Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Evening with Spike Lee

An Emphasis on Education

An evening with Spike Lee included his narrative of education, coming into film-making, studying at Morehouse College, the impact of the Summer of 1977 with an 8mm camera and his experience in the film industry.

Lee advocated loving what one does, feeling blessed that he's been able to do something that he is passionate about--he said that grad students choose what they love.He began by saying, "Parents kill more dreams than anybody."While attending Morehouse, Lee said there were a lot of expectations for the students because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had attended Morehouse, so a lot of young men came with their parents' expectations to be doctors and preachers. Most parents wanted better for their children than they had, so a lot of them sat their children down when they said they wanted to do something in the arts. He said that many parents explained, "Me and your mother did not work two to three jobs so you could wait tables or drive a taxi--and if you're living under my roof, wearing my clothes and eating my food, you'll get a good job and get a good pay check every two weeks."
There's a lot of pressure, he said, but many years later you'll be a miserable human being. He said you have to 'cut the umbilical cord' because the decision we all make in college impact the rest of your life--it's not just a random thing--and if you think it is, then you need to think about it again. Being in college, we have the chance to take liberal arts classes and discover gifts. He still considers himself lucky that he found film through the 8mm camera that he got as a gift from someone he can't remember.

The film he shot in NY during 1977 turned into a film that was well received by his fellow students, encouraging him to pursue film further.Lee explained that film school taught him the grammar of film; like the grammar that constructs a paragraph, film school taught him what went into telling a story through film. But at the time, he said the main thing that film school allowed him was access to equipment, something that's not as large an issue, given the 'digital revolution. 'Wanting to attend USC film school, Lee said he didn't score astronomically well on the GRE, so he wasn't accepted, but he got into NYU, where they understood that GREs had little connection to film.

At NYU, he said everyone got the chance to make film. At USC, one had to submit a script to faculty to have the chance to film--it was run like a studio system. At NYU, he won an award, which got him an agent, but he didn't get any offers. While fellow students were getting music videos and after school movies, Lee was asking his agent to try and get him an after school special. Waiting for offers to roll in, he realized his award wasn't going to get him offers handed to him.He put a script together, got some actors together for pre-production, but when no money came in for funding, he realized that he'd written a movie with helicopter and car chases that he'd never be able to technically film with no budget.

Crawling before running was what he learned, in addition to the lesson that the script would've turned into a bomb that would've ruined his career. So he put together She's Got to Have it, which Lee said, in addition with Hollywood Shuffle ushered in a Black renaissance in film. A fan of Woody Allen, Lee said that he liked Allen's films, but asked 'what New York' was he showing?'
I'm going to have to post more later, but I just had to post this picture of Mr. Lee and I looking at different cameras. We take, and take, and take only to want more from our public intellectuals, and I never thought I'd say it, but it was harder to get a picture with Mr. Lee than with Salman Rushdie (another picture for later blog post).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Delci's Journey with Cesar Chavez

Coming Together to Remember
As a part of the Social Justice Advocates program, Eduardo Delci spoke about his "Journey with Cesar Chavez" this afternoon in the Cesar Chavez building, a great topic considering the recent issue in Texas education.

Growing up in a small farming community in Chandler, Arizona, Delci graduated from college, joined the Peace Corps in Ecuador, before returning to the U.S to work for what is now Americorp in New Mexico. His goal there was to work with farm workers to alleviate poverty by strengthening economic base through implementing community credit unions.
Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa

Delci worked with Maria Rufo, who connected with Chavez's wife Helen, who served as treasurer of the Farm Worker's Union, at a central valley California meeting for credit union organizers.
Delci explained that at the time, from 1958-1965, many agriculture laborers only earned $5-10/week, and the credit unions asked for $1.50 membership fee that went into a savings account. The money that the credit union accrued went towards loans of around $15o that went to home renovations, including the installation of indoor plumbing and refrigerators. An interesting aspect was that Chavez advocated for the build up of these credit unions in a faith-based manner, asking laborers to put in 10% of their earnings, which seemed to draw on the Catholic religious baseline that many migrants shared.
More than anything, Delci emphasized Chavez' nonviolent resistance--a strategy that is often overlooked given the amount of violence associated with the business practices of teamsters and union busters. Delci also pointed out the importance of understanding how large an organization that Chavez led farmer workers against--with California's economic power, it needs to be understood how much economic and social power the agriculture producers and industry possessed.
The Rhetorical Career of Cesar Chavez

When Chavez endured his hunger strike of 25 days, he was protesting Arizona legislature that attempted to make peaceful protests illegal assemblies. The Arizona representative at the time, Jack Williams, was compared by Delci to Joe Arpaio.

