to maintain and it seemed that the threshold of their relationship was maintained by the distance the use of their last names created; as if being referred to by their first names by the students would have somehow undermined their authority. One teacher even asked Globe what names they should write on their tags, to which Globe remarked, “Whatever name you are most comfortable with,” and the teachers all selected their surnames. Thus maintaining the hierarchical structure and holding the students at a distance and valued as less important. It was a strange dynamic to watch unfold and the first sign that there was conflict in the student-teacher relationships. It seemed that the teachers, although, proclaiming that they wanted to know the students better, did not want the students to know them much deeper than that they were their teachers.

Fortunately, the second exercise was designed specifically for people to get to know one another on a much deeper level than simply their names. There were five questions that each participant had to answer about themselves: name, family, favorite childhood game, dream vacation, and expectations for the nonviolent training. Then, each participant was asked to report the answers of their partner while the audience was to maintain eye-contact with the person not speaking. The entire group was able to get to know more about the other people in the room than they knew walking in. It also bridged some of the chasm the teachers wanted to remain in order to distance themselves from their students. This was the third major step towards reconciling their relationships that occurred during the training.

Looking back on my own experience growing up and going through school, I do not remember knowing anything personal about my teachers and I also remember never forming any deep relationships with any of them either. And as I consider that now I wonder if that is part of the reason that school never meant very much to me. I am now a student at the University of Washington and again I am confronted with another alienating environment wherein it is very difficult to form relationships with my professors and I am reminded of my experience at North Seattle Community College and I feel a dramatic difference in how welcome and empowered I felt there. There is definitely something important to forming and maintaining deep and personal relationships with those who are charged with instilling in us principles, morality and intellect. If it is important to me as an adult to feel valued by my professors, then I know it is important to teenagers to feel valued and important to their teachers, especially given that they are in their formative years constantly questioning who they are and where they fit in this world of ours.

The first day ended on a tense note because everyone knew that we were only going to be there to conduct the training for two days and it did not seem like we had gained much ground. Cynthia, Globe and I discussed how the second day of training should proceed that first night. Globe was put into the position of revising the training because not only did the students not want to read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, but neither did the teachers and principle. It was troubling to hear an entire room of people who claimed to be interested in finding a more equitable and just means of organizing their school not desire to learn from one of the great reconcilers, but we made do with what we had to work with. We agreed that it would be best to focus the second day of training on helping the group to form their own plan of action based on the principles of nonviolence presented to us by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So, the first thing we did on the second day was introduce the group to the principles of nonviolence, and then we set them to work on devising and working through problems together.

We observed a dramatic contrast on the second day that none of us expected, the teachers began to respect the students’ opinions. I am sure this had at least in part something to with the space that Globe made for the students to express themselves because the teachers were made to listen and through this discovered that the students had some phenomenal ideas. When the teachers began to observe that the ideas their students were generating about how to solve the problems School 17 was having were better and more engaging than their own, they began to listen more intently and to occupy less space in the conversations. In the span of two days the group transitioned from not believing they had anything in common, to seeing that they shared the same set of core values, to listening to the youth, and eventually to teaming up with the youth and even following their lead on some particular things.

The harm that Globe, Cynthia and I were asked to come in and provide training for was the violence in School 17 and what the training actually focused on was the violence implicit in the teacher-student relationships. It is my belief that it will not be possible to solve the problems of violence in the school without solving the problems of violence in their relationships. In the scope of two days, much reconciliation had been accomplished between two groups who thought they were in competition with one another, but discovered that they both had and have the same goals and, are now working together. This of course is just the beginning of a long process of healing and when the classes begin in Autumn and the pressure is on to maintain order within the school setting, the situation may yet again devolve into a separation of the student and teachers. I am nonetheless hopeful because the students led the way to forming a top-down, bottom-up committee composed of both teacher and students that will continue the lines of dialogue between both parties. It is my belief that the most fundamental factor and component of any healthy relationship is communication and as long as communication is functioning then healing may continue to prosper. The conflict resolution inherent in Kingian Nonviolence is paramount to healing those relationships and all the students and teachers who have formed this core group that are intent on leading School 17 into a nonviolent way of life and community have also decided to carry forward the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into the school to the rest of the students, teachers, janitors, custodians, councilors and members of their community.

