Colin Kaepernick, the National Anthem, and Progress?

colin-kaepernick-time-cover

Oct. 3, 2016 Cover of Time 

Over the past few weeks, I have seen numerous responses to Colin Kaepernick’s demonstrations during the National Anthem. Last week, an article even appeared on ESPN pointing out which players chose to demonstrate during the anthem in week three of the NFL season by kneeling, raising their fists in protest, or through some other means. Editorials and opinion pieces have appeared in various media outlets about Kaepernick and others who have chosen to protest along with him. For me, Kaepernick’s decision, and the decision of others, to protest the anthem is important because it draws attention to the discrepancies between ways individuals get treated in this country. It is sad that we need such reminders of racism and subjugation in the country almost fifty years after the Civil Rights Movement, but we do.

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Brother Ali’s “The Travelers” and Early American Literature

 Brother Ali’s “The Travelers,” from his 2009 album US, serves as a way to bridge the gap, for students, between Early American literature and their current existence. Typically, I share this song with students to give them a contemporary perspective on the Middle Passage as we read Olaudah Equiano’s Narrative. The first verse provides a graphic picture of the Middle Passage then the life of enslaved Africans once they reached the shores of the United States. Reversing the point of view, the second verse comes from the perspective of the oppressors. This verse relates, in many ways, to other texts we have been looking at so far in my Early American literature survey course. Today, I want to take a moment and discuss how we can use this song in the classroom to help students draw connections between literature from over two hundred years ago and our present cultural milieu that sees the continuation of racism and oppression.

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Students and My Trip to the ICU!

“Dad! DAD! Daaaaaaad. . . ”

As I lay in my bed in the CVICU last week, I could not sleep. Partly because of the medicine I was on for my pneumonia, but also because the screams from another room, one which I could not see, penetrated the air. At various times throughout the night, I heard a man scream out for his dad in successively louder then dwindling tones. He would begin with a semi-scream, move to a loud plea, then gasp as the oscillating “a”s led to the fretful conclusion of the last entreaty to his invisible dad.

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