Once upon a Thanksgiving Day, Morton Curtis Van Allen and his loving wife Sarah Cecilia Scott conceived a baby boy composing an ethnic composition of 5/10 African, 4/10 European, and 10% Native American. (Ancestry.com, and 23 and Me, 2016). On Sunday, August 3, 1953, at 1:43 a.m., Michael Anthony Van Allen was born on a small, exotic island where he became a competitive swimmer. The island’s dimensions are less than 14 miles by 2.5 miles, or smaller than the NJ township of Mahwah. Manhattan, the island of his birth is where his maternal grandfather was a teacher and Jazz musician. This child, of the civil rights era, lived in the Abraham Lincoln high rise, public housing projects in the heart of Harlem (1980 Park Avenue on West 135th Street Apt # 5F between Amsterdam and Lenox Avenues) where his very pretty, loving and protective mother was the recipient of the "1953 Lincoln Houses Mother of the Year award."
His mother Sarah addressed the social and economic inequities plaguing the United States when she served her community as a parent coordinator for the federally funded, anti-poverty Head Start Program. She later worked for the federal government's welfare program where she assisted the poor and underemployed. Assistance extended through a variety of government welfare programs that include Medicaid, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). She was a welfare caseworker and provided food stamps for low-income families.
Sarah is the eldest of nine girls and four brothers. Her siblings in order of birth are Betty Johnson, Connie Besson, Norma (married to a percussionists named Pinky for his fair complexion), Lorraine Davenport, Carol, Elaine, Cecil (the first son, who is also a saxophonists), Ronald (who dated the famous actress Leslie Uggums), Annette, Richard, Barbara Smalls and Michael's youngest uncle Darryl - who Michael was closest to. These dozen uncles and aunts yielded Michael with 35 first cousins.
Sonny, Michael's father, was a proud man of immense character and intellect. He was a trailblazer for leaders like former Secretary of State General Colin Powell - who is from the same Bronx neighborhood. Morton lived in the Bronx during the Great Depression that began with the Wall Street Crash of October, 1929 and rapidly spread worldwide. After graduating as the Salutatorian from Morris High School in the South Bronx neighborhood, Sonny voluntarily joined the United States Army at seventeen years of age, followed by the Four-Star General Colin Powell who was in the military from age seventeen as an ROTC cadet, and graduated from the same High School. Michael’s dad served honorably in combat as a sergeant in World War II, within a racially segregated United States Army. Ironically, he returned home to fight for democracy and his own human freedoms in the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s.
Black folk fought in WWII with the expectation that the country was going to change its policy towards the civil rights of its black American citizens. When they returned home, they found out that the country had no intentions on changing its policy - and went out of its way in many ways to let them know that- that was not going to happen. There were certain cases where veterans were in serious trouble. A young man Isaac Woodard, down in Carolina had his eyes gouged out while he was still in uniform on a bus. Two veterans were shot and killed by the KKK, a domestic Christian terrorist group in Monroe, Georgia, while walking with their wives along a road while in uniform. The young man, Mapes, was killed trying to vote in Georgia. Rosalee Ingram whose sons had killed a white man because the white man had molested her, and various other causes lead to somebody being put on the chain gang, or somebody being lynched,
Consequences of McCarthyism devastated many in the struggle for justice, equality and freedom. McCarthyism sparked the genesis of many activist such as; Ossie and Ruby Dee Davis, Paul Robeson, the Rosenbergs and scores of others, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Michael’s dad participated in the "March to Washington" where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the historic "I Have a Dream" speech to a nation captivated by his message. 1953 was an incredibly productive year!
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953
1953 was an intriguing year that produced great things. The Korean War settled, and the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case against racially segregated schools in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. The double helical structure of DNA was discovered. The transistor was invented, and the polio vaccination was produced. The first successful open-heart surgery was performed, and the top of Mt. Everest was conquered. James Baldwin published “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “The Old Man and the Sea.” The first McDonald's restaurant opened; the first edition of Playboy magazine hit the newsstands with a nude Marilyn Monroe gracing the cover, and Rock & Roll first topped the musical charts.
Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Michael’s family moved from the New York, the Empire State, and into the neighboring Garden State of New Jersey. Michael severed his relationship with his Boys’ Cubs Pack – just one year shy of becoming a Boy Scout in Harlem Troop #540. In fifth grade and ten-years of age, he continued reading Boy’s Life magazine while he developed a novel relationship with a cute girl named Betty Waters. Betty was in Michael’s class and conveniently lived right next door. They would play outside until they got tired. Michael would then, phone her from his house, and ask her, “Would you go with me?” She would always say, “OK” and they would both immediately say “good-bye” and hang up the phone. That was the full extent of the conversation as well as the cordial relationship. They would play outside again on following Saturday afternoons, at some point, for whatever reason, she would decide to exercise one of her feminine prerogatives, and she would say, “I quit you!” Then, that would be the conclusion of the cordial relationship, until Michael called again. Until this day, there was never a kiss, never a hug, never even a handshake, just merely a question from him, followed by two statements from her.
Then one day, they played “Post Office” - the classic kissing game consisting of a postman and a recipient. The postman would go into the coatroom and call out the recipient to receive her package. The postman would deliver a letter (one kiss), an airmail, (two kisses), or a special deliver (three kisses). A small group of boys and girls were up the street in the Irving’s house, and Michael called Betty for Post Office and ceased the only opportunity ever to delivered her a kiss; he made that an air mail delivery.
THE BALLOT OR THE BULLET
You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
On April 3, 1964, Malcolm X, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, a Pan-African, anti-white supremacist offered America the option of the “Ballot or the Bullet.” Mainstream public propaganda had deliberately mischaracterized Malcolm as a man of violence, in spite of the fact that he never committed any violent acts and he was actually the victim of violence himself. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) murdered his father by having a speeding train run over him while tied to the railroad tracks, Malcolm's house was firebombed while his young daughters were home, and he and Dr. King were both violently assassinated by gunfire. Malcolm merely stood up and demanded life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by “any means necessary." The KKK is a White Supremacist, American Christian terrorist group founded in 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln legally freed the enslaved Black people from bondage. America was force to make a decision regarding the descendants of Africa- that she stole, raped, terrorized, murdered, lynched, tortured and enslaved for centuries. Her choice was to either continue the illegal, immoral and savage treatment that began about 1619 or begin to recognize these native-born inhabitants with their constitutional citizenry and international human rights. America had the benefit of a strategic alternative between a Mahatma Gandhi passive-style of peace led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or bloodshed via an African-American revolution.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963
On March 26, 1964, Dr. King and Malcolm X met on Capitol Hill. [A picture of this once in a lifetime meeting remains hung in Michael’s home office - today.] Malcolm began securing support from African leaders, the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Freedom Fighters, Fidel Castro from Cuba and Maoist China. In response, America realized that she must either support the creed of her own constitution or continue to practice genocide and bring terrorism and racism with attack dogs, State police, and the National Guards to otherwise peaceful American demonstrators. The concept of violent consequences from other countries in the fight for African-American liberation, coupled with the worldwide television exposure of its hypocrisy was too much for the superpower to bear. America had a clear choice of the “Ballot or the Bullet” and in 1965, she finally passed the Voting Rights Act under U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Kennedy was perceived as a ‘civil rights’ President when In fact, Kennedy never signed any civil rights legislation. In fact, as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, he voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Act proposed by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Newark, New Jersey
Mike Van Allen attended Broadway Elementary School in the predominately blue-collar, Italian residential section of Newark’s North Ward. Michael was ecstatic for being enthusiastically recruited, and immediately drafted, onto the Newark Boy's Club Swim Team. He earned many certificates, awards and trophies for his performance in competitive swimming meets while he advanced academically to Broadway Junior High School. He lived at 14 Chester Avenue and felt protected within his insulated environment. However, political and social unrest stood not very far away.
