Saturday, December 29, 2007

Boyce Watkins on NPR - Black Family Wealth

As a finance professor, I see regular misconceptions in media about black people, black families and black wealth. America somehow has chosen to believe that the reason for wealth disparities in America is that African-Americans have simply chosen to be lazy and engage in the practice of bad money management. They also cite the fact that black families are not married as regularly and that this is a reason for poverty in the black community.

I could not disagree more.

The reason for the wealth disparity between blacks and whites is very simple: For 400 years (a very long time), America had a clear tradition of not allowing black people to pass wealth onto their children. As a result, all the big buildings in Manhattan, all the major media companies, and all the large corporations in America are owned, run and controlled by the white community. Period. Most wealth is inherited wealth and we were not allowed to inherit.

Black people choosing not to get married is no worse nor better than the fact that many families in America choose to get divorced. Honestly, I think divorce is far more devastating to the life of a child than not getting married. If one throws in the fact that non-custodial parents are obligated to pay child support, then the income gap, in a perfect world, should disappear. One can argue that two parents are better than one, but at the same time, 3 parents would be better than 2, and 4 parents would be better than 3. You could make this argument forever, and to use the one vs. two parent disparity as the fundamental basis to explain America's commitment to racial inequality is ridiculous.

Bottom line: Love is what matters, and if you look at the lives of Al Gore's son and kids in the suburbs who engage in just as much deviant behavior as kids in "the hood", you will see that a parent's decision to get married or not can be good for the child or bad, depending on the circumstances.

In other words: I get sick of people trying to say that black families are immoral or culturally inferior. Our culture is just fine thank you. Also, racial inequality and wealth gaps are due to one thing: historical discrimination. If you want to talk about creating a fair america, then you must first correct the huge imbalance created by racist ancestry. Trying to be fair from this point on (as Ward Connerly tries to argue) is like a lifelong crook stealing billions and then promising not to steal anymore. A fix must be applied to past wrongs before you can move forward in fairness.

I did this NPR interview on the topic not too long ago. It was done with Farai Chideya, a woman I had a huge crush on during my time in graduate school. Don't tell her I said that (haha!).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rutgers Offers Global Scholarships

REMINDER - Please Distribute Widely

The Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers, The State University of
New Jersey solicits applications from Global Scholars who would like to be
in residence during the 2008-09 academic year (September 2008 through May

We cannot provide any financial support, but do welcome scholars/activists
into a vibrant interdisciplinary community focused on women and gender.
Our theme for 2008-09 is “The Culture of Rights/The Rights of Culture.”

The application deadline is January 15, 2008. More information about the
IRW and how to apply is available on our website (
and at

Thank you.

Marlene Importico, Office Manager
Institute for Research on Women
Rutgers the State University of New Jersey
160 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
732/932-9072; 732/932-0861 (FAX)

Peculiar History of slavery and racism in New York


New York for much of its early history had a huge enslaved population. People of African descent in the city, during the colonial era and for much of the 19th Century, lived under a harsh form of Jim Crow-like segregation. Racist regulations extended even into their houses of worship. Most churches had an area, either in the back, the balcony or separate rooms where Black New Yorkers were housed and located during the religious service. As slavery waned, the City’s newly freed Blacks chafed under New York’s long standing segregationist policies. In spite of this oppression and despite several deadly and destructive race riots, New York’s African American community remained vibrant, dynamic and because of their efforts, the City continued also to be a center of abolitionist, anti-slavery activity.

St. Augustine’s Church at 290 Henry Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which opened in 1828, has as part of its original architecture two rooms, up a small twisting flight of stairs that were and still are called Slave Galleries. These rooms, just above the balcony and mainly out of sight, were intended for African American congregants, servants and perhaps even visitors, and may have been so used for years after slavery ended.


New York City was an early center of slavery in colonial America--- for much of the period only the city of Charleston, South Carolina had a larger enslaved population. Brought to New York from Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the South, people of African descent were largely commodities to be purchased, traded, measured and sold. For most, New York and its unwinding harbor was a quick stopping off point on the way to somewhere else on the triangulated trade route that led primarily south. Most must have found it an exotic, scary, sometimes cold and fleeting place. Yet, a significant number remained, to undertake the backbreaking work that building this expansive metropolis required.

