October 29, 2008

AA&AS social change conference


Click HERE for the conference flyer.

Posted by wrjacobs at 6:21 PM

October 24, 2008

Terrestrial Quidditch

If I were an undergraduate I would definitely play a little Terrestrial Quidditch for Muggles.

Posted by wrjacobs at 8:36 PM

October 21, 2008

a Black Doctor Who?

Could there be a Black actor playing The Doctor in the future? While just a rumor at this point, that would be fantastic!

Posted by wrjacobs at 10:05 AM

October 16, 2008

Obama op-ed

A slightly edited version of the following appears in the October 30-November 5, 2008 edition of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder as "Obama can be our Nehemiah, not our Moses" (pp 4 and 11; the article has not yet been posted online).

Many people of color are very excited about the prospect of an African American man occupying the highest office in the land. Even my soon-to-be 93 year-old African American grandfather – a life-long Republican – is energized by Senator Barack Obama's candidacy. Before Senator Obama claimed the Democratic nomination in St. Paul on June 3, 2008, many of us thought that we wouldn't see such a night in our lifetime. After all, only 45 years ago we were not only barred from running for public office, we were routinely turned away from the polls. Now some believe that a President Obama can be a Moses figure who leads us to a Promised Land. Our optimism is high.

We still have much work to do, however, to turn that optimism into reality. Hip Hop historian, journalist, and activist Davey D notes that while wearing an Obama t-shirt or watching the "Yes We Can!" video is great, it won't matter much if we don't go to the polls to vote, and show up in large numbers. You may have heard about "the Bradley Effect," the explanation for a discrepancy between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in contests between an African American and a White candidate. Tom Bradley was the long-time African American mayor of Los Angeles who lost the 1982 California governor's race despite being ahead in many voter polls. The Bradley Effect refers to the tendency of some voters to vote for the White candidate despite telling pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for the African American candidate. So even though Senator Obama might be leading by a large margin in the polls on November 3, we need to be out in force on November 4.

Davey D reminds us that we also need to educate ourselves and others about important issues in our communities, and work together for social change. After eight years of constant noise about the government being the source of our problems, the Obama campaign has awakened many to the possibility that our elected officials can generate solutions to problems, with our help. Every person can make a difference. So pass on the informational email you receive. Well, the legitimate email anyway. Encourage friends and family to visit websites that check out as reputable. Read publications like the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and American Legacy Magazine. Hold intergenerational discussions where those from diverse backgrounds can learn from one another.

2009 marks the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Department of African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota. In January of 1969 African American students occupied the main administration building until several demands were met. We are scheduling a series of events that are designed to help African American communities hold discussions where we can investigate connections between the past, present, and tomorrow. Professor Rose Brewer has organized a November 7, 2008 Youth Conference to kick off the events. At this Youth Conference some of the activists present at the 1969 Morrill Hall Takeover action will engage high school and college students in an intense discussion about social change strategies for the 21st century. That will be followed by a November 12, 2008 discussion by faculty on events surrounding the January 15, 1969 occupation. On January 23, 2009 we will host a conference and Gala dinner to honor the pioneering activists, and chart a path for the future. Professor Brewer will discuss the November events in a column that will appear in next month’s Spokesman-Recorder. For updates on all of our 40th Anniversary events, visit http://www.afroam.umn.edu/anniversary.html

So we need to educate ourselves, get out to vote on November 4, 2008, and then work with those in office after Inauguration Day 2009. If Senator Obama becomes President Obama we must also resist the temptation to view him as a Moses who has a black and white pre-scripted way to lead us out of the enforced wilderness of the Bush years. My U. of M. colleague Harry Boyte has written that "the President can call the nation to enter into a new covenant with substance and seriousness: a common agreement to work together to address our problems." Like the Old Testament prophet sent to Jerusalem by the King of Persia in 446 B.C. to lead the Jews in the rebuilding of their capital following captivity in Babylon, President Obama can work with a vast range of people to dive into the unforeseeable gray areas where we collectively tackle the many challenges our community and our country face. If Senator Obama wins the election, then we must embrace him as our Nehemiah, not our Moses.

Posted by wrjacobs at 6:33 PM

October 11, 2008

no longer a Minnesotan?

I'm not sure if I can call myself a Minnesotan anymore after today, as I discovered that I hate being in human-powered boats, which is a quintessential Minnesota activity. I think I was in a rowboat when I was a Boy Scout 25 years ago and disliked it. I definitely had not been in anything since.

So today I went on a sea kayaking class/excursion on Minneapolis' chain of lakes. Here's what happened:

  • We started on Cedar Lake, and my back started hurting really bad on Lake of the Isles. Halfway across Lake Calhoun I could not keep the boat straight, so I had to be towed in to shore.
  • After lunch we headed back across Lake Calhoun. Once again, I could not keep the boat straight, so had to be towed to the canal between Calhoun and Isles. The problem: my legs went past the rudder foot pedals.
  • On Lake of the Isles I started paddling on my own again, but soon capsized! Who knows how it happened, but going in the drink was a serious shock to the system. Heartbeat 1: "Huh?" Beat 2: "I'm under the water." Beat 3: "My glasses are off." Beat 4: "Frak the glasses!" Beat 5: "Go UP, fool!"
  • My glasses were nowhere to be found in the murky depths. Although 10 years old I do...did wear them quite a bit. Frak!
  • After I calmed down the group set off, but I was too rattled to paddle so was towed for a second time. I keep zig-zagging behind the tow kayak, though, so after a while I started paddling again on my own.
  • We made it over to Cedar Lake with no problems but the frakking boat started to pull to the left once again. (I was supposed to go right.) I fought it for awhile, and then just let it take me to the shore it wanted. One there I capsized again trying to get out (!).
  • I walked around the shore to where everybody else landed; the leader went and towed my kayak in. Once I got my soaked shoes off I discovered that I had ripped off a big patch of skin on my ankle. Nice.
  • It started to rain as I was walking back to my car after we returned all the gear to storage.

So, I'm glad I tried kayaking since I've been curious about it for a long time, but it ain't for me.

P.S. The other Minnesota must-do thing I don't like is going to a cabin in the summers, but that's another story for another day....

Posted by wrjacobs at 5:59 PM

October 5, 2008

ghosts in the basement

A couple of years ago I wrote an entry about ghosts in the kitchen. Now it seems they have moved down to the basement. Earlier today I put a load of laundry in the dryer, but it cut off after only 5 minutes. I went downstairs and found the door open! Now I know that the door was closed when I started it (the dryer won't run with an open door), and V was upstairs and did not change anything, so the ghosts are active again. I suppose that I can't complain, though, if all they do is occassionally unscrew light bulbs and open appliance doors....

Posted by wrjacobs at 1:12 PM