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Howard Professor To Keynote Program

NEW BRITAIN —  Howard University Professor Abdul Karim Bangura will be the keynote speaker at Central Connecticut State University’s Center for Africana Studies’ Black History Month lecture on Feb. 28.

As part of its recognition of African American History Month, Central will present its ninth annual AMISTAD Distinguished Lecture Series in Founders Hall, located in Davidson Hall, from 3 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.

Bangura is a professor of Research Methodology and Public Policy at Howard University, will talk about “The Life and Times of the Amistad Returnees to Sierra Leone and Their Impact: A Pluridisciplinary Exploration.”

Bangura is also a researcher-in-residence on Abrahamic Connections and Islamic Peace Studies at the Center for Global Peace at American University in Washington, DC. He holds doctorates in political science, development economics, linguistics, computer science, and mathematics.

He is a former president of the Association of Third World Studies at the United Nations and for a time served as that organization’s ambassador to the U.N.  Over the years, he has written 65 books and over 550 scholarly articles.

Along with being fluent in 12 African and six European languages, Dr. Bangura has earned many awards for his teaching, scholarly works and community service.

The lecture is sponsored by CCSU’s Center for Africana Studies For more information, please contact Dr. Olusegun Sogunro at 860-832-2131 or Dr. Gloria Emeagwali at 860- 832-2815.

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Dr. Ann-Marie Adams to Speak at Otis Library

NORWICH — Historian Dr. Ann-Marie Adams will present a Women’s History program at Otis Library on March 10.

The event will include a talk distilled from her dissertation while at Howard University. Her dissertation, Sheff v. O’Neill: The Troubled Legacy of  School Segregation in Connecticut, was published in 2010 and is the first serious scholarship that examines the full arc of the socio-political history of blacks in Connecticut from colonial period to the twentieth century.

The program, “Sarah Harris: Courage and Commitment in the Quest for ‘a little more’ Education” will begin at 6 p.m.

Her talk on Thursday will detail Prudence Crandall’s fight against the prevailing racist sentiment of antebellum Connecticut after she opened the first school for black women in 1833.  Crandall’s courage is heralded across the nation and inspired a museum in Canterbury, Conn.  But the courageous act of Sarah Harris is rarely examined, or heralded in public, Adams said.  In her presentation, the journalist and historian will discuss the role of Harris, the young black girl who dared to ask for a “little more” education in the ongoing quest for citizenship.

Adams’ presentation is also the first to examine race, gender and class in antebellum Connecticut and the complex but simple relationship between two women: Crandall and Harris.

This program is free and open to the public.

For more information, please call (860) 889-2365, ext. 128.

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Connecticut Students Still Waiting For Superman

By Ann-Marie Adams, Op-Ed

It was a noble plan: screen the latest film about America’s failing schools and hope to spark meaningful dialogue in Hartford, Connecticut, home of the nation’s widest academic achievement gap.

Last Wednesday at Bow Tie Cinemas in Hartford, that plan failed.

During the almost two-hour screening of the gut-wrenching documentary, Waiting For Superman, the audience winced, sighed and cried as they watched on screen five families (four are working-class black and Latino. One is white and middle-class) struggle for access to quality education for their children. Except for a few announcements afterward, the audience remained reticent about a film that had received plenty of media buzz.

Education advocates will not give up, however. In the coming months, other reform-minded individuals and groups in Connecticut will use this film as a catalyst for conversations about the lack of progress to fix Connecticut’s failing schools and to eliminate the achievement gap, a catch phrase lobbed around to describe the fact that some students’ national test scores are low and others are not; that more than 50 percent of students in some school districts drop out of high school and even fewer go on to four-year colleges.

Education advocates are also mindful that the storyline in Superman is not new. After watching the film, some parents became frustrated. It didn’t take long for them to realize the documentary was an old story repackaged as something new.