Healing tends not to occur overnight, but sometimes there are leaps and I believe that is what we were witness to in Rochester, New York earlier this July. I recognize and want to stress that this is but a beginning and that there is a long road ahead of them to completely healing their relationships. I am however very encouraged to know that there is still hope for our sisters and brothers and to know that we are not alone in the struggle for peaceful and satisfying resolutions of our differences. Lastly, it is encouraging to know that as difficult as it is to set aside our differences and our preconceived notions, that it is nonetheless possible to do so when we are motivated to work toward a brighter and more just future for us all.

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BlackLivesMatterUW

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#‎BlackLivesMatterUW‬

Disparaging statistics and percentages of the University of Washington.

‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and not just when we are discussing Police Brutality but also of the potential to improve ourselves and our communities, to participate equally in the “benefits” this nation presents to others.

They may claim that “Reverse Racism” is something that actually exists, and that “Affirmative Action” is evidence of this, but what underlies those arguments is not only ignorance, but an unwillingness to face the fact that the crumbs our people have had to make due with, even with Affirmative Action, does not make a dent in the privilege others have, experience, or benefit from.

Stats

Fight for Equity not just Equality;

there is a difference:

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If the University is Public, then it should both represent the Public and provide for the benefit of the Public; not just a portion of the Public, but the whole Public. 

Let’s see to it that our Universities

Provide an Equity of Access to higher education,

Which will undoubtedly lead to a more

Diverse, Representative and Full Community

That is prepared to engage

The plurality of issues

Our society is confronting.

https://www.facebook.com/events/800415593339407/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Almost There

I was going over my requirements for classes yesterday and I noticed something for the first time, in a way that I have never noticed it before. I am about ten credits away from my Philosophy degree and 12 credits away from my History degree!!!!

I am about to graduate from the University of Washington with my Bachelor’s degree!!!

I will be one of the first in the family I grew up knowing to accomplish this. Graduating is also something I once believed was impossible. For the longest time. Did not think Black men made it through college often. I now know different.

It is amazing what we can accomplish when we put our minds and our bodies to the tasks and stay the course; no matter how unbelievable it seems at first.

Research Project in Greece this Summer

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This summer, I will be living in Athens doing research on immigration by performing interviews of people, observing their behavior and interacting with them in stores, parks, buses, schools, restaurants, cafes, hotels, etc., which are many of the principal places where culture or conflict emerges.

So, for the most part this will be qualitative research. However, to place this research into the proper context I will also be analyzing the historical and economic impacts that immigration has had on the people in Greece, so it will have a qualitative aspect to it as well.

But the overall project will be qualitative in nature.

The interviews will entail asking difficult, politically sensitive and emotional charged questions that get to the heart of the immigration issues people are confronting.

My studies into the ethics of aid, assistance, and social contracts have revealed that in order to be of any assistance to people who are suffering in other countries, or in this country for that matter, it is imperative for me to understand the factors that have helped to shape and continue to influence the development of their identities and circumstances.

My background with human rights and international justice issues will be highly useful because the forced migrations and forced segregation that people are subject to are complex moral and ethical issues that are fused with politics and conceptions of justice.

By ignoring such factors, there is a potential to do more harm than good.

The ethnographic research of the project will help us to discover what the people, which includes both the migrants to and the citizens of Greece themselves believe shape their identities, the composition of the circumstances they face, what they consider just, permissible and impermissible, and what obligations they believe humans they have to one another.

Given that all of these factors contribute to the outcomes of any complex situation, especially one as sensitive as immigration during economically challenging times, it then becomes necessary to consolidate political, economic, and historical data, as well as, the qualitative data collected from individuals to correctly ascertain the development and constraints of that situation.

This is what I hope to accomplish, or at least begin while studying abroad in Greece this summer.

 

 

For more information on Immigration, Diaspora and Apartheid you can follow the link below: 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

We Can Do It Together

I know you all have seen the lyrics and heard the song that I have been working on for this #Diaspora and #Apartheid research project. 

The purpose is two fold:


(1) To get the message out in a different medium than the tradition essays and articles &

(2) to draw attention to fundraiser so that I can afford this project.