According to US Attorney Herbert J. Stern, Newark was ‘controlled by the Mafia,’- a group responsible for bringing heroin into the black community. The civil rights movement brought unrest to many Americans – both black and white. Anthony Imperiale was a race-baiting civic leader and politician from Newark who became a national symbol of the backlash against urban unrest by wielding a baseball bat to defend his "white" neighborhood. Imperiale first surfaced in Newark politics in the early 1960's as an opponent of busing to achieve school desegregation. Imperiale began preaching armed white self-defense. He formed the North Ward First Aid Squad, ostensibly to escort residents of the predominantly Italian North Ward through racially troubled areas. However, the group's nighttime street patrols drew charges of vigilantism. Imperiale's defiance, even demagoguery, only made things worse. He warned, ‘‘When the Black Panther comes, the white hunter will be waiting.''
The Newark Rebellion of 1967, sparked by the arrest of a cab driver named John Smith, who allegedly drove around a double-parked police car at the corner of 7th St. and 15th Avenue. Black men were terrorized for driving around a White man- even if the White man was driving slowly. Mr. Smith was subsequently stopped, interrogated, arrested and transported to the fourth precinct headquarters, during which time the arresting officers beat him severely. As news of the arrest spread, a crowd began to assemble in front of the precinct house, located directly across from a high-rise public housing project. When the police allowed a small group of civil rights leaders to visit the "prisoner", the latter demanded that Mr. Smith be taken to a hospital. Emerging from the building, these civil rights leaders begged the crowd to stay calm, but they were shouted down. Rumor spread that John Smith had died in police custody, despite the fact he had been taken out the back entrance and transported to a local hospital. Soon a volley of bricks and bottles was launched at the precinct house, and police stormed out to confront the assembly. As the crowd dispersed, some took advantage of the chaos and broke into stores on the nearby commercial thoroughfares. Eventually violence spread from the predominantly black neighborhoods of Newark's Central Ward to Downtown Newark, and the New Jersey State Police were mobilized. Within 48 hours, National Guard troops entered the city. With the arrival of these troops, the level of violence intensified. At the conclusion of six days of rebellion, between July 12 and July 17, 1967, dozens lay dead, 725 people were injured, and close to 1,500 Black American insurgents had been arrested.
A flagrantly corrupt and racist Italian-American political machine controlled Newark City Hall and the school district for many of years. The mayor, Hugh Addonizio, previously a U.S. congressional representative, said, when he returned, “There’s no money in Washington, but you can make a million bucks as the mayor of Newark.” In 1970, he was convicted, with four others, of having extorted $1.4 million from city contractors.
In 1967, Governor Richard Hughes appointed a committee to investigate the causes of the violent uprising. The report concluded with: “In the scramble for money, the poor, who were to be the chief beneficiaries of the urban renewal programs, tended to be overlooked.” And, because of “ghetto schools,” mostly poor and black children “have no hope in the present situation. A few may succeed in spite of the barriers. The majority will not. Society cannot afford to have such human potential go to waste.”
The new urban renewal in public education is racially segregated charter schools in 2014.
THE PHANTOM PUNCH
“I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, that’s why they call me Muhammad Ali.”
During the continuing social and political unrest, Michael sheltered himself with the entertainment of sports. His athletic hero was Cassius Clay. The Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston fight (February 25, 1964) for the boxing world heavyweight championship was among the most anticipated watched and controversial fights in sport’s history. Cassius Clay was a glib, fast-talking 22-year-old challenger who enjoyed the spotlight. He had won the light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and had great hand and feet speed—not to mention a limitless supply of braggadocio and confidence. Racist could not control what came out of his mouth, so any opponent of his was called, “The Great White Hope.”
The blow that ended the match became known as "the phantom punch," so named because most people at ringside did not see it. Even Cassius was unsure as to whether or not the punch connected, as footage from the event shows Clay asking his entourage "Did I hit him?" after the match. Slow motion replays show Cassius connecting with a quick, chopping right to Liston's head (known as the "Anchor Punch" according to Clay) as Liston was moving toward him, and show that Liston was unsteady when he finally got to his feet. Clay appeared to connect with four additional unanswered punches before Walcott belatedly declared the knockout, ending the contest. Clay sprang to the center of the ring, did a victory jig repeatedly yelled "I'm the greatest!" and "I shook up the world!" and then finally announced that his name was Muhammad Ali. Still today, in his home gym, Michael maintains the world-renowned picture of Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston.
THE MOTOWN SOUND
“Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud!” James Brown
Prior to the 1967 Newark rebellion, Michael’s father had moved his family from Newark to 330 North Maple Avenue, in the 3.9-square mile, tree-lined bordering town named East Orange, which had a safer but equally racially intolerant political environment. Michael wanted to emulate his grandfather and attempted to insulate himself in music. He began playing the clarinet for his Columbian Grammar School band located on the corner of Springdale Avenue and Grove Street in East Orange. He entertained himself playing 45s and LP 33s polyvinyl albums on his record player happily listening to the Great Motown sounds of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Lionel Richie, The Jackson Five, and many others.
Michael and his dad shared quality time together when they sat at the dining table and listened to musical artists such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole. They would both listen to 710 AM talk radio personalities such as Long John Nebel, and Rambling with (John) Gambling on WWOR before retiring for the evening.
The larger high school that Michael attended during the fall of 1967 began to have an influx of black students. Before Michael's matriculation, a Black student name Robert L. Carter protested the racial discriminatory policies concerning use of the swimming pool. East Orange High had a successful all-white swim team. Black students were allowed in the pool only after school on Fridays, alternating by gender. Afterward, the pool was drained and cleaned before the white students used it again. In response to Robert Carter's protest, the all white school board of education and Mayor Kelly (who was no stranger to the Main street liquor store) agreed to address the situation by replacing the chlorinated H20 with Silicon crystals. They poured cement into the Olympic size swimming pool, and replaced the pool area with state-of-the-art marching band facilities to support the East Orange High School’s football team. Weighing 150 lbs and standing only five and a half feet tall, this natural swimmer did not qualify to make the basketball team, and failed the third and final cut for the football team under math teacher and Coach Tom Dean. Michael was a swimmer, and was not competitive in the non-aquatic sports offered to the typical black male. He also failed to make the Marching Band under Band Director Mr. Hanson. This autumn of failure to participate in extracurricular activities was a major disappointment. Moreover, Michael lost his very best friends as they went onto the smaller and predominately white Scott High School - or to private high schools such as Seton Hall College Preparatory. His best friends at Columbian were Mark Lago, Robert Flaherty, and David Schwartz. During high school he made Black friends. He hung out with Garfield G. Mingo and J. Harvey White, Jr.
“No, this trick won't work. How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? ” ― Albert Einstein
When Michael was a teenager, he took his first employment as a pharmacy clerk at Kaye's Drug Store on the corner of Lincoln and Main Streets in East Orange. One day, a very pretty girl patronized the store. Michael immediately recognized Laverne from school. They exchanged glances, smiles and friendly words as he bagged her prescription. Michael waved “adios” to Laverne and reassured her that he would see her in class, on the following day. Al- the pharmacist - brought to Michael's attention that he had failed to ring-up her purchase on the register. Having witnessed the juvenile flirtatious behavior, Michael's boss realized that this was an oversight and did not make him pay out-of-pocket. Michael was relieved because he was only earning the then minimum wage of $1.40 per hour. The next day, Laverne approached Michael with the money and apologized for not having paid at the store. Michael refused the money but accepted her apology and explained that he needed her telephone number in case he had to 'follow-up'. Laverne knew where Michael was going with his alternative motive, but she gave him the number anyway. They both laughed aloud and staggered disorderly into their Spanish class, tardy, yet still laughing disturbingly loudly, while being admonished by the teacher Ms. Margaret Yobbi.
