Friday, March 30, 2012

My Hoodie is the Cross I Bear

On Sunday, I will preach with a hoodie on. Some may view that an act paramount to walking in holy space adorned in baggy pants. I get the scorn felt by those devoted to keeping God’s house sacred. This is one of those times that call for doing what you have to do.

To be frank, I’m not one who is down with placing more emphasis then necessary on sanctifying holy space for the purpose of evoking a response from God. My theology is about reshaping the way folks think about the purpose of worship and the way our thoughts related to the space dedicated to worship impacts and interferes with our understanding of God.

I could spend days rendering a discourse regarding how our contemporary understanding of sacred space has forged a divide in the way we think about what it means to be the people of God. I’m going there here not to begin a discussion involving the legitimacy of people coming to worship wearing what they have in their closet, but to talk about why I’ve been compelled to ask folks to wear a hoodie on Sunday.

Wearing a hoodie on Passover is oozing theological language that can ultimately propel the Church, as a living vital instrument of God’s activity, back into the work of kingdom building. It speaks to what it means for Christ to position himself as a member of the human family, and to participate in the most agonizing act connected to our bodies – death –as a way to help us envision what it means to move past the burden of our living with the limits of our bodies.

If Advent is about incarnation, God participating in the human struggle, then the Passion Week is about our partaking with Christ in the activity of self-sacrifice. Put another way, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Easter is about our affirming our willingness to become the people of death and resurrection. More than a story about Jesus, it is the story of the Church.

You may ask what does that have to do with wearing a hoodie. My response is everything. As with all we do as the people of God, our challenge is to listen, understand, relate and participate in the burdens of those regarded as the least of these. If Christ came for the broken, shouldn’t we commit to living with and sharing with those deemed voiceless by those who maintain the power? Shouldn’t we become more like them as a way of identifying with the transformative work given the Church?

Thus, the hoodie is a symbol of brokenness and alienation. On Sunday, it is the cross I carry. Why, again you ask. This is what death looks like. This is what innocence looks like. This is what shame and stereotyping looks like. I’m taking on the image of rejection while calling on the spirit of transformation.

The hoodie is the cross I bear on Sunday. There are numerous symbols of death and hatred that demand our consideration. These symbols of hatred and alienation have approached that road less traveled. They are worn by those labeled the tare in the presence of the wheat or the devil in the presence of the Lord.

It’s time for us to strip ourselves of the symbols of our privilege and clothe ourselves with the pictograms of separation. Isn’t this what it means to pick up a cross?

I will wear my hoodie on Sunday. I will take on the image of a thug to set those labeled as thugs free from the power of that perception. Hopefully, I won’t be the only one.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blame it on the Hoodie

I can take a sigh of massive relief now that I know why Trayvon Martin was killed. It isn’t a case of vigilantly gone wild, as I had assumed. Our friend Geraldo Rivera has uncovered the truth. Blame the hoodie.

"I'll bet you money that if he didn't have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn't have responded in that violent and aggressive way," Rivera said on “Fox and Friends”. He said the death of Trayvon should be a warning to parents to watch what their children wear.

"If you dress like a hoodlum eventually some schmuck is going to take you at your word," he wrote in a commentary posted Friday on the website Fox News Latino. "No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn't generate a certain reaction -- sometimes scorn, often menace."

Melisa Harris-Perry took a nibble at Rivera’s comments during her Saturday morning show on MSNBC. She offered her dress code for black safety. To be safe, dress like Steve Urkel. Take notes parents; this could save your kids life.

Avoid red and blue because you might be confused as a gang member. Shop in the section with “mauve, turquoise, or even salmon if you’re daring,” she said. Stay away from those baggy pants. “If the cops don't get you, your parents are sure to get mad for costing them all that money,” she suggested. Last on the list – shun the temptation of wearing those “pesky hoodies.”

Harris-Perry’s commentary reflects a deep angst felt by those forced to endure the feeble attempts to explain what happened that night. Include me on the list of folks fed up with efforts to make the death of Trayvon about something other than a decision to take the life of an innocent kid. I would love to stick a sock in Newt Gingrich’s mount, paint him black and drop him off in my old stomping ground – East St. Louis. I wonder if that would teach him a bit about the privileges that come with being painted white. Inhale, exhale, release. That’s a commentary for another day.

Harris-Perry’s comeback lifts the frustration of parents of black boys. What are they to wear given the way clothing is construed as a measure of thug life? Is part of the burden of being young and black the imperative of isolating oneself from the social norms embraced by other youth? White kids wear hoodies, but black and brown youth should wander from contemporary dress preferences. Does it mean something entirely different when a black or brown kid puts on a hoodie? The Gap, Old Navy, American Eagle, Aeropostale and Abercombie aren’t shops that market their wares to black thugs. All kids shop there.