As decades passed, the city and the African population grew, as did New York’s dependence on the free labor they provided. Special laws were passed to control the enslaved population. To calm the fear of revolt and insurrection, it became illegal for Black New Yorkers to gather in groups of more than three. To justify and maintain a white privileged class, African New Yorkers were denied access to housing, jobs and most public and private institutions, businesses and facilities. We often lose sight of the fact that New York City played a crucial role in both the development of the slave trade in colonial America and the virulent racism that accompanied it and helped codify the culture and concept that later came to be called in the South -- Jim Crow.

Across the street from what is today City Hall in downtown Manhattan, the African Burial Ground, the graveyard of colonial African New Yorkers was rediscovered in the 1990s. It was about five acres wide and used for virtually a hundred years until the end of the Revolutionary War. The history and existence of the African Burial Ground demonstrates that New York Jim Crow reached into the graveyard. Indeed segregation in New York reached into every facet of life for African and African American New Yorkers, including, perhaps especially their religious sanctuaries and institutions.

On the odd occasion, in the hands of a racist priest or a rowdy hate mongering congregation, religious events like marriage, communion or baptism could erupt into embarrassing and even dangerous experiences. In the main, for Black New York, when allowed entrance, church must have been oddly like the devil wrestling with God, as they were closely monitored and set apart. In some, Black New Yorkers had to sit or stand in the back of the parish, in others they were confined to an area in the balcony. In several churches there were rooms for Blacks, often out of view. These rooms, like the two at St. Augustine’s Landmark Church at 290 Henry Street in Lower Manhattan, were called Slave Galleries.

“Once in a while some of the old timers would talk,” says Harold Hayes, long time parishioner and Lower East Sider, “I used to hear little things that the blacks used to sing up there and such things and they were slaves.”

What is now St. Augustine’s landmark church has been standing on Henry Street in Manhattan since 1828. Constructed, legend has it, with rocks gathered from a long gone mountain, locally known as Mount Pitt, once a few blocks away. Originally, the church was called All Saints. A controversial aspect of its design, are two rooms on either side of a more than 150 year old Erben Organ one flight above the balcony. We know from articles and church records that these rooms were referred to as slave galleries and associated with the African American community.

A historical anomaly is that slavery in New York City and State officially ended in 1827. If so, why would a church that opened in 1828 build two slave galleries? This question ignited some intense debate in corners of the New York Historical community.

“Maybe they didn’t believe slavery was going to end.” The Reverend Errol Harvey, Rector of St. Augustine’s Church has said with his wry smile.

Though the vast majority of African American New Yorkers were no longer enslaved by 1827, the last gained freedom in 1841. The emancipation of slavery in New York was complicated and gradual. A law to stop slavery in New York State passed in 1799, starting a process that climaxed in 1827. A great deal is yet to be learned about who sat in the St. Augustine’s slave galleries – were they slaves -- indentured servants ill treated or otherwise -- free blacks encumbered by New York Jim Crow?

Around 1949, after decades spent struggling to survive, a decision was made to move St. Augustine’s Church, located on E. Houston Street into the All Saints Building on Henry Street and merge the institutions. The Christian part of the community had largely become African American and Hispanic. The new Church leaders decided to assertively reach out to them. In the ensuing years ironically, the once rich white All Saints Free Church became the primarily working class African American St. Augustine’s Church. Its first African American Rector was appointed in 1977. Reverend Errol Harvey, who has been at St. Augustine’s for 23 years, is the second. Reverend Harvey has spearheaded and supported renewed interest in the Slave Galleries, embracing the St. Augustine’s Project’s mission to help tell the story of African American New Yorkers and their contributions to the culture and development of the City and the neighborhood.

Rodger Taylor
Management Board member

author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners"
Social Activism is not a hobby: it's a Lifestyle lasting a Lifetime

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stanford Summer Research Program for Minorities

Greetings from Stanford!

I'd like to encourage you to consider us for graduate school and to apply to our Stanford Summer Research Program (SSRP)/Amgen Scholars Program.

The SSRP is a fully funded, 8-week residential research program open to current undergraduate students. It is an advanced scientific research opportunity for diverse students who want to prepare for and enter PhD, MD/PhD, or MD programs. Each student is matched with a Stanford faculty member and lab mentor and works on a research project that is challenging, involves a broad range of research techniques, and is feasible within the 8-week period. More information about SSRP can be accessed at and our application deadline is February 1. Our on-line application will be available December 21.