I know that you all believe in and support me and the things that I am fighting for because I am fighting for all of us and for a better tomorrow. The truth though, is that I cannot do it alone and I need you help to make this possible.

I also know how it is, sometimes money is tight and if it is, then I certainly do not want you to hurt yourself and I am not asking you to. What you could do for me though is share the link to the fundraiser with you people and ask them for their support; that would go a long way in helping me.

On the other hand, if everyone I know chips in $10, then the research would be fully funded.

I potentially have some scholarships that I will be awarded, but as of yet I have not heard anything. The only way this research may be possible is with your help.

http://www.gofundme.com/Diaspora-and-Apartheid

 

The song I put together can be listened to and downloaded for #Free @:

https://soundcloud.com/renaissance-the-poet/do-i-doom-my-kids-to-poverty-1 

http://www.gofundme.com/Diaspora-and-Apartheid

Do I Doom My Kids To Poverty? ((SONG))

To Support Diaspora and Apartheid Research in Athens this Summer:

http://www.gofundme.com/Diaspora-and-Apartheid

This summer I will be participating in the JSIS/Hellenic Studies program hosted by the University of Washington in partnership with Harvard University in Greece, which is a research project that will analyze how #apartheid and#diaspora have and continue to impact the people in the Baltic region.

The situation that migrants face is plagued with injustice from beginning to end, from their reasons to migrate to their treatment after they migrate. However, in order to make the types of changes in policy and social behavior that will actually make a difference in regard to diaspora and apartheid we have to have accurate data about what the issues and concerns are from all the parties concerned. This is necessary if we are to make any arguments about the harms being done and further, to suggest plans of action to mitigate those harms. That is why we are traveling to Athens, we are on a social fact finding mission to ascertain the truth about the situation and are going to make recommendations based on the evidence we gather about how to address the problems our nations face. The results of the research will be evaluated and summarized in research papers and there will be a formal presentation of that material prior to leaving Greece before the parties that can make a difference in these people’s lives.

 

Lyrics

Verse #1

 

I have to find a way to make these ends meet

I’ve got myself, my wife and three kids to feed

Now this wouldn’t be a problem, if there was work to be done

But the Dictator, confiscated, at the point of a gun

The resources, that we need, to keep, our families fed

And we’re lacking Agriculture because the Markets are dead

Not because we can’t farm, but rather, because these Subsidized

U.S. Industries, have straight up neutralized us

But Irrigation, will only suffice, if and when there is Rain

But now, we’re dealing Droughts, as one of the effects, of Climate Change

And we can’t rely on aid because that mess is a curse

And The Coups and Civil Wars for power make matters worse

My baby’s crying, screaming cuz she needs something to eat

And I feel like half-a-man because I am living in defeat

I’ve got nothing to give because there is nothing to get

But, do I Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it?

 

 

Verse #2

 

Immigrating, is easier said than done

Cuz it seems that everything is set to keep us where we’re from

Passports, Visas, Customs, and on and on

And everything costs the type of Money we ain’t got

Our options for a better life are limited and dangerous

Trudging Deserts, crammed in Ships, jumping barbed and guarded Fences

Risking life and Health, to get at better Chances

Suffering, is nothing new, but here ain’t got the answers

My daughter wants to go to School so she can learn to Read

Cuz she wants to be a Scientist to make sure all can eat

But, that will only happen, if we make it to the West

And as her father all I want is to give the best

But protected, their Feudal Privilege, keeping us at odds

Walls to Separate us, Segregated by the Laws

So, yes it’s Illegal, and it’s Dangerous

But, Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it.

 

 

Verse #3

 

So say we make it, beat the odds, this is what we’re facin’

Aliens, like we’re not humans from this race and

We don’t bleed the same when beaten for tying

To take advantage of Opportunities you squander, while lying

Claiming that you care, but don’t want us sharing

Land, Food, Work, or Health Caring

And instead make departments like the I.C.E.

And Detention Camps to stop us from being free

Where we’re tortured, starved, deprived of Human Rights

Forced Free Labor and Deported at night

Shipped back from whence we came, like, that is more humane

As if to say, we deserve the cards laid

And my daughter deserves to not be educated

My son deserves to starve, and I to live depraved

But there is a small hope that we just might make it

So, do I Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it?

