University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Real Crisis in Education: Black Male Academic Underachievement

Unfortunately, the prevailing professional literature has evinced that Black male students underperform all of their peers throughout the educational pipeline. What has largely been absent in all of this talk about education reform is ideas and initiatives targeted at ameliorating the educational experiences and outcomes of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline. Even more alarming is the fact that Black male student-athletes academically underperform all students. Although there have been some Black people who have been passionate about the improvement of Black male students’ academic performances throughout the educational pipeline, we need many more Black people to zealously fight for the improvement of these students’ academic achievement. For Black males, nothing can be more vital than working to ensure that schools are providing them with the best education possible.

In my scholarly and empirical work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have passionately advocated for and studied innovative ways to improve the academic achievement of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline. My work has, however, primarily focused on improving Black male college student-athletes. One of the reasons I have focused so heavily on Black male student-athletes is I find that by identifying ways to enhance the academic performances of these students will help to provide us with ways that we can improve the general Black male student population. Although we enjoy the great athletic prowess of these Black male student-athletes that we watch on the fields and courts they perform on, we have to think about how these college and universities are exploiting them in ways that have many affinities with how slaves were treated in early America.

At the Pre-K – 12 levels, we are going to have to embrace culturally relevant pedagogy and practices to ensure that Black male students can improve their academic achievement. Many teachers are going to need to explore better ways to reach these students, especially when they see that the ways in which they have attempted to reach them are not working. Many White teachers are going to have to see Black male students as students who can be successful academically and who are worth more than their entertainment and athletic value.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to see people who find my research interest in college Black male student-athletes to be something that they can take for their own research interest to make themselves sound good. Additionally, I have found someone who has actually stolen one of my ideas about college Black male student-athletes and has received grant funding for the idea. The stealing of the idea and receiving grant funding for it does not anger me, but what does anger me is people not having a true commitment to the improvement of the educational experiences and outcomes of Black male student-athletes.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you have an Associate Athletic Director, Sean Frazier, who is in charge of diversity in the athletic department and his idea of diversity means having a “Soul Food Night.” Are you kidding me? This is the same guy who claims to have written an article on mentoring Black male college student-athletes, but I have to wonder just how informed this article is when one’s idea of diversity in the athletic department is having a “Soul Food Night.” “The Soul Food Night” would be fine if there were other substantive diversity efforts being engaged in. The scary thing about this reality is this man is second in charge in the athletic department. Sean Frazier is a Black man and former college student-athlete at the University of Alabama.

Sean Frazier and others are simply exploiting Black college male student-athletes. You would think that a Black man placed second in charge at a predominantly White elite public research university would make things better for Black male student-athletes, but he is simply interested in keeping his six figure salary and just spitting out meaningless rhetoric about his serious interest in the academic achievement of Black male student-athletes. I have had the unfortunate opportunity to work with this man in the athletic department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have found him to be a man who is only interested in himself. This is not the type of Black leadership that Black male student-athletes need.

I am writing a scholarly book that uncovers how colleges and universities are currently exploiting Black male student-athletes. I contend that Black male student-athletes should receive modest stipends for the athletic labor they offer to the colleges and universities they are situated in. These predominantly White colleges and universities are receiving so much money from the athletic labor of Black male student-athletes, but they are certainly receiving an uneven exchange for their labor because they are not receiving modest stipends for their work. Uninformed individuals think that all student-athletes are on scholarship. This could not be further from the truth. Most student-athletes are not on scholarship. Most student-athletes have to struggle to purchase the necessary things that they need. Yes, many of them receive free tuition and room and board, but not all of them. Make sure you have all the facts about these student-athletes before you try to unfairly criticize them.

The great problems that Black male college student-athletes experience need greater attention in the professional literature. We cannot turn their academic problems over to people who simply want to exploit them. When you engage in discussions about education reform, be sure to include Black male students in your discussions. When politicians are talking about education reform, be sure to ask them what they propose to ameliorate the academic achievement of Black male students throughout the educational pipeline.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Revolutionary Paideia September 2010 Person of the Month: Renaldo Cortez Blocker

It is with great pleasure that I name Renaldo Cortez Blocker as The Revolutionary Paideia September 2010 Person of the Month. Renaldo’s commitment to mentoring Black males across the country is noteworthy. Revolutionary Paideia is certainly committed to improving the outcomes and experiences of Black males across the nation. As you know, a person living or dead, is given The Revolutionary Paideia Person of the Month based on his or her embodiment of the spirit of “unsettling, unnerving, and unhousing” that gave birth to the creation of Revolutionary Paideia. Mr. Blocker’s unwavering commitment to ameliorating Black male student achievement is a commitment shared by Revolutionary Paideia, and this acknowledgement of his noble work is a small token of appreciation.

