Category Archives: Education

The Real MVP On and Off The Court: LeBron James

By: Kelly Washington-Staff Writer, The Drive Student Blog

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Photo Credit: NBA.com

For LeBron James, social justice transcends sports stardom. A major example of that is the opening of James’s I Promise School for at risk students. James, who has won three NBA championships and four league-MVPs, called the school opening the greatest moment of his career.

The school selected area students from among those who trail their peers by a year or two in academic performance. “We did a random selection of all students who met that criteria, and got to make these awesome phone calls to parents and say, “How would you like to be part of something different, the I Promise School,” Keith Liechty, the Akron Public Schools’ liaison to James’ foundation, told USA Today.

Forty-three staffers will help run the I Promise School — including not just teachers but also a principal, assistant principal, four intervention specialists, plus a tutor, English as a second language teacher, music instructor, and gym teacher, USA Today reports. Classrooms will hold 20 students per teacher.

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Opening of I Promise School is a career-defining moment for LeBron James. Photo Credit: AboutTrendNews.com

 Unlike celebrities Sean “Diddy” Combs (founder of the Harlem Academy) and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose (co-founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy) who both backed charter schools, James’s I Promise School is a traditional public school. However it is anything but ordinary. Every incoming student will receive school supplies, uniforms, and bicycles. James was intent on giving every student a bike because his bike was an escape from the dangerous neighborhoods in which he was raised. “I know exactly what these 240 kids are going through,” James said in front of the new school. “I know the streets they walk. I know the trials and tribulations that they go through. I know the ups, the downs. I know everything that they dream about. I know all the nightmares that they have because I’ve been there. They’re the reason why this school is here today.”

The I Promise School days run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and the school year runs from July to May. There is also going to be a seven week summer session in which the school will provide STEM based camps. The students will be served breakfast, lunch, snacks and have access to a fitness trainer. Students also will spend time each day on social and emotional learning, and participate in a supportive circle after lunch to help them refocus so that they can get through the remainder of their day.

Since the school considers education to be not just for the pupil but for the whole family, it will offer GED classes and job placement assistance for parents and guardians.

“I think the missing link in public education is that family wraparound support,” said Brandi Davis, the school’s principal and Akron native. “Because our students come to school and they’re worried about things at home. … We want to create that safe, that secure and that caring and loving environment for our families and our students so that our kids can focus on education.”

Students get one other major benefit: If they successfully complete the school program and graduate from high school, James will cover their full tuition at the local public college, University of Akron.

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Students asked to make a pledge on the first day at the I Promise School. Photo Credit: TheWeeklyChallenger.com

The Akron school district expects to spend a total of $8.1 million over the next five years for the I Promise school, according to a report in Akron’s Beacon Journal. James’ family foundation will cover the costs of other extra school features, and with its partners has already contributed $2 million for building upgrades, extra staffing and other needs, the paper notes.

I don’t have a ceiling to how much I can improve my game,” James told ESPN. “And we as a foundation don’t have a ceiling on how much we can improve our community, to a point where we have a school.”

Sports Analyst Chris Broussard says on LeBron opening a public school on Akron, “LeBron James has set a new blueprint for African American athletes in what they can and should do to help their communities.”

What do you think? Has LeBron set a new precedence on how athletes can use their platform? Not bad for someone who was told to just, “Shut up, and dribble.”

Want to write and article for The Drive Student Blog? Please send your submissions to thedrivestudentblog58@gmail.com with “Article Submission,” in your title line.

–And remember,

Stay informed, open-minded, and driven

 

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3 Valuable Lessons We Didn’t Learn in School But Need to Know- Lesson 1: Credit is Power

By: Ashlee L. Lewis-Staff Writer, The Drive Student Blog

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Photo credit: Pexels.com

In my adult life, I’ve thought numerous times, “Why didn’t I learn this in school?” The traditional education system seems to be designed to prepare students for success in their chosen career paths and does little to aid in the preparation for independent living. One of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned outside of the classroom is that cash is king but credit is power. Our credit histories and scores are constantly being evaluated by creditors, varying from major cellphone companies to mortgage companies, to determine what lines of credit we qualify to receive. Since I didn’t learn about credit in school, I had to create my own classroom.