Michael studied mixed martial arts including Korean style Taekwondo, Aikido, Karate, Shito-Ryu and Jujutsu under two powerful Muslim senseis Bernard Trusdale and George Pryor aka Ibrahim Sharifat the East Orange School of Martial Arts on Main/Clinton Street. At this time, Michael unofficially changed his middle name that he never used to his secular fighting name - Ali.
He took the arts seriously from an athletic as well as a way of life - standpoint. He advanced through the various intermediate grades (white, yellow, green, purple) before qualifying to defend for the brown belt classification. To do this, he had to fight a martial artist with a black belt status. The opponent assigned, happened to be a high school friend. Michael fought Buddy and scored adequate qualifying points in his performance against Buddy with a risky, unexpected but well executed Taekwondo spinning back kick. Avoiding the brunt of Michael’s kick, and either sincerely caught by surprise, or deciding not to block and counter - something that he had done many times before - Buddy fell back into the hanging beads at the end of the dojo, looking like a defenseless victim, while securing Michael’s newly acquired advanced status.
To this day, Buddy humbly says that he was caught by surprise, and denies taking the proverbial ‘dive’. Michael questions, but still credits Buddy for being complaisant and allowing him to advance, thus placing Michael in contention for his brown belt. Buddy - better known today as the Dr. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. – a former college president - is a Princeton University educated PhD scholar, minister, well-known author, and distinguished Ivy League professor at Columbia University. Michael remembers how well Buddy played the guitar and how often they found themselves competing for the same girls’ affection. Today they occasionally share commentary via Facebook. As to whether Michael actually delivered the swift spinning back roundhouse kick – with no friendly assistance - remains inconclusive.
After high school graduation, at 17 years of age and with the Vietnam War underway, Michael flew to Greensboro, North Carolina and enlisted in the North Carolina A & T State University Air Force Recruiting Officers Training Corps where he studied military science. Exhausted of tuition money, he returned to East Orange.
Although born in the Big Apple, Michael made history in the Oranges. He was a commuting student in his hometown college where he drove his British MGB convertible sports car to school. He was the first non-white student awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Uppsala College. He also rode his French Motorbecane bicycle back and forth the Rutgers Newark medical school where he matriculated in the students for medicine program. His hometown’s health department hired Michael. He conducted microbiological test for the detection of bacteria in public food, water and milk, employing various bacteriological techniques. He screened children for contaminated blood levels of lead and he prepared, organized and secured Pap smear slides used for the detection of cervical cancer. Michael enjoyed doing the Wednesday bacteria testing. On these mornings, inspectors would go to various local delicatessens and take samples of shrimp and tuna salads in plastic bags for lab testing. If the samples were within specifications, Michael’s lunch was determined for the day. If he had not ridden his bicycle to work daily, he would have undoubtedly gained a couple of pounds that summer. In any event, all restaurants were in code.
Michael moved from his parents' home and rented a bachelor’s crib at the Andrea Towers Condominium studio apartment #608 at 70 South Munn Avenue, East Orange. After awarded a chemistry certificate by Fairleigh Dickinson University, he resigned from his hometown's health department to work as a Biochemist at Merck & Co., a world-renown pharmaceutical giant. He performed qualitative and quantitative analysis, using instrumental and wet chemical procedures. His talents and skills were quickly recognized. He was promoted from analytical chemistry to research & development to support the Microbial Chemotherapeutic, Pharmacometric and Antibiotic programs. Still in his 20's, he earned enough money to buy a luxury one-bedroom Apt#705 condominium apartment at Andrea Towers, fully pay off his college debt, and purchase a brand new Sapphire Blue 325i BMW automobile.
Michael fell in love with his high school school sweetheart, whom he had taken to the senior prom held at the West Orange Manor. Succinctly, Laverne had a miscarriage and later died of cancer. These were the saddest times of Michael's life. This heartbreaking period prompted him to take a life audit and re-prioritize his life's values. At first, he threw himself into his work. He accepted a medical research position at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark and worked at the Blood Institute in the Hematology/Oncology department. He coordinated medical research projects for the separation and purification of plasma proteins from AIDS patients using Isoelectric Focusing, High-Pressured Liquid Chromatography, SDS Three-Dimensional Gel Electrophoresis and several hematological methods. At the same time, he transformed from the life and physical sciences to the social and political sciences. He was appointed chairperson of a chapter of the Organization of African Unity and a supportive member of the "People’s Organization of Progress” (POP) chaired by Lawrence Hamm. He was elected block association president, appointed municipal fourth ward Treasurer, and Essex County Committee executive board district leader. He was the host for the cable television show, "The first Step." He was appointed by the Mayor (unanimously confirmed by the City Council) to serve as the Commissioner for the City of East Orange. After several campaigns and re-elections, dissatisfied with the failure of politics in serving the best interest of the people, Commissioner MAVA decided to return to the pure sciences via academia. After he was awarded a Master's degree, he returned to his roots becoming the first and only Black instructor in the chemistry/physics department at his undergraduate college. He taught Inorganic, Organic, and Biochemistry. Listed in Who's Who in American Education, he served as a debate coach and senior class advisor at Newark Central High School. He continued his formal education and returned to the island of his birth. He did his graduate studies in Biochemistry at Columbia University in Harlem, New York City.
Michael accepted a chemistry teaching appointment at America’s oldest public high school specializing in the Fine and Performing arts, Arts High School in Newark, New Jersey where his sister graduated as a violinist. Many talented people graduated from Arts High School including the legendary songstress Sarah Vaughn, Melba Moore, Beverly Marcell, Woody Shaw, Connie Francis, Jazz artist Wayne Shorter, actor Tiesha Campbell-Martin, Savon Glover and Michael B. Jordan. He served as the advisor for the Allied Health Careers' and the National Honor Society. Michael returned to Rutgers medical school to do Pharmacokinetical research, and co-authored publications in medical journals including Clinical Research. In 1997, Van Allen was appointed a teaching position where he taught biochemistry in the pre-medical program at Rutgers Medical College. Contemporaneously, he was promoted to position of science department chair by the Newark Public Schools. Education runs in his family; his sister Barbara teaches college mathematics and her son David attended Dartmouth University. Michael received his pinnacle of recognition- after twenty years of service as a high school science educational leader- when appointed in 2007, by the New Jersey Department of Education to establish the benchmarks to the NJ Board of Education for the Science High School Proficiency Assessment. HSPA is a NJ exit exam that 80,000 science students throughout the State must pass in order to graduate from High School.
Michael A. Van Allen still does not qualify to be part of any respectable musical band.
“I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong.”
Derek Jeter, NY Yankee Captain and Short Stop
Unfortunately, Michael A. Van Allen still does not qualify to be part of any respectable bands, although he still practices on the baby grand piano in his living room and the keyboard in his home office. However, he loves the challenges of his administrative responsibilities, the positive differences he makes in students’ lives, and the personal satisfaction he receives when he gives to his favorite charity- "The Boys' and Girls' Club of America.”