Rivera’s idiotic deliberation, related to how parents should dress their children, exposes the true nature of how race and racism plays out within the context of American culture. Those black kids who dress to go to school and play are forced to confront how what they wear draws attention to their being more than a kid. Are they too black, too thuggish, too much like those who end up at your local county jail? Is dress a byproduct of criminal inclination, or is dress simply that – dress?

If the burden of parents of black and brown kids is to refute the assumptions of those who read more into dress than dress, the responsibility of altering racial stereotypes is placed in the hands of those victimized by that mindset. Rather than encouraging people to look past those hoodies, kids and parents are challenged to dress in a way that counters the common culture of all kids. Conclusion, dress like Urkel.

Don’t be a kid. Wear a suit and tie to school. Rid your wardrobe of anything construed as too black. It doesn’t matter that other kids wear the same thing. You are held to a higher responsibility due to the way your dress is deemed different because your black or brown skin is underneath your clothing. Clearly, the thing that differentiates you from the rest isn’t the hoodie. It’s your race. Change it anyway because too many black kids have brought into the normal culture of American youth.

Don’t blame racism. Blame the hoodie. Blame the black kid for failing to identify himself as one who is different from other kids his age. You can’t be a kid. Dress like an adult.

I have two hoodies in my closet. Dang! Let me get rid of them before someone shoots me for looking like a thug.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trayvon: I can't keep it to myself

I didn’t want to write about Trayvon. I waited and waited some more before throwing words on this page. I waited for common sense to take hold to save me from having to bring further attention to the pain that has kept me locked in dismay. Put another way, I’m sick and tired of writing about the pain of black men.

I wanted to believe the time has come for folks like me to back away from stories like this one. I wanted to accept times have changed and I’m free to explore other stories. I wanted to talk about what’s happening in the city, the cool places to hang out and tell the untold stories of people in my own back yard. I wanted to release all those years of pain roused by dealing with walking the streets with a macho identity layered with loads of blackness.

I didn’t want to write about pain anymore. It all left me feeling like one seduced into a victim mentality. I didn’t want to blame white folks anymore. My desire was to evoke a message of hope for those confronted with mounds of hostility connected to their labels.

“You don’t sound angry anymore,” my white friends are quick to point out after reading my recent blogs and columns. After 15 years of writing columns that coerced me to consider how my words would impact others, I wanted a safe place.

I wanted to be revered for the power of my words more than the assumptions of my politics. I didn’t want the brand of being the mad black guy. I didn’t want to hear opinions that minimized me to the hue I wear and the pain I carry. I wanted the respect that others carry with ease. Their words aren't appraised from the context of their being. Oh, how badly I desire to be accepted for my craft and not to be minimized because of how my blackness gets in the way!

But, Trayvon forces me to come out from the layers of compost that forced me into isolation. I can’t keep it to myself. It hurts too deep not to write about. It’s too close to home not to allow my tears to grab hold of this page. I have to yell from that place shaking because this shit won’t go away. I can’t keep it to myself.

He was killed for no reason! Why do I care? Because I am Trayvon. My son is Travon. My nephew and girlfriend’s son is Trayvon. Trayvon attends the church I lead. He shows up in my neighborhood to play basketball whenever the sun comes out. I see him when I drop the kids off at school. I see Trayvon everywhere I look. His face is a reminder of how things have not changed due to the fear of those who blame him for all that irks our nation.

His death reminds me of how I’ve been treated. I think of my own son’s pain as a black man begging to be seen for more than how he is feared. We both have been stopped for driving while being black, walking while being black, shopping while being black and yelled at for being black. We both have been rejected because our strength is too much for others to contend. We both have cried because our authentic freedom is conditioned by how others accept us beyond how we look.

We are Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Men. We are Richard Wright’s “Bigger Thomas” walking in fear of what we can’t control. Was James Baldwin right when he wrote, “who does not have his private Bigger Thomas in his skull.” Has America grown beyond the evil that kept black men home at night? Should fear keep us home when the call goes out to buy a bag of Skittles?

How many more have to die like Troy Davis despite the lack of evidence? How many more have to die like Craig Davis down in Mississippi. Does it take a gang of teenagers in a truck to open our eyes? How many more need to be killed due to a mistaken identity? What does it take for people to consider how black men are viewed in a land led by a black man?

I’m tired of writing about my pain as a black man. I did my best to keep it to myself.

Now I have to cry some more. Does anyone care?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teach for America: This is not a movie

I can’t stand to watch those inner city teacher movies. I’ll admit to having goose bumps after watching Blackboard Jungle for the first time. It’s the granddaddy of them all from the 50’s.

There’s a long list: Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, The Ron Clark Story, Music of the Heart, The Principal, The Substitute, Substitute 2 and Substitute 3. For the sake of argument I’ll throw in Blindside as another example of white folks saving poor, low performing black kids from their troubled lives.