 

 

 

To Help Me Fund My #Diaspora and #Apartheid Research, Please Follow the Link Below:

 

http://www.gofundme.com/Diaspora-and-Apartheid

 

 

For More Information on Diaspora and Apartheid, Please Follow the Links Below:

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/help-me-pay-for-diaspora-and-apartheid-research-in-athens-this-summer/

Do I Doom My Kids To Poverty?

Verse #1

 

I have to find a way to make these ends meet

I’ve got myself, my wife and three kids to feed

Now this wouldn’t be a problem, if there was work to be done

But the Dictator, confiscated, at the point of a gun

The resources, that we need, to keep, our families fed

And we’re lacking Agriculture because the Markets are dead

Not because we can’t farm, but rather, because these Subsidized

U.S. Industries, have straight up neutralized us

But Irrigation, will only suffice, if and when there is Rain

But now, we’re dealing Droughts, as one of the effects, of Climate Change

And we can’t rely on aid because that mess is a curse

And The Coups and Civil Wars for power make matters worse

My baby’s crying, screaming cuz she needs something to eat

And I feel like half-a-man because I am living in defeat

I’ve got nothing to give because there is nothing to get

But, do I Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it?

 

 

Verse #2

 

Immigrating, is easier said than done

Cuz it seems that everything is set to keep us where we’re from

Passports, Visas, Customs, and on and on

And everything costs the type of Money we ain’t got

Our options for a better life are limited and dangerous

Trudging Deserts, crammed in Ships, jumping barbed and guarded Fences

Risking life and Health, to get at better Chances

Suffering, is nothing new, but here ain’t got the answers

My daughter wants to go to School so she can learn to Read

Cuz she wants to be a Scientist to make sure all can eat

But, that will only happen, if we make it to the West

And as her father all I want is to give the best

But protected, their Feudal Privilege, keeping us at odds

Walls to Separate us, Segregated by the Laws

So, yes it’s Illegal, and it’s Dangerous

But, Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it.

 

 

Verse #3

 

So say we make it, beat the odds, this is what we’re facin’

Alien status, like we’re not humans from this race and

We don’t bleed the same when beaten for tying

To take advantage of Opportunities you squander, while lying

Claiming that you care, but don’t want us sharing

Land, Food, Work, or Health Caring

And instead make departments like the I.C.E.

And Detention Camps to stop us from being free

Where we’re tortured, starved, deprived of Human Rights

Forced Free Labor and Deported at night

Shipped back from whence we came, like, that is more humane

As if to say, we deserve the cards laid

And my daughter deserves to not be educated

My son deserves to starve, and I to live depraved

But there is a small hope that we just might make it

So, do I Doom my kids to Poverty, or risk Escaping it?

 

 

 

To Help Me Fund My #Diaspora and #Apartheid Research, Please Follow the Link Below:

 

http://www.gofundme.com/Diaspora-and-Apartheid

 

 

For More Information on Diaspora and Apartheid, Please Follow the Links Below:

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/help-me-pay-for-diaspora-and-apartheid-research-in-athens-this-summer/

Help Me Pay for Diaspora and Apartheid Research in Athens this Summer

 

To Help Me Make This Research Possible, Please Contribute to the Fund to Get Me to Athens @ http://www.gofundme.com/7wx9m0

 

This summer I will be participating in the JSIS/Hellenic Studies program hosted by theUniversity of Washington in partnership with Harvard University in Greece, which is a research project that will analyze how apartheid and diaspora have and continue to impact the people in the Baltic region.

The situation that migrants face is plagued with injustice from beginning to end, from their reasons to migrate to their treatment after they migrate. However, in order to make the types of changes in policy and social behavior that will actually make a difference in regard to diaspora and apartheid we have to have accurate data about what the issues and concerns are from all the parties concerned. This is necessary if we are to make any arguments about the harms being done and further, to suggest plans of action to mitigate those harms. That is why we are traveling to Athens, we are on a social fact finding mission to ascertain the truth about the situation and are going to make recommendations based on the evidence we gather about how to address the problems our nations face. The results of the research will be evaluated and summarized in research papers and there will be a formal presentation of that material prior to leaving Greece before the parties that can make a difference in these people’s lives.

