Summer 2015Date Released: 8 July 2015
Five family members graduated from various universities this year. It had been a while since I attended a graduation ceremony, but this year my schedule was full. It was nice to see that some thoughtful changes have been implemented. Repetitively played “Pomp and Circumstance” was not heard at any of the ceremonies. At one ceremony, it was replaced by bagpipes and exceptional drumming.
The tradition of a commencement speech was dropped by some and continued by others. Personally, I like commencement speeches. One of the best commencement speeches was given at Washington University by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. The speech was a well-crafted appeal for graduates to “fix what we (previous generations) broke.” Burns listed specific advice and was showered with applause when he began with “Remember, Black Lives Matter.”
Burns did not specify what graduates were to do with this advice; however, the applause signified that the new idiom resonated with the audience. I interpret the advice as imploring graduates to consider how to operationalize the semantics of “Black Lives Matter” as they go about fixing what has been broken. As technologies and opportunities develop to fix the problem of climate change, how will “Black Lives Matter”? As we consider the ramifications of economic fair trade, how will “Black Lives Matter”? How will new graduates resolve disparities in health care to reflect “Black Lives Matter”? All fixes will be well-served by considering that “Black Lives Matter” when social policy is designed and implemented.
Operationalizing “Black Lives Matter” could mean analyzing the social return on investment (SROI) of a policy or community action. Consideration of both benefits and burdens to each stakeholder group is required. Policies that give all the benefits to one group and all the burdens to another have a high probability of being racially biased. For example, on the surface, the policy of increasing municipal income by raising fines and implementing strict enforcement may seem like a good idea, but if the implementation of the policy keeps property taxes low for homeowners who are mostly white, while burdening mostly black renters with high fines, this would be an unfair policy. If the goal was fairness and a “black lives matter” analysis was included, the policy would never be accepted because of the inherent lack of equity.
Out of every social movement come idioms and phrases that capture key motivations. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” “Black Power” and “Equal Pay for Equal Work” are examples of phrases that captured the motivation behind a social movement. As a source of motivation, “Black Lives Matter” should not be diluted to phrases like “All Lives Matter” or “Police Lives Matter.” There is an implied semantic that the term, “Black Lives Matter” contains the word only, but it does not. “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t say anything about devaluing the lives of others. Another dilution is to add the words too or also to the end of the phrase to imply inclusion. Both alterations only serve to lessen the power of the term. It is important to incorporate the idiom “Black Lives Matter” into our collective lexicon with its intended semantic. Black lives matter – period. They matter not in comparison to other lives. The fact that they matter does not take away or add to the value of other lives. In their own merit, black lives have richness, potential and resourcefulness that make them valuable; they matter to the people living them, and they matter to all of society.
So, to the graduates of Case Western Reserve University, the heart of innovation, congratulations on your accomplishments. You will be the innovators that make the phrase “Black Lives Matter” not just the tagline of a movement, but a powerful consideration in the implementation of social policy.
—Linda Sharpe-Taylor, PhD (WRC '78)
The Father Effect: Snapshot of John A. Barber, Sr.
by Linda Wheatt
Men bring much more than money to the parenting enterprise, according to author Michelle Higgins. In The Father Effect, she references numerous studies which show children with involved fathers scoring higher on intelligence tests, particularly in the non-verbal reasoning needed in such fields as math, science, and engineering. This seems to be attributed to the more physical play typical of fathers, like roughhousing and manipulation of blocks and other objects.
Higgins also claims fathers who respond consistently to positive and negative behaviors, set appropriate limits, and explain the reasons for those limits have children with higher emotional intelligence. The children better understand what is expected of them, feel more secure in unfamiliar situations and act independently when appropriate.
John A. Barber, Sr. (WRC ’75), shown above with wife Sandra and three of their seven children, could have written his own book on fatherhood. John, a mechanical contractor at Buena Vista Associates, LLC, is the proud father of blended siblings: Trone, 46, Dionne, 42, Jewell, 30, John, Jr., 26, Ashley, 25, India, 24 and Trayon, 20. In honor of the recent holiday, he shares his thoughts in the Q and A below.