That’s how I feel about Teach for America. It all feels like a plan to institutionalize the sentiment of those movies. After creating a culture that tags teachers as incompetent and lazy, a scheme was created to address the dysfunction within the American education system. The movie “Waiting for Superman” is promoted as an example of how teacher unions and a lack of accountability severely impact public education. Movies are molding America’s view related to the state of public education.

I yelled at my newspaper when I read the story of June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Public Schools of North Carolina, spending a day at Durham’s Neal Middle School due to the 11 Teach for America members placed there. Should I conclude all is well at Neal due to the presence of the good folks who have come to rescue students from the bungling teachers at the school?

“TFA is, at best, another chimerical attempt in a long history of chimerical attempts to sell educational reform as a solution to class inequality,” says Andre Hartman in a blog posted in the Washington Post. “At worst, it’s a Trojan horse for all that is unseemly about the contemporary education reform movement.” (

Hartman, author of Education and the Cold War: the Battle for the American School, provides a serious critique of Teach for America. “TFA, suitably representative of the liberal education reform more generally, underwrites, intentionally or not, the conservative assumptions of the education reform movement: that teachers unions serve as barriers to quality education; that testing is the best way to assess quality education; that educating poor children is best done by institutionalizing them; that meritocracy is an end-in-itself; that social class is an unimportant variable in education reform; that education policy is best made by evading politics proper; and that faith in public school teachers is misplaced,” he says.

The evidence regarding Teach for America effectiveness found they tend to perform equal to teachers in similar situations. They do as well as new teachers lacking formal training assigned to impoverished schools. Sometimes they do better in math. The students of Teach for America teachers perform significantly less wells than those of credentialed beginning teachers. “It seems clear that TFA’s vaunted thirty-day summer institute – TFA ‘boot camp’ – is no replacement for the preparation given future teachers at traditional colleges of education,” Hartman says.

“Putting TFA forward to solve the problems of the teaching profession has turned out poorly. But the third premise for Kopp’s national teacher corps — that it would “create a leadership force for long-term change” in how the nation’s least privileged students are schooled — has been the most destructive. Such destructiveness is directly related to Kopp’s success in attaching TFA to the education reform movement.

Hartman argues that crushing teacher unions is the motivation behind the push for charter schools and Teach for America. He lashes out at the budding industry that profits from student testing . “The multi-billion dollar testing industry — dominated by a few large corporations that specialize in the making and scoring of standardized tests — has become an entrenched interest, a powerful component of a growing education-industrial complex.”

Teach for America supports standardized testing because it provides evidence that their efforts work. “In emphasizing testing, though, reformers tend to overlook the obvious incentives that ambitious educators have to manipulate statistics,” Hartman says. “President Bush appointed Houston Superintendent of Schools Rod Paige as Secretary of Education in 2001 because Paige’s reform measures seemingly led to skyrocketing graduation rates. Not surprisingly, this so-called “Texas miracle,” predicated on falsified numbers, was too good to be true”.

Hartman discusses the rise of cheating scandals in districts were Teach for America has taken hold. In Atlanta, dozens of principals and hundreds of teachers , including Teach for America members, were caught in a cheating scandal “so brazen in Atlanta that principals hosted pizza parties where teachers and administrators systematically corrected student exams.” Scandals were confirmed in New York City, Philadelphia, Balimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Dallas, Houston, Dayton and Memphis – all districts with Teach for America.

“By attaching their incentives agenda to standardized testing, the reform movement has induced cheating on a never-before-seen scale, proving the maxim known as Campbell’s Law:“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” In sum, the TFA insurgency’s singular success has been to empower those best at gaming the system,” Hartman writes.

“Kopp [founder of Teach for America] shows some awareness of the absurdities of her own experiences — including a “fundraising schedule [that] shuttled me between two strikingly different economic spheres: our undersourced classrooms and the plush world of American philanthropy” — but she fails to grasp that this very gap is what makes her stated goal of equality unachievable. In short, Kopp, like education reformers more generally, is an innocent when it comes to political economy. She spouts platitudes about justice for American children, but rarely pauses to ask whether rapidly growing inequality might be a barrier to such justice. She celebrates 20 years of reform movement success, but never tempers such self-congratulatory narcissism with unpleasant questions about why those who have no interest in disrupting the American class structure — such as Bill Gates and the heirs to Sam Walton’s fortunes, by far the most generous education reform philanthropists — are so keen to support the TFA insurgency. Kopp is a parody of the liberal do-gooder.”

Hartman’s critique defies the assumption that privilege is a patent solution when it comes to youth grappling to overcome poor conditions. This is not a movie, and we should take a chill pill before pouring more money into measuring those claims.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Loving Durham Means Giving Her Space for Change

The street was packed with people enjoying the Marry Durham vow renewal service on Saturday, March 17

“Has she been good to you? Has she treated you right?” I asked the crowd while performing the renewal vows for Marry Durham. “Durham’s not the same this year. She lost some weight. She took some self improvement courses.”