The program is further designed to immerses students in the Greek language and culture. It is a twelve credit, five week program consisting of three University of Washington courses: JSIS 11–Introduction to Greek; JSIS 488–Tourism in Greece; JSIS 499–Independent Research on Global Apartheid. The program also provides the students with a sufficient understanding of the Greek language to survive and function in Greece as a non-resident.

For further information about diaspora and apartheid check out:

Diaspora and Apartheid: Study Abroad Research

 

The Benefits of the Program:

 

Participating in this program will benefit me by providing an opportunity to experience other cultures firsthand, engage in a practical research project and learn more about issues of global justice.

This opportunity is particularly important because not only am I a first generation college student, but I will also be the first in my family to travel outside of the United States since my grandfather was in the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s. My mother, who provides for my residence and food, is a house-keeper and can barely afford to help me through college. The rest of my family, if they can work, work in some aspect of the service industry and subsist on meager incomes, so they can also not contribute much but emotional and mental support for my education. Yet, even with all of their help the only reason I am able to afford the cost of tuition and books is because of financial aid and loans, but those resources do not cover much else. So, any contribution that you can make will help this opportunity, with all of its many benefits to myself, my family, my education and most importantly, to those suffering from diaspora and apartheid; to become reality.

For an example of the impacts of study abroad on both the individual and the community, please follow this link: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1108274

Life Goals:

 

My goal in life is to design a sustainable, environmentally sound and socially equitable system based on justice that transcends the stratification of nation-states, individuals and corporations, and takes into account the fact that we all share one pool of resources. This is an incredible goal, and perhaps even utopian, but I believe it is both achievable and practical and I have planned my education to prepare me for the task.

To accomplish this goal I have begun my journey by double-majoring in history and philosophy at the University of Washington, whereby I am learning about the strengths and weaknesses of previous civilizations and their socio-economic systems, as well as the ethical frameworks that sustained them. After earning a bachelor’s degree I plan to earn a law degree because the system I am going to help to design will require intense negotiation to derive a written law that will be internationally acceptable. Given the delicate nature of those negotiations and the networking that will be necessary to accomplish my goal, my plan is to work for, with and through the United Nations because it is the most reputable international institution in existence that shares my objectives and that will provide me with access to global decision makers.

 

This Program Will Help Me to Achieve these Goals By:

 

As a History major one of my objectives is the evaluation of how culture evolves over time. So, the Greece and Athens Global Apartheid program will have several highly beneficial impacts on my education at the University of Washington, as well as, long into my future career. One of the primary functions and most attractive characteristics of all study abroad programs is the opportunity to experience other cultures. However, I am from a family who is not well-off and I have neither traveled outside of the United States, nor have I had the opportunity to experience another culture. This program will provide me with this invaluable experience and since it has a basis of historical analysis it will allow me to apply what I am learning as well as bolstering my continued education of other cultures. Most importantly, it will help me to develop a perspective that is not solely American, which is vital in a globalizing world wherein, the interaction between people of different states and cultures is steadily increasing.

A further benefit the program will have is the research and analytic experience it will provide me. Not only will this benefit my education at the University of Washington as a history student, but also as I progress through my goals to work in the United Nations. The accurate writing of history sometimes entails performing interviews of people who have experienced some event, so having this experience will benefit my studies in this manner. I can also see the practical application of this after I begin working for the United Nations, when I will need accurate and contemporary, qualitative information to make informed decisions about actions and policy. The Greece and Athens Global Apartheid program is specifically designed to help me develop these skills.

I am interested in the definition, justification and implementation of justice, which is why I am double majoring in Philosophy. Immigration and a state’s right to regulate its borders are huge components of the philosophical discussion of global justice, which entails the rights of immigrants whether legal migrants or not. This program will put us up front and personal with the global justice issues of apartheid and diaspora in a region that at this pivotal point in my life and education, I would not otherwise be able to take part in. It will also thereby, allow me to participate in seeking solutions to these issues head on with and for the people most affected by them and to educate the people who can make a difference in their lives. It is one thing to read about issues in a history, sociology, or global justice course, and it is quite another to actually take part in the research that makes a positive impact in peoples’ lives, which is the reason that I am in school.