Renaldo also embodies the spirit of “unsettling, unnerving, and unhousing” that founded this blog by his ability to turnaround failing programs, activities, and organizations. I have had the great fortune to work with him on a number of projects and programs, and have found his work to be exceptional. He has changed the lives of so many people and constantly makes efforts to help others to experience success. He is a devoted servant to the community and disadvantaged populations.

Mr. Blocker is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Industrial and Systems Engineering and is a Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) Fellow. Renaldo also earned a master’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a proud alum of Albany State University, where he completed his undergraduate degree with honors in Computer Science. Go Rams! Renaldo earned a master’s degree in Computer Science at San Francisco State University as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Bridge to the Doctorate LS-AMP Fellow. He has served as a Teaching Assistant at Albany State University and currently serves as one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dominant research interest focuses on ensuring patient safety during cardiac surgery in the operating room (OR), specifically concentrating on intraoperative handoffs. I could list more things about his academic record, but this article would not do it justice given my time limitations.

As the Undergraduate Advisor of the Beta Omicron Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Renaldo, an active and exemplary member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., has done a tremendously job with helping to improve the academic, professional, social, and personal development of each one of his advisees. You can see his commitment to excellence reflected in his advisees. Although I could list numerous things that make Renaldo such a great Undergraduate Advisor for the Beta Omicron Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., one of the foremost things that has stood out to me is he leads his advisees by example. He is the epitome of what a good Kappa man should be, and his advisees learn from his great example. Mr. Blocker’s advisees are proud of him and he is proud of them.

One thing many people don’t know about Renaldo is he is not someone you want to make mad. Although he is abnormally skinny (LOL!), his bite is much powerful than his physical frame would suggest. Renaldo is one tough man! As a fearless warrior myself, this is something that I can really appreciate about him.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the city of Madison, Wisconsin, Black men do not always unite behind one another. In fact, there are some Black men at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the city of Madison, Wisconsin who would rather undermine one another than support their fellow Black men. Mr. Blocker is certainly a man of great character and committed to the success of all Black men and will never attempt to undermine anyone. He always sees the best in everyone—something that I admire about him.

Although Renaldo is not my biological brother, I consider us to be closer than most biological brothers. We consider ourselves REAL BROTHERS. Renaldo knows what true brotherhood is. Unquestionably, he is one of my two best friends.

Now, if you don’t think Renaldo is a strong person, I just have to tell you that you are so wrong. He has to deal with me all the time—you have to be extremely strong to do that.  I appreciate his unwavering support and loyalty. He is one my greatest supporters, which is not an easy thing to be, considering I am perceived by some to be such a controversial and radical person. Renaldo never allows any negative comments, attacks on my record, lies, and distortions about me to sway his support of me. He does what he can to protect my character and record—although he knows I don’t care what a hater has to say about me anyway. (I’m brushing my shoulders off right now too—LOL!)

Renaldo, your great work has not gone unnoticed.  You are a REAL ACHIEVER! You never have had to fabricate your record or make it seem like you have accomplished more than you actually have like some people do—your stellar record precedes you and speaks for itself. This is why it is not a problem for Revolutionary Paideia to endorse you and name you The Revolutionary Paideia September 2010 Person of the Month! I know my large readership will approve of my choice. Congratulations and keep up the great work!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nothing’s Wrong With Being Yourself

It seems like no matter where I go people are  unwilling to be themselves. I have thought critically for years about why people are unwilling to be themselves and arrived at two dominant reasons: they lack courage and have unsatisficatory self-esteem. This lack of courage and satisificatory self-esteem has caused many people their chances at great success. While growing up in elementary, middle, and high school in Monticello, Georgia, some of my good friends who had opportunities to be great talents and college educated failed by the wayside because they lacked the courage and healthy self-esteem to combat peer pressure. They were unwiling to fight against the peer pressure that dared them to be different. Some of my Black male friends (while growing in Monticello, Georgia) resolved that getting good grades made you gay, so they elected to devote themselves to the “thug life” instead. I still love them very much and am not bashing them. I just wanted better for them and still do. Anyone who knows me well understands that I will do anything to help anyone, so don’t think that I’m being elitist at all!