The vows we took in getting hitched to the city reminded me of the commitment we make to tie the knock. We say tell death does us part or the other person does something stupid. The hardest part of any relationship is dealing with the changes. Many regard it as a bad thing. All those changes alter the original deal. “You’re not the same as you were when I made those promises,” many say just before slamming the door.

I’d rather think of change as the good part of the relationship. As much as I love Connie for all the good stuff she brings to our relationship, I’ve been drawn to her moody ways and propensity to change her mind devoid of warning. Every day is a challenge because you have to strap on your seat belts and prepare to take a fast ride headed down a road you have never been down before.

Like I said, that’s not a criticism; it’s what I like most about being in a relationship. I get bored with doing the same thing the same way every freaking day. My mind desires exposure to fresh and new things. The flip side to all of that is my desire to be in a relationship that both respects and honors my need to explore this vast world created for our pleasure. It helps having a partner who gets what it means to change for no other reason than being moved in that direction.

Being married to Durham requires a willingness to allow her to explore what it means to consider new things. Durham was tired of her old downtown wardrobe. She needed new outfits to express her evolving personality. She stripped herself of those 1950 ways and stepped into a culture more fitting of what was locked inside all those years. She was waiting to come out, but the gatekeepers kept her from blossoming into what she has become today.

Durham needed to be set free. Change had to happen. It meant hanging out with a new crowd. Folks from the outside enticed her into considering a more youthful presentation. It seemed to happen overnight, but Durham’s fascination with change was budding for years. She simply needed support. Her self-esteem was impeded by mean words printed in the papers. People from other communities labeled her a misfit. A columnist at the Greensboro News & Record called her the state’s black sheep. Those words hurt deep.

It began with a few whispers. “You fine girl,” a few dudes at Greenfire Development told her. “Come over here and let me treat you the way you deserve.”

They spent a few dollars on her. They introduced her to others. Soon, she became the talk of the nation. People from the New York Times dropped in to say hello. They were so impressed they couldn’t stop talking about her. It’s the place to be if you like to eat. It’s the place to be if you love live music. Others followed. The publication called the Beast took notice and labeled her the most tolerant city in the nation.

All that change has not altered her personality. She remains open to allowing others to mold her into becoming even more lovable. She’s receptive to even more change. Watching her bloom has been a site to behold. We have to grant her more space to flourish. We can’t keep her trapped into what we think she should be.

Yes, Durham, I love you more today than I did this time last year. You’re not the same, but I love what you are becoming more than I embrace what you were before. I vow to grant you the support you need to become the best you possibly can. I will not restrict you to my thoughts related to what you shall be.

I will defend your honor, my love. I will fight off all who attempt to take you back to a place that lessened your truth worth. I’m here to support you. I will grant you the flexibility to allow others to love you. I’m not a jealous lover. I’m open to your hanging out with your friends. I will not attack you if it seems you are giving them more attention than you give me. I trust you with our love.

There’s enough of you to go around. I recognize your need for diversity. There is too much in you to limit yourself to what I bring to this relationship. I recognize the worth of our bond, and accept how others bring something I can’t give.

I love you Durham. You have changed. I can’t wait to see how change will impact both of us over the coming years.

Now, kiss me.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Is Gentrification What We Need?

You should be careful what you ask for. If you keep asking you might just get what you thought you wanted.

That’s my view of the recent flirtation between Duke University and the Southside Rolling Hills community. Phail Wynn, Duke University’s vice president for Durham and regional affairs, has approached city leaders with a plan to form a partnership to market a Duke friendly neighborhood in the Southside community.

The proposal calls for subsidized home-buying opportunities for low and middle-income employees at Duke and the Duke University Health System. Duke would offer employees a subsidy, potentially in the form of a no-interest, forgivable five-year loan, to go toward the down payment. That amount will supplement the city’s contribution.

It’s the most recent wrinkle in the never ending story of the Rolling Hills redevelopment project. Recently, non-profit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, expressed disapproval over the city’s decision to funnel all federal money earmarked for housing into the Southside/Rolling Hills project. They argue the shift will end citywide second-mortgage assistance.

It’s the city’s version of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The other option is to do what the council is pondering – a 1-cent property tax increase to fund housing initiatives. This is a tough sale given the hikes taxpayers have absorbed over the years to fix what should have been handled long ago. In the minds of many, Rolling Hills is the outcome of mismanagement and overspending caused over a decade ago. It’s old news, but it hurts having to revisit what should have been handled.

Two critical questions have to be raised as officials ponder jumping in bed with Duke – where is NCCU, and what are the potential dangers related to extending the presence of Duke in Southside?

The first question recounts my disgust that NCCU failed to jump on a major opportunity before digging up dirt on campus. It would have been a significant move for NCCU to build a dormitory at the Rolling Hills site rather than the congested area closer to the campus. Building near the Durham Freeway, within walking distance of the Hayti Heritage Center and the downtown district, would have expanded the presence of the university. It would have enhanced economic development and transformed the area in common with Franklin St in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough Road in Raleigh.

