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Jeff

After 40 years in L.A. schools, this outspoken teacher gives the LAUSD his final grade At 10:30 a.m., when all his 10th-grade AP history students had taken their seats, Jeff Horton took care of one last detail before stepping to the front of the class. He pulled on his blue blazer and cinched up his necktie. He does this out of respect for his students and the teaching profession. To him, this is serious business, and there would be no shortcuts on the final week of a four-decade career that has meandered from Los Angeles Unified School District classroom to boardroom and back again. Horton taught at Crenshaw High before becoming a protege of lefty school board member Jackie Goldberg and winning election to succeed her in 1991. He’s no stranger to controversy Over the years, Horton has found himself in the middle of controversies over a plan to break up L.A. Unified (he was opposed), the creation of a less Eurocentric approach to history (he argued that a broader world view was long overdue in multicultural Los Angeles), and on gay rights (he came out while a school board member, supported distribution of condoms, and clashed with critics who accused him of having a “homosexual agenda”). So it’s unsurprising that Horton, a staunch union supporter, has strong views on the ever-escalating trench war over who knows best how to educate children — career educators and their union leadership, or wealthy outsiders and charter school supporters. In Los Angeles, we’ve just witnessed the most expensive school board race in U.S. history, with pro-charter forces spending $9.7 million to score two victories and take control of L.A. Unified. Charter schools are no panacea, in Horton’s mind, even though he concedes some charter schools may work for some students whose parents are engaged and involved enough to seek out alternatives to traditional public schools. “But that’s going to leave behind tens of thousands of kids,” he said. The charter movement follows a narrative, in his mind, of a decades-long attack on public institutions. And now even more resources will be drained from traditional L.A. public schools, which have already been hit by California’s decline in national spending-per-pupil rankings. Don’t parents deserve a choice? Maybe so, but parents like options and students deserve better schools, and change isn’t coming quickly enough in a district that hasn’t been particularly well-run in the 16 years I’ve been paying attention. As I pointed out to Horton, he teaches at an elite L.A. Unified magnet — the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. Not every student wins the lottery and makes it into LACES, so what would Horton tell the parents of the unlucky students? Horton took me back to the 1990s, when he was on the school board and the “reform” movement of the moment was something called LEARN (Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now). The idea was to decentralize and give schools more power to determine the specific needs of students and come up with a customized strategy — in collaboration with teachers and parents — to meet them. Putting students first always sounds good, but there’s seldom consensus on how best to do that. Improvements under LEARN were neither swift enough nor universal, and in 1999, a new set of reformers came along. Horton and others were ousted when some of the same donors involved in this year’s charter movement (Eli Broad and Richard Riordan) backed a slate of candidates to shake up LAUSD. Horton’s seat was grabbed by Caprice Young, and he returned, eventually, to teaching. “In ’99, our race was the most expensive school board race in history,” said Young, who looks back now on the $1 million spent on her own campaign as “chump change” compared to this year’s windfall. Does either side have all the answers? It leaves one to wonder whether, in 18 years, L.A. Unified will be in better shape, or we’ll be in the midst of yet another reform movement and set yet another record for political fundraising. I’ve got issues with both sides and don’t think either will ever have all the answers. But while Horton may be disappointed in the current direction of public education after 40 years in the business, he’s had the luxury of spending most of his career in the sanctuary of the classroom. There, it all comes down to respect for students and the noble profession of inspiring them, and a good teacher can make magical things happen. “He pushes you to where you don’t think you can go,” Luz Lopez, a 10th-grader, told me before history class began Monday morning. Sid Thompson, who would later become LAUSD superintendent, was principal of Crenshaw High in 1975 when a rookie out of Yale walked in to apply for a teaching job. “He started talking about what these kids need, and how can they go forward if we don’t care enough to make a commitment to them?” said Thompson, who hired Horton on the spot. “He touched so many lives by making students understand they’re valuable and have a voice,” said Florence Saleh, who was one of Horton’s first speech class students at Crenshaw. She said Horton implored students to follow the news, get involved and support good candidates for public office. Saleh said that in 1988, she became the first African American and woman to win a national speech competition in college, and Horton was the first person she called with the news. She’s now a teacher, inspired in part by Horton. “He taught me to see how students were not just students,” Saleh said. “They were my future neighbors, they were community members, and I shared that with them.” On Monday morning, Horton’s students took turns stepping to the front of the class to talk about a historic event that had an impact on a member of their family. A girl told about her grandfather moving the family from Louisiana to California after threats from racists. A boy talked about his family’s flight from war in El Salvador. A girl told about her great grandfather’s exploits with the Russian army in the defeat of the Nazis. Horton, who says he learned a great deal from his students and was constantly re-energized by them, was radiant as history came alive in Room 202. On the wall was a poster filled with tributes from his students. “We will miss you,” said one. Get more of Steve Lopez’s work and follow him on Twitter @LATstevelopez MORE FROM STEVE LOPEZ