He is engaged in the happiest times of his entire life as he lives in the moment- the here and now. He has a passion for his profession, social life, hobbies, and personal interests. He treasures living, learning, loving, laughing, helicopter flying down the Grand Canyon, touring through Europe, camel riding across Africa, climbing the Great Wall of China, cruising the Caribbean islands, deep sea scuba diving in the Pacific Islands, day-break jogging with his rottweiler, early morning lap swimming followed by MSNBC- TV, coffee and the New York Times. He enjoys movies, music and playing on his hometown softball league. Mike drives the BMW 5-series.
For 15 years, (from 1990 to 2005), this bachelor lived the international playboy’s lifestyle in his single-family colonial home in the West Orange Township at 3 Watchung Avenue, right up the road from where the famous scientist Tom Edison once lived and developed his inventions. Michael lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle, made friends with books, drank fine wines, and in addition to , dined and dated countless pretty, petite Latina, African, Asian, American and European women.
He moved with Mia - the daughter he never had - his very pretty, smart and loyal black female Labrador retriever to the suburban township of Randolph in Morris County, New Jersey- a paradise on Mount Freedom. When he was not campaigning for a Randolph town council seat or studying legislation at the Rutgers Eagleton Institute in New Brunswick, NJ he listened to NPR and Jazz FM radio stations such as: WBGO 88.3, and WNYC 93.9. He is proud of the nomination he received from the political machine and of the support of thousands of his neighbors who came out in the pouring rain to vote for him in the November General Election. He served as the Morris County Committee District Leader and Treasurer of the Randolph Democratic Committee. He plays second base and catcher on his softball team. His teammates and opposing team players called him [Derrick] “Jeter” not because he played so well, but there were several Mikes on in the league and Michael frequently wore a Jeter Jersey, making him an easy mark for the alternative name that he wore in honor. His Dutch Colonial 'castle' with township and private well water, is located on a couple of acres of a bucolic evergreen, private setting, surrounded by forest, mountainous lakes, and parks. Their Lake Valhalla home often visited by schools of fishes from the fresh water brook in the wooded area of the property, herds of deer, flocks of birds, a really smart fox, and an occasional uninvited but well respected huge, black bear affectionately named Yogi – is located in Montville, New Jersey. He was re-elected by his colleagues to represent them as their labor leader on the City Association of Supervisors and Administrators union's executive board (CASA, local #20), under the American Federation of School Administrators (AFL-CIO). He is a member of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), and the New Jersey Science Education Leadership Association.
He serves as the Affirmative Action Officer for Malcolm X Shabazz High School -formerly known as South Side High School when former NYC Mayor Ed Koch graduated in 1941. Interestingly, comedian Jerry Lewis graduated from South Side High School two years later, only after being kick-out of the nearby Weequahic High School for roller-skating through the hallways. Michael met President Bill Clinton and, on another occasion, - the daughters of Malcolm X at his work site of Shabazz High School. (Martin Luther King delivered his last public speech, in the auditorium of South Side High School, before his assassination.) Michael earned recognition in the field of education again when he received a gubernatorial appointment to serve as a Trustee for the County College of Morris located in his hometown of Randolph Township, and appointed to serve Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a School Administrator for the Newark Board of Education.
“A bachelor is a man who comes to work each morning from a different direction”
Michael’s insatiable thirst for Pinot Noir, compounded with his libidinous appetite for women of all nationalities and ethnicities, has meant partying and laughing loudly among his baseball teammates about his world travels. He roared, “I take ‘em from 18 to 81, blind, dumb and crazy, if they can’t walk, I’ll drag ‘em!” On his recent return from Denmark, followed by the “Virgin” Islands, he boasted with laughter from the batter’s circle shouting to his team in the dugout, “Oh, they just call them the ‘Islands’ now!”
THE GENESIS OF A PUBLIC POLICY ANALYST AND ADVOCATE
"If you've got 'em by the balls, their heart and mind will follow."
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson
The most intriguing and interesting course Michael took during his recent Seton Hall University’s Education Leadership, Management and Policy doctoral program was "Higher Education Public Policy Analysis", under Professor Rong Chen. Incongruously, it was during this seminar that Michael broke his perfect attendance record by “cutting” his policy class to cast his vote on a highly controversial higher education public policy issue. The board of trustees at County College of Morris (CCM) conducted this important meeting in the college gymnasium, which was full of students, protestors, supporters, community leaders, politicians, advocacy groups, Tea Party activists, stakeholders, and television/newspaper media. Michael flew into the Newark International Airport from an educational conference held in Vancouver, Canada and got to CCM just in time to cast a vote allowing undocumented immigrants to matriculate there as long as they met the federal DREAM act requirements. This was the most important policy change at the college in a decade. In 2001, the CCM Board of Trustees made a policy blocking “illegal aliens” from attendance at the school since a series of four - completely unrelated - coordinated suicide attacks conducted by al-Qaeda upon the United States on 9/11 took place.
In 2011, Michael – an advanced doctoral student of education policy - had just become chair of the Minority Enrollment Committee and this was the first motion coming out of his committee. It was this process of policy change when Michael recognized the full appreciation of being a policymaker. On his return, he explained the 'behind the scenes' policymaking process to his colleagues, and what had taken place besides the information they received via the media. Michael’s goal continues to intersect the worlds of theory, research, law, policy and practice to create educational success for underserved populations. Besides the information they received via the media. Michael’s goal continues to intersect the worlds of theory, research, law, policy and practice to create educational success for underserved populations.
Michael believes that socialism never took root in America because the 47% see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as the temporarily embarrassed two percent. He continues to advocate for racial justice. Important issues that must be addressed include: Racism, White privilege, the racial academic achievement gap, the racial health and wellness gap, racial segregation in housing, employment and schools, mass incarceration, the war on drugs, the "Schools-to-Prisons" pipeline, income disparity, felony disenfranchisement, voters' suppression, unemployment, police brutality, and the police "Blue Code of Silence". We must look into the criminal justice system, sentencing reform, raising the minimum wage to living wages, increased voters' participation, global justice, and democracy.
MICHAEL A VAN ALLEN'S MANIFESTO
Species: Homo Sapiens
Sex: cis-hetero male
Age: Aspiring octogenarian
Color: Ethiopian brown
Politics: Freedom & Justice
Creed: Secular humanist
Philosophies: I stay curious and entertained by ancient and current philosophies, including Secular Buddhism, Humanism, Existentialism, Stoicism, Zen but I don’t necessarily subscribe fully to any.
Language: (Bilingual) Math & Music
Accent: Smile :-)
Largely plant-based Diet: Water, coffee/tea, omega-3 rich fish, a variety of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds beans and fruit. Eggs, oat-milk, cheese, yogurt, legumes, mushrooms, herbs & spices. Reduced sugar/salt, and no meat, alcohol, trans fats, or ultra-processed foods.
Hobbies: Reading books (The Toni Morrison Book Club), snorkeling, deep sea scuba diving (U.S. Masters Swimming), and stargazing (Morris Museum Astronomical Society)
Interests: Psychology, philosophy, proverbs & astronomy
NEWS SOURCES: AP, NPR, PBS, the NY Times and local news outlets
Entertainment: Theater, Movies, CDs, Radio, TV, and social media
Activities: Lap swimming in open waters and pools, yoga, and strength training, and pickleball
Passion: Music, literature, canine & human socializing
Profession: Teaching, Research, and Service
Vocation: Jazz Saxophonist, and Clarinetist
I do to others as they would want to be done to them, or as I would want them to do unto me. Hurt not others with what pains yourself and live in harmony, for we are all related. I love science, art, and the humanities. I am a humanitarian, educator, a man of scientist, human rights, animal rights, and environmental justice activist, African Internationalist of the African People’s Socialist Party, Black suffragist, a supporter of womanism, conservationist, dog lover, lover of comedy, and the fine arts (including music, theatre, literature, and film), writer, avid reader, bibliophile, life-long student, long-distance swimmer, Jazz saxophonist, daily yogi, world traveler, humanist, stargazing amateur astronomer, racial justice activist, Black Panther, Anti-Black/White Supremacy Propaganda Abolitionist, prison abolitionist, Critical Race Theorist, globalist, cosmopolite, multiculturalist, social justice warrior, Medicare for all, health equity, living wages, clean, safe and affordable housing, tuition-free quality education, restorative justice, peace, love, life, environmental justice, and freedom for all. I am a pro-democracy, secular Socialist, 24/7/365 drum major for justice. I am not religious or spiritual at all. However, I read positive psychology and practice gratitude daily. I intermittingly practice transcendental meditation techniques. Famous quotes and the world philosophies that I read help keep me grounded, give me guidance and reinforced my values. I'm attracted to Stoicism, and secular Zen/Buddhism and presently appreciate its teachings, and practices. My mission is to eradicate systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy and to promote global, secular, moral, and humanitarian narratives rooted in the sciences.