With that being said, NCCU never bit on that opportunity. Where are they today?

The second question presses concerns involving gentrification. The Duke proposal clearly states that the collaboration will offer housing for low to middle income employee’s at Duke and the Health System. What happens if the area blossoms into the place to be in Durham? Shouldn’t we expect the redevelopment of the area to draw people lured by that amazing view on top of the hill, close proximity to downtown, the American Tobacco district, the Durham Performing Arts Center and Golden Belt?

What happens when the Bull City Connector expands services to the Rolling Hills area and NCCU? We should assume that will happen given the cost to ride on the free bus is underwritten by Duke. They are certain to extend the service due to their commitment to the area.

What happens when more than the poor and almost poor decide to shift their housing interest to the area on the other side of the freeway? That shift is certain to impact the flourishing relationship between NCCU and Duke. What will be done to protect the black and brown business owners who are there because it’s the only place they can afford to pay rent? What happens to the people who currently own property?

All that growth is a good thing, but not everything good is good for everyone.

I’m just asking. Do you have the answers?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hanging With the Rev: March 16-22

Looking for something to do this weekend? Well, here's my list of places I may be hanging if you want to hang with the Rev.

Friday, March 16
Join us this Third Friday as we welcome Liberty Arts to the Golden Belt neighborhood! Located at 923 Franklin Street in the Cordoba Center for the Arts, Liberty Arts is a non-profit foundry and metal sculpture studio. From 5:30-9pm, Liberty Arts will host live music by The Percolators & LILA, metal demonstrations, glass blowing demonstrations, workshops, and more. Sponsors for the event include Fullsteam, Old Havana, Daisy Cakes, The Parlour, Only Burger, Loaf, Morgan Imports, Wine Authorities and Dame’s Chicken and Waffles. Pie Pushers also joins the fun in Golden Belt’s main parking lot.

In Room 100, the Durham Art Guild debuts a new show Seven by Constance Pappalardo with an opening reception from 5:30-8pm. Constance Pappalardo is an abstract painter who works with layers of paint horizontally on canvas. Her work is wonderfully thought provoking, and she has been recognized by numerous organizations for the quality and depth of her work. Seven represents both older and newer pieces, and one that adds a bit of diversity to the exhibit owing to a different technique from Ms. Pappalardo. Seven will be on display from March 9th-April 8th with an opening reception Friday March 16th from 5:30-8:00pm. For more information on Room100 exhibitions and schedules, please contact theDurham Art Guild.
Dawn Michelle Williams will also be performing in ROOM 100, along with drummer Michael Rogers from 6-9pm.

In Building 2, LabourLove Gallery keeps the party going late with The Beast in their latest installment in the After Hours concert series, and LabourLove is also open in the 6-9 block debuting new artists to the collective. LabourLove After Hours is presented in collaboration with the Art of Cool Project. This is a ticketed event, and previous events have sold out, so don't miss this opportunity, buy your tickets now.

Also in Building 2, Blend is open and they've changed up their menu! Come in for a cup of coffee, frozen yogurt or soups, salads or sandwiches.

Across the way at the Scrap Exchange, The Artful Robot celebrates all things robotic in a community exhibit in the Green Gallery. Come see how artists throughout the region use old computer bits, random metal, containers, canisters, buttons, broken jewelry, unexpected discards, and other detritus to make... robots!

The opening reception of "The Artful Robot" is scheduled for Friday, March 16, from 6-9 pm. Festivities will include free make-and-take activities, refreshments, PBR beer and live music. "The Artful Robot" will run from March 16 through April 14. Admission is free. The Green Gallery is located inside The Scrap Exchange creative reuse center, at 923 Franklin Street in Durham. For more information on this and other Scrap Exchange events, please contact the Scrap Exchange directly.

Beyu Cafe
Two shows 9pm and 10:30pm
$10 advance $12 door

Widely recognized for his natural ability to entertain, the young Marcus Anderson has performed with groups such as Pieces of a Dream and Four 80 East. Marcus has also been invited to perform with or open for Peter White, Boney James, Mike Phillips, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, George Duke, Everette Harp, Wynton Marsalis, Alex Bugnon, Nnenna Freelon, Bob Baldwin, Matt Marshak, Ledisi, Jennifer Holiday, Lalah Hathaway and many others. He’s now packing the venues with devout fans who shout for more. “For me, it’s about the crowd”, said Anderson, “I feed off their energy”.

Saturday, March 16

3/16/2012 - 3/17/2012 F-Sa 7pm, 3/16 & 3/17 1pm.
Tickets $12, $10 children, students, seniors.
Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, 504 W. Chapel Hill St.
For More Information:(919) 286-5717;
3/16/2012 - 3/16/2012 9pm.