Find Your Teacher(s)

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Photo credit: ©YouTube.com

For as long as I can remember, both my Dad and my Aunt told me to manage my credit well. My Dad shared his own credit woes from early adulthood and encouraged me to make better decisions than he did when the time came to manage my own credit lines. My Aunt on the other hand, has successfully managed her credit from the age of 18, so her advice was more of an “imitate me and you too will succeed” type of message.  Both of them made it very clear that my credit score would impact my lifestyle in adulthood and that there is value in a high credit score. What neither my Dad nor my Aunt told me, however, was exactly how to accomplish this feat.

“What I learned, however, is that debt is not the enemy! In fact, creditors like to see activity on borrowers’ credit accounts because it shows a history of his/her credit management habits. Who knew?

After a few years of unsuccessfully trying to manage my credit on my own, I joined Facebook groups, subscribed to credit monitoring websites, and declined every credit card offer I received. For some reason, however, my credit score wasn’t increasing. It wasn’t until two years ago that I learned I was managing my credit all wrong. I’d been taught to avoid lines of credit because of interest rates and the potential decrease to my credit score if I’m unable to pay off the balances that I owed. What I learned, however, is that debt is not the enemy! In fact, creditors like to see activity on borrowers’ credit accounts because it shows a history of his/her credit management habits. Who knew?

Why Your Credit History Matters

In 2016, my Dad cosigned for my car loan and my credit score jumped over 50 points upon approval from the lender. By paying my full monthly car note either early or on time every month, I developed a positive payment history on my credit report. I also accepted three credit card offers and maintained the balances by using less than 30% of my available credit line. Through Facebook groups and my own research, I’ve learned that it’s better to allow my cards to report a balance so that lenders can see activity on my credit accounts. Once the balance is reported, I make sure to pay it off in full before the statement date so that I don’t have any interest added to the money I already owe the creditor. This process of allowing my low balances to report and also paying the balances in full before interest is applied has boosted my score from “fair” to “good” in less than a year. My “good” credit history and score allowed me to get utility bills in my name without needing a security deposit and to qualify for a low interest rate and monthly payments on a new car loan for a larger vehicle. Now when I go to apply for new lines of credit, creditors are more likely to approve me because I have a proven track record of successfully managing my debt.

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Photo credit: © http://www.premiercredco.com

VantageScore vs. FICO score

Our credit scores can change each month, so it’s important to use a credible source to keep track of your credit profile. Creditkarma.com is one of the most well-known and widely used credit monitoring sites because its users have free access to their credit reports and credit scores. The only issue is that it reports users’ VantageScore which can be drastically different (higher or lower) than the credit scores most lenders use to determine a borrower’s credit worthiness.  Myfico.com, however, requires a monthly payment for access to our FICO scores which are typically evaluated by creditors when we apply for lines of credit. The picture above displays how the two scores are calculated and what credit information is factored into the final numbers. While creditkarma.com is free to use, the benefits of having access to the credit information that most lenders typically use outweigh the burden of the required financial investment.

Be Proactive
Over the past few years, I have learned that it is imperative that we learn to manage our credit profiles well or they will limit us. Most young adults don’t take the time to learn about the importance of managing his/her credit until it’s either too late or until it’s needed. My hope is that reading this article, written by a 28 year old, inspires you to take a more aggressive approach when it comes to managing your credit. Don’t wait until life shows you that your credit score matters when you’re denied for a credit card or approved for a 20% interest rate on a $14,000 car loan. Invest the time and energy now into managing your credit information and reap the rewards because you deserve the lifestyle that a well-managed credit profile affords us.

Stay tuned for the next lesson that we didn’t learn in school but need to know.

–And remember,

Stay informed, open-minded, and driven

Chicago State University Honors Gwendolyn Brooks with 1st ever Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Festival

By: Micaela Shambee– Editor, The Drive

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— On Friday, April 13th 2018, at Chicago State University, the first Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Festival took place in honor of the late Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000). Held on the fourth floor of the recently renamed Gwendolyn Brooks Library, the day long event treated attendees to inspiring speeches and performances by young poets from High schools and Grammar schools across Chicago.

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The honorees, Nora Blakely (Gwendolyn Brooks’ daughter), Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press), and Emily Lansana (University of Chicago) gave rousing speeches, and shared stories of their experiences with Gwendolyn Brooks. In addition, attendees were treated to amazing performances by Chicago State University MFA students Reshay Ingram, and Jerimah Moore, spoken word community group Rebirth/Reborn and student poets from Wendell Philips Academy.

