by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Hello All: This blog will start out a little differently, because I am responding to an email forwarded to by from brother JiTu Weusi -- foremost educator, activist, jazz enthusiast and long time friend. I had responded to the letter on April 9, not realizing there was a real firestorm brewing -- both pro and con-- over Brother Haki Madhubuti's resignation from Chicago State. So I'm sharing my updated comments to JiTu with you. Please feel free to respond.
Thanks for forwarding this to my attention. I've known Haki Madhubuti as long as I have known you (before he became Haki Madhubuti). I have read most of Haki's publications. I've seen him at many a Black conference, interviewed him for news articles; written about him; been on Donahue with him at least 4 times (back in the day when Little Lillian Smith was the producer; I've referred would-be writers to him. I typed up the eulogy he wrote for Sis. Bette Shabazz when he spoke at her home going services at Riverside Church. No matter where I am, or where he may be in New York, I drop what I'm doing to be there and hear this soft spoken, dynamic, quiet fire of a brother. I am always pleased and gratified with the positive, supportive, empowering presence he lends to every event he attends.
That said, let me say first off this is truly a sad day when our Black pseudo intellectuals who know the price of everything and the value of nothing can make pronouncements as though they were the final word or authority on certain issues. White folks gave them a "degree" now they are learned, authoritative, and must fulfill the role they've been cast in - even if it means walking one of their own brothers. (hmmmm wonder what would happen if the roles were reversed and they had to let go a so-called white man of learning from the school? They'd hurry up and find a way to make sure he did not suffer ignominious assault brother Haki is enduring.
This is indeed a tragic situation, where this writer is trying to justify the parsimonious attitude of someone who obviously does not understand the value of having a personage, such as Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti at his campus in the first place.
The fact that he teaches "only one class and gets a full salary" is not the issue. You're talking quantity not quality when you speak in those terms. It's no more relevant than would be Michael Jordan scoring baskets and only being paid minimum wage because he is not on the basket ball court all the time; or Denzel Washington being relegated to union wages for the roles he portrays in the movies and on stage. It would be like saying to Tiger Woods we'll pay you for each time you're on the golf course because we really don't see what you do and how we benefit when you're not (and please don't wave the recent crap flap in my face -- I'm much too well aware). It does not compute!
Trying to hold what Haki does to a base salary, when he really is a BLACK CULTURAL ICON is an insult to the very being of this Black man and should not be countenanced. As a friend of mine from Atlanta used to say "that dog won't hunt!!!"
Being penny wise and pound foolish is exactly the reason why we don't have any more permanent, prominent Black institutions than we should. We are too busy discounting the value of each other, and trying to nickel and dime the situation.
Brother Haki R. Madhubuti, quite simply, is not to be equated with rank and file professors, teachers, adjunct professors.They teach - he EDUCATES!!! That brother has long since proved his merit and value in the realm of Black history, Black literature, Black professionalism, Black lives. How silly can you possibly be?
Did you read Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? (it was so heavy, I made my son read it when he was 15 - changed his life; gave him an entirely different understanding of his role as a young Black Man. He's now 36 and still remembers it).
Does Mr. Watson or Ms. Hartman or even the Black people of Chicago not know that it is because of The Third World Press, established by Dr. Madhubuti in the 60's that Blacks have been able to get published and read? Where is your value system?
Is there some kind of subtle -- maybe not so subtle -- envy on the part of both the writer and the College President that they can rationalize trying to pull the brother down? There are several vicarious benefits from the college having Dr. Madhubuti on their faculty. But if you don't value him, or understand the concept -- look at such other luminaries as Dr. Cornell West, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., then perhaps this is a sign of one door closing; the other door opening for Haki.
Per Hartman: "All state universities and colleges are experiencing budget cuts, and Watson found it necessary to assess all paid staff and reduce the payroll. Watson's assessment found that Haki Madhubuti had been receiving full-time pay for teaching just one course per year. In most universities on the planet, teaching one, three-hour course per year is not considered teaching full-time. Watson asked Madhubuti to carry a full-teaching load, which is 12 hours, or four courses. Besides, few occupy Madhubuti's space and others who are also CSU Distinguished Professors carried full teaching loads. Watson asked for work documentation for a full-time salary; he required accountability."