African Americans have much in common with people of color who migrate to the US.

In a recent poll, by Gallup, a slim majority of all Amercans (51%) dont approve of Obama’s immigration executive actions. However, non Hispanic Blacks approve by 68%. Hispanics approve by 64%. This latter group’s support is likely to improve as thousands of people stood in line last Sunday at an information session in Los Angeles offering assessments for undocumented immigrants hoping to establish legal status in the United States.

However, working-class blacks, like
working-class whites, show substantially more support for restrictive
immigration policies in a recent study which shows a a 13% increase in support for
more restrictive laws, compared to middle-class blacks, who show a
similar level of support regardless of their employment situation
vis-à-vis immigrants. This small but significant group is important to reach given that Latino immigrants and African Americans fill complementary roles in the labor market.

As a member of the Long Beach Immigant Rights Coalition I support the view that all people, regardless of immigration status, country of origin, race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation or HIV status deserve human rights as well as social and economic justice. Also as a member of the NABWMT I support our policies to fight racism.

Our Hispanics brothers and sisters are
becoming additional targets of discrimination and racial profiling that occured to African Americans recently in Fergusson and Staten Island. 

Sources: New York Times By JULIA PRESTON DEC. 14, 2014
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Black Alliance for Just Immigration

Tatishe Nteta, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA Email: nteta@polsci.umass.edu

Privilege Part 3

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of
my race
most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to
mistrust
and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting
or purchasing
housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location
will be
neutral or pleasant to me.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well
assured that
I will not be followed or harassed.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of
the paper
and see people of my race widely represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about
“civilization,”
I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular
materials
that testify to the existence of their race.

9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher
for this
piece on white privilege.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group
in which
I am the only member of my race.

11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another
person’s
voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music
of my race
represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit
with
my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who
can
cut my hair.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on
my skin
color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from
people
who might not like them.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of
systemic racism
for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and
employers will
tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries
about
them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this
down to
my color.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not
answer letters,
without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the
poverty
or the illiteracy of my race.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without
putting my
race on trial.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being
called a credit
to my race.

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial
group.

22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of
persons of
color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture
any penalty for such oblivion.

23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I
fear its
policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person
in
charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.

25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax
return,
I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books,
greeting cards,
dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong
to feeling
somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered,
unheard,
held at a distance or feared.

28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of
another
race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than
to
jeopardize mine.

29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of
a person
of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to
cost
me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree
with
me.

30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there
isn’t a racial
issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either
position
than a person of color will have.

31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing
and minority
activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any
case,
I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences
of any of these choices.

32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the
perspectives and
powers of people of other races.

33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body
odor will
be taken as a reflection on my race.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as
self-interested or
self-seeking.

35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer
without having
my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of
each negative
episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be
willing to talk
with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

38. I can think over many options, social, political,
imaginative or
professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be
accepted
or allowed to do what I want to do.

39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness
reflect on
my race.

40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that
people of
my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my
race will
not work against me.

42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to
experience
feelings of rejection owing to my race.

43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that
my race
is not the problem.

44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which
give attention
only to people of my race.

45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the
arts to
testify to experiences of my race.

46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color
and have them more or less match my skin.

47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting
embarrassment
or hostility in those who deal with us.

48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people
approve of
our household.

49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly
support
our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of
domestic
partnership.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of
public life, institutional and social.

In Remembrance of Thomas H. Wirth


John Speer and Tom Wirth  at the Giovanni’s Room reading of “Gentleman Jigger”

Thomas H. Wirth long time member of Men of All Colors Together New York, Independent scholar on the Harlem Renaissance, book collector and publisher, faculty member and union negotiator at Stockton State College, died unexpectedly of respiratory failure on Oct. 10, 2014, at Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J.

Tom was an independent scholar of African-American literature, history, and art, with a concentration on the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  He founded the Thomas H. Wirth Collection of African-American Americana at Chicago State University and contributed significant materials to Yale and to Emory Universities.  Tom was born on Jan. 6, 1938, in Fargo, N.D., and lived with his family there and in Worthington, Ohio, and Syracuse, N.Y.  He earned a B.S. in chemistry at Cornell in 1959 and a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in 1964.  He joined the faculty of the historically black South Carolina State College (now University), where he taught for five years, and taught at Southern University and at Mary Holmes Junior College.  In 1971, Tom joined the faculty of the new Richard Stockton State College at Atlantic City, N.J.

Tom met, and became the heir of, Richard Bruce Nugent, a writer and artist who was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance.  In collaboration with Mr. Nugent, he founded the Fire!! Press, which publishes a reproduction of FIRE!!, a landmark Harlem Renaissance publication to which Mr. Nugent contributed, and has published books by African-American writers.  Tom edited a book of selections from Mr. Nugent’s work, “Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance” (Duke, 2002) and Mr. Nugent’s novel, “Gentlemen Jigger” (De Capo, 2008). At the time of his death, Tom was editor of the Countee Cullen Correspondence Online Project of the Amistad Research Center, New Orleans.  Tom was also the editor of the MACT-NY newsletter, which in 2013 received the National Association of Black and White Men Together’s Newsletter Award.  Tom leaves his godson, Robert Figueroa of Jersey City, N.J.; his sister, Kathryn Hansen of Iowa City, brother, John Wirth of Stroudsburg, Pa. and his brothers and sister of MACT-NY.  Tom was widely admired and respected for his interest and knowledge of the Black experience in America.  He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Donations may be made in his name to the New York City LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., New York, N.Y. 10011.

World Wide Homophobia Update

World Wide Homophobia Update

78 countries around the world still criminalize same-sex relationships. Some of the most vocal advocates for these deplorable laws are from the United States. Anti-LGBT extremist Scott Lively, recently qualified to be on the ballot as an independent candidate for the Massachusetts gubernatorial election this fall. Lively promotes anti-LGBT hatred abroad and is now trying to build his official credentials as the governor of Massachusetts.

Lively has a long record of exporting vicious hate to other countries, and now he is trying to spread his platform of bigotry at home. In Russia and Uganda, Lively has claimed that LGBT people are responsible for the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the spread of HIV/AIDS. 
The World Congress of Families with a statement of purpose as: “…WCF affirms and defends the natural family as the fundamental unit of civilizations, thus renewing a stable and free society.” Next year they plan to meet in Salt Lake City next year to plot out their strategy for exporting their around the world. They have praised Vladimir Putin as the standard-bearer for traditional “family values” and honored a Nigerian activist who claims LGBT advocates conspire with the terrorist group Boko Haram with a “Woman of the Year” award.
Meanwhile, in Berlin former soccer player Marcus Urban has established a German-based foundation aimed at combating homophobia in the soccer world through a project that hopes to attain concrete results within a year by raising awareness of the issue.
“Homophobia has always been present in soccer”, Urban maintains.
It is believed that there are more cases of homosexual players who dare not reveal their orientation out of fear of provoking hostile reactions, as when Argentina’s ex-coach Daniel Passarella said he would not call up a homosexual player.

Sources: HRC, WFC, 

The New Jim Crow, The Supreme Court, and Ferguson

For those of you that have read the remarkable book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, it will come of no surprise that African Americans are harmed long term by our mass incarceration system.

This issue was brought back into focus over the last weeks with the events in Ferguson, Mo.. with the death of Michael Brown. In addition, today’s New York Times had an op-ed suggesting that “the officer who shot Michael Brown and the City of Ferguson will most likely never be held accountable in court.”
The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has made iy harder for victims of abuse to seek justice ruling that police have the ability to shoot where there is a”grave public risk” and made it difficult to sue local authorities because of “prosecutors misconduct” in the event evidence is withheld, and municipal officials (i.e. police) have immunity. Thus, the litmus test for police is that “reasonable police” agree shooting is in self defense.

We will watch the events as they unfold, but the legal environment  and SCOTUS in particular, have a poor record on restoring confidence in the police and trust in the judicial system.

Your comments are welcome.