What is the role of a father?
“A father sets the tone for the household. The world watches the way he treats his wife, works to support his family, disciplines and loves his children, deals with stress and works through problems. The children also watch. I learned many of my parenting skills from my mother and father.”
What should be considered before deciding to become a father?
“Consider the best situation in which to raise children and how many to have. A two-parent structure is imperative. Children need fathers who are constants in their lives-- at PTA meetings, sporting events, church and home-- teaching life lessons by example. The high costs of food, clothing and education make it difficult for one parent to provide the necessary time and resources.”
What is one additional challenge being the father of a blended family?
“Influences from outside sources, such as the birth parent, and the phrase, “You’re not my father!” are bound to come up. It can be especially hard to establish discipline.”
How has parenting changed over the last 40 years?
“New ideas on discipline and the advance of technology seem to be the biggest changes. Cell phones and computers vie with parents to be the most important influences in children’s lives. Fathers must carve out their areas, be consistent with their messages and stick to their rules. Don’t play favorites and don’t apologize for good, old-fashioned discipline.”
What are some memories you treasure?
“We had great celebrations for birthdays and holidays when the children were growing up. I loved cooking breakfast on Saturday mornings. Even today when we all get together, we enjoy good food and good company. Each time together is precious. I don’t take them for granted.”
*This commentary reflects the views of the author, not necessarily CWRU.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs celebrated seniors, service, leadership and academic achievement at its 25th annual Unity Banquet and Scholarship Benefit on April 10, 2015. This was the inaugural year for several awards: $1000 in graduate student awards, the Latino Alliance Leadership Excellence Award and others. Since 2008, more than $100,000 in scholarships have been given.
In a special musical appearance during dinner, Javier Colon delivered a fresh take on acoustic soul, including the song Time After Time with which he won the NBC hit show The Voice. Journalist Jeff Johnson, keynote speaker, applauded CWRU’s advances in diversity, but reminded the university that it is hard to create community. “Build new bridges,” he implored. “Create a pipeline for students from Cleveland who would never otherwise come to campus.” Johnson left the audience with these thought-provoking questions: Whose legacy are you prepared to be a part of? What will you do tomorrow that you were afraid to do last week?
Multicultural Student Graduation Reception
On May 8, 2015, the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and the President’s Advisory Council on Minorities hosted a reception in honor of the 200 multicultural graduate and undergraduate students who would soon join 110,000 other CWRU alumni world-wide.
Former African American Alumni Association president Alicia Graves and Marilyn S. Mobley, Ph.D. were among many who applauded the students receiving degrees in such diverse fields as dentistry, sociology, marketing, political science and biomedical engineering. “Consider adding your talents to the AAAA,” Graves invited. “We await your ideas and participation.”
Mobley encouraged, “Remember to lift as you climb. Reach back and bring someone else along.”
Be a mentor
The African American Alumni Association is implementing a mentoring program, and we need your involvement. Volunteers are needed to mentor CWRU undergraduates. The program will provide training and regular support for mentors to further its goals of African American student retention and degree completion. Training regarding expectations and requirements will be held via webinar in the coming months. Mentors can use email, face-to-face meetings, online services, telephone and/or social media to interact with their mentees, so they do not have to reside in Cleveland. To learn more about becoming a mentor please contact us at email@example.com.
Fisher/Tubbs Jones Memorial Postponed
Thank you to all who expressed interest in attending the Michael E. Fisher/Stephanie Tubbs Jones Memorial Dinner this summer. More time is needed to make this the unique opportunity for community and celebration we all desire; therefore, the planning committee has postponed the event to a yet undetermined date. Please look for future announcements, so you can make plans to join us!
Save the Date
History of Civil & Human Rights Reception, 6 p.m., August 29 in Atlanta, Georgia at Paschal's
Join the Atlanta alumni chapter of Case Western Reserve University as we partake in a self-guided tour through the Center for Civil and Human Rights followed by a reception and presentation featuring alumni Chief Judge Herbert E. Phipps (LAW'71) and The Alumni Association's Emeritus Executive Director Daniel T. Clancy (LAW'62). Register for the event by clicking here.
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