Category Archives: Culture

“The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death” is a 2012 Book List Essential

As Posted on the Democrat and Chronicle Young Professionals’Blog

I rarely go a day without wanting to learn some new piece of information. It can be something as complex as the Vietnam War or as mundane as the origins of Pixy Stix (which started in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952, for the record), I have always been a fiend for knowledge. But more often than not, it takes an older book or primary source to satiate my thirst for history. As a religion major at the University of Rochester, I had to read documents that were older than the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves (~400 BCE)! However, I have fallen for the works of a historian and journalist who actually isn’t as old as papyrus. The New Yorker staff writer and David Woods Kemper ’41 professor of American History at Harvard University Jill Lepore has hooked me into the profound, yet intuitive, concept that historical events of the past can constantly be rewritten to offer an amazingly witty narrative. What Lepore writes about surely has been discussed over the years, but the way she links one seemingly unrelated cultural staple to the next uncovers an abstruse motif. In essence, that is what the best historians offer society

The book that won me over you ask? Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death. The title caught my eye while I was browsing through a few book displays around my stomping grounds at Rush Rhees Library. (If there is one thing you should know about marketing anything to a religion major, it is that you can virtually add the word “life” or “death” to any product or service and we will likely want to investigate). With my strange bias against newer books — with the exception of biographies — I sifted through the pages rather dubiously when I saw that it was published in 2012. Personally, I consider someone who publishes a book in 2012 to be my competition as opposed to my teacher.

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Filed under Culture, Democrat and Chronicle, Religion

Thanksgiving 2012: How to Stay in Shape This Thanksgiving Day

As Published on PolicyMic

This week is Thanksgiving. For some of us, it is a day to feel good about ourselves by writing depressing blog posts in a dark room and claiming that we were the first ones to ever argue that the Pilgrims killed the entire Native American population on the Third Thursday of every November. For others, who are apparently not cool enough to skip out on a big feast with their friends and families, it is a day to eat, drink, and be merry and thankful for the blessings and virtues in our lives.

But how much eating and drinking is too merry? As a gym rat and one of the few males in this world who wants to get an RD, I wrestled with which side to advocate for on the crowded American dinner table. Should we overindulge ourselves when our country has record high obesity rates and portion sizes that eclipses as recent as the 1980s? Or should we be conservative by replacing Thanksgiving hallmarks with more healthy ingredients?

My conclusion, you ask? Eat till your heart’s content!

The purpose of Thanksgiving is to celebrate family, friends, fortunes and opportunities through the sacred food pathways of our own unique family traditions and culture. All I ask is that we care about the person sitting at our dinner tables and refuse to go to Target after we devour our turkey.

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Chased from the Classroom, Locked out the Prison

“When you came to Lovdjieff’s classes, you came to learn. If you betrayed other motives, ‘Get out of here this minute!’—without malice but without equivocation. He was a magnet, an institution. His classes were works of art. He made ancient history contemporary by evoking the total environment—intellectual, social, political, economic—of an era. He breathed life into the shattered ruins of the past. Students sat entranced while The Christ performed, his silver-rimmed glasses reflecting the light in eye-twinkling flashes…he was drawn to the student who seemed impossible to teach—old men who had been illiterate all their lives and set in their ways. Lovdjeiff didn’t believe that anyone or anything in the universe was ‘set in its ways.’ Those students who were intelligent and quickest to learn he seemed reluctant to bother with, almost as if to say, pointing at the illiterates and speaking to the bright ones…he returned my essay—ungraded. There were instead spots on it which I realized to be his tears.” Read More

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Filed under Culture, Democrat and Chronicle, Education, Race, Social Justice

Lyrically Speaking

Seven years ago, I was a mild mannered chubby kid from Brooklyn who physically sat in silence in the classroom, but academically dominated the honor roll. The only time I could talk myself into public speaking was when my GPA depended on it. A matter of fact, even one-on-one conversations with new people were rather daunting.

Seven days ago, I was presenting to a group of outgoing and strong-minded high school students from the Urban League who are the same age I was when I could not even fathom talking into a microphone. In high school, I had a phobia of being noticed; now I proudly and anxiously hop on any opportunity to speak in front of as large a group as possible to share ideas, thoughts, jokes and entertainment.

I am not the same Jerome from seven years ago — but I do not merely attribute that to my physical transformation. Between high school and today, I fell in love with an expression of art that is often muddied by the perpetrators and frowned upon by critics that have made no attempt to comprehend its true essence. Hip hop has given me a way out of my shell and a path to the top of a podium. Now when I hear Lupe Fiasco’s “hip hop has saved my life,” it all makes sense…Read More

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Filed under Culture, Democrat and Chronicle, Education

The New Media Flexes its Muscles in Gabby Story

As Published in the Democrat and Chronicle’s Young Professionals’ Blog

Once upon a time there was a small group of high school girls that would sit in the back lunch room table and gossip their heads off. Every day, they would crack jokes on everyone who spent anything less than the hundreds they spent on clothes and the hours they spent in the mirror.

One day, they decided to pick on the wrong one. The immature bunch decided to post demeaning comments online about a peer who boasted straight As, made the front page of the local paper for getting a full-ride scholarship and became the first Black valedictorian. Before the three mocked and jeered her, half of the student body hailed her achievements. But once the word got out that the three mean girls posted rude comments online, the entire student body, even those who never saw or patted their valedictorian on the back before, came together to embrace her and shun the ‘haters.’ By the time graduation came around, the mean girls were old news and the valedictorian’s academic achievements were the only thing worth talking about…Read More


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Sylvia’s Soul Food Owner Dead at 86: Harlem Loses the Queen of Soul Food

As Posted on PolicyMic

Seldom do we ever hear of a non-chain restaurant that is able to transcend the local mom and pop world and become a cultural icon. But a Harlem woman of humble beginnings was able to take a small luncheonette in 1962 and build an empire through soulfulness and congeniality. Sylvia Woods, the Queen of Soul Food, became a household name for serving the best soul food around;  and she did it all with a trademark smile and caring heart. This past Thursday, Woods died at the age of 86. She is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren.

Some people may make the mistake of quickly glancing over Woods’ death in the headlines and completely missing out on how much of an impact she has had on the African American community and beyond. People from all around the country are likely to have a Sylvia story. I remember my family rushing to grab a sweat potato pie and waiting on Sylvia’s trademark long lines after we weren’t able to bake dessert in time for our fourth of July cookout. There was also all the commotion around town when Sylvia finally acquired space in Brooklyn during Brooklyn’s revitalization in the late 1990’s; saving us all the long subway ride up to Harlem. Even New York City hip hop mogul Funk Master Flex gave Sylvia constant shout outs and accolades on his Hot 97 radio show. And of course, every New Yorker knows that Harlem resident, and jazz enthusiast, Bill Clinton frequent Sylvia’s, even during his trips to New York as president.

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