Stanford Biosciences is composed of thirteen close knit home programs: Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Informatics, Biophysics, Cancer Biology, Chemical and Systems Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Microbiology and Immunology, Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Neurosciences, and Structural Biology. You can find more information on these programs at I'd also like to encourage you to learn about the faculty and the research being conducted in those departments by going to

Students pursuing their PhD’s at Stanford are fully funded, which includes tuition, health insurance, and a $28,000 stipend. Currently, there are close to 500 students enrolled and while external fellowships are welcome and all Ph.D. students are encouraged to apply for them, they are not required.

One of my favorite things about Stanford is that it is a truly collaborative university. The Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Science are all located on the same campus, which facilitates the numerous interactions between students, faculty, and departments across the university. The Biosciences programs also offers students the opportunity to work in the laboratories of any of our 280 faculty members. Departments within the Biosciences can be found within both the School of Humanities and Sciences and the School of Medicine. Students and staff involved in the Biosciences can easily develop relationships and collaborations between laboratories and departments.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Kind Regards,

Tenea Nelson


Tenea Nelson, PhD

Director of Diversity and Outreach Programs

Department of Genetics

Stanford University School of Medicine

300 Pasteur Drive, M-350
Stanford, CA 94305-5120

office: 650-723-6274

mobile: 415-608-9167

fax: 650-725-1534

Monday, December 17, 2007

How should black students rank colleges?

Written by Ashley Finigant at

For high school seniors across the country, this time of year does not just bring the joy of the holiday season, but also the anxiety of impending college application deadlines. And for many high achieving students, the yearly rankings provided by US News and World Report is the academic bible they swear on. Although these rankings can be very helpful, in turning a student on to a school they've never heard of or shedding light on their top choice; for the most part, the ranking system provided by this magazine is heavily biased. Stanford and MIT will always be on top. Furthermore, other academic power houses are left in the dark, overshadowed by eight universities in the Northeast (better known as the Ivy League, aka, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, Brown and Dartmouth). The rankings have rankled many academics as well, and many schools have even elected to drop the system all together.

So where is the talented student of color to turn in search of a ranking system they can trust? Well the easy answer is: all ranking systems are biased and flawed and the only way to truly find a college that fits is to do a search based on one's needs and preferences. But if short on time and resources, the following should help...

The Black Enterprise list of top 50 Colleges for African-Americans
Not only does this magazine rank HBCU favorites, but also gives some shine to the overlooked liberal arts colleges.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education ranking of America's leading universities
Methodical and precise. The editors of this publication offer a wholistic approach to ranking universities with black students in mind and their interests at heart.

and while it isn't an academic ranking per se, the JBHE did another ranking on acceptance rates for black students at liberal arts colleges. (my plug for the liberal arts, lets do like DuBois and learn for edification and learnings sake).

And parting words to the wise - do not live and die by any ranking system, no matter who compiled it based on whatever data. College is college is college. Knowledge is the same everywhere, it all depends of what you make of it and where it takes you. That and loans.

Ashley Finigan is a staff writer for

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Math Education Conference in Long Island

Join educators, parents, students, activists, and community members from around the country for the 2008 Creating Balance in an Unjust World conference on math education and social justice. The conference will be at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY from Friday, April 4th - Sunday, April 6th.

In April 2007 over 500 educators and students from 28 states attended the first 'Creating Balance' conference. Through workshops, panels, Keynote speakers, networking sessions, Action Groups, local chapter meetings, and school visits, 2008 conference participants will explore questions, challenges, and opportunities to work for social and economic justice through mathematics and math education.

Registration Open
Conference Registration is now open. The registration fee is on a sliding scale from $25 - $300. Click here to learn more.

Conference Schedule
Friday, April 4th
· School Visits (limited space available)
· Kickoff Event, Vanguard High School (details TBA)

Saturday, April 5th
· Workshops (3 sessions)
· Networking Lunch
· Keynote Speaker (TBA)

Sunday, April 6th
· Panel (speakers TBA)
· Action Groups

Request for Proposals
Reminder: the Abstract's for the RFP's are due on January 7th and the final proposal is due January 21st.