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Honoree-Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press)
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Honoree-Emily Lansana (University of Chicago)
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Honoree–Nora Blakely (Brooks Permissions)

Click here to see MFA Students Reading from our Facebook live: facebook.com/thedrivestudentblog

 

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The festival left attendees with a full understanding of the impact that Gwendolyn Brooks has had on Chicago State University, poetry, and children. Gwendolyn Brooks was known as the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her 1949 book Annie Allen. (Also paving the way for new Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar).

According to PoetryFoundation.org,

“Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most highly regarded, highly influential, and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry. She was a much-honored poet, even in her lifetime, with the distinction of being the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize. She also was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress—the first black woman to hold that position—and poet laureate of the State of Illinois. Many of Brooks’s works display a political consciousness, especially those from the 1960s and later, with several of her poems reflecting the civil rights activism of that period. Her body of work gave her, according to critic George E. Kent, ‘a unique position in American letters. Not only has she combined a strong commitment to racial identity and equality with a mastery of poetic techniques, but she has also managed to bridge the gap between the academic poets of her generation in the 1940s and the young black militant writers of the 1960s.’

Learn more about Gwendolyn Brooks at the PoetryFoundation.org

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Photo Credit: PoetryFoundation.org Gwendolyn Brooks at her typewriter. Courtesy of Getty Images.

The Gwendolyn Brooks Center

Also, check out the Gwendolyn Brooks Center to learn more about Brooks’ impact on Chicago State University in the Gwendolyn Brooks Library.

From the Library’s Website:

“Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing (GBC) was founded in 1990 on the historic campus of Chicago State University (CSU). It is named after Ms. Brooks, the former Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois and Distinguished Professor of English at Chicago State University. This Gwendolyn Brooks Conference for Black Literature and Creative Writing is sponsored by [sic] The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago State University College of Arts & Sciences.”

The Gwendolyn Brooks Creativity Festival Flyer Master Final Updated for Email
Design by Micaela Shambee for the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Festival

Did you attend the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Festival? What was your favorite moment? Who was your favorite speaker? Sound off in the comments below!

–And remember,

 

Stay informed, open-minded, and driven.

Event Photos courtesy of The Drive Student Blog and Dr. Kelly Norman Ellis (Chicago State University)

 

Natural Hair: Why Aren’t You Accepted? By Tian Taylor

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Imagine being told that the natural texture of your hair is accepted only in recreational facilities.  This means you cannot wear your hair in its natural texture to school, work, or any other professional institutions/facilities.  A person who is being told this may respond, “Why?”  Imagine the response is, “Well it is a distraction, not manicured. It’s unattractive and not accepted.” Assume the person with natural hair conforms and says, ” Ok. Well how should I wear my hair?” The response? “Well you’ll wear it normal, manicured, attractive…basically the complete opposite of your natural texture. Now that… is more acceptable.” This is the solution that people of color (globally) are given when their natural texture is displayed in non-recreational facilities.

In  2016, centuries after the abolishment of slavery and decades after the abolishment of discriminatory laws (mainly in the developed countries), the average person would believe that those who reside in developed countries, who often  take pride in their values of amalgamation, would not face this type of issue. Unfortunately, coiled hair (depending on the tightness) is not accepted in certain institutions. For several weeks,  there were  protest in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which black students at an all-girl’s school, Pretoria High school, were protesting against racist policies that prevent them from wearing their hair in its natural texture, as well as policies that even prevent them from speaking  their native language. Just think of the  fact that Africans are fighting to be African in Africa! These girls are unfortunately left with the ultimatum of  attending  ‘creditable” education that offers  he best education, but they have to assimilate to Eurocentric standards or not  assimilate. Unfortunately these  (private schools) schools are the ones that inflict these rules and regulations.

You also have these regulations at institutions right here in the United States.   In corporate America, employees cannot wear their hair at its natural state. The  many corporate policies  often state  that hair cannot have volume, braids, or be a distraction to the work place.   For example, in 2013, a 12-year-old girl named Vanessa Vandyck was told she had to change her hair otherwise she would be expelled for not following the schools’ dress code which stated …hair cannot be a distraction and it has to be its natural color.  In the Dominican Republic, Carolina Contreras opened a salon to cater to Afro-Latinas to embrace their natural hair.  Shortly after, a 16-year girl who came to her for a short hair cut, called her hysterically after stating that she could not enter a privileged high school that she applied for because of her afro.