I work to abolish: unsubstantiated conspiracies, propaganda, myths of white supremacy, anti-black racism, science denialism, knowledge resistance, pseudoscience, voters’ suppression, the electoral college, income inequality, the wealth gap, the for-profit punitive prison industry, racially/SES segregated schools, state-sponsored police brutality, carceral states, human sex trafficking, colorism, bigotry, extremism, demagoguery, self-righteous judgmental hypocritical religious fanatics, science and climate change deniers, speciesism, notions of ethnic purity, imperialism, anti-intellectualism, neoliberalism, misogyny, misogynoir, ageism, ableism, plutocracies, oligarchies, patriarchies, homophobia, xenophobia, misanthropy, tribalism, colorism, caste systems, economic injustice, austerity, corporatocracies, militarism, authoritarianism, theocracies, capitalism, white regressive Evilgelical Christians silent to anti-Black racism, ReTrumpliKKKans, hunger, race medicine, illiteracy, poverty, environmental racism, and war. The time is now; there never was a good time to do bad or a bad time to do good. My ultimate aspiration in life is to be a kind old man! "This is who and what I am. What other people may think or say is none of my business!" Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.
You don't marry the woman you can live with; you marry the woman you can't live without!
The love of Michael's life has a unique and outstanding family background. All of the men in Debbie's family are medical doctors. She is the granddaughter, daughter, niece and sister of two brothers -all of whom were/are physicians. Her grandfather was a general practitioner, her dad was a gynecologist/obstetrician, her uncle is a psychiatrist, and her younger brother Robert is an oncologist living in Australia, and her older brother Jon is a surgeon living in Conn. Interestingly, Debbie's sister-in-law Sherry, is a pro bono immigration attorney, and attended Harvard Law School with First Lady- Michelle Obama. Debbie’s mother graduated from Bronx Science High School at the young age of 16, and then furthered her science education in college, graduating from NYU with a chemistry degree at the early age of 19. She went on to become an Organic chemist.
Debbie’s family has some interesting parallels with Michael and his family. Debbie and Michael’s sister Barbara both graduated from Rutgers University. Debbie and Michael are both native New Yorkers. She was born in the Bronx, and he was born in Manhattan. Their fathers both graduated from the same high school, Morris High School in the Bronx. (Michael's dad graduated salutatorian of his graduating class.) Both dads served in the US Army during WWII. Both were born in the Bronx and on a sad note, both made their NJ wife’s widows at the young age of 72.
Many Black WWII veterans, such as Michael's dad, were denied their GI Bill benefits which included: college tuition, and mortgage guarantees for homes. Irving delivered babies as an Gyn/Ob for Harlem hospital and Van delivered mail as a letter carrier for the NY Times Square Post Office. At that time - the postal services were one of the better paying civil service jobs available to African American. Michael and his best friend Debbie both taught chemistry for decades, both supervised science instruction, developed chemistry curricula, and both ran science departments. They are both native New Yorkers, and live together in their lake Valhalla home in Montville, NJ. They frequently share bouts of contagious oxygen-deprived belly laughs together. One of the reoccurring stories is the contrast of their childhood experiences. As a child, Debbie remembers frolicking through water sprinklers on the green lawn of her private home under the summer sunshine while hearing melodious chimes from the approaching Good Humor ice cream truck in her White Meadow Lake community, NJ. Conversely, Michael recalls running through jet streams of water from the city's public fire hydrants, on hot black tarred streets, under the scorching hot summer sun, while hearing alarming sirens of speeding cop cars in Harlem. In actuality - except for challenging one another in tennis and ping-pong, they are always on the same team! What is Loving Day? It's the day Debbie and Michael celebrate their anniversary. June 12 marks a landmark Supreme Court decision for interracial marriage.
As Michael advanced in age, he modified his rigorous physical fitness activities from running the annual Randolph Lake Triathlons, the Rutgers Half-Marathons and the martial arts to swimming one mile three times a week as recommended by his U.S. Masters Swimming coach, and practicing vinyasa yoga for 60-minutes on the alternate four days of the week, as per his instructors at his Mountain Lakes yoga studio.
Dr. MAVA's ambitions once included earning his Ph.D. in education and writing a book. Unfortunately, there were faculty changes in his doctoral program, and he did an 'all but dissertation' -ABD. His advisor Dr. Rebecca Cox took employment at another university outside the country. Michael passed his qualifying exam, finished his course work, and ran into an obstacle in obtaining an advisor willing to work with him on the dissertation of his choice, the controversial Critical Race Theory. He could have taken the easier route and did an “easy dissertation.” He could have run a regression analysis confirming affluent students with no employment have better class attendance. They are likelier to earn higher grades than impoverished students who do shiftwork or something trite, redundant, and obvious. But Michael didn’t want to settle for only a Ph.D.; he also wanted to turn his dissertation into a book, adding to the literature related to the Critical Race Theory.
The life and times for Michael have met with adversity, success, and a conglomeration of various relationships.
He no longer sees or hears from his EOHS friends Garfield and Harvey. However, Michael is happy to have stayed in touch with his 8th-grade friend, Mark. He remembers playing basketball with Mark and going over to his house, where his grandma would bake them cookies. Mark is a retired high school math teacher and former President of his teachers' Union. Debbie and Michael visit Mark and his lovely wife, Linda, in their Pennsylvania home, and reciprocally Mark and Linda visit Michael and Debbie in Montville. Michael and Mark text frequently, chat on the phone, and occasionally meet for a bite to eat.
But Michael also had an 8th-grade friend named David, who is Jewish. All three boys, played basketball together with Michael and Mark at Columbian Park playground. Michael remembers going to David's house and raking leaves in the Fall of 1967. David's lovely mom prepared them some ham & cheese sandwiches with juice. It was Wonder bread with mayo, but it was delicious because they were both hungry. That's when Michael first learned all Jews don't practice Jewish dietary laws. They split apart and went to different high schools the following Autumn. David went to Scott, the small "white" HS near Upsala College, and Michael went to EOHS, the larger Black HS near City Hall. Long story short, some 50+ years later, they eventually caught up on Facebook, and Michael asked David about a Confederate flag on his profile. David said "it was about heritage" or some other 'cut-and-paste' rhetorical racist bullshit. It kind of hurt a little. Michael immediately thought about the murders of Black and Jewish Civil Rights workers, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Hell, Michael didn't even know they had Jews in down in Texas.
When Michael sees PICs of little children of different races hugging and laughing together, it is supposed to give a sense of hope for humanity. But, for Michael, those PICs remind him of the heart-wrenching scene in Roots when Sandy Duncan's villainous white character Missy Anne doesn't stop Leslie Uggams' enslaved character Kizzy from being sold. Although they played together as BFF when they were little girls.