What other CSU Distinguished Professors are you referring to? Why are you comparing them to Madhubuti, when he is clearly in a league by himself? Are you the appointed apologist for the system that is trying to take more than 40 years of dedication and equate it with a 9 to 5 job? And at what point to we develop Blackbone and take some principled stands for each other instead of standing on each other's black backs?
Hartman: "Mitchell argues that Madhubuti's status as a 'cultural icon' should not shield him from the extra work." I really don't think that's the issue. It would almost be tantamount to saying to a Frederick Douglas, who has given lectures all over the country about "My Bondage and My Freedom" and his other experiences as a slave -- well whatcha waitin' for! Get out there and lecture. You ain't dead yet. It's like saying to E. Franklin Frazier (author of Black Bourgeoisie), yeah, right! N-r - that and a bag of chips will get you across the campus.
What Hartmann calls a "free lunch" is more a symbol of a University's capacity to attract higher quality faculty; better yet, it's quid pro quo. You get the benefit of Haki Madhubuti's intelligence, knowledge and dedication; he continues to be affiliated with the college. If you have no understanding of how that works, visit the aforementioned examples I've already given you.
The denigration of Dr. Madhubuti may go well in Chicago, but in New York we over understand the plantation mentality, and the sycophants it takes to keep it in place. There is only one Black man in this fight -- and we know who that is.
When you can so callously narrow it down and say "it's not personal, it's just business," as though this justifies the acerbic attitudes and statements roiling around in the atmosphere, it means that you've already begun to drink the proverbial kool-ade; that you have assumed an emotional distance between us and from each other, and allows us to objectify each other, instead of realizing that we are pawns in a much larger board game. Hmmm, I wonder where you could possibly have picked that up from???
If it's not personal, it should be!! There should be care and concern about how we treat each other and work together in much the same way that Jews do when they make decisions about each other; or our Latino Brothers and sisters do when they make decisions about working together; or the way the caucasians do when they make decisions about working together. Because, whether they enunciate or not, they are family, and they back each other up. We are the only ones expected to follow a policy lock step that others do not even deal with.
There are thousands of Black men and women who put their lives on the line literally in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, who went to the edge who are still out there on a daily basis trying literally save our African souls from another day of post-traumatic slave syndrome. I guess there are twice as many whites and blacks (negro) who are trying to keep them at bay.
People like Elombe Brath, Dr. Ben Jochanan, Kermit Eady (Black United Fund of New York), and others who have made it their lives' work to enlighten and liberate us and getting precious little in return. The commentary that Haki was doing "quite well" with his publishing business and other concerns was really quite cynical -- considering the money he puts up in advance to make sure the writer has what he or she needs to get started. These are people who, at the end of the day, deserve the accolades, the honor, the nurture. We really should have planned unit developments, center for struggling and/or retired activists. We should be putting monies together to give them places of honor. We should be building libaries of their work; teaching our kids about them -- goodness knows we've allowed them to worship enough empty headed icons -- and look what we have -- males who don't know how to wear pants; and females who make our ancestors (living and dead) cry.
We should revere Haki Madhubuti, Imamu Baraka, Elombe Brath, Askia Muhammad Toure, and others way the mainstream makes heroes out of even some of their most depraved characters (Reagan springs to mind). We need to develop standards of quality, a'la Carter G. Woodson (the Mis Education of the Negro), and a ton of brothers who stood when it was literally life and death to do so. If they can consistently call Reagan "the great communicator" .......back again to 'hmmmm!'
I strongly suggest that Watson and Madhubuti sit down -- behind closed doors(?) in front of the African Holy Ghost(or whatever guiding spiritual entity you believe in and follow --other than the almighty dollar) -- and put this right -- for the greater benefit of all the millions of Black brothers and sisters who depend on and absolutely need the paradigm shift of unification -- i.e., the end to divide and conquer. We can't afford other wise.
By the way, pardon my not knowing, but who is Hermene Hartman, and why is she trying to rationalize this mess?? Her article follows below.
Stay Blessed &
--- On Fri, 4/9/10,
Subject: Article from Hermene Hartman
One of the most significant and influential black women in American publishing
Posted: April 7, 2010 10:40 AM
Chicago State University Prez is Right: There Is No Free Lunch for Icons
Dr. Wayne Watson, the President of Chicago State University, and I were Vice Chancellors at City Colleges together. He is my friend.