With special guest Jocelyn Ellis and King Mez. Tickets $15, $10 in advance.
LabourLove Gallery, 807 E Main St.
For More Information:(919) 373-4451;

Beyu Cafe
Two shows: 8pm & 11 pm

It will be easy to remember this band for their energy, enthusiasm and the ability to leave listeners wanting more. There are many musicians that strive to touch on multiple genres of music but what makes Innertwyned different is their music is a melting pot of collaborative soul. Their performances are riddled with show stopping renditions of Top 40, Funk, Pop, , Motown, Blues, R&B. Just when you think they’re done, they switch gears to Smooth Jazz or Fusion.

Saturday, March 17

2:30-5:30 pm
WHERE: 700 Block of Rigsbee Avenue (between W. Geer & Corporation Streets)
This celebration will remind us of our vows to keep our streets clean and safe, protect our natural resources, shop locally, support the arts and local non-profit organizations, cherish diversity, and elect responsible leaders.
Food Trucks • Entertainment • Parade
Sponsored By: Motorco, The Bar, Surf Club, Lloyd’s Lounge And Fullsteam
Click Here To Review Our Mission Statement. Please don’t forget to browse through all the categories and tags to learn the full story, thanks.

The Jambalaya Soul Slam is a monthly individual poetry competition. Each competition consists of 12 poets. The top 3 poets earn a cash prize.
The winner earns an invitation to the Grand Slam Finals in April to compete for a spot on the 2012 Bull City Slam Team (BCST). The BCST
competes annually in regional and national slam competitions. In July, instead of an individual competition, the BCST competes against other
NC poetry slam teams to raise money for each team.
Hayti Heritage Center
804 Old Fayetteville St
Durham, NC 27701

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DPS places incentives ahead of system of evaluation

Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. In the minds of many, it’s the key behind shifting America’s dismal education system into something worth spending taxpayer money. It has become easy to target teachers for failing to fix all that shows up to be taught at low performing schools.

The public’s fascination with evaluations is reflected in interest to reward high performing teachers at Y.E. Smith Elementary School and Hillside High School. Durham school board members are considering a plan that would offer incentives to teachers who show “high growth” on the state’s ABC measures. Individual teachers would receive $1,500 while all faculty and staff receive bonuses if the entire school achieves “high growth”. The principal will receive a bonus of $4,500 and custodians will be awarded $500.

The basis for the incentive plan is the notion that low performing schools need to attract highly motivated teachers with a skill level greater than those currently teaching. The plan assumes the state’s ABC system is the best way to measure teacher performance. There are too many assumptions to move forward on this plan.

As models for teacher performance emerge across the country, one thing is certain - no one has found the best way to get the job done. Given the complexity related to teacher evaluation, it would be a mistake to move on an incentive plan before knowing how to measure teachers.

The motivation behind wanting a system of evaluation is clear. Principals and administrators believe they can terminate ineffective teachers or encourage them to leave if they have evaluations as a tool. Researchers say the evaluation process suffers because there are no agreed-upon norms for what constitutes good teaching. Without a clear standard, deciding what good teaching is becomes a matter of personal taste.

The movement to evaluate is fueled by federal money. Federal officials have attached teacher evaluation as a condition of receiving the second round of federal stimulus funds. States must report the number and percentage of teachers and principals in each district who receive low performance ratings and specify whether their evaluation system requires any evidence of student performance gains.

Since the launch last summer of the federal "Race to the Top" program, 12 states have passed legislation to improve their teacher evaluations. The last decade has produced extensive data about student performance. In many places this data can be used to create a year-over-year analysis of how much a teacher advanced the learning of an individual student.

The values-added approached is considered the best way to evaluate teacher performance. So, why isn’t that method being used?

This approach takes into account other factors impacting student test scores, the most important being whether a student arrived in a teacher’s class room several grades behind. This method of analysis can offer a more accurate estimate of how well a teacher is teaching than simply taking into account the most recent set of student test scores.

With all the talk involving testing, many teachers teach subjects, often electives, for which students are not subjected to standardized testing. Many subjects like science are not tested annually. Most models leave out many teachers who are not teaching math or language arts. This leaves school districts with an imperfect evaluation system.

How far should districts go in evaluating teachers? Will they attach teachers’ names to their scores? Will a time come were parents are offered a chance to search a database to determine how good or bad the teacher is who runs their child’s classroom?

Prior to moving forward with an incentive plan, DPS should develop better training for supervisors and a system for evaluating teachers (using values-added analysis along with classroom observations). In addition, time should be dedicated to formulating a plan to support teachers in a way that limits burn-out. Parents should have access to the results of evaluations. Before any of that takes place a culture that values evaluation must be established.

Failure to do all of that will create a climate were teachers are targeted rather than supported in a way that advances the quality of teaching and stimulates greater student performance.

Throwing dollars at low-performing schools doesn’t solve this problem. Moving in that direction supports the claim that low-performance is the consequence of poor teachers. There isn’t enough data to substantiate that claim. It may be true, but are we willing to throw money to validate that assumption.

