Diversity

Connect Intellectual Diversity to Justice Work

Diversity and Justice

(Photo Credit: Democracy Now)

Although an aggressive pursuit of racial, social, economic, and educational justice is admirable and necessary, those engaged in justice work must connect intellectual diversity to their efforts. You cannot claim to champion justice while failing to welcome and appreciate ideas and viewpoints divergent from your own. Justice isn’t justice when it’s disconnected from love. In fact, Dr. Cornel West, one of the greatest minds, public intellectuals, and fighters for justice in world history, often says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Are you so “woke” that you only see your ideas and viewpoints as the vehicles through which change can be instigated and engendered?

Democracy, Intellectual Diversity, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When looking at how to create change, one doesn’t have to look any further than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a real change agent and justice leader, the man who changed America forever. King met, engaged, and debated everyone, including racists and those desiring to kill and undermine him. He understood to develop solutions that have broad support discourse with those known and perceived to be disagreeable is required. The world-renowned slain civil rights leader was serious about democracy, keenly aware of how frank debate, especially with various opposing sides, is essential to an authentic multivocal, multiethnic democracy.

Kingian democracy, therefore, longs for inclusion, inclusion of all voices—regardless of how unsavory—revealing an unwavering faith in democratic ethics and possibilities. In Prophetic Fragments: Illuminations of the Crisis in American Religion and Culture, Cornel West (1988) asserts that: “King was convinced that despite the racism of the Founding Fathers, the ideals of America were sufficient if only they were taken seriously in practice. Therefore, King’s condemnation of and lament for America’s hypocrisy and oppression of poor whites, indigenous peoples, Latinos, and black people was put forward in the name of reaffirming America’s mission of embodying democracy, freedom, and equality” (p. 11).

King didn’t exclude the racist Founding Fathers from his notion of democracy. Unfortunately, though, too many in the postmodern epoch isolate themselves from others for far less critical differences. In this moment of increasing moral, social, cultural, political, and religious decadence, people will isolate themselves from others over the most inconsequential personal choices, including a choice not to “boycott” the NFL or make posts on social media platforms that pledge allegiance to their capricious brands of “woke.”

King embraced the reality that any valid notion of freedom and democracy must welcome intellectual diversity. As Booker T. Washington stated in his 1895 “Atlanta Compromise” speech delivered at the Cotton Estates and International Exposition in Atlanta, “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Washington, sharing some affinities with King, understood the power of intellectual diversity. Washington anticipates the Kingian “beloved community.” With agapic love, King evinced for a nation, for the globe how potent, how beautiful diversity in all of its flavors can be and how we can enjoy being “separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand.”

Postmodern Fragmentation: A Challenge for Justice Work

In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, leading Marxist cultural theorist Fredric Jameson (1991) asserts that one of the central problems in postmodernism, the cultural and historical period in which we reside, is a general proclivity to cherish fragmentation and reject totality. This fatuous acceptance of fragmentation figures prominently in whether efforts to achieve racial social, economic, and educational justice are successful. Late capitalism’s cultural logic leads too many individuals, individuals claiming to work for justice, to quarrel with one another over their petty differences, sacrificing their collective interests and aspirations for their own selfish interests and wishes.

Selfishness and Justice

To overcome this troubling propensity for selfishness, courageous and indefatigable justice activists and leaders must expose the rot, the funk selfishness is. We should never allow our personal agendas and interests to hinder and supercede the collective good, interests, and aspirations. When we do, we equip and permit the elites, the oppressors, the ruling class to erect additional barriers to the work of justice that’s crucial to achieving justice.

Before you disengage with people, especially those who have the same interests and goals as you (just with differing ideas and methods pertaining to those interests and goals), recognize when your words and actions are self-defeating, frustrating the very justice work you profess to hold dear.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Support Underserved Mothers: Give Hope and Empowerment

Mothers on the Margins: Empowering Hope Project

The Why You? Initiative, a charitable tax-exempt organization, is currently engaging in an effort to ameliorate the social, economic and professional outcomes of young girls and women who are mothers from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Our organization is committed to providing educational, economic, and professional development opportunities to these deserving individuals, including paid internships and mentoring. We are in Phase II of this endeavor, “Mothers on the Margins: Empowering Hope Project,” and to make this project materialize, we will need $1,350 by April 21, 2016. Can I count on you to be one of the 54 people who will donate $25 to meet this quickly approaching deadline? All donations are tax-deductible. Make your donations here: Mothers on the Margins: Empowering Hope Project.

To learn more about The Why You? Initiative, affectionately known as “[YU?],” visit here: Why You?. The organization was recently featured by a local news station: Why You? News.