[Michael personally knew Leslie Uggams when she was dating his uncle Ronald in Harlem. She is the woman in the family photo above- standing slightly to the right of the aunt wearing the horizontal top.]
So, honestly Michael gets two very different feelings from children PICs of that nature. One is a feeling of hope and optimism quickly followed by the more skeptical thoughts of how cute baby lions are - until they grow up and get big. Unfortunately, Dr. David Schwartz grew up and got big. Some friends are for life, others well they spoil like milk, so you pick them up and throw their ass out before they stink up the place.
Even during his sunset in life, Michael anticipates more travel.
Case in point, after 18 hours of airtime and some 10,000 miles of travel, Michael and Debbie returned from one-month Australian trip. They stayed with his brother-in-law, Robert, who is a surgeon there. He is building another home with his wife, Gem - also a health professional. When they don’t come to the states, the family would all reunite at the halfway point of Hawaii.
During their Australian trip, they engaged in many activities. Michael drove Robert’s manual stick truck, on the left side of the road, with the stick and vehicle’s steering wheel also on the ‘wrong’ [English] side. Yikes!!!
They went sailing on Robert's private boat. They went camel riding, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving. Then took helicopter flights, watched sunrises and sunsets in the clear skies of the Southern hemisphere. They dined outside during an astronomy lecture viewing the milky way, with lots of people, food and fifty thousand lights. That was spectacular!
They visited zoos, rainforests, and arid land. They went to the aquarium, where they walked through a glass tunnel while the various species of fish swam around them. They took a Cable ride with a glass bottom which was a thousand meters above the rainforest, and then returned via train. After returning to the hotel where they stayed on the 70th floor the night before he and Debbie took in an Opera at the Sydney Opera House. They stay at four other hotels to make sure they saw everything. And they did.
They saw lots of Australia because they stayed with Robert and Gem for only one full week. Afterward, they took four different domestic flights to Southern, Central, and Eastern Australia. PIC are on my Instagram and Facebook with detail captions all assessable on this site. Michael posted PIC on social media of himself at the store pretending to play one of the traditional musical instruments.
He also practiced his clarinet while visiting. Michael helped Robert collect fire wood for a late-night bonfire that they created on the exact same spot where Robert and Gem’s new living room will be situated. Robert invited guests, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and we all shared food, drinks, stories, and lots of laughs. Four wild unattended free roaming horses invited themselves to the food. The hungry horses politely obeyed Robert as he uninvited them away from the party.
One of the neighbors confessed to Michael that she heard him playing the clarinet. She said her normally excited American Terrier became calmed by Michael playing “Sounds of Music.” The Terrier would lie down like he was going to sleep whenever he played, and after he stopped, the terrier would get back up as if he wanted more. Her story was incredible because the nearest house was so very far away, Michael couldn’t imagine anyone besides the snakes and kangaroos hearing him. But, how could she have possibly known he played the clarinet, and how else would she have known the song? So, you may see PICs of Debbie dancing on the Australian hills and singing to the Sounds of Music.
In his twilight years, he intends to continue with his healthy Mediterranean, largely plant-based diet, yoga, and mindfulness secular meditation compounded with this circadian rhythm of early to bed and early to rise. He wakes to his black coffee, soft jazz, New York Times newspaper and books. He maintains a daily rigorous, cross-training exercise regimen of interval swimming, strength training, and vinyasa yoga. Dr. MAVA stays cognitively engaged in extensive reading, writing, journaling on social media, practicing his horns, and studying music theory. Debbie speaks Spanish fluently, and Miquel now intends to be a student of the Spanish language, as well. They both enjoy healthy dinners and watching great Netflix movies together. Michael plans to laugh into the sunset with his amicable, amorous, blue-green-eyed, naturally blonde, 5' 8" slender wife, Debbie.
[Clarinetist and saxophonist Cecil Scott remembered by Art Hodes: I’ll never forget the day I visited Cecil at his home in Harlem (N.Y.C.). He had what we referred to as “a railroad flat.” It was a first-floor apartment with a long hallway running through the length of the apartment. Cecil took us into the kitchen for a taste, then called in the family. He had 11 children, from the baby to the eldest going on seventeen. I had to ask, “Man, how do you guys operate?” To which he answered, “We eat in shifts and we sleep in tiers.”] More on that interview: https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/everybody-loves-cecil-scott/
Scott played as a teenager with his brother, drummer Lloyd Scott. They played together as co-leaders through the end of the 1920s, holding residencies in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and in New York City at the Savoy Ballroom. Among the members of this ensemble were Dicky Wells, Frankie Newton, Bill Coleman, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Hodges, and Chu Berry. Cecil took full control over the group in 1929, though Lloyd continued to manage the group.
Scott was severely injured in the leg during an accident in the early 1930s, and his career was temporarily sidelined. After his recovery he played with Ellsworth Reynolds in 1932-33 and then with Teddy Hill (from 1936), Clarence Williams, and Teddy Wilson (1936–37); in the latter gig he accompanied Billie Holiday. In the early 1940s, he played with Alberto Socarras, Red Allen, Willie "The Lion" Smith before assembling his own band in 1942, which at times included Hot Lips Page and Art Hodes. He also played with Slim Gaillard later in the 1940s.
In 1950, he disbanded the group, and worked with Jimmy McPartland as a sideman. He occasionally led groups and continued to play as a sideman up until the time of his death in 1964. He is credited on some 75 albums.
Michael’s grandmother Nina, was born in the same month and year as her husband, Cecil. Nina gave Cecil 13 children and he credits her for being his support and motivation. They attended the same schools and she was by his side all of his life.
MICHAEL FINALLY MADE THE BAND!
The race is not given to the early bloomers or to the talented but to the one who endures to the end.
In the 1960s, his granddad told his eldest daughter Sarah, his mom, that if Michael wanted to learn how to play the Saxophone, he should learn the clarinet first. So, Michael took lessons in 8th grade. He sucked so badly that at the end-of-year school concert band performance the music director told him not to blow but to pretend to play, instead. Michael’s proud parents sat in the audience and gave him encouraging smiles as he pretended to play along with the ‘normal’ kids. He didn't make his high school's marching band, and to add insult to injury, at 5.5ft short & 150lbs soaking wet, he didn't make the football/basketball teams either. Sports was his alternative option. So, Michael studied biochemistry, by default. Few contested his polypeptides & nucleic acids. That restored the remnants of the self-confidence he may have had remaining, and that accidental redemption paid off for Michael – rather handsomely. He studied Biochemistry at Columbia Univ., and worked as a Research Biochemist at Merck Pharmaceuticals. He also taught College Inorganic, Organic & Biochemistry. After a successful 40+ year career in research and academia, he retired as an officer of the County College of Morris Board of Trustees and School Administrator with the Newark Public Schools.
During his 2015 transition into retirement, he took on the role of Commissioner for Morris County Human Relations Commission. However, in keeping with his one-mile swim triweekly on his way to his swimming hole in Mountain Lakes, he overheard sounds from a concert band.
He investigated and immediately joined this instructive, supportive, senior band called the Morris County New Horizons Band. New Horizons is one of many international community bands that cater to the 55+ age group. Their drummer, Gene is 96 years young.
In 1963, at ten years old, he promised his mom he would adhere to her dad's recommendation. He would become at least comfortable with the clarinet before picking up the sax. After his first band camp experience at the New England Adult Band Camp in Sidney, Maine, he felt some level of comfort with his 'licorice stick.' He now plays the clarinet, tenor and alto sax. His clarinet, Black Brenda, allows him the ability to 'double' as well as travel lightly. But, his Sax (Golden Lady Beverly) enables him to play jazz standards and spread joy at jazz festivals, in public parks, and private senior living communities.