Haki Madhubuti is a man of great intellect and a prolific writer. Throughout the years, I have sought his professional advice and I have referred many to his publishing firm, Third World Press. I have participated in his annual Gwendolyn Brooks Conference for Black Literature and Creative Writing, and I have sat in audiences to hear his lectures. I admire his work.
Watson and Madhubuti have appeared on the cover of this paper and The N'Digo Foundation has honored both esteemed men for their achievements in the field of education.
In her first column, Mitchell revealed that Madhubuti wrote an open letter critical of Watson--a letter that I also received, read and responded to some time ago. Madhubuti said, "I can't work with him. I am not going to stand here and let him use this university like he used the City Colleges."
What does that mean?
During his tenure at City Colleges, Watson built a model, modern institution of higher learning--Kennedy King College--to transform the disenfranchised neighborhood of Englewood. He installed programs that put young people to work. He achieved the longest record of accreditation that City Colleges has ever received. And Watson left Chicago's community college system with elevated academic standards and a $60 million surplus in the budget. Not bad, I would say.
Watson assumed the post of president at Chicago State University in October 2009, marking the first time in Illinois history that an educator who was the chancellor of the community college system ascended to the state university level.
Cleaning House at CSU
The process of moving Chicago State University forward has begun. All state universities and colleges are experiencing budget cuts, and Watson found it necessary to assess all paid staff and reduce the payroll. Watson's assessment found that Haki Madhubuti had been receiving full-time pay for teaching just one course per year.
In most universities on the planet, teaching one, three-hour course per year is not considered teaching full-time. Watson asked Madhubuti to carry a full-teaching load, which is 12 hours, or four courses. Besides, few occupy Madhubuti's space and others who are also CSU Distinguished Professors carried full teaching loads. Watson asked for work documentation for a full-time salary; he required accountability.
Madhubuti's salary was not reduced; his workload was increased to represent a full-teaching course load. And Madhubuti was not fired; instead, he chose a public resignation through the press -- at his annual conference, which was fully supported by the Chicago State University.
What's so wrong with teaching a full course load?
Madhubuti's 26 years at Chicago State positioned him and Watson at odds--I would have thought that Watson and Madhubuti would have made a perfect team to take Chicago State University to that next level--and this entire matter suggests a power play.
But Watson is the president with a board of directors and taxpayers to answer to, so he must maintain his proven record as the tough, no-nonsense, accountable and responsible administrator.
Mitchell argues that Madhubuti's status as a 'cultural icon' should shield him from the extra work. That's her opinion, but it's essential that the facts are not lost.
Chicago State University is not a villa for cultural icons; it's an institution of higher learning.
The best thing any distinguished professor/cultural icon could do is roll up his sleeves and engage students. In doing so, he would join the ranks of distinguished professors who have taught and authored books -- like Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Charles Hamilton, Dr. Patricia Hill-Collins and the likes of the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers, Dr. St. Clair Drake, and Dr. Edward Franklin Frazier.
One More Lesson
Haki Madhubuti is highly regarded in his community, but now support for him is not there, because Madhubuti and Mitchell are wrong.
Think about it--who would publicly support Madhubuti in this year of economic hard times, when most are working 40-plus hours per week if they are lucky to have a job?
So, when you read about Madhubuti--someone making a dynamic salary for teaching a single three hour course, while running several charter schools, earning a hefty purse as a paid guest speaker (lecturing to more students outside of Chicago State University than he does at Chicago State) and running a publishing business, it's hard to protest Watson's demand for a full-time workload at Chicago State. So let's cancel the pity-party.
Mitchell may be in for a bit of a business lesson, as well.
While Watson was at City Colleges, the Chairman of his board was Mr. James Tyree. He and Watson worked in conjunction at the City Colleges. And this is the same James Tyree who now owns the Chicago Sun-Times.
Instead of, "Where's the Support of Madhubuti?" The more appropriate question is, how did Professor Haki Madhubuti and the previous Chicago State University presidents justify a professor, (icon or not) earning a full-time salary for teaching just one course per year?
Mitchell notes in her column, "It is painful to watch two powerful Black men fight publicly."
This is not a story about two black powerful men fighting, unless you make it one.
This is a story about right and wrong.