Thank you,

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

Co-Founder

The Why You? Initiative

Support Deserving Young Students and Professionals with $1 or More

Diverse Teens

(Photo Credit: Videezy)

By texting YU to 41444, you can donate $1 to $2,000 to help The Why You? Initiative, a tax-exempt non-profit organization, provide essential funding, resources and support to deserving young students and professionals across the nation who primarily emerge from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Yes, even your $1 can make a serious difference in the lives of students and young professionals who don’t have the economic means to purchase the phenomena necessary for their success. When your $1 or more is combined with thousands of others who will make the same or greater donation as you, the potential amount of money that can be amassed can exceed your wildest imagination. People express that they wish they could do something to make a real difference in people’s lives. Well, here’s your opportunity. Give whatever you have today to support numerous students across the nation who desire not to become a part of undesirable statistics. Your donation today goes a long way to ensuring that they become valuable contributors to civil society. You can claim every dollar you give to the organization on your taxes and receive that money back when you file your taxes.

The Why You? Initiative prides itself on being able to take numerous students with GPAs below 2.0 and transform them into 3.0 and above GPA students. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this organization is 100% of donations directly benefit the young students and professionals the donors intended for their donations to support. Every dollar you give, therefore, is used to purchase items for disadvantaged students and professionals. The Why You? Initiative, affectionately known as “[YU?],” is staffed with distinguished researchers, engineers, educators, lawyers, social scientists, doctors, computer scientists, community leaders, and etc. who have demonstrated success in ameliorating the progression of young students and professionals from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. [YU?] offers young students and professionals mentoring based on empirical assessments, best practices, tutoring, financial assistance for the purchase of essential items, valuable resources, opportunities to become well-connected through the organization’s extant well-connected network and etc.

You have the power to make a true difference in the life of a young student declared “at-risk” today by making even the smallest donation. Don’t just talk about what you want to do to help deserving people—do it! Take a brief moment and text “YU” to 41444 and make your donation to The Why You? Initiative today! The organization is striving to raise $2,000 this weekend to support the immediate needs young students and professionals have across the nation. With your generosity, the organization can shatter this modest financial goal. When you donate, you will have the option of easily giving on a recurring basis, or you can simply make a one-time donation.

Thank you in advance for your support of The Why You? Initiative and the deserving young students and professionals we serve throughout the country. I encourage you to visit the organization’s website and spread the word about the organization and its aspiration to raise $2,000 this weekend.

Best wishes,

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

Co-Founder

Research & Development Director

The Why You? Initiative

daniels.antonio@whyyou.org

www.whyyou.org

Summer 2014 Will Be Remembered by Pharrell’s “Happy”

Pharrell Williams "Happy"

(Photo Credit: Digital Spy)

When we look back 20 years from now, we will define Summer 2014 by Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” “Happy” is the hit track from Williams’ second album, Girl (2014), and the Despicable Me 2 (2013) soundtrack.  The song calls each individual to love being who he or she really is.  It’s becoming increasingly more lucid where we are right now in the postmodern epoch is a time when too many individuals suffer from psychic fragmentation.  Too many people have become so focused on being what others want them to be that they don’t even know who they really are any longer—it’s possible they never even gave themselves a chance to learn who they really are. With the release of “Happy,” Williams offers a valuable counter-narrative to the dominant American narrative that says who you really are isn’t good enough, and to be good enough you need to be someone you aren’t.

The challenge to the status quo “Happy” presents begins with the song’s ingenious author, Pharrell Williams.  Although we’re living in a time when people highly embrace flashy phenomena they hope will make them standout, Williams finds peace in simple elegance.  He knows how to make simple clothing, clothing that’s not flashy, refreshingly elegant.  When we see Mr. Williams, we’re witnessing a human being who has been liberated from the postmodern impulse to be someone he’s not.  “Happy” has given us an opportunity to experience the true substance that composes Pharrell.  Through his amazingly successful song, music fans are provided with a powerful alternative to the prevalent fear countless individuals have about loving who they truly are.

“Happy” has been #1 on the Billboard Top 100 and #1 on music charts in 19 countries.  Even with this song’s great success and wide popularity, it does not seem to have had any meaningful impact on changing America’s fascination with the superficial over the substantial.  One of the primary reasons for this could be how distracted we can get with hot beats that make us dance.  Unfortunately, we too often don’t want to reflect on why these beats make us want to dance in the first place. If we would engage more closely with the positive messages of “Happy,” it’s possible for us to move closer to understanding the value of diversity, and we might even start cherishing diversity.  This will require us to move past the hot beats and the dancing those beats promote and develop into a more reflective people.  Critical reflection enable us to see how Pharrell’s song can be employed as a vehicle to engender a massive wave of camaraderie and harmony among sundry people across the nation and globe who are presently divided.

For the real power of the song to be unleashed, it will take intellectuals, scholars, activists, community leaders, religious leaders, politicians, teachers, and many others to muster the courage to host nationwide forums, lectures, debates, and etc. where substantive discourse can take place about the song and how its messages can be used to instigate change in America and across the world.

Music has the ability to transform lives, to transform nations.

Even though Williams’ song may not produce the type of critical discourse across the nation and globe it merits, the song’s staying power will give us an opportunity to heed its vital messages even 20 years from now.  When we take a moment to envision a nation and world that mirrors the one offered by the music video for “Happy,” we begin to acknowledge how priceless the song is.  The song helps us to realize that our differences should unite us instead of divide us.  “Happy” seems to suggest that our differences shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of our universal longing for happiness.

