Memo to Brooklyn College: Racism is a Costly and Destructive Sunuvabitch (Part Two of Three)

Late last year (11/12/2014), I published part one of what was supposed to be a two-parter. If you go up to Room Eight New York Politics (, you can find it in my archives by clicking onto my name, under the “Contributors” heading. I suggest you read it to obtain a better perspective on this issue. There is some real deep stuff here; and the “shit” hasn’t even hit the fan as yet.

I expect to be revisiting this issue in the upcoming weeks because it is percolating now folks. Keep your eyes on Room Eight for a further update; and as such this column is now enlarged: it will become a three-parter.

Last Saturday, a strong contingent of black elected officials -mainly from Brooklyn- met at Medgar Evers College, and this issue was foremost on the agenda. It is rare that you find these usually-timid black-electeds waking early on a Saturday morning to deal with real stuff; but they did. Surprisingly enough, black-elected-officials from all three levels of government were there (federal/state/city-local).

They also met with the former chancellor of NYC’s Department of Education: Mr. Rudy Crew; but that’s another column. Some of these electeds may try to deny all of this but I have the “411” folks. This issue is getting hotter by the minute.

In part one I told you about some of the vicious decisions made by a few whites in the Political Science
Department of Brooklyn College, which has more or less decimated a graduate program wherein many working-class black and Hispanic students were successfully striving and thriving for years. The consensus amongst those who support the continuation of this Master’s Degree program, strongly suggests that racism is playing both overt and covert hands. Time will tell.

Last year, supporters of the program recruited the well-known civil rights activist Angela Davis to aid their cause: trying to keep the program open, and at the same time restoring its glory. A group of ex-professors, ex-lecturers, ex-administrators, ex-staffers, alumni and others, have been waging a determined battle to save the program from complete disintegration. This fight is now going into year four. My prediction is that by the time this is resolved some “big” heads at CUNY, will roll.

As I write this column, the space in downtown-Manhattan, formerly utilized by the Graduate Center for Worker Education (Brooklyn College) is mainly being used in some clandestine “Iranian project”. Is the State Department aware of this? Does the CIA, Homeland Security, the military establishment, and other protective agencies know all this? What the fugg is going on folks?

The group of whites who are being held responsible for decimating the Master’s Degree program at the Graduate Center for Worker Education (GWCE) have dubbed themselves “the gang of five”. It includes three males, one female, and one transgender person. The two main leaders appear to be Mr. Paisley Currah and Mr. Cory Robin. In 2011 they pulled a coup of sorts and took over the committee running the political science department at Brooklyn College. So much pressure was placed on the department’s first-ever black-chairman that he eventually tendered his resignation. Quelle dommage! I have been told that he even migrated.

It appears that enough aspersions were cast on the blacks who had been running the department in the couple years prior, to cause a lot of mischief. Innuendo, rumors, distortions, lies, slander and the like, were early weapons used in a diabolical plot that has hurt many people. I say this with first-hand knowledge. What has happened here is something hideously evil.

In the last column I alluded to some of the reasons why I believe all this has gone down. I stand by my observations that it is a combination of personal vendettas, racism, reverse-homophobia, politics, victimization, grudges and raw ambition. The axe-wielders are white. In one exception a black female administrator was utilized to temporarily do some dirty work (Ms. Kim Phillips); but she is gone now. Most of those who were targeted and eventually victimized are non-white: so you do the math.

It is very painful to view the dismantling of an essential, progressive, vital and vibrant educational program. A program created almost half a century ago -specifically for working class folks- by a coalition of trade union activists, progressive politicians and left-leaning academics. The “gang of five” went after everyone working at GCWE. Anyone who was hired by, or connected to Dr. Wilson was taken down. This is shameful. Too many innocent folks were gunned down in this deliberate drive-by shooting.

Since I published that column I have been privy to a lot more information. It continues to appear that racism is alive, well and thriving at Brooklyn College.

Over the years, there have been a few lawsuits filed against the college, wherein the plaintiffs have charged racism, racial discrimination, and unfair labor practices amongst other things. And it is not only the Political Science Department that is involved. The English Department is amongst others which appear to be rather stingy with the granting of tenure to non-white professors. The level of black tenured-professors at CUNY on a whole -and at Brooklyn College in particular- is unacceptable to many. It appears as though whites get “most-preferred status” in this regard. And it appears to be pervasive in the CUNY system. A recent column from the Brooklyn College newspaper, suggests that blacks are a disappearing group there.

There are blacks on the Brooklyn College campus who swear that racial discrimination in hiring is a tragic joke about to go public. They say it happens in near every single job-category, with minor exceptions in the security and maintenance areas. It also seems that many academic departments have been using (and abusing) adjunct-lecturers as a way of avoiding the hire of minorities as professors. Apparently the number of minority adjuncts outstrips the number of tenured minority professors.
Too many people are now suggesting that this phenomenon is observable throughout the City of New York University system (CUNY). This is the new question that should be addressed by the New York City Council’s Higher Education Committee; and also by mainstream media at large. What the fudge is going on in CUNY?

In the last column, I told you about Dr. Joe Wilson (PhD). For more than a decade, he was the Executive Director of the Center for Worker’s Education at Brooklyn College. He is a light-skinned black man with real gonads, folks. To undergo the kind of pressures he has been subjected to over the years and still be standing, takes guts and balls. About three years ago he became the target of a vicious smear campaign, which eventually led to his being initially brought up on many charges (disciplinary and others) by whites in the Political Science Department. CUNY’s legal eagles and investigative folks were unleashed on him looking for a felony. They found nothing; but it didn’t end there, although it should have. After all, they scrubbed all his hard drives looking for dirt and were left embarrassed: there was nothing to be found that merited legal action. The man was as clean as Lindsey Lohan on her first minute out of rehab.

Upon information recently accrued, I have been informed that Dr. Wilson has finally sued the college for breach of contract, witness tampering, defamation of character, racial discrimination, slander, libel, and a few other choice legal categories. I am told that there are more lawsuits to come, from others who were egregiously harmed by the actions of a few within the political science department. This imbroglio is far from over folks. I have also been advised to “lawyer-up”: since I was part of all this from January 2008 until December 2011. I have also been involved in a few hearings over the past three years.

The New York Times did at story on this issue a while back, and it was rather surprising that they failed to interview lecturers and alumni of the program. It is quite possible that they were not seeking a full perspective, but were actually attempting to do a hatchet job on both the former Executive Director and also the program itself.

As I said in the first column, it appears that the problems for Dr. Wilson started when there was a coup of sorts, within the political science department. The new committee that took over the running of the department was all-white. They appear to have come into power with vendettas on their mind. Ironically enough the new chairperson was someone Joe Wilson had recruited and supported for job at the college. That person’s name is Paisley Currah. Mr. Currah was born in Canada as a woman and changed to male somewhere along the way.

One of the reasons being bandied about for this brouhaha, is that there was some homosexual stuff that was covered-up by higher-ups a few years aback. This incident is said to have left lingering bad-feelings on both sides of the divide. And yet that is just one of many reasons all this strange stuff has been happening for almost four years now.

As I said before, it is possible that the trips Professor Wilson made to places like Cuba, Venezuela, Greece and Egypt (amongst many others), possibly put him on the radar for right-wing reprisals. Taking students, alumni, lecturers, elected officials, and other assorted political figures (some controversial) to sojourns like those, led to write-ups in mainstream media. It is also possible that all this simply comes down to envy, malice and personal grudges. Wilson is a self-avowed left-leaning type who is unapologetic and vocal with his political views. This isn’t the first time that CUNY officials have gone after this guy. This man has more staying-power than the Energizer bunny.

So how did I find myself in all this? Well; let me state that I surely didn’t go looking for this one. Back in 2001 there were many brave folks who refused to lecture at campuses located within the World Trade Center vicinity; because of this I landed some adjunct-lecturing work at the Borough of Manhattan Community College -which is located a few