In addition to these previous examples, there are numerous accounts of people being told that their natural hair is not accepted all over the world. This issue is much deeper than just hair. A lot of women and men wear their coils at its natural state because it not only displays that this person is accepting their natural self, but also appreciating their African ancestry and not hiding it. However, not everyone feels the same.  Natural hair is not only rejected in many areas, but sometimes it is not accepted by ones’ family. The standard of Europeanized beauty has become so globally prominent that some Black mothers or fathers have agreed to not accept natural hair. Or natural hair does not exude a professional appearance.  This is not just an American or South African concern; this is a societal issue in which society does not accept natural hair because society does accept African centered beauty.  There are often times in which it is appropriated, but not accepted. So my question is why do you fear something as minuscule or as simple as a person allowing their hair to grow naturally from their head? What does this represent for you?

 

Introduction for a Curriculum and Instruction Discussion by Chardel

Early in life practicing and enunciating words can be a chore that sometimes make beginning learners give up and find clever and ingenious ways of camouflaging illiteracy. Others become so infatuated with the challenge that they developed a lifestyle of building and learning enormous vocabularies. The rest of us simply falls somewhere between the two.

Listening to babies talk for the first time is just so cute. They babble on and on as though communication is taking place, but no true verbalization of real word is comprehensive to the people around. My grandniece goes on and on making sounds. We would respond by saying, “Aah, that’s right. That is right. You don’t say.” Our response causes her baby talk to enhanced with excitement and vigor as though she is really communicating. No real communication is taking place. We have no clue what she is expressing, if she is trying to express anything. Communication takes place when an idea or thought is expressed and it is comprehended by those who it was expressed to. If it is not understood, misunderstood or not heard then communication did not take place.

The pronunciation of the terms curriculum and instruction are initially difficult when first learned. Understanding their importance in education is not always translucent, but learning their purpose makes it essential in the learning process of becoming an educator.

The curriculum that the educational system develop and utilize for training educators to teach and instruct students has undergone trends and reconstructions to improve various failures in the educational system for decades. For instance, between 2011 to 2015 Chicago Public Schools (CPS), high school dropout rate has decrease from 42 to 35 percent. Although listening to babies learns how to speak are heart warming, watching educators, students, and young adults fumble and stumble in the system are not humorous. The following link gives a small report on the issue.

(http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-school-graduation-rate-change-met-1002-20151001-story.html)

Social media, personal ambitions, spontaneous opportunities, and passions are drives that forces children and adults attempt to over come the up hill battle of learning missed lessons from the early years of school. Call it maturity, hindsight, or the determination and to teach yourself (self-educated). These posts are geared toward solutions that make the challenges of learning and teaching fun, entertaining with the success of a literate adult population.

(http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2011/12/08/high-school-dropout-rates)

New confusing policies implemented after decades of failures in the school system are seldom excepted with enthusiasm by disappointed parents and children. When unknown and unfavorable programs received with skepticism and someone of authority finally states the dismal results, the experts in the educational field opinions will not be valued. Finger pointing, placing blame have been a seventy year old game between the administrators, teachers, students, parents, and the system as a whole.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc&list=PL9TCVt-CdNHaKubj4IQWHQxCkG87ZFemA)

Next time lets look at, talk about, and find some success stories, are there any?

Why Not Women’s Studies?

By: Kathrine Popielarz

As another wave of feminism appears to be sweeping the nation, especially in an election year with a prominent female candidate running for president, it seems appropriate to examine the emerging field of gender and women’s studies. According to the National Women’s Studies Association, Women’s Studies examines how sexuality, race, class, gender, age, ability, and structures of inequality are mutually constituted. It also looks at cultures, structures, and relationships that are formed as a result of the flow of people and resources across geopolitical borders.

There are a number of minor programs offered across U.S. colleges, including here in the Chicagoland area. Universities such as UIC, Bradley, and Concordia University all offer minors in Gender and Women’s Studies. However, the history of feminism and women’s oppression is certainly extensive enough to provide coursework beyond a minor. With this in mind here is a list of Chicagoland schools that offer Bachelor’s degrees (and more) in Gender and Women’s Studies:

DePaul University
Program: Women’s and Gender Studies
Website: http://las.depaul.edu/academics/womens-and-gender-studies/Pages/default.aspx

The program at DePaul emphasizes the “interconnectedness of systems and structures of gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ability, culture, religion and nation within broader historical, social, global, and transnational contexts.” They offer a number of incarnations of Women’s and gender studies from a four course certificate program to a master’s degree.