Monday, March 29, 2010

U of Arizona Conversations in the Humanities

More Unsettling Certainties

From the website:

Sensual Productions: Pictures, Poems, and Performances

Presented by the College of Humanities in its New Series
Unsettling Certainties: Conversations in the Humanities

Tuesday, March 30, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Helen S. Schaefer Building (UA Poetry Center), 1508 E Helen Street

This multimedia panel of feminist scholars and performance artists will explore visual, sonic, and embodied landscapes to consider the ways in which cultural productions can be understood as sites of knowledge production and contestation. The program, moderated by Adela C. Licona, will begin with a performance art piece by Denise Uyehara, excerpted from her interactive performance installation, the Senkotsu (Mis)Translation Project, which examines the U.S. occupation in Okinawa. Irène d'Almeida will talk about her work in searching out and collecting oral poetry produced by women among the Fon people, a major ethnic group in southern and central Benin. Sandra K. Soto will provide queer readings of some of the most provocative and surreal photographs taken by the internationally renowned Mexican photographer, Graciela Iturbide, widely known for her stunning black and white photographs of everyday life of indigenous peoples (mainly women) in rural areas, particularly of the Zapotecs in Juchitán, Oaxaca.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New World Tropes


This is but the beginning of an unpacking of the Aztec/Nahua term 'nepantilism'--as a trope, it captures the lived contradiction Anzaldua identifies as being a part of the mestiza consciousness. As someone interested in the rhetoric that the study of the New World possesses, I'm using this space to map some of the ways that I begin to examine the theoretical power of this trope when further developed as a theory for conceptualizing inner and outer conflict.

From Chapter Seven of Anzaldua's Borderlands/La Frontera:

“In a constant state of “nepantilism,” an Aztec word meaning “torn between ways,” la mestiza is a product of the transfer of the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another. Being tri-cultural, monolingual, bilingual, or multilingual, speaking a patois, and in a state of perpetual transition, the mestiza faces the dilemma of the mixed breed; which collectivity does the daughter of a darkskinned mother listen to?”(78)

Teaching controversy analysis, I feel like Nepantilism could serve as a generative title, re-naming the assignment in a way that reframes it as something more culturally situated, a practice I hope encourages student engagement. As academics, or even for burgeoning academics, developing a sense of an academic identity might feel as though being torn in a different direction than the pre-college self--nepantilism might help conceptualize the inner turmoil one feels submitting to certain practices over one's cultural ways of being.

I found this interesting Slideshow by artist Isis Rodriguez, which integrates the notion of Nepantla, and Rodriguez has a really interesting gallery on her site that's worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

AEI Lags on Racializing Data

How We Ask Questions

In no other area than statistical data is it of the utmost importance how we write the research questions that frame the analysis and lead us to the conclusions we desire.

In the table below, found on the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research website, we see how the title "Hispanic Graduation Rates Lag Whites' at all Levels of Admissions Selectivity" skews how we look at the data in such a way that the concept of 'lagging' nags at us as we attempt to construct knowledge from the 'unbiased' data.

The point that seems most salient, and one that I hope they unpack more, is:

"The gaps between white and Hispanic graduation rates are smaller at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). This is not due, however, to higher Hispanic graduation rates at HSIs but to the tendency of these institutions to have below-average white graduation rates. HSIs do about as well as non-HSIs with similar admissions criteria in graduating their Hispanic students."(Kelly, Schneider, Carey)

Given the data that white students graduate at lower rates at HSIs, should we not be problematizing the impact of student representation on graduation rates since even white students suffer from issues of retention when they are underrepresented on campuses?

It seems difficult to escape the paradigm that views Latino/as as lacking when even the data meant to address issues of retention continues to perpetuate this non-generative discourse.

Update: What happens when we factor in economics?
Let's look at some of the data that critics like Christopher Newfield (162) and Scott Jaschick brings in when addressing the economic disparity between academic institutions of privilege, as opposed to those institutions that might qualify as HSIs:
2007 Endowment

Institution Endowment Per Student

    Harvard University $34.6 billion $1,730,000

    Yale University $22.5 billion $1,951,000

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Literacy Archive On-line

Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives

While I was at 4Cs in Louisville, Kentucky, I had the opportunity to take part in a digital literacy archive project put together by the Ohio State.
A description of DALN from the website:

"The DALN invites people of all ages, races, communities, backgrounds, and interests to contribute stories about how — and in what circumstances — they read, write, and compose meaning, and how they learned to do so (or helped others learn)."

I did mine on a computer's webcam, so I imagine you might be able to do the same & I encourage anyone to register and submit. It's a really interesting project and something that's designed to be used in classrooms, as a part of helping students to understand that the acquisition of literacy varies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Interview with fellow Scholar for the Dream

Amazing Experience
Just got back from 2010 Cs and have had a moment to reflect, and I feel like this year's Cs was a really amazing experience. Presenting for the first time, and of course winning a Scholar for the Dream award contributed immensely because it allowed me to meet so many other great scholars.
Below, I'm embedding an interview that Dr. Carlos Salinas conducted with Fernando Febres about his award winning presentation, in partnership with Memorial Award winner Jota Samper, based around the community outreach concept of placing libraries in violent neighborhoods as a means of deterring crime.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cs 2010 Online Program

Search-able Program

Just checked out this year's CCCC program on-line, and I like the move they made with the cover design--not what you might expect.

Found my name a couple times in the program, so I'm getting excited.

I'm honored to be a Scholar for the Dream recipient, so now I just have to make sure my presentation is extra, extra ready.