History will inevitably mark Summer 2014 as a watershed moment in world history when “Happy” caused people to think seriously about the importance of simply being themselves.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nick Cannon and the “Best Yourself” Campaign

Honda launched a new television and digital advertising campaign in support of the 2013 Honda Civic. Targeting millennials, the “Best Yourself” Campaign celebrates diversity and the drive to achieve success through non-traditional paths.

“We believe that things can always be better and this sentiment can be seen in the numerous improvements we made to the 2013 Civic.  Honda made the best-selling compact car in the U.S. even better,” said Mike Accavitti, senior vice president of auto operations at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.  The emotionally compelling and multi-layered “Best Yourself” Campaign is built on this foundation of continuous improvement by celebrating individual achievements towards personal greatness.

The campaign’s message is incorporated across digital platforms and initiatives that include a “Best Yourself” social campaign that encourages audiences to share their hopes and plans for taking their lives to the next level using the hashtag #BestYourself on Honda Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

For more information about the “Best Yourself” Campaign, please visit: http://access.honda.com.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

What Bores Me? Reading Freshly Pressed on WordPress

WordPress Blogging

(Photo Credit: Freelance Folder)

WordPress showcases a number of blogs each day on Freshly Pressed, but there is a conspicuous lack of diversity in the bloggers featured.  When one examines the bloggers that WordPress staff members elect to feature on Freshly Pressed, those bloggers are overwhelmingly White.  One hardly ever finds a Black or other racial and ethnic minority blogger being featured on Freshly Pressed, and this is quite unfortunate, considering numerous minority bloggers using WordPress deserve to be featured.  One of the fundamental reasons why many minority bloggers aren’t being featured on Freshly Pressed is WordPress has a staff deficient in diversity, especially when it comes to staff members who curate Freshly Pressed.

If one reads Freshly Pressed, he or she may come away with the idea that most of the really good or great bloggers using WordPress are White.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since I’m penning this piece about the dearth of racial diversity in those featured on Freshly Pressed, WordPress staff members will never select me.  If WordPress staff members never elect to feature me, I will be fine with their decision.  I have a highly successful blog and a large readership.  I will survive.  Unfortunately, many minority bloggers, especially Black bloggers, using WordPress need to and deserve to be showcased on Freshly Pressed.  A number of successful Black bloggers use WordPress and have been nominated and/or won awards for their blogs, but WordPress continues to ignore the success of their blogs.

One has to wonder if WordPress really even cares about Black bloggers, their blogs, and the issues that matter to them.

Freshly Pressed is becoming increasingly boring to read.  While WordPress staff members can assert that there are multifarious topics curated on Freshly Pressed, they cannot point to a significant number of those sundry topics being composed by minority bloggers.

As a means of demonstrating that they’re not biased to minority bloggers, I would recommend that WordPress staff members put me on its staff as a Curator.  I don’t need or desire to be paid.  I certainly have the qualifications to be a successful Curator and have an academic and professional record, which includes being extensively published, that would offer some much needed diversity to the WordPress staff.

While I very much love WordPress and posit that it’s the best blogging platform available, the way in which blogs are being curated for Freshly Pressed is unfair and unappealing to many minority bloggers.  It’s my hope that WordPress will begin to feature a tremendous number of minority bloggers on Freshly Pressed.

Many minority bloggers simply see Freshly Pressed as a boring showcase of blogs.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chancellor Biddy Martin Please Remember Your Students’ Voices

Chancellor Biddy Martin should have asked her students about whether or not they support embryonic stem cell research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Although the generally liberal student body would have probably agreed with her to sue the federal government, she still should have asked her students about how they felt before pursuing this lawsuit. Of course, people will say that she did not have to ask the students before she did this. Of course, she did not. I don’t want to hear her say again that she always consults with her students about all matters before making a decision that could have an impact on them, however. Instead of checking with her students about whether or not they support embryonic stem cell research, she went ahead and made a decision to represent the student body like we all agree with it—never seeking our positions.

Instead of focusing on a lawsuit against the federal government about embryonic stem cell research, Chancellor Biddy Martin could be directing her attention to more pressing and important issues. She needs to work on improving the diversity of the student body.  Less than 2% of the total student body at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is composed of African-American students. What is even more horrible about this reality is African-American students are the largest minority group on the campus of UW-Madison. She also could be working on increasing the number of minority faculty members found on campus as well, especially African-American faculty members. It would be nice to see her devoting more funding to minority student scholarships and fellowships. Chancellor Martin, how about providing more funding for minority programs at UW-Madison. Please dedicate your time to working on more serious and pressing issues.

To the Associated Students of Madison (ASM), this is an issue that you should be concerned about. How about protesting and fighting about the fact that students were shut out on this issue? How about protesting and fighting for a more diverse student body and more funding for minority programs on campus? Damon Williams, Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate at UW-Madison, where are you at brother?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison