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

Wilcox County High School Continues Its Racist Legacy and Agenda

Steve J Smith Wilcox County High School

Racist Pastor and School Leader (Photo Credit: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, Georgia is the site of the racially segregated proms reported about in the national and international media.  After having racially segregated proms since its inception, Principal Chad Davis, Steve J. Smith, Superintendent of Wilcox County Schools, and the Wilcox County Board of Education have decided to host the first school-sponsored racially integrated prom in 2014.  The only reason they agreed to discontinue having racially segregated proms is the tremendous outrage expressed by people from across the nation and world.  Numerous people were appalled at the reality that this school was still having racially segregated proms in the 21st century.  Don’t be fooled by their decision to host a racially integrated prom, however.  Jim Crow still lives at Wilcox County High School.

One thing racist Principal Chad Davis, Superintendent Steve J. Smith and the Wilcox County Board of Education wanted is for time to pass to allow people to forget about the national and international media focus on the racially segregated proms at Wilcox County High School.

Revolutionary Paideia is committed to ensuring that the national and international community never overlooks the unfairness, discrimination, and undercover scandals that have and are taking place at this institution and in the school system in general.

As unsettling as the racially segregated proms are at Wilcox County High School, these injustices are just snapshots of the vast discrimination, unfairness, illegal activities and criminal activities that have and are occurring at Wilcox County High School and in this school system in general.  Superintendent Steve J. Smith has made the decision to move the only remaining certified Black person at Wilcox County High School to the Wilcox County Middle School.  The Black male Assistant Principal at Wilcox County High School has been forced to move to be Assistant Principal at Wilcox County Middle School.  The Black male Assistant Principal has 32 years of experience as a K-12 Teacher and School Administrator (with over 17 years of experience as a School Administrator).

It’s Superintendent Steve J. Smith’s desire to have an all White administrative staff at Wilcox County High School.  By forcing the Black male Assistant Principal to move to the Wilcox County Middle School, it becomes easier for Superintendent Steve J. Smith, Principal Chad Davis and the Wilcox County Board of Education to continue their racist legacy and agenda.  The Black male Assistant Principal will no longer be able to witness their corruption, which is the chief motivation for forcing him to move to Wilcox County Middle School.

The coerced move of the Black male Assistant Principal at Wilcox County High School results in a reduction of his salary, which functions as a demotion; this is a demotion without any justification.

Superintendent Steve J. Smith claims that the decision to move him to the Wilcox County Middle School is in the best interest of the Wilcox County High School students.  Superintendent Smith and the Wilcox County Board of Education hired the School Counselor, Nathan Gibbs, who is a White male, to be the new Assistant Principal of Wilcox County High School.  Nathan Gibbs has no administrative experience.  Wilcox County High School is considered a “Priority School,” which is a designation given to schools that are academically underperforming.  This school also has received a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), which is only granted to schools that have serious academic underachievement.

Why hire a new Assistant Principal with no experience at Wilcox County High School, especially when it’s an academically underperforming school and the Principal has limited administrative and teaching experience?  The answer is racism.

Superintendent Steve J. Smith, Principal Chad and the Wilcox County Board of Education desired to promote Nathan Gibbs to an Assistant Principal position.  It would seem logical that he would be the one to transition to the Wilcox County Middle School.  Instead of conducting a national search for a new School Counselor to replace Nathan Gibbs, Superintendent Smith and the Wilcox County Board of Education continued their legacy of nepotism by hiring a White relative of an extant employee who has no experience as a School Counselor.

Why hire a new School Counselor with no experience at Wilcox County High School, an academically underperforming school?  The answer is racism.

Superintendent Steve J. Smith claims that by keeping Nathan Gibbs at Wilcox County High School, he will be able to train the new White School Counselor who has no experience.  He also asserts that hiring these White individuals who are inexperienced in these positions is what’s best for the students.

Which students?

In the last two academic years, Superintendent Steve J. Smith has terminated all of the minority faculty members at Wilcox County High School.  He has no interest in creating a diverse school and working environment.  Why is this?  His decisions and policies reflect that he’s a racist.  Guess what?  He’s a Pastor.  What a bigot and hypocrite.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison