Black History Month is the perfect space to reflect on the intersection of the “power of learning” and “positive social change” both important cultural markers of Paradise Valley Community College. Unfortunately for many of us, our understanding and celebration of Black History Month can and often times defaults to a shallow understanding and appreciation of the iconic historical figures and events that mark the African-American experience over the past four hundred years. Here are several events to reflect on and subsequent questions that merit further individual exploration.
What do we really know about the Supreme Court ruling in 1954 of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka – Why did it take multiple follow up court opinions to fully enact the findings of the first Brown ruling? Who argued the case before the Supreme Court and how did his work lead to a future appointment to the court? Why do schools in the United States remain largely segregated?
Some history books paint a picture of Rosa Parks as being “…just too tired to change seats on that fateful bus” – which we know is not true. What formal and informal training prepared Rosa Parks for her historical role in the 1955-1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama?
If we were to read Dick Gregory’s 1971 book No More Lies; The Myth and the Reality of American History, what would we learn about African-American History that would challenge our truths about American history?
Given our commitment, albeit wavering at times, to diversity and inclusion at PVCC, what can we do to encourage a greater diversity of students to participate in programs like Emerging Leaders, Diversity Inc., or Club Z to leverage “positive social change?” Additionally, how do we engage students to more fully understand and appreciate the depth of Black history so that this month’s celebration is not just an isolated marginalized experience? It is the “power of learning” especially for those of us less informed, that will radically change the future of America for all.
I look forward to seeing you at the Black History Month Celebration Luncheon, 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, February 14 in KSC 1000.
Please take a few minutes and view my Welcome Week video blog post. This edition covers much deserved thank yous, an update on the leadership agenda for the next several weeks, and a brief reflection on our role in promoting student success.
During Tuesday’s Convocation message, I referenced an op ed piece in the December 29, 2017 New York Times by David Desteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University. His piece argued for the human traits beyond willpower and grit that lead to self-improvement and a better life. He suggested that there are social emotions that sustain self/life improvement including: building stronger human bonds and relationships, exercising gratitude, showing more compassion, and acknowledging the skills and values of others as they influence our own lives.
In recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s national holiday, please take some time to reflect on several of his noteworthy quotes in the context of these social emotions.
Stronger human bonds and relationships – behave as good partners
“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.”
“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
Make people feel proud
“Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”
I urge all of us to reflect, especially this weekend, on PVCC’s continued aspiration of positive social change by honoring and acting on Dr. King’s relentless commitment to civil and human rights.
This fall semester we’ve successfully launched our 30th Anniversary Celebration activities, initiated work around the implementation of Guided Pathways, furthered our efforts to embed critical thinking across the curriculum, and substantially increased our outreach presence in the community.
For all of this good work – in addition to the daily efforts to bring learning alive and ensure student success – please accept my heartfelt thank you. My further thanks are shared in this Finals Week video message. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO1HViff6G0
Best wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday break.
Those of us who were able to attend Reyes Medrano’s Celebration of Life service today heard in-person the impact Reyes made on all those he touched throughout his life. Often times we compartmentalize our teaching and learning lives in a box – whether in an academic subject matter space, the defined role as a faculty member, or the physical college itself. While I was blessed to know Reyes for over 20 years and “counseled” by him during a number of walks across campus, it was not until today that I fully appreciated his humanity.
Reyes touched all of us in the greater context of right and wrong, loving compassion for those historically left-out, and on a more personal level our own innate – yet unrealized – human potential. I know now that he was not really helping me become a better college president, he was helping me become a better person. I know now more fully that you can live a life of positive social change – not through self-proclamation, but by living a life of good social deeds as evidenced by action. Through the remembrances shared today of Reyes, I know now more fully that human relations transcend labels, roles, and status to a place of committed embrace and respect.
Reyes’s Celebration of Life was officiated by PVCC’s founding president, Dr. John Cordova, who challenged all of us to carry on in a life of friendship, mentorship and most of all service. Perhaps it is unfortunate that it takes a celebration of the life of our colleague to be reminded of the greater purposes we all have.