While going to school in Albany, Georgia at Albany State University, I found that even college students lacked courage and satificatory self-esteem. Because some of them lacked the courage to resist not being “cool,” they flunked out of school. While attending the University of Arkansas, I saw how the lack of courage and satisificatory self-esteem caused some people to simply hate me because I had the willingness to be courageous enough to be myself. Guess what? I loved them then and love them now. See life is about loving one another. We often have to unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse people to make them better. This is what I do. It’s a tough job and is often misunderstood and mischaracterized but it’s an essential job for the betterment of human beings.

Since I have been here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a little over a year, I have been amazed at how unwilling people are to be themselves. Of course, my past experiences have taught me that many people lack a willingness to be themselves, but I have never witnessed how vexing this problem is until coming to Madison, Wisconsin. While here, I have experienced a person who de-friended me simply because she is miserable that she is unattractive and has not been able to get any man to pay her any attention in Madison, Wisconsin. I have also witnessed people who have betrayed me because they are envious and jealous of me. People have violated state and federal laws to try to undermine and prevent me from achieving some things while I have been here, because they are simply unsettled, unnerved, and unhoused by how completely happy I am to just be me. Guess what? I love them!

University of Wisconsin-Madison has given me the opportunity to see like never before the tremendous posturing, posing, lying, and masquearading people are willing to engage in just to hide who they reallly are. I have seen men who have demonstrated that they like other men, but will go to extremes just to prove to people they are not gay. I have also witnessed men who have been and are engaged in relationships with other women just so no one will call them gay. I have witnessed people with Ph.Ds who are jealous and envious of graduate students because they are about to graduate from an institution far more prestigious than the ones in which they graduated. How pathetic! Unlock the chains of bondage that you have placed on yourself!

If you are not willing to live free, then why want you just save yourself a whole lot of misery and just die? If you would think about it, when you are not willing to live your life freely, you are actually dead anyway.

It has to be a miserable life to worry about what other people are saying about you. It has to be a miserable life to try to live your life like others would have you to live it. It has to be a miserable life to pretend to be something you’re not. It has to be a miserable life to be gay and pretend to be straight. It has to be a miserable life to get a woman pregnant while having sex with men locally and across the country. It has to be a miserable life to feel like you’re unattractive and undesirable. It has to be a miserable life to know that you love your girlfriend or wife, but you don’t have the courage and self-esteem to resist the pressure of maintaining a “player” status. It has to be a miserable life to know that no one in your academic department likes you after you have tirelessly tried to be everyone’s friend. Guess what? I love you. I hope my love gives you a bit optimism.

Dare to be yourself! Dare to be free! Dare to fight peer pressure! Dare to combat low self-esteem! Dare to be courageous! Guess what? I love you all!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Essentiality of Post-Affirmative Action Thought in the 21st Century

Black Students

Although the use of Affirmative Action as policy and legislation is controversial, serious discourse and thought is needed that goes beyond the limitations of Affirmative Action.  In Race Matters, Cornel West, one of the most liberal scholars and thinkers living, contends that Affirmative Action cannot completely ensure equity and access for historically marginalized and economically and socially disadvantaged people in the workplace, education, and governmental contracts.  He argues that Affirmative Action was never intended to be a total remedy for redressing the history of racial discrimination, violence, and prejudice and Jim Crow laws African-Americans were subjected to. West believes that Affirmative Action was an attempt by liberal Whites to appease Blacks, but not give them the full access and equity that they need in the workplace, education, and governmental contracting. While people are still debating about the fairness, usefulness, and purpose of Affirmative Action, it no longer exists in many places.  Many states like Michigan, Alaska, Oregon, California, and Washington have passed legislation outlawing the use of Affirmative Action.  With the delicate 5-4 balance on the U.S. Supreme Court that allows the use of Affirmative Action to remain constitutional, we need to consider alternatives to it. The purpose of this article is to offer higher education institutions, especially predominantly White selective institutions, alternatives to Affirmative Action that aim to move us closer to total equity and access for people of color in higher education.