When pressed for comments about what they had seen in the film, the audience sat in awkward silence. Minutes later, one woman from Waterbury punctured that silence. And she was blunt.

“I’ve seen The Lottery. Now this,” she said referring to the other documentary, which tells the story of low-income students in the Newark, New Jersey school district entering a lottery to win spots at top performing charter schools. “I’m not going to anymore of these screenings. I’m frustrated that there is still no change. Let’s talk about the resistance out there.”

No one did.

They talked around it, though.

State Rep. Doug McCrory added:

“Let’s deal with the reality here,” he said. “We have studied the problem. And we know the solution.”

But there was no discussion about what exactly the problem is.

And although Davis Guggenheim’s documentary zeroes in on the political underpinnings of America’s public educational system, it presents an ahistorical view of contemporary poor, black and brown students fighting for quality education.

Davis’s documentary presented the story as though those children’s troubled situation popped up in 2010. However, the reform-minded filmmaker concluded that the issue is complex and the powerful teacher’s union is at the crux of the problem. He might be true. But the lingering problem is that the filmmaker puts that problem in a vacuum and apparently has forgotten that past is prologue.

That’s because America has a history of not educating some of its students; that less than 50 years ago, there were vicious verbal and physical attacks on those who tried to integrate schools after the Supreme Court decided in 1954 that separate schools were unequal and therefore unconstitutional; that immediately there was white flight from city schools after some states implemented the first phase of the Brown remedies.

More than 50 years after the Brown decision, Connecticut has New England’s only ongoing school desegregation case because the state is moving with deliberate speed (translation: slow) to enforce court mandated remedies. Plaintiffs in Hartford’s 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill case will return to Court this month for a status conference about the implementation of the court-mandated remedies.

Those remedial efforts—even though it would benefit all students—are moving at glacial speed, mostly because of a strong resistance to regionalism—a true solution that would give children access and choices to quality schools, many argue.

But there’s a larger—and more insidious– issue at play. And it’s also an inconvenient truth: many people think some students cannot learn, especially students who are black and brown. This sentiment is undeniably the classic definition of racism. Embedded in this notion is that these students are intellectually inferior. And no matter which charter school pops up and produces all college-bound students, intellectual inferiority among these children will persist when they go on to college and enter the workforce. That’s because the idea that some people are inferior is deeply ingrained in the psyche of many white people—and increasingly some black and brown people—that not all students can learn. And there’s nothing soft about this kind of bigotry.

In April 2009 after the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network ran an episode of Where We Live with host John Dankosky about the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Sheff lawsuit, an anonymous commentator posted this on the radio’s website:

“The cognitive abilities of these poor descendants of agri-workers will not increase no matter where you attempt to educate them for the greater part.”

(See more here—link).

Davis does not address the issues of the kind of race or bigotry displayed by that anonymous commentator, but he chooses instead to focus on the economic implications of this familiar American story about the ongoing struggle for quality education.

In the coming weeks, there will be more forums and debates among whites who have ideas about how to create a solution for everyone, including the majority of black and brown students in “drop out factories.” This kind of paternalistic behavior in Connecticut continues to foster the belief that only whites can be Superman. The students get that. The adults get it, too. But most of them can only silently oppose this kind of showmanship displayed by top business and civic leaders in the area.

But know this: If Connecticut is to close the achievement gap, it ought to start first with candid dialogue with racially and economically diverse stakeholders. As an education reporter and educator, I’ve been to many conversations about education. And I have yet to see that in all the talks and forums I’ve been to in the last decade. Feeble attempts at dialogue will not effect change, nor create an environment for anyone to boldly “speak truth to power.” It’s going to take many current leaders with political will to speak and act boldly

And while we wait for individuals already in key positions to act decisively, Connecticut’s children continue to wait for Superman.

Ann-Marie Adams is a Ph.D. Candidate at Howard University and is writing about the Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit.

Ann-Marie Adams | Create Your Badge

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