Category Archives: African Diaspora

“Only We Can Liberate Ourselves”

VT student today hosted a workshop on “coalition building” and invited Black Workers for Justice. We had music, pizza and lots of discussion, particularly from students themselves.



Listening to John Brown’s biography & “book-googling it”: How we interact with technologies

I promised a student I would blog about this. So, here it is.

Today, in my Topics 4004 seminar course, a student seemed to have coined a phrase that reflects how the academic world interacts with new technologies.


These days in class we are listening and reading Evan Carton’s biography of John Brown, at about three chapters per class (two x week). I think that finishing the semester with an exciting reading is a good idea. This is part of adapting to the semester’s rhythms, understanding that after the Thanks Giving Break professors are not unlike lame duck incumbents. Since the students have reached the point of diminishing returns, this couple of weeks require a different approach, like changing gears as we near our destination.


Carton’s book reads well. In fact, on the first day reading it, I overheard a student commenting that she would rank Carton’s book on the same level as Harry Potter’s series in regard to narrative appeal and reading ease. But we do more than simply reading it. We listen to Michael Prichard narrate the book while checking on the text every now and then.

Most of the activities in the classroom require familiarity with the text and with the narration. One of the intentions of this new, if not odd, approach to reading, is to bring students closer to the subjects of study by engaging one more sense in the way we read. This goes along with recent literature on multiple intelligences and on the various ways we learn. The listening part is made easier, and more interesting, when the reader is a professional narrator, an actor with book-narrating experience.

book words

Since the emphasis is on the listening part, students can get their text through multiple sources. Some have the actual hardcopy. Others have it in a pdf format. The latter is the most common one, and it happened that for today’s chapters the file was not OCR’ed (OCR). This means that they could not use control-F key to find keywords. This set the context for a problem in need of solution.

Today’s in-class exercise required students to find the chronological order of 12 quotes I had selected from the book. The idea was that students would reconstruct the order of the events in the quotes and discuss their importance. So, after explaining the instructions they got collaborating with each other to find the quotes in the book.

book google

The frustration among those with the book in pdf format was evident from the start. Differently from what has happened before with OCR pdf files, today they did not have the advantage of using the control-F key to search for words in the text. But it did not take long for one of them to discover, or better said, “to remember” that Book Google could replace the control-F key function. In other words, it could serve in a similar manner as if having a pdf file that has been OCR’ed (OCR). Because of the types of activities, we perform in class, I require students to bring their laptops or tablets to class. And this student, as if hit by an epiphany, said out loud, we can “book-google it,” and so they did. And soon all were “book-googling it” and quickly found the quotes’ order.


It is common knowledge that the verb, “to google” has replaced longer phrases like, “to search the Internet.” Now I see the beginning of a similar trend in speech to replace the phrase, “to search in book google” for “to book-google it.” Though dictionaries have yet to catch up, the term “to google” is now synonymous of “to search.”

engaged students

This event also showed me how in the student’s minds, the logic of one form of technology is easily transferable to another, as long as it serves similar purposes. In the end, what I witnessed today was adaptability and a deeper engagement with the reading material reflected in the students’ high participation level.

Third day at Toms Creek Park, Planting Trees– Global Arbor Day

Today, Saturday April 27, 2003, when Arbor Day is celebrated throughout the world, a group of Virginia Tech students went to Toms Creek Park to plant trees. This was the third group at this place, but the fourth to take part on this year’s Arbor Day activities. Here are the links for earlier ones: April 26April 25April 20

On this post you will find a local-paper slideshow featuring our students in Arbor Day.

We began promptly at 9AM with a review of the purposes behind this project. In short, they are to encourage civic duty and to aid in learning about other social ethos, particularly as it is with the Haitian combites. Then we went through the planting instructions, and set the goal of planting at least 4 trees per group. We did not sing, as people in some combites do, but we talked a lot, and while a few arrived sluggishly, as if they had dragged themselves out of bed, in about half an hour, they were all energized.

Just after an hour, most groups had planted way more than four threes. So, we began closing down, and as we got ready for the group-picture, two students attempted to carry a water bucket on their heads, as women in Haiti and in other parts of the world, commonly do. They idea was of putting ourselves in the position of others and appreciating the value of water and its transportation. Of the two that tried, only one was able to balance the water bucket on her head.

Afterward, we went for breakfast together, and we closed down with a discussion about the value of free time versus hands-on labor (“cleaning after yourself”). This was done in the context of what pro-slavery writers and abolitionists debated throughout the entire Americas during most of the 19th century. We reflected on how this same issues are part of our current social and political discussions.

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From Citizenship to Equality

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (Photo credit: Festival Karsh Ottawa)


Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X meet bef...

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X meet before a press conference. Both men had come to hear the Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was the only time the two men ever met; their meeting lasted only one minute. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Points for Discussion, April 25. 2013


Cultural Achievements and Connections


Manning argues that spectacular achievements in culture and sports from the 1910s to the 1950s helped open the way to the political gains in the 1960s and 1970s.


The story of Carolina María de Jesus reveals how the achievements (i.e., citizenship, education) were not enough.


We all have seen the feats of people like Jesse Owens and Louis Armstrong, but perhaps Franco (Luambo) best represents the dynamic exchanges within the African Diaspora—in this case in particular it was across the Atlantic. He helped develop and promote the “African rumba,” but based his style on the Cuban son.


Remarkable set of political theorists and practitioners


1- Nelson Mandela (South Africa) 1953 “No Easy Walk to Freedom” (script 2)


There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.


2- Martin Luther King Jr. (USA) “I have a Dream” and his rendering of “We Shall Overcome” 


Look at the similarities with Mandela’s speech.


A back story of (WikiBayard Rustin


story of “We Shall Overcome


3- Frantz Fanon (Martinique)


4- Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana)


Campaigns organized by Black Women


5- Rosa Park -Alabama Bus Boycott 1955


Johannesburg women in the Alexandra Bus Boycott– 1957


Against “Identity Pass” in Pretoria 1957


Make a list of achievements- 1950-1970


Discussion on Equality (page 289)




How to measure it?


How to gain social equality and retain distinctiveness?


The Jews’ plight setting the stage for the term “racism” used in the fight for equality.


The term negro to Black.


Paolo Freire published Pedagogy of the Oppressed as part of the efforts for better education.


Gustavo Gutierrez: Theology of Liberation and the Vatican II Council (1962-1967)


Crises? What are the New Inequalities? 





Steel Pulse – Worth His weight in Gold- Garvey cited

The persistent legacy of Marcus Garvey

Thanks to Glen VanDerMolen for sharing this:

“So I was listening to my Reggae pandora station, this came on, and it was singing about so much that was covered in today’s lecture.”

“Marcus said.”