I am completely exhausted with hearing higher education institutions talk about how important diversity is to them.  For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the institution in which I attend, has hired a Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate, Damon Williams, an African-American male, to ameliorate diversity on our campus. One can find a position like his at almost every institution, but the impact of this position in terms of increasing the racial and ethnic minority population at these institutions is miserably inadequate.  Less than 5% of the student body at University of Wisconsin-Madison is composed of racial and ethnic minorities. African-American students compose the largest minority group at this institution, but less than 2% of the student body is African-American. (My comments about my problems with the dismal number of racial and ethnic minority students were placed in The Badger Herald http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/04/28/recertification_in_p.php .) University of Wisconsin-Madison and other selective colleges and universities across the nation are going to have to understand that if they are going to be taken serious about their commitment to diversity, then they are going to have to make this commitment materialize during the admissions and hiring stages.  Let’s us be real—at the end of the day it’s all about who an institution lets in and hires that will constitute the type of diversity on its campus. The reality is these selective higher education institutions are not interested in diversity. The rhetoric about diversity they employ is simply about marketing and politics.

To move beyond this marketing and politics about diversity viable alternatives to Affirmative Action must be engendered and implemented. Since there are problems with Affirmative Action because it uses racial preferences, then I offer that we replace the racial preferences with income-based (socioeconomic) preferences. Inevitably, the racial preferences of Affirmative Action are going to be declared unconstitutional by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court.  Socioeconomic preferences can be used as the plus factor that racial preferences currently receive. In this way, many of those who already benefit from racial preferences will not lose that benefit, but will gain that benefit in a way that will garner greater support and have a greater chance to pass the test of being constitutional perpetually. While I do acknowledge that some consideration for race is necessary, using racial perferences will inevitably be found to be in direct conflict with the 14th Amendment. For those who are proponents of Affirmative Action, this measure would ensure its continuation. Over time, there is a potential for socioeconomic preferences to generate even greater results than racial preferences have and will be able to produce.

The final suggestion that I am going to offer at this time is for higher education institutions to develop a more comprehensive notion of diversity. In Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson asserts that the dominant reason efforts to remedy serious problems fail in the postmodern epoch is there is a failure to engage in thinking about the problems comprehensively.  All higher education institutions need to have a center that brings all aspects of the university together behind the wide notions of diversity currently existing.  Every aspect of the institution should be engaged in the various notions of diversity.  In this way, we will approach diversity in a comprehensive way that allows for greater colloboration to achieve a wider and more cognitively mapped notion of diversity. The current approach being used at most higher education institutions is a decentralized approach that leads to diversity being addressed in a highly fragmentary way.  For example, predominantly White higher education institutions w have Multicultural Student Centers, LGBT Centers, and etc., but do not make efforts to bring these various groups together to work on diversity issues and will not involve the larger campus community in these efforts. Higher education institutions, therefore, need to work to foster greater colloboration among various diversity interests on campus to manufacture a greater and more comprehensive notion of diversity on campuses across the nation.

The reality is we have to consider that we live in a post-Affirmative Action society. Higher education institutions are going to have to make serious efforts to respond to the reality that we live in a post-Affirmative Action society. Let me be clear—this article is not arguing for or against Affirmative Action. It attempts to have us to think about alternatives to Affirmative Action to achieve greater minority representation at colleges and universities across the nation. This article does not attempt to offer the panacea for diversity problems or Affirmative Action, but simply offers some ideas for how we might begin to think about approaching the challenges of diversity in higher education we face in the 21st century. The current minority representation in higher education is miserably inadequate. Let’s begin to think about serious ways to ensure true equity and access in higher education for all people. Do not simply sit around and discuss diversity issues in your little private groups—go to your university administrators and discuss potential solutions to the diversity challenges your institution faces. Let’s act today!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Rochville University: A Scam

This rise of phony degree granting institutions is certainly an unfortunate social reality. People can sit back in the comfort of their homes and create a “university” and attempt to sell you a degree. While the highly educated and socially aware among us know about these diploma mills, I am tremendously concerned about the lesser educated among us. Many marginalized and socially and economically disadvantaged people are not aware of the difference between phony online universities and legitimate ones. The purpose of this article is to bring attention to phony online universities, and to offer a brief report about my scholarly and empirical work on fake universities, especially Rochville University http://www.rochvilleuniversity.org/ .