Youth Travel Grants
We strongly value the input and expertise of young people, and are offering travel grants for student groups to attend the conference. To learn more about how your group could qualify for a travel grant click here.

The Great Debaters is Up for an Award Already

The producers behind the film "The Great Debaters" are already up for an award.

They will receive the 2008 Stanley Kramer Award at the PGA Awards on February 2. The film details the life of Professor Melvin Tolson, coach of the debate team at Wiley College, a small black college founded in 1873.

The professor took a great deal of criticism during for his teaching style and social views.

Tolson's debate team defeated some of the top universities in the world, including Oxford, USC and others. However, the team was never formally recognized as a championship debate team because in the 1930s, black teams were not considered for championship status.

The school struggled to survive during the 1980s and 1990s, coming very close to closing. However, after getting the attention of Hollywood, the school has new buildings and a new set of opportunities.

Enrollment recently doubled and Walmart has agreed to set up a scholarship fund.

Sports is not the only place for Performance Enhancing Drugs

Written by a former MLB player (Bob Tufts), this message is a wake up call to those who think that performance enhancing drugs are only taken in professional sports. Turns out that many of your own children may be using the same drugs.

I am an ex-pitcher with the SF Giants and KC Royals, 1981-83

To the Editor:

Fraudulent statistics are being generated yearly because of the use of
illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I believe we must crack down on this
criminal activity and guarantee that these statistics remain pure and
honest, so that we can fairly evaluate and compare those who excel in
their fields.

Unfortunately for overexcited sportswriters, fans, and members of
Congress, I am not advocating continued heavy-handed investigations of
Barry Bonds or a thousand other Major League Baseball players, mentioned
by Warren Goldstein ("The Conundrum That Is Barry Bonds," The Chronicle
Review, June 8). Although I am a former pitcher for the San Francisco
Giants and the Kansas City Royals, what I am advocating against is the
unscrupulous and dangerous use by millions of high-school and college
students of Adderall, Ritalin, and other substances that have been proven
to artificially raise test scores and thereby distort the entire
college-admissions process. I am also advocating on behalf of
African-American students who are negatively affected by this crime. This
is a true national health emergency and public-policy nightmare that
warrants federal action, as families are being punished for obeying the

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Food and Drug
Administration; that makes it more dangerous than steroids, which are
Schedule III substances. Schedule II drugs include opium, morphine,
cocaine, and OxyContin. According to the FDA's Web site, Adderall has a
high potential for abuse and can cause severe psychic or physical
dependence, even schizophrenia.

A survey of high-school students by the University of Wisconsin estimated
that 14 percent to 25 percent had taken academic enhancers in order to get
better grades and SAT scores. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America
estimated that 10 percent of high-school students had used similar drugs
without a prescription. This means that several million high-school
students may have cheated on their classroom and standardized tests.

The use of these so-called study aids has a disparate impact on
African-American students. Recent government surveys state that there are
approximately 10.5 million white college students and 1.9 million
African-American college students. The National Institute on Drug Abuse
found in 2004 that 4.9 percent of white college students and 1.6 percent
of African-American college students had admitted using stimulants to
study for tests. It can be safely assumed that the high-school numbers are
comparable, and equally biased against African-American teenagers who are
applying to college.

We demonstrate great concern when 100 baseball players test positive for
steroids, but we avert our eyes when millions of teenagers participate in
academic fraud and risk harming their bodies. Our attention and selective
moral indignation is focused solely on athletics, a profession where
minorities are overrepresented. We demand harsh penalties and a
zero-tolerance policy against these athletes to ensure fairness, but we
ignore blatant drug-law violations by millions of upper-class white
children and their ethically challenged parents when the enhancement
effect is intellectual and not physical.

Many elected officials were able to find time to grandstand during
oversight hearings on athletes and steroids. In the process, they did not
deal with far more serious national health issues. Will those on the
Democratic side of the aisle who now control the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform find the time to address massive education
fraud and racially discriminatory pharmacology, or will they demur because
it won't draw a media swarm and may damage their fund-raising base?

If the committee were acting in a consistent manner, there would be
hearings regarding Adderall and demands for mandatory drug testing for
students before final exams and all standardized tests. But I will not
hold my breath waiting for the announcement of that event.

Bob Tufts
Forest Hills, N.Y.