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing
Michael A Van Allen has finally made the band! He currently doubles on the sax and clarinet for the talented “Swing Tones,” a 17-piece traditional swing jazz big band in Morris County, NJ. Michael intends to continue playing music at county parks, jazz festivals, and he especially loves bringing festive music to elders in senior living residences during what could otherwise be lonely winter evenings.
Michael aspires to continue living a healthy, eventful, and socially joyful lifestyle filled with the arts, and an attitude of gratefulness. He shares an abundance of love and frequent belly laughs with friends, and aspires to be peacefully ever after with his best friend, Debbie.
Why do I play jazz saxophone?
Music serves several functions for me. These include reinforcing social unity and stability by initiating social connections with others and creating a trustworthy and safe social engagement. Music creates a sense of belonging to the jazz community worldwide and historically and culturally deep. 'Cognitive psychology of music learning' studies the perceptive and generative processes involved in listening to, performing, analyzing, improvising, and composing music. These studies show music engagement enhances memory and supports social and emotional well-being, reading ability, and executive functions. Listening to or playing music is an effective and pleasurable tool to keep my brain engaged throughout aging. It provides a total brain workout. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. Music is therapeutic for me. Music gives me challenge, joy, meaning and purpose in life, and as a third-generation jazz saxophonist, she is my mistress, passion and legacy.
*Dr. MAVA’s EPITHET:
World traveled, well-read,
Writer and musician, is what some said.
Born in New York; lived in Jersey,
Pulitzer and Grammy showed no mercy.
Wordsmith and Tunesmith merely a myth
Smoked his stuff, drank his wine.
International womanizer, human rights sympathizer.
Never bred; late to wed.
Triathlon tried; trophy denied.
Reached for the prize; but only guise rise to the skies.
Studied science; loved teaching, found retirement a pleasant surprise
Hoped to die young at a ripe old age, strong and wise
Maybe sleeping or laughing amongst friends and allies
Now at Mt. Freedom dead, much good, some ill, he did.
So, hope all's even, you that survive, take care,
for this most certainly exists to prepare;
For only the actions of the just smell sweet and blossom in the dust.
My Undergraduate Years as Seen Through the Lens of a Critical Race Theorist I graduated from grammar school, high school and the only college in the small 3.9 square mile town of East Orange. The high school I graduated from (now called East Orange High Campus) has relocated to the exact same site of my - now defunct - undergraduate college. During my doctoral studies, I ran across an interesting theory. I would like to make the point of the theory by embedding my college experiences in the story telling – a key feature of the theory. The Critical Race Theory, originally coming from the Harvard Law School legal scholar Derrick Bell in the 1970s in what was called the Critical Legal Studies, has evolved to become applicable in many fields including the field of higher education (Ladson-Billings, G., 1998). The Critical Legal Studies (CLS) like all theories – has shortcomings. One blatant limitation in the CLS is that it reduces racism by making it analogous to class discrimination (Bell, D. 1980). Many of the original Black authors of the CLS questioned those shortcomings, and the CLS evolved to become the Critical Race Theory (CRT). The CRT is somewhat different from many of the educational theories discussed in education and psychology today, in that it consists of anecdotal, legal storytelling and biographical stories to make its point (Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. 2007). Although the CR Theorist supports the aims of the civil rights activist, they question many of their “Ban Aid” approaches to racism such as the U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling in the 1954 Brown v. Bd of Ed (Bell, D. 1980). The following anecdotal stories are used to highlight how White supremacy played a role in too many of my college experiences. Although there is no single proclamation that defines the CRT, the Critical Race Theory has three posits, they are: Race continues to be significant in the United States of America. Racism is perceived as normal and expected, The United States of America is based on property rights, not human rights and, The intersection of race and property creates an analytical tool for understanding inequality (Ladson-Billings, G., 1998). One of the key characteristics of the CRT is storytelling. As an example, there is a story in “Voices of India” by A.K. Rumanujan about a poor widow forced to reside with her two evil sons and wicked daughters-in-laws. She was castigated for gaining weight as she aged. She felt terrible and went for a walk with no particular destination in mind. She came across an old, dilapidated home, without even a roof. She went inside the house, looked at one of the walls, and told the ugly story of how one of her sons humiliated her. The wall tumbled down. She went to the next wall and told the story of his wife’s cruel behavior towards her. That second wall also came down. Each time, she felt lighter than she felt before sharing her story. She went on to the other two walls, telling a story to each wall until she was surrounded by rubble. She returned home, only this time, feeling lighter than she has ever felt (Baltuck, 1994). The Critical Race (CR) theorist asserts that telling stories can be an enormous relief for the storyteller. Race continues to be significant in the United States of America. It was the first day of my first year at Uppsala College. I was seated on the floor, in a jam-packed, predominately White, freshman chemistry classroom, when my White chemistry professor, Dr. Joseph Most asked the class for examples of chemical or physical reactions. I eagerly raised my hand with enthusiasm and responded, “electronegativity!” Professor Most smiled, aggressively pointed at me and yelled; “Now that’s a man who has studied chemistry!” One White girl in particular, was very impressed with my knowledge of chemistry. She wasted no time befriending me. We frequently talked after lab. She told me about the racial unrest in her hometown of Boston. Rachel explained the anger between the Whites and Blacks in Boston. She blamed the busing policy, aimed to racially integrate the public schools. One night, I was in Rachel’s dorm room, and a small group of her White Bostonian Jewish home girls dropped by and acknowledged the intimacy of our relationship. One of the girls said, “Rachel, I thought you had more class than that!!” Rachel reacted angrily with Ann in my presence, but she heeded to her suggestion and gave me the cold shoulder ever since that incident. It can be seen very clearly through the Critical Race theoretical lens that Rachel’s White peers reminded her of her innate superiority for having White skin. My superior knowledge of chemistry compared to her lower level was not important. What was important was the fact that Rachel was White and I was not White. The United States of America is based on property rights, not human rights. During my second semester, a Black freshman girl told me that she was leaving school to return home to Boston. After having a long, deep and emotional discussion with her, she finally disclosed how four White students raped her during the previous semester. She reported the rape to the school. However, Uppsala College chose to protect the White rapist and never reported the crime to the local police. Angela’s grades dropped precipitously, and the same school official that took the rape report expelled her from school for “substandard academic performance.” She took the bus back to the racially segregated section of Boston - where she undoubtedly had an inferior education from the start. This school official, Dean Aaron Nierenberg had a Ph.D in psychology, and I only wonder which theories on student socio-psycho cognitive development he was reading in the 1970s. Angela had a burden she carried alone. Because of self-inflicted shame, she could hardly bring herself to tell all of her friends and family of the violent trauma she experienced, nor could she elaborate about the inferior academic preparation for college or the lack of professional support or legal redress after the rape- without sounding irresponsible. The fact that those four white rapists had their way with her beautiful black slender body, speaks to how for centuries, Black people in America were legal property -owned by White men. According to the Critical Race Theorist, the intersection of race and property creates an analytical tool for understanding inequality (Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W., 1995). Angela was property, owned by four White rapists. The intersection of race and property: Critical Race Theorist advocates that the United States of America is built on property rights and citizenship as opposed to human rights (Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W., 1995). This dates back to the early colonial days when only White men enjoyed the franchise of property rights and land ownership. The concept of race and citizenship was demonstrated in the first Black President of the United States of America having to actually show everyone his papers (i.e. birth certificate) - while presiding in office - to verify his American citizenship. The intersection of race and property rights is reflected in citizenship on campus as well. Although Uppsala College was located in a Black town, the small predominately White college demonstrated its property rights by erecting a high, black iron fence around the circumference of the campus. I frequently shacked up in the dorm rooms with scores of Black and White girls. However, I mostly lived at home with my parents on the corner of Lincoln and William Street - walking distance of the college on Prospect and Springdale Ave. There was a #96 New Jersey Transit public bus from the corner of my house to the campus. I often rode my Motobecane bicycle or drove my MGB English convertible sports car when I didn't take the 0.8-mile flat walk to school. In any event, my commute to the campus was not extremely challenging. The college population was predominately White and conversely the surrounding neighborhood where I lived was largely Black. I remember one autumn morning, approaching the campus on route to the library, and noticing a high, black rough iron fence enclosing the campus. The fence had a blockade appearance. Except for its blackness, the architecture did not blend with the community -in any way. It was clearly erected to protect the White transplants from Boston (and other American cities), by keeping the Black “townies” out. (‘Townies’ is a term used by college students to identify municipal citizens not attending the college). The black Iron barrier offended me; I was one of those Black citizens! I wondered if that black fence protected the four White rapists from the Black townies, or if Angela ever saw the interior of the protective barrier. After cycling past the black iron barrier, and stepping onto campus property, I noticed red spray paint across the glass of the student’s center, and on the nearby sidewalks. The large print read: “Niggers go back to Africa and Spicks just die!” (Spic is a derogatory term for Latino people.) Someone eventually removed the graffiti, but no school official made a formal apology or even admitted to having recognized its offensiveness. BIG MAN ON CAMPUS The student’s demeanor was somber that week. No one openly discussed what happened, but you could see the thoughts in students’ eyes. The hate speech was not openly discussed nor mentioned in Uppsala Gazette newspaper. It was kind of like Angela’s rape. Nothing said, nothing done! These events took place in the 1970s when the NJ minimum drinking age was 18-years-old. Many colleges -including Uppsala College - had a pub. One evening, I was having a cold mug of Budweiser beer, when a popular dance song came on by the ‘Average White band’ entitled, “Pick up the piece,” (No, I am not saying the band was average, “The Average White band” was the band’s official full name.) I purposefully asked a familiar hot Italian girl, that I suspect liked me, from my physics lab to dance. She had a Black girls butt and lips and graciously accepted my invite for the dance. Then, one of my Black friends- took my lead and tactically asked another White girl to dance. She accepted. Then one of the nerdy but cool, socially smart Jewish boys caught on quickly and strategically asked a Black girl to dance with him. She graciously accepted. Before the song was over, every Black student was dancing with a White student, and the surplus of White students danced along as well. It was very clear that 100% of the people in the pub were dancing -which was unusual that everyone would be dancing. Nevertheless, it was a protest dance against racism spontaneously and eloquently executed. Everyone on campus heard about the interracial protest dance faster than today’s social media could have informed anyone. It was at that time an informal apology was made and accepted. One aspect of the CRT is that progress in race relations is made through grassroots protest as opposed to legal procedures (Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J., 2007). I got to know my hot Italian physics lab partner much better over the course of that night. Except for her sky-blue light eyes, she looked just like Maria Bartiromo (CNBC television journalist). After leaving her dorm room that next morning and hearing the positive responses to the 'protest dance' at the Students' Center breakfast, I felt like THE BIG MAN ON CAMPUS. Coloreds need not apply The following year, during my histology course, I needed more study time viewing the tissue slides. The cool Jewish boy from the pub sneaked me upstairs to his private research laboratory to use his compound light microscope. I’ve taken classes in Puder Hall many times but never thought to go up that extra flight of stairs before this invite. I never knew that ‘certain’ students had research labs for independent study. During my histological study of the slides, a group of White boys came rushing up to the area. My Jewish friend stepped outside into the hallway and immediately closed the door behind him. I instinctively remained silent while the White boys were questioning him about me. I overheard one student asked my friend, “Did you see a colored boy come up here?” My friend lied, and said, “No”. The only thing that I could think is “why am I hiding?” I am not doing anything wrong. Matter of fact, I’m studying, which is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. One of the canons of the Critical Race theory is that White people have privilege, and these student’s laboratories were for White people and not for ‘Colored’ folk such as myself. After college graduation, I landed a job as a research Biochemist for Merck & Co., Inc. My former chemistry professor Dr. Most, asked me how “they” [White biochemist] treated me at Merck Pharmaceuticals. I was not sure how to interpret or even answer him until 2012 when a White union president – asked me the same question. The president and I have a long-term working relationship, and he knows that I serve as an officer and trustee for the Community College of Morris, so he felt free to ask me, “How do the [White] “Republican” trustees treat you?” Like everyone, my identity is more than my mere race. The intersectionality of my identity includes me being: Middle class, African American, a cis-gendered heterosexual man, able-bodied, a writer, a racial justice advocate, an atheist, a swimmer, a jazz saxophonists, a stargazing amateur astronomer, an avid reader, etc. Interestingly, both lines of questioning regarding how I was treated circumvented my race, and phrased from job title or political affiliation. Critical Race Theorist would hear the affirmation of a racist system and the subtler question - How are you navigating under this system of White supremacy? Interest convergence White scholars of education typically don’t embrace the Critical Race Theory, largely because it is not optimistic that “colorism” will ever be resolved in the interest of Black people (Van Allen, Michael A. , 2012). Numerous White scholars profess one of several schools of thought: 1) Colorism doesn’t exist anymore, so move one and stop making excuses or, 2) OK. Sure racism may exist here and there to some extent, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. You have your Black president [Obama] now, so institutional racism doesn’t exist any longer or, 3) Sure colorism exists in America today, but it will soon fade away when White people become racial minorities (2043) and it becomes in White people’s best interest to eliminate it once, and for all. Dr. Derrick Bell, the Harvard university professor and pioneer of the Critical Race Theory addressed what he coined “the Interest Convergence Dilemma” (Bell, D., 1980). The concept is that White people would not do anything to benefit Black people unless it was in the interest of White people. The student demographics at Uppsala College darkened as time progressed. It was in the interest of the school that was increasing its Black student body population to have additional Black faculty. As the first non-White student to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, I later became the first non-White instructor in the Chemistry/Physics department, hired by Chairman Joe Most. When Uppsala College ultimately went out of business and closed its doors for good in the mid-1990s, Professor Most sought a chemistry teaching position at the Newark Public Schools. Ironically, had he been hired I would have been his supervisor. Had I seen him at the job fair, I would have aggressively pointed my finger at him – in plain sight of the interviewers and yelled, “Now, that’s a man who has taught chemistry!” (Joe is a good man and fortunately secured another chemistry teaching position for himself at a neighboring 4-year private institution of higher education i.e. Bloomfield college.) I shared these undergraduate accounts with my wife – who has white skin. She naively asked me with a frightful tone and shocking frown, “Michael, are all your college experiences race related?” I responding lovely with, “Debbie, I was Black the entire time I was there! ”We both laughed aloud, and I felt “lighter” having shared the story with her. Thank you for listening to my story! I only ask you to think about the kind of employment Angela may have accepted for not having a college degree. Could Angela possibly be a waitress serving food to the children of her rapists while they enjoy the American Dream by attending upscale schools in Mass? Might some of those Ivy League students look at her with disdain wondering why she never did anything with her life or even worse not see her at all? More importantly, I wonder if that beautiful black- complexioned, brown-eyed, sexy, lean girl with that radiant white smile and contagious laugh, ever came across a roofless, house where she was able to share her experiences to four walls so she too, could feel lighter than she felt before she was violated.
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