It takes time to change a culture. One step at a time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Supporting the Right to be Married

Photo from Ms Magazine

On Saturday, March 17th, citizens of Durham will renew their vows. On last year, I officiated over the ceremony that hitched folks with the city we all love so much. I’m happy to report that my love affair with Durham has strengthened over the past year. I’m learning to love her even more.

As I prepare to lead the service of renewal, I’m saddened by what it means to be one able to take advantage of my position of privilege. It’s a truth I never thought would part my lips. Never before have I considered myself one able to function with the advantages that come with being formed with the body given me at birth. I’ve come to take for granted being minimized due to my humanity. I’ve assumed disadvantages as a black man.

Living with this black skin framed in manhood has led me to assume the worst whenever I move in the presence of white privilege. I take for granted not getting interviews despite my massive credentials and talent. I take for granted that people will deny me opportunity simply because of how I look. I also understand that this is a truth that those who function in privilege simply can’t understand.

What does that have to do with marrying Durham? Everything. It draws attention to the assumptions that come with heterosexism. We heterosexuals reap the advantages of all that privilege related to being able to go to the court house, pick up a marriage license and marry another willing heterosexual at will. We have the right to express our love legally. It’s a privilege that we uphold based on our contention that those unlike us are unworthy of the same privileges we take for granted.

So, imagine how it must feel for people to marry the city when they can’t get married to their partner? They are allowed to come out and make vows to a community while being forced to accept they can’t do the same with the person they love so much. That is hurting me deep.

I’m thinking about it more this year due to my intent to get married soon. Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to throw away bachelorhood and tie the old knock with Ms. Connie. Given all I feel for her, and all it means for me spiritually to jump on the marriage wagon, it hurts that doing so pits me as one willing to take advantage of my position of privilege while those I care about are unable to do the same.

By now a line of conservative minded Christians are ready to throw stones my way. I can hear the pages turning from that Bible they use to fight. I’m certain they are preparing to use that Bible to prove how God hates homosexuality, and that I’m standing on the side that supports people in maintaining those sinful ways. Others will talk about how allowing “those people” to get married will destroy the fabric of society and lead America even further from being what the crafters of the Constitution intended.

Isn’t America supposed to be a nation that offers freedom for all citizens? Shouldn’t we honor the separation of Church and State? Shouldn’t we want for all our citizens the same privileges that those with power take for granted?

Given my personal internal struggle, it has become difficult for me to embrace marriage at this time. How can I when others I care about can’t. What does it mean for me to walk within that privilege and hold my bond of love before them as a reminder of what they can’t have due to the laws of this land? Is that love? Is that right? Is that being the compassionate person we all claim to be?

Some may regard that as a cop out. Go ahead and say it – you don’t want to get married! Not true. I do, but how can I cheerfully participate within a system that uses my heterosexuality as the privilege that validates my decision to walk in that space?

Would it be different if only white people could marry? Maybe we could see it if we limited marriage for those within a certain economic bracket. I hear my critics again. It’s not the same. Gay folks are an admonition against God! Okay, since you go there, is that a theological claim? If so, isn’t that in opposition to the Constitution we claim is used to keep America the land of the free?

Those critics will argue that those white dudes who signed the Constitution had a Christian nation in mind when they spoke of one nation under God. Give me a break! We are more than a Christian nation. If we allow our views of God to fuel our political decisions, we become what America was before those who signed the dotted line left England to find religious freedom.

Yes, I will renew my vows to Durham on Saturday. I want to get married, but what does it say given the struggles of my friends to do the same?

Slap me for caring about those I love. It isn’t right.

All they want is to say I do.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hanging With the Rev

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Durham has become a hotspot for entertainment. Folks are flooding the Bull City to take part in the good stuff at the Carolina Theatre and the Durham Performing Arts Center. A few weeks back we had Eric Benet and Aretha Franklin on the same night - one at the Carolina Theatre and the other at the DPAC. Don’t be fooled into thinking those are the only places jumping. It’s hard to keep up with all that’s going on.

As a service to those in search of a place to hang, the Rev-elution is dedicating each Thursday to Hanging with the Rev, a listing of events in Durham, NC.

We begin with the play featured on the Rev-elution on February 17. This is one that you simply can’t miss. Tell the ladies at the hair salon to pack the house to see I Love My Hair When It’s Good & Then Again When It Looks Defiant & Impressive. Written by Chaunesti Webb, the play is certain to get folks talking about the drama black women face due to their hair. If you don’t know, show up. If you know, well show up anyhow. It takes place at the Manbites Dog Theatre, March 8-17. Manbites is at 703 Foster Street.

If you love that time of year when the American Dance Festival is in town and need a fix, Gaspard & Dancers has a treat for you. Durham-based modern dance choreographer Gaspard Louis and his company will feature a powerful new work at the company’s third annual concert on March 13 and 15 at the Reynolds Industries Theater at Duke University.

