Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, announced that it will rename its College of Media, Arts and Humanities after Gwen Ifill, the noted journalist and Simmons College alumna who died in 2016.
Ifill was born in Jamaica, New York, the daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Simmons College and worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald-American, the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Postand the New York Times.
Her first job in television was for NBC News. She then joined the Public Broadcasting System in 1999 and served as co-anchor of NewsHour and moderator of Washington Week. Ifill moderated two vice presidential debates and a primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Ifill was the author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (Doubleday, 2009).
In announcing the honor, Simmons College President Helen Drinan stated, “For over 100 years, our mission at Simmons has been to prepare our students to lead meaningful lives and build successful careers. Gwen’s example stands tall in that mission. The kind of unimpeded curiosity Gwen brought to her work, coupled with her warmth, integrity and commitment to truth-telling, is something all of our students aspire to – no matter what field of study they pursue. We are extraordinarily proud of her and so pleased to formalize her legacy at Simmons this way.”
A Boston man who has maintained his innocence through nearly four decades behind bars was granted his freedom after Suffolk, MA prosecutors admitted his 1981 murder conviction was tainted by discredited witness identification and police tactics. “To quote Sam Cooke, ‘it’s been a long time coming,’ ” Frederick Clay said after walking out of the Suffolk Superior courtroom yesterday. “It’s been 38 years for something I didn’t do. I’m overwhelmed and sort of nervous.”
Clay, 53, emerged from the Boston courthouse with his arms raised and a wide smile on this face, having last experienced freedom when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer was at the top of the charts. He was convicted of the 1979 execution-style murder of 28-year-old cab driver Jeffrey Boyajian, who was shot five times in the head at a Roslindale housing project.
“From day one, they told me I was facing natural life in prison,” Clay told reporters, “and that scared me. But I was not going to voluntarily put myself in prison for something I didn’t do.” Professing his innocence cost Clay at his first parole hearing in 2015, when the three board members who denied his release wrote that he had “yet to accept responsibility for his actions.”
One of the witnesses to the crime said he was sure about Clay’s guilt after being hypnotized by police, then a widely-accepted practice thought to enhance recollection. A second witness ID’d Clay after being promised he and his family could be relocated from their housing project if he helped investigators. Another man convicted in the slaying, James Watson, is still behind bars and prosecutors remain confident of his involvement.
Boyajian’s brother Jerry spoke in support of releasing Clay.“All my family has ever wanted was justice for my brother,” Boyajian said, recalling his older brother as a “jock” with a great sense of humor. “I really feel that justice failed Mr. Clay and, in that respect, it also failed my brother.”
Esperanza Spalding is at the top of her field. She’s won just about every award a musician can win: four Grammys, a Smithsonian award, an NAACP Image Award, a Frida Kahlo award, a Boston Music Award — we could go on for ten minutes. And now, according to a press release from Harvard University, Spalding is going to teach others how she did it.
The bassist and singer has been appointed the a professor of the practice in the university’s Department of Music. The university’s professors of the practice are individuals “who have a national or international reputation as leaders” and who are “the best in the field.” That certainly sounds like Spalding. The press release refers to the artist as “a national treasure with global resonance” who “stands apart for the intelligence and deep sense of humanity” found in her work.
This won’t be Spalding’s first time in front of students, either. She taught at Boston’s Berklee College of Music from 2005 to 2008, and has instructed many pupils as an artist in residence in the years since. At Harvard, Spalding will lead courses in songwriting, improvisation and performance. The school also promises that Spalding will bring her “commitment to music as a voice for social justice” to the classroom with her.
The board of trustees of the University of Massachusetts has named Robert E. Johnson as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. The campus enrolls about 7,300 undergraduate students and 1,600 graduate students. African Americans make up 14 percent of the undergraduate student body.
When Dr. Johnson takes office, he will become the first African American to lead the UMass Dartmouth campus. Since 2010, he has been president of Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Earlier in his career, Dr. Johnson has served in administrative roles at Sinclair Community College, the University of Dayton, Oakland University, and Central State University.
A native of Detroit, Dr. Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he majored in economics. He holds a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate in higher education administration from Touro University International.
Anita Hill, the University Professor of Law in the Heller Graduate School of Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, has been selected as the 10th recipient of the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy, and Tolerance. The honor, awarded by the University of California, Merced, comes with a $10,000 prize.
Professor Hill will be honored on October 24 in Merced, 25 years after she testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, alleging sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas who was a nominee for the Supreme Court. Hill worked for Thomas at the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Sherrie Spendlove, who established the award in honor of her parents, stated that “Anita Hill is a powerful role model for having the courage and the integrity to step up and speak the truth, for her calm dignity in holding to her truth in the face of vicious attacks and for her steadfastness in dedicating her life to teaching, mentoring, educating and enlightening young people in the tenets of social justice.”
Former Philadelphia 76er Allen Iverson, is a newly announced inductee into the prestigious Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I’m just proud of my family and friends and my fans that helped me get to this point,” the Virginia native said during the finalist announcement back in February. The six-foot tall point guard/shooting guard played 14 seasons in the NBA, and was selected as the 1996 Rookie Of The Year with the 76ers. Additionally, “The Answer” is an 11-time NBA All-Star, a two time All-Star MVP (2001 and 2005) and was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2001.