Loyola University
Program: Women’s Studies and Gender Studies
Website:
http://www.luc.edu/wsgs/academics/undergraduatemajor/

Loyola offers a minor, Bachelor’s, and master’s in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies. They also encourage students to include women’s studies as a second major or as a minor due to the fact that it is interdisciplinary and connects to many different majors.

Northwestern University
Program: Gender & Sexuality Studies Program
Website: http://www.gendersexuality.northwestern.edu/undergraduate/degree-requirements/major.html

This program  “offers students a comprehensive understanding of the intersections between gender studies and sexuality studies…[and] their relation to historical and contemporary feminist and LGBT activism.” The program at Northwestern has a larger sexuality component to it than the other programs listed here, but it still provides an examination of gender across disciplines. Northwestern offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in this field.

Although Women’s Histoty Month has come and gone and Hilary Clinton may not be your candidate for this year’s election, there is certainly no reason to stop celebrating women’s accomplishments or continuing to make strides in female empowerment. If you don’t become a women’s studies major, then there are still plenty of ways to get educated about feminism and women’s rights. However, there are plenty of reasons to study the discipline, and as women progress today it is never a bad idea to see where they came from  and how far they traveled.

SOURCES:

http://www.campusexplorer.com/colleges/major/031007B4/Area-Ethnic-Cultural-and-Gender-Studies/35172530/Womens-Studies/

http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/programs.html

http://study.com/search/find.html?c1=200&c2=2859&c3=2866&q=2-24&schoolType=state&zip=&state=IL&sf=1

Ain’t I a Student?

By: Keyontai Redding

In honor of the college students who are suffering due to the budget crisis and in respect to abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”

Well students, where there is so much racket, there must be something awry!

I think between the students of Chicago State and the students of Governor’s State, all talking about student rights..the white man will be in a fix pretty soon!

Whats this I hear?

That man over there said that a student should have an education because an education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today!

I woke up and packed my book bag.  I have all the books I need for each class, and I remembered to grab my ten-page paper off the printer that’s due today. And in my hand I carry that passport so

Ain’t I  a student?

Look at me! Look at my hands! In these hands I hold my pens, my notes in my notebook, my high school diploma, my associate’s degree, and I’m preparing for my bachelor’s degree,

so Ain’t I a student?

I have paid for my education with grants, and loans, and some money out of my pocket

so Ain’t I a student?

I have been getting a education (good or bad) for going on 19 years…

so Ain’t I a student?

Then they talking about this thing in the head…what they call it??

Intellect!

Well let me tell you what that’s got to do with student rights or black rights!

I know that the word “ain’t” can’t be used in my ten-page papers, or on my graduation application or in my cover letter or on my resume! Why?  Because it’s not Standard American English but African American Vernacular English, so it’s not only a  student right but a black right to use it right now!

Intellect taught me that…so Ain’t I a Student?

Intellect also taught me that some people don’t want my black behind to get a education and that’s part of the reason why they want to close my predominantly black school , but if a black student need to complete two more levels of education to have the same probability of getting a job as their white peers, then wouldn’t it be mean not to let me get my little two more levels of education?

Because, Ain’t I a Student?

Then that man in the back wearing black  said a student should have a education because education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.

The first black educated men and women was strong enough to turn the world  Upside Down..ALL ALONE, Well us students here together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up AGAIN..and  WE asking to do it!

But “THE MAN” won’t let US!

Being a Full-Time Student and Revolutionary: Roles, Revolution & Education

 

By: Johnetta Anderson

“As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.” – Carter G. Woodson

Revolution: a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

Student protesting and revolution is nothing new. Black elders and ancestors left great examples of resisting while obtaining an education. Many of our elders who were active in Black Liberation Movements now hold degrees from prestigious colleges and universities. After their involvement in sit-ins, peaceful protests, and boycotts, many of those young revolutionaries went on to become lawyers, professors, teachers, politicians, historians, mentors, and scholars. Many of those revolutionaries used their college education to work for their communities. The role of the Black student is to be a revolutionary, and the role of a revolutionary is to be a student. Our goal as Black students should be to use the education we receive in our career field to help our people.