Friday, December 14, 2007

All-nighters give you lower grades

I saw this article stating that students who study all night have lower grades than those who don't. I was surprised at all. In my 14 years teaching at the college level, I learned that studying all night only does the following:

1) makes you cranky

2) makes you hate school

3) makes you too tired to remember anything that you learned the night before

4) stresses you the hell out

I continuously tell my students to remember the importance of consistency in their studying, but of course they don't listen. There's always this persistent image of the college student staying up all night, drinking tons of coffee and doing a bunch of other stuff that is only going to make his/her life miserable.

This study didn't surprise me at all, and I am only shocked that the information is just now becoming public knowledge.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Killing the Demons of Campus Alcohol

The demon of campus drinking has possessed our students, faculty and administrators, as campus culture has gotten out of control. Administrators turn a blind eye, def ears and plugged nostrils to the problems, just assuming that this is part of normal campus life. I am not one to judge other people’s choices, but whoever decided that drinking till you puke every weekend is fun or cool really needs to get slapped. They should also tell you the other side of drinking, which says that the 20 year old getting “twisted” at the party becomes the 40 year old sitting up in the Betty Ford Clinic with no liver in his body.

College campuses are proficient at producing leaders and geniuses. But they can be equally proficient at producing alcoholics, AIDS patients, rape victims and members of gamblers anonymous. As a professor at many “party schools”, I’ve watched 14 years of campus atrocities being committed every weekend with the primary suspect being a student named Jack Daniels. The word “moderation” is rarely used, and over the top behavior is embraced, endorsed, accepted and expected.

When I saw the scandal that plagued Duke University, I didn’t try to figure out if someone was raped. My first question was, “What IN THE HELL were 19 year olds doing at a party with 27 year old strippers?” I’m not one to hate on a good party, but damn. If there had been no rape allegations, it appears that everything would have been A-OK to the administrators. The climate creates the storm, and this was Hurricane Katrina. So, while we chastise Duke University, there are many campuses that are nothing more than a Duke waiting to happen.

My good friend is a prosecutor who deals with drunk driving cases. Many of her defendants are college students who don’t know any better, some of them after killing their best friends. She helped me compose a list of actions campuses can take to exorcise the drunken demon from their university. I don’t want to tell students what to do. But it’s sad when they do the wrong thing because the adults around them did not have the courage to warn them of the dangers. I am not trying to soap box....but I will pull out the Irish Spring for just one second.

1) How about having a former student come to campus and tell some of their horror stories? - Nearly every college graduate (or non-graduate) can tell a story about something terrible that happened to one of their friends in the middle of some alcohol-laden environment. The more you care about the students, the more you will allow the dialogue to be raw and realistic. The University of Life holds no punches when giving lessons, you shouldn’t either. The frightening tales of the past that haunt university walls should be used to benefit future students.

2) There is nothing that a good lawsuit won’t fix. On-going lawsuits at Colgate University and other campuses are stark reminders that the courts are now starting to hold some campuses liable for their missing eyeballs. Choking the purse strings is a good way to make these administrative Stevie Wonders gain 20/20 vision. Perhaps administrators should be legally educated about the consequences of “letting kids be kids”? I do not want them to get sued; I would rather just have them realize that this is a possibility.

3) What about a revolution in parenting? I find myself leaning over the toilet every semester, as I see more and more parents sending their children to campus as “Little Paris Hiltons”, being provided for like middle class welfare recipients. Every minor expense is fully paid, and the words “get a job” might as well be Mandarin Chinese. So, you then have an energetic, horny 19 year old with 80 hours of free time on their hands. Are they going to spend that time studying or memorizing the locations of the local bars? What’s worse is that the student has left home a child and returned a child, never gaining any sense of personal responsibility. If you give someone a wheelchair before they learn to walk, then they will never bother to learn to use their legs.

As I sat flipping through my mental rolodex, I felt sadness for my peers who were deceived by the drunken demon. I thought about the deaths, prison sentences, divorces, drop outs and middle age alcoholics, all created right before my eyes. My friends and I arrived on campus with clean slates, clear consciences and bright futures, only to have our lives complicated in ways that we never imagined. Our parents, teachers and mentors never warned us of these realities, allowing the University of Life to be our abusive boarding school. I searched for the “rewind” button in my mental
VCR, knowing I wouldn’t find one. So instead, I confronted the demon head on, hoping to make a difference.