Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Road to Bristol Part One: The Collegiate Fantasy

I am entirely unable to remember how I spent last year's Memorial Day weekend. I know that the year before I was playing in a softball tournament with the Slammers in the suburbs of Minneapolis. But, I have been sitting here, pounding my head into the suburban walls that surround me, and I keep getting one of those old DOS “Run Time Error” messages flashing in my long term memory.

It was bound to happen one of these days. It doesn't help that I also found two gray hairs in my chin pubes this morning.

Last weekend, David said to me that he thought we should visit his parents in Connecticut. I was immediately excited as in the world of relationships...meeting the parents is a big old deal. Meeting David's parents was an especially big deal as they are about a decade older than my own parents, completely supportive of David but most definitely without the fag hag tendencies of my own Mother, and David had mentioned before that he had other concerns about my comfortability with some older fashioned notions and experencies around racial issues that may or may not come up.

After an amazing job interview on Friday morning, one where I walked away feeling not only proud of myself but that the fit was simply right, David and I hopped on the Metro North train and headed towards Hartford. To say that the landscape was picturesque would be a disserve that reduced it to a two dimensional copy of life. This was the real deal. From old colonial homes to brick factories that had to date from the Industrial Revolution and textile manufacturing era of old Connecticut, we passed through enormous wealth, quaint towns, and poverty strewn micro-ghettos as we made our way to Waterbury, CT. As someone that is completely enamored with history and the creation of stories, I was in awe.

At one point, the train passed between a campus of old stone brick buildings. It was clear that at one point cargo and perhaps even passenger trains must have stopped at the abandoned factory. It was in the middle of a small set of woods, outside of one of a dozen small towns, along side a wide meandering river. It was beautiful. I turned to David and expressed that if I had the resources it would be just a place that I would buy and turn into an amazing college that focused on social justice education. I would have a College of Art and Justice, a College of Social Justice Sciences, and a College of the Science of Social Change.

The College of Art and Justice would focus on a variety of art forms paired with theories of social change and would graduate artists that understood that art is political and that art can be, has been, and should be use to express and push a framework of justice. The College of Social Justice Sciences would offering hard science programs, such as chemistry, genomics, biology, and other sciences that finally admitted that for all its talk of objectivity that Western science is extremely subjecetive, reflects societal biases to some extent, and is often used for means that have nothing to do with the fomentation of peace and justice. My College of Social Justice Sciences would focus on cutting edge science with an eye towards graduating scientists that understood the role that science can play for making society better and how it has been used and continues to be used to create massive inequities. And, finally, the College of the Science of Social Change would graduate language majors, literature majors, historians, and other social scientists that learned, used, framed, and re-framed the social sciences as tools for creating a just society rather than pathologizing history, the masses, and individuals.

Finally, my dream college would have two graduate programs: Justice Faith and Theology and a fine arts degree in Spoken Word Poetry and Hip Hop Theater. I believe that so much of our world and nation revolves around faith...whether organized religion or faith traditions. While there are many institutions that use a fundamentalist framework for understanding faith paths, I would have a school that carried on an ancient tradition of liberation theologies but paired with the use of modern communication forms and forums to transmit essential faith lessons and ways of being that intersect with, support, and expand social justice. As well, of course, I would provide advanced training to poets and hip hop theater artists that are already using these art forms to impact, widely, society. This would give space to talented and profound theater artists and poets to take out time for reflection, strategy, craft development, and performances that would expand the use, power, and scope of these essential justice based art forms.

David sat and listened as I explained much of my higher education dream. Inspired by the beauty and poverty outside of the train, I was able to articulate, orally, for the first time not only the dream but why I felt this type of institution was necessary. We need a place of higher education that, from its inception, is based on a clear, unapologetic, inquiry and expression of social justice values. We need a place that takes what has been started at many college campuses, ie the exploration of ideals and a fascination with issues of justice, and systemitize them and give young people with a bent for justice to strategize with other like minded folks as a systemic part of their education. It is something like Warren Wilson College, which is an institution with a social justice emphasis, but honing it and beginning from a place that grows from justice values instead of evolving into those values. Imagine starting with a core set of beliefs that say justice must be....and watching it grow, evolve, and change from there.


  1. Awesome. I hope to see that dream take shape.

  2. Thank you Noel! I hope so too...I just need to come up with a half billion dollars or so ;-)


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