The American and international public does not have a deep understanding about accreditation. Accreditation is a voluntary and formal way of ensuring that institutions are providing their students with the quality education they claim to offer. Accrediting agencies have been entrusted with the responsibility of resolving what institutions are meeting their promulgated goals. Accreditation protects the public trust in an institution. When a college or university elects to offer degrees without accreditation, please know that you are obtaining a degree from an institution without any value and credibility. When a college or university claims to be accredited by an accreditor without any recognition, this is a phony “institution” that will waste your money. These institutions that promise you to be a Ph.D. in 24 hours for a certain amount of money are simply trying to cheat you out of your money. You will not be considered to a Ph.D.—trust me!

Rochville University is one of these fake institutions that I have been investigating for over two years now. I was able to purchase a high school diploma for my grandmother by simply submitting her resume and paying $239. The high school diploma package comes with 1 transcript, 1 Certificate of Participation in Student Council, and unlimited verification for schools and employers of one’s attendance at this institution. Rochville University claims that it can legally give you a diploma and even a degree—all the way to a Ph.D.—based on life experience. People please do not believe this because you need to know that only a small number of academic credits can be awarded to you for your life experience.

What may be even more problematic is two accredited universities accepted the phony high school diploma that I purchased from Rochville University. Troy University (formerly Troy State University) and Walden University accepted my grandmother into their universities. She was able to attend both of their institutions online with this bogus high school diploma. She was able to receive federal financial aid at these institutions too.  This means that accredited institutions like Troy University and Walden University, institutions accredited by the same accrediting agencies great universities like the University of Florida, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Albany State University, and the University of Arkansas are accredited by, need to be more probing in investigating the credentials of students during the admission process.

I do not want people to think that I am attempting to disparage online universities and for-profit universities. There are many respectable online and for-profit institutions available. I do, however, want the American people and the international community to be aware that there are fake universities on the internet. When it comes to receiving a valuable degree, please know that you cannot simply purchase one online.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

National Health and Fitness Month

Today is the first day of the month of May. Of course, your response to this previous sentence is “thanks for telling me something I already know.” The reason that I am bringing your attention to today’s date is this is the first day of national Health and Fitness Month. We need to do a better job of taking care of our bodies. If we did more to take care of our health, then the cost of healthcare would dramatically decline. This article intends to inspire you to do some practical phenomena to ameliorate your health.

How many of you will go to a shopping center and drive around the parking lot for a long time just to find the nearest parking spot possible? I already anticipate that many of my readers do this. Make a commitment to stop doing this today. When you simply increase the distance that it takes to get out of your car and enter into the store, you are burning more calories that can help to improve your health. You will have to make up in your mind that this is a good practice for you to engage in, and be sure to stay committed to it.

Moreover, go to your local store and purchase fish oil supplements and a multivitamin. Both of these products will help you to feel and look better in many ways. Fish oil supplements and multivitamins have been tremendously useful in improving my health and aiding me in feeling so good. When you do not eat a balanced diet, as I do not, a multivitamin is essential for you to take to gain some of the necessary vitamins and nutrients that your body does not receive from your food and drink consumption. These products are really inexpensive but they significantly enhance your health.

I cannot encourage you enough to try to workout at least once a week. I very much enjoy working out 4 to 5 times a week. Working out does not mean that you have to go to the gym. You can walk or run around your neighborhood, do sit-ups and push-ups in the comfort of your home, and/or purchase a product like the Contour Ab Belt that gives your abs a serious workout—without you even needing to do one crunch. I also encourage you to lift some weights, even if it is not that much weight at all.

During this month, let’s celebrate ourselves by engaging in activities that are going to make us healthier and feel good. I think that there is something that we all can do to improve our bodies and health. I would encourage you to try some of the phenomena that I have suggested in this article. I believe that my recommendations can cause you to be a healthier person and make you feel better than you have ever felt before, without bankrupting your banking accounts. Let’s get fit in May!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Facebook Deactivation: People’s Cry for Attention

In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson posits that postmodern people are self-referential; that is, they are people who love making all phenomena about them. Although I very much love Facebook, I am troubled by a phenomenon that is increasingly developing on Facebook: the deactivation of accounts to gain attention that one is “leaving” Facebook—only to shortly “return.” Since you need attention so bad, you will think that this article is all about you. Okay, just to mollify your need for attention, I am going to go ahead and admit that this article is all about you. If you would focus on the substantive, then you might actually gain the attention you desire.