NBC 10 writes, “Among the Sixers’ all-time leaders, Iverson is tied with Wilt Chamberlain for first in points per game (27.6) and tied with Maurice Cheeks for steals per game (2.3). He is also first in three-point field goals (885). Iverson ranks second in points (19,931), minutes per game (41.4), minutes played (29,879), free throws (5,122) and steals (1,644) and is third in assists (4,385). Iverson ranks fourth in minutes per game (41.4), seventh in points per game (27.7) and is tied for 10th in steals per game (2.17) with John Stockton among all-time NBA players.”
The 2016 class is pretty star-studded. Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, John McLendon (first African-American professional coach) and WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes are among the other Hall of Fame inductees, according to CBS Sports.
The Hall of Fame induction and festivities will take place in Springfield, Mass. from Sept. 8-10.
Actress and Harvard alumna Rashida Jones will be the principal guest speaker for Harvard College seniors celebrating their Class Day in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 25. She was chosen and invited to speak by a subcommittee of eight class marshals, who considered speakers suggested by classmates as part of a senior-class survey.
“I am truly honored to come back to campus and speak at Class Day 2016. Harvard was such a transformative place for me in so many ways,” Jones said in a statement. “It’s where I first had the idea for Facebook, which went on to make me billions of dollars and change the world. Oh wait, that wasn’t me…”
Jones, an accomplished screenwriter, philanthropist, and comic-book author, is best known for her roles in more than 20 films, television shows such as The Office and Parks and Recreation, and, most recently, as the title character in the TBS comedy Angie Tribeca. The daughter of musician Quincy Jones and model turned The Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton, Jones said of her parents in a recent Vanity Fair profile that she is “the genetic expression of all their secret academic dreams.”
According to Harvard officials, nine alumni have been selected to deliver the Class Day address since 1968, with Jones not only the fourth consecutive alumna to give the address but also the first relative of a former Class Day speaker (her father, in 1997) to receive the honor.
“As a Harvard College alumna, Rashida Jones knows what it is like to balance commitments—whether it was her involvement with the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, the Signet Society, or the Black Students Association—with academics and the many other facets of college life,” class marshal Gabriela Ruiz-Colon ’16, co-chair of the speaker-selection committee, said in a press release. “She has taken this experience and shown an extraordinary ability to use her celebrity platform to make the world a better place.”
Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, has announced the establishment of the Diversity, Excellence, and Inclusion Scholarships. The program will provide full-tuition scholarships for five students in master’s degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. Recipients of the scholarships will also receive a $10,000 stipend.
Laurie Nichols, Director of Admissions, stated that “we are looking for any students who may be traditionally overlooked by graduate admissions processes.”
Eric Chasalow, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, added that “a commitment to diversity is one of Brandeis’ core values, and some that we take very seriously. We have seen similar program provide benefits to our undergraduate students, so it made absolute sense to bring those benefits to the graduate student population.”
For Black History Month, we are honoring pioneers and their heirs apparent.
There are so many black pioneers in the arena of education, but one who stands out is Charlotte Forten Grimké, who was born into an affluent family that had fought for racial equality for generations.
Charlotte Forten Grimké (1837-1914)
Charlotte Forten Grimké was the first northern African American schoolteacher to go south to teach former slaves.
Grimké was born in Philadelphia in 1837 into an influential and affluent family. Her grandfather had been an enormously successful businessman and significant voice in the abolitionist movement. The family moved in the same circles as William Lloyd Garrison and John Greenleaf Whittier: intellectual and political activity were part of the air Charlotte Forten Grimké breathed.
She attended Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts, and began her teaching career in the Salem schools, the first African American ever hired. But she longed to be part of a larger cause, and with the coming of the Civil War Grimké found a way to act on her deepest beliefs. In 1862, she arrived on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, where she worked with Laura Towne.
As she began teaching, she found that many of her pupils spoke only Gullah and were unfamiliar with the routines of school. Though she yearned to feel a bond with the islanders, her temperament, upbringing and education set her apart, and she found she had more in common with the white abolitionists there. Under physical and emotional stress, Grimke, who was always frail, grew ill and left St. Helena after two years.
Today, Grimké is best remembered for her diaries. From 1854-64 and 1885-92, she recorded the life of an intelligent, cultured, romantic woman who read and wrote poetry, attended lectures, worked, and took part in the largest social movement of her time. She was determined to embody the intellectual potential of all black people. She set a course of philosophical exploration, social sophistication, cultural achievement and spiritual improvement. She was, above all, dedicated to social justice.
John B. King Jr. (Image: Wikipedia.org)
John B. King Jr., (1975–)
John King Jr. is the first person of African American and Hispanic descent to be appointed Acting Secretary of the Department of Education. Previously he was Acting Deputy Secretary, and before that, the first African American and first Puerto Rican to be appointed Commissioner of Education of the State of New York.
Before King assumed these high-profile leadership roles, he was an award-winning teacher, receiving the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies. He also co-founded a high-performing charter school in Boston, the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School.
King received a B.A. in government from Harvard, a Juris Doctor from Yale, and a Ph.D. in educational administrative practice from Columbia University Teachers College.
Although King was born into a well-educated and accomplished family (his father was the first black principal in Brooklyn, New York; he later became executive deputy superintendent of schools; his grandfather had attended New York University Law School), he experienced devastating loss and instability as a youngster, losing both his parents by the time he was 12. Seeing school and teachers as an anchor, he himself became a teacher and education leader, perhaps living out the potential that Charlotte Forten Grimké foresaw for all people of African descent more than a hundred years earlier.