Haitian-born Louis will present the world premiere of Souke, the latest in a series of exciting new works he has created in the Triangle since the founding of Gaspard&Dancers in 2009. Souke, which means “to shake” in Haitian Creole, captures both the chaos of the tragic 2010 earthquake and the courage of the Haitian people—courage that unites them in rebuilding their devastated country. Proceeds from the concert support those efforts.

In addition to four works by Louis, Gaspard&Dancers will perform a world premiere by Amanda K. Miller as well as Mark Dendy’s 1985 groundbreaking athletic tour de force BEAT. Dendy has launched and directed two acclaimed dance companies and created numerous award-winning works for theater and television. His choreography has been honored with an Emmy, an Obie, a Bessie, and the Alpert Award.

For those interested in stimulating their minds, The Pauli Murray Project is holding a series of discussion focused on Amendment One. The next event is a speech on Theological & Biblical Perspectives on Amendment One (Marriage Equity) at Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 3011 Academy Road. The speech will be given by Mary Mclintock Fulkerson, professor of theology at Duke University. The event begins at 6:30 pm and ends at 8:30.

If you love the genre of music some call Neo Soul (I hate the term because you can’t make a new soul), keep your calendar set for the Beyu Café on the fourth Saturday of each month. Grammy nominated singer Yazarah will set the stage on fire each month with an event called the Yazarah Love Series. I spoke to Yaz on yesterday and she has plans to bring some of the biggest names in the biz to Durham. It’s her way of showing love to the city she calls home. The only problem is the lack of space at the Beyu, so get those tickets early!

Finally, it’s time to renew our vows. On last year, I performed the ceremony that had people come out to Marry Durham. On Saturday, March 17, we will remember that day by affirming our commitment to keep our streets clean and safe, protect our natural resources, shop locally, support the arts and local non-profit organizations, cherish diversity and elect responsible leadership. It kicks off at 2:30 pm and will last until 5:30 pm. Like last year’s wedding, there will be food trucks, entertainment and a parade. Meet me at the 700 Block of Rigsbee Avenue (between W. Geer & Corporation Streets) to say I do again or for the first time.

Sponsored By: Motorco, The Bar, Surf Club, Lloyd’s Lounge and Fullsteam

Oh yeah, good things are happening in Durham. Come Hang out with the Rev.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When Names Don't Change

“I heard you are running for office,” I was asked while picking up a friend to help me move.

“No, I’m not interested in public office,” I responded surprised that my name is floating in the streets as one of the many taking a stab at the Board of County Commissioners. Nope. It’s not me.

I did contemplate a bid for City Council before one of my peers ran for Mayor, got slaughtered, and then ended up in prison for allegedly killing his wife. Watching Michael Peterson move from writing columns with me in the same paper, to giving it all up for a hope and prayer was enough for me to back away from any thought of serving folks by sitting in one of those big seats at City Plaza.

I’d rather write about those who serve than give it all up to see if people love me enough to give me a chance. Besides, I’ve written enough columns to compromise the bit of political credibility I might have if not for throwing stones at too many people. My big mouth and heavy pen have dug a deep pit for me to be thrown.

The confusion related to the rumor of my running is connected to my former wife – Anita Daniels. When we got married we both hyphenated our names. Some may remember the column I wrote about how I decided to take her name to symbolize my taking on her past and the power of her name. I find it dehumanizing that women have to take on a man’s name while men are allowed to function with their own as if nothing ever happened when they said "I do".

In taking on her name, I celebrated the woman who loved and cared about me enough to take on a part of me. Sadly, we divorced in 2002. It was a painful separation and divorce, and, for me, it came with a tremendous price. Much was lost beyond the marriage. In the eyes of many, my role as pastor was wrecked by my unwillingness to stay put until death did us part. I get that.

The riddle of that rumor about me running for office was exposed when I received an email about Anita failing to get the paper work in to change her name back to what it was before she put her name in the bucket to run for County Commission. Legally, her name remains Daniels-Kenney. Her name reflects what we were, but, don’t get it twisted, it also unveils the bond that was and continues to be between me and the woman I still consider to be one of the best things since sliced bread.

I loved her enough to marry her, and I love her enough to vote for her. Our parting of ways didn’t change the strengths that led me to marry her. She is incredibly organized. She is intelligent and has a passion for Durham. She also brings experience that places her above others who have decided to run. She was a United Way executive. She has served in management for the city, and was a county government department head.

No, I’m not running for office, but one who is a part of me is running. A vote for Anita is like a vote for me. Divorce didn’t change that. So, for those who have asked me what I think about her – I say two thumbs up.

As for her not changing her name back, I haven’t changed mine yet. It’s one of those small details that one has to take care of before moving on to new places. For Anita its public office, for me it’s getting married again. It’s one of those things I have to change before moving into the next stage of my life.

Until then, it’s nice knowing that one I care so much about still has my name. It doesn’t mean the same, but it means something more than words can express.

What does it mean? You go girl!