I’m getting tremendously tired of hearing people say that they are deactivating their Facebook accounts because they are not disciplined enough to stay off of Facebook long enough to get their work done. The reality is these people know that people will be wondering why they are off Facebook and this will draw attention to them, especially when they become active on Facebook again. In fact, I have actually seen people announcing “countdowns” to the day that they are going to deactivate their accounts. I can just anticipate the responses to this article now: (1) Why are you so worried about this?; (2) Antonio, are you trying to throw hints at me?; (3) Do you have anything else better to do?, (4) How are you trying to call someone self-referential when you have your own blog?; and (5) Have you run out of stuff to write about? These responses and more are only distractions to keep people from addressing a serious problem: the need to stop trying to gain attention at any cost.

Facebook does not have to consume so much of your time that you need to deactivate your account. If you don’t have enough control and discipline when on Facebook, then just close your account for good. If you are a college student, especially a graduate or professional student, and cannot control and manage your time wisely, then you may not even need a Facebook account in the first place. I have found Facebook to provide me with a nice break from the intensity of my academic work and some of the stress of life. My time spent on Facebook has not hindered my ability to be an effective academic in any way. What’s on Facebook that can cause you to consume too much of your time anyway? Revolutionary Paideia is here to suggest that only a vain person would make a significant event or advertisement out of the deactivation of his or her Facebook account.

I simply would like us to become more substantive people. You do not need to announce that you are deactivating your Facebook account—simply stay off of Facebook during times when you know that you are going to be really busy. For those of you who are in college, especially graduate and professional school, we all know that you are in graduate or professional school and you do not need to remind us. We are not going to give you any added praise just because you are in graduate or professional school—like we did not already know you were in graduate or professional school. Please consider how contradictory you can seem when you say that you are so busy, but people can see that you update your statuses every 30 minutes, stay on Facebook chat, and comment constantly on people’s walls. Revolutionary Paideia is simply asking you to check yourself!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kirk Franklin and the Significance of Hip-Hop-Oriented Gospel Music

The arrival of Kirk Franklin on the gospel music scene is without question a watershed in gospel music history. His contemporary style of music and willingness to collaborate with Hip-Hop artists engendered great controversy (and still does). Young African-American Christians and non-Christians received Kirk Franklin’s style of music tremendously well, but older African-American Christians did not. One of the reasons why I find such a tremendous interest in examining Kirk Franklin’s impact on gospel music is how he unsettled, unnerved, and unhoused traditional and limited notions of art within gospel music. His ability to usher in a Hip-Hop-oriented fusion of gospel music evinces how gospel music has the potential to have a significant influence across racial, ideological, and theological boundaries.

While I love traditional gospel artists like Shirley Ceasar, James Moore, James Cleveland and Dorothy Norwood, their music does not have the power to reach a much wider audience than Kirk Franklin’s music has and can. Please, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that traditional gospel music did not and does not have a significant impact and influence on people’s lives. In fact, without traditional gospel music contemporary gospel music could not have emerged. Traditional gospel music has been such a powerful medium of support, uplift, and deliverance for scores of African-Americans (and people of all races and ethnicities). Traditional gospel music, however, needed an update to make it more appealing and relevant to the postmodern period in which we reside.  We live in a culture where Hip-Hop culture, particularly Hip-Hop music, is such a dominant force. Regardless of whether or not people embrace Hip-Hop, it cannot be avoided. Recognizing this social reality, Kirk Franklin revolutionized gospel music by merging the best of Hip-Hop music and culture with traditional gospel music.

Many proponents of traditional gospel music have posited that Franklin’s fusion of Hip-Hop music and culture with traditional gospel music is not gospel music at all. They see this type of music as turning gospel music from sacred music to more of a secular form of music. The contemporary gospel of Kirk Franklin still represents scared music: It maintains a fundamental commitment to the glorification, worship, and acknowledgement of God. What is different about Kirk Franklin’s postmodern Hip-Hop-oriented gospel music is it understands how times have changed in such a way that the music has to change in a way to reflect the times—while maintaining a core commitment to the same Jesus of the past, present, and future. Bishop Paul L. Fortson of Paradise Church of God in Christ in Forest Park, Georgia argues that any music that has “Jesus” in it is gospel music. I completely agree with him.