I’ve been in conversations with comrades who believe that if everyone is not on the front line protesting and marching, then they are somehow not involved in the movement. This is indeed false. There are many roles in revolution. Black people are massively oppressed. As a Black college student and revolutionary, sometimes I struggle with my role in the movement. Where should I be? How should I fight against injustice when the fight is so huge? Here’s what I am learning, we have to use our professions (or intended professions) to fight for revolution and change. Example, I am an English major, and I am studying to become a professor (a cool ass professor). Because of my intended profession, I am always thinking of ways to revamp curriculum to teach African American authors and writers. To me, this is revolution. Although it is not publicized or interesting to the media, it is a form of change. What good is being on the front line marching, if our children are being educated by the enemy? They are both important and vital for Black liberation. Those who are working with youth as teachers, coaches, teaching artists, and facilitators of After school programs are apart of revolution.

One of the things that made the civil rights movement so powerful aside from the protesters is the people who were not marching, but they were affiliated. When lawyers were needed, there were Black lawyers who believed in the movement and were on call for jailed revolutionaries. There were artists who did not march, but provided the theme song, or poem, or painting, or picture for the movement. Doctors and nurses are important. When government closes trauma centers, there should be enough doctors who believe in the movement, to create our own healthcare centers in our neighborhoods. In this day and age when protesting has become the center of media attention, we must also keep in mind that education is important. We cannot afford to turn people away from the movement because they are not involved in peaceful protesting. We need nurses, doctors, lawyers, educators, rappers, poets, authors, photographers, businessmen/women, etc. We also need bail money for protesters.

We have to learn to see the revolution as a long term fight. Because we view revolution as a short term thing, we create short term goals. We also create short term sayings, “I’ll die for revolution” or “I’ll die for the people.” We have to learn how to live for the people and for revolution. What kind of revolutionary will we be at 60 years old or 70 when we don’t have the physical ability to march and protest. Once we learn to view this fight as long term, then we’ll start to invest in finding different solutions to the many problems we face as oppressed people.

 

 

Chicago State University Closing is a Huge Loss for Minority Scholars by Angel Johnson

Chicago State University Closing is a Huge Loss for Minority Scholars

It is my last semester as a graduate student and I am still in a bit of shock. I have been trying to complete the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program for over three years. At times, I did not think I would ever be able to finish. It wasn’t all about me. I am a first generation college graduate. It was important for me to be the first person in my family to earn an advanced degree. I wanted to show the next generation that it was possible to transcend your surroundings and achieve goals.

It was right around the time that I enrolled for my final semester that news of Chicago State University’s funding crisis started to make national headlines. Family members and friends called me asking if I would finish after all. I told them yes but I was devastated. It was sad to think that my last semester at the Chicago State University might be the semester that the school was open.

I wanted to finish the MFA program more than anything but ultimately it was not just the degree that mattered after all. What I gained from my experience during the program was worth more than any academic achievement. I found my voice as a writer, educator and human being. I studied writers and artists who I could relate to because they looked, sounded, and experienced the world like I did.

My undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago was indeed well respected however I was always a minority first and a student second. Writing workshops were hit or miss. I often struggled  with challenges that none of my classmates or instructors could give me advice with. I was fortunate enough to receive a full scholarship however it was extremely difficult.

So I decided to enroll in the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program. I always loved writing and although I work in an industry altogether different, it is still my passion. I had many other challenges in my personal life so I knew that it was a good possibility that I might not complete the program. I looked forward to attending the writing workshops once a week during the evenings. I was able to critique and motivate my classmates and strengthen my writing techniques. I studied under writers such as Nnedi Okorafor, Quarash Lansana, and Kelly Norman Ellis. I was able to learn how to teach creative writing at the collegiate level from Dr. Conchetta Williams. It is empowering to know that if I ever wanted to pursue a career in writing, I have the training to do so. I grew more confident in my abilities with every semester.

In my second year, my job began requiring weekend work and my schedule became too hectic for me to continue the program part time. I took the year off but continued to write. Eventually, I found a company with a regular nine to five schedule and resumed my classes. When I realized just how close I was to finishing the program, I felt so surprised. I had made it. My classmates were in similar situations. They were juggling full time jobs, some had children, or elderly parents. We were all coming across the finish line. Of course, finishing the program this semester is bittersweet because of the loss of state funding to Chicago State University. As I conclude my program, the university might be closing as well. CSU, a mecca for minority students, will no longer be an option for first generation graduates like myself to achieve their educational goals.