 

Expenses:

 

Program Fee                                                         $4,500
UW Study Abroad Insurance                        $     80
UW Study Abroad Fee:                                     $    300
Food                                                                           $1,500
Spending Cash                                                     $1,500
Roundtrip Airfare                                                $2,000

Total:                                                   $9,880

I have developed the budget after talking to the program director Dr. Lagos and the program advisor Katherine Kroeger. For a large portion of the program we will be staying in dorms at the Deree College, but for some of the program we will also be staying in hotels. The costs of the hotels and travel have been included into the line item Spending Cash, which is an amount that is recommended by the program. The program also estimates that the average daily cost of food, which is not included in the Program Fee is approximately $34/day and I have calculated an approximation of what that will cost for the entire program. I have also priced and cross-referenced round-trip airfare from Seattle to Greece, and the cost is approximately $1,700 if the ticket were to be purchased now. However, given the volatility of the market I have added $300 to that line item so that I can be prepared for an increase in price at the time of purchase.

I am confident that this trip will not only make a dramatic impact in my life but also an impact in the lives of all the people that I interact with in the future. And your help will make it possible for me to take part in the Greece and Athens Global Apartheid program.

 

To Help Me Make This Research Possible, Please Contribute to the Fund to Get Me to Athens @ http://www.gofundme.com/7wx9m0

Other Important Pages Related to this Project:

My Study Abroad Pages:

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/help-me-pay-for-diaspora-and-apartheid-research-in-athens-this-summer/

Discussion of the Issues with Diaspora and Apartheid:

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

 

Other sources that I have applied to for funding of this Study Abroad Research:

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

http://gilmanprogram.wordpress.com/

The University of Washington History Department Scholarships:

http://depts.washington.edu/history/undergraduate-studies/fellowships-scholarships-and-prizes-undergraduate-history-majors

A Few Words on Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to persevere through a challenge in spite of being afraid. In fact, if there is no fear then, there cannot be courage because courage is a response to fear.

Growing up I lacked all measure of courage and I tried every means imaginable to escape my life. I was caught in a true dilemma; I was afraid of both failure and success, and both led me to quit everything I started. Though I mostly just masked my fear with drugs and alcohol, and pretended as though becoming a drop-out and a drug addict did not bother me. Ironically, it was because my addiction divested me of hope and morality unto the point that my body was only a vestigial shell of a human, that I found the courage to fight for something greater; to fight for the life I had been granted and the place in our world I was promised. Those fears never left me, I am still to this day deftly afraid of failure because I know its pains all too well, and I am also afraid of success because I am not sure who I will become.

However, after losing everything but the glimmer of a dream to become a lawyer and to be the first person in my family to graduate from college, I was possessed with a willingness and a desire to face my fears, conquer my dreams, and break out of my shell.

The Significance of “Black Friday”

One of the coolest gifts of being in school is that I get to learn about our world, what we have done, what we are doing, and what we have the capacity to do as human beings. I think one of the freshest aspects of studying history is that I have the opportunity to learn facts and concepts that have shaped our civilization. And then as a cap to all of that, I have been granted the privilege to evaluate that information and those assertions with my studies of philosophy, whereby I am learning how to use and design moral frameworks from which I can evaluate the implications of what has been done and what “should” be done in the future in terms of what is justified and what is obligated of human beings; and I can base my interpretations in historical fact.

Last night I came across term Black Friday in my history textbook; “A History of the Modern Middle East” (William L. Cleveland, 2013), and it was a tragic scene in Iranian history. And before I make it seem like this is to present a negative perspective of Iran, or any Middle Eastern country, what I am going to tell you about this event has occurred in some fashion in every culture, nation, state and society that I have studied so far. As it turns out “Black Friday” was a term used to describe the response of Muhammad Reza Shah’s regime to a large mass of unarmed students, workers and other civilians protesting the actions of the regime. On Friday, September 8, 1978 Reza Shah’s regime marched tanks, helicopter gunships, and army into the crowds and killed hundreds of unarmed civilians to quell the protesters and silence them.

After reading that, I questioned when the term “Black Friday” was coined and why because as I am sure most of you are aware of it is associated with the Friday that follows the American holiday Thanksgiving, that occurs on the fourth Thursday of November. (The point of this post is not to call into question the moral implications of that holiday, that will be for a later post.) The contemporary meaning of Black Friday, according to blackfriday.com, since 1924 and the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade, has marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season wherein companies move from the “Red into the Black” a term used to signify an end to making a loss and earning a profit.

I fact-checked those claims with snopes.com and found that the term was coined in 1951, in reference to employees calling in sick to work the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. The site further notes that in the early 1960s in Philadelphia the police termed the traffic problems related to the shopping in the metropolitan district as “Black Friday”. Snopes.com also confirmed the usage of the term that blackfriday.com mentioned in regard to it being the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Snopes.com however, discredited the claim that “Black Friday” was a term coined to descibe a special business day for the selling of slaves in the 19th Century.

However, in all of this research, I did not see any reference to what occurred in Iran in 1978 under the rule of Reza Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty. My initial concern was that here in America we could have transmitted a term used to define an atrocity to mean something different, that is actually celebrated and rewarded annually. The transition in the meaning of terms is not something that is unheard of. Many of us in the United States are either familiar with or use the term “A Rule of Thumb,” to mean a general rule of operation, or in other words a maxim, but most of us do not know where it comes from. Nonetheless, the “Rule of Thumb” refers to the legal rule that if a stick was not wider than the diameter of the husband’s thumb, that he was legally justified in beating his wife with it. This was the grounds for my concern and what motivated my research into the etymology of the term. And I have been able to clear up, that the usage of the term to describe the initiation of the holiday shopping season predates the atrocity in Tehran, Iran by more than ten years.

Before leaving you all, I would like to briefly comment on the significance of the 1978 event, wherein the regime utilized the military to suppress the voices of the people who were expressing discontent. As I mentioned earlier, this is not something that is contained only to Iran, or the Middle East. We have to only peer into U.S. history and we will be acquainted with the suppression of African Americans during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, who were voicing dissent and the police riot guards were called in to suppress them. Or more recently, when the protesters participating in the Occupy movement were suppressed to start to form an idea that suppression of dissent is not something that only happens outside of the United States, or is contained to the distant past.

As citizens of this world, no matter what country we live in, whether it is a democratic state or it is hierarchical, or its state government is based on the observance of religion, or a monarch; the consistent pattern is that when the voice of dissent is suppressed it lead to outcomes in that nation or state that are undesirable to population as a whole. Sometime suppression is more implicit than armed forces marching into the metropolitan area of a city and murdering hundreds of civilians. One type of power concerns the control of the agenda. This is important because even in a democratic society wherein the people are “allowed” to have a voice, if the agenda of what they can voice an opinion about is constrained, then those in power with the motivation to protect that power can situation that agenda to ensure that the issues that most threaten their position are never brought up to vote upon.

The United States is largely a consumer society that bases much of identity in Spending Power or the prestige that comes from possessing such power. Furthermore, in a society wherein Conspicuous Consumption, which signifies that status symbols (clothes, cars, watches, etc..) are used to delineate social class and thus power, the citizens of such a society have a vulnerability that can be exploited by those in power. To connect this to the previous ideas of the suppression of dissenting voices and controlling the agenda, when the elites can focus the populace’s attention on consumerism, attaching their self-worth to how much they can buy (Social Trappings), they can effectively control the agenda. If this line of reasoning is accurate, then the citizens of the United States are systematically having their dissenting voices suppressed by consumerism.

So, while it may not the case that the term “Black Friday” was explicitly designed and coined to represent the oppression of people and the suppression of dissenting voices, it is nonetheless clear that an argument can be made to support the claim our voice of dissent can be suppressed by such means.

And to think, that all of this thought came from one paragraph in my history textbook… Yeah, I love school. I decided to go to school to get an education and what has occurred is that it has changed the way I think about the world. I am now being armed with the skills and the knowledge to evaluate the world we live in. And this is precisely the reason that I decided to go to school.

http://blackfriday.com/pages/black-friday-history

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/thanksgiving/blackfriday.asp

“A History The Modern Middle East” by William L. Cleveland; 2013