Today, I salute Kirk Franklin for having the willingness to unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse African-American Christians who hold limited views of what gospel music is. Because of his willingness to be a gospel music revolutionary artist, writer, and producer, thousands of lost souls have been able to be saved and know that there is a God looking out for them. Franklin has demonstrated that Hip-Hop culture does not have to be divorced from gospel music and the Church. He helps us to understand that Hip-Hop culture lives within the Church and the people who the Church serves and desires to reach. Without Kirk Franklin, we may have never been able to see R. Kelly singing a gospel song.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kevin Durant’s Acne

Despite the tremendous accomplishments of Kevin Durant early on in his National Basketball Association (NBA) career, it seems that some people will attempt to try to destroy him anyway. After doing a random Google and YouTube search on Kevin Durant, one can find a significant amount of negative coverage of his struggles with acne. Kevin Durant is an outstanding African-American male basketball player who does not deserve to be the subject of such hateful attacks. I have seen too many blogs, websites, messageboards, and etc. that are trying to exploit this great African-American male athlete (and genuinely nice guy). This is another attempt to demonize and exploit the African-American male body. The purpose of this article is to provide a counter-narrative to the mean-spirited coverage of Kevin Durant’s acne.

Kevin Durant’s acne is conspicuous. There has to be less ostensible phenomena and more important issues that people can discuss than Kevin Durant’s acne. With so many critical quandaries we face in the world, a number of people have found Kevin Durant’s acne to be worthy of covering. If people were really looking to cover something substantive about him, they would cover the fact that he is a rookie and won the NBA scoring title and the fact that he has led his team to a 2-2 series tie with the defending NBA world champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. He also shutdown Kobe Bryant in the 4th quarter of Game 3 of the current playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. This young star should be commended for his immediate impact in the NBA and for establishing himself already as one of the best players in the NBA.

How has Kevin Durant’s acne hindered him from accomplishing so much in the NBA at a young age? The easy answer to this query is it has not hindered his basketball performance at all. Although it has not hampered his play on the basketball court, we do not know how it has affected him personally, especially in the quiet moments of his life when he is surfing the internet. It cannot be a good feeling to surf the internet and see such egregious coverage of one’s acne problems. The same people who try to exploit Durant’s acne problems for a quick laugh would not like others to take advantage of their problems for a simple laugh.  It would be easier for me to accept this negative coverage of Kevin Durant if he was an arrogant player, but he is a tremendously humble basketball player.

To those bloggers, messageboard authors, website creators, and YouTube contributors who have attempted to exploit Kevin Durant’s acne problems, I simply think you all are simple and mean-spirited people. Before you say something about somebody, start thinking about the full ramifications of your comments. Kevin Durant knows that he has acne problems—he has to live with this reality daily. He does not need to be reminded each time he surfs the internet. When will we reach a day when we love one another much more than we do right now?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Earth Day and a More Evironmentally Sustainable Future

No matter what our political ideologies and affiliations, we all should take a serious interest in our environment. Although there are specific methods of ameliorating the environment and sustaining it that are controversial, there are fundamental and practical ways to improve and sustain it that we all can agree on. Each year, Earth Day offers us an opportunity to unite to enhance and maintain our environment. The purpose of this article is to speak about the significant potential in Earth Day and to provide phenomena we all can engage in to ameliorate and sustain our environment.

I have always been tremendously disappointed about how little attention Earth Day receives. Earth Day should be everyday! We to have a more complex understanding of Earth Day as a signal of how much more value we should place on the environment in our daily lives. The need to have an “Earth Day” should help us to recognize that we are not doing enough to ameliorate the environment, and be good stewards of the environment. The “going green” movement is simply not enough to achieve good stewardship and improvement of our environment. While there is much discourse taking place across the nation about environmental sustainability, there has not been a significant improvement in actually moving toward a more sustainable environment.

Although we have not done all that we can do to move toward a more sustainable environment, we can begin to by adopting a more common sense approach. We can have monthly times of solidarity where we (on a national level) participate in picking up trash in our communities and find items to recycle. Local communities can hold meetings to establish tree planting projects. Using various forms of communication, discourses about how to live more environmentally sustainable personal lives and within our communites can emerge. Establishing a national discourse at the local community level about environmental sustainability is a critical way of enhancing the significance of Earth Day. These aforementioned recommendations would not involve much stress for individuals throughout the nation, but the implementation of these recommendations would dramatically buttress our environment, and will help us to move toward a more environomentally sustainable future.

No longer can we sit back and mock “tree huggers” and no longer can we simply be “tree huggers.” We have to work colloboratively to find consensus on how we can protect, perserve, and restore our environment. I encourage everyone to participate in Earth Day today and to make Earth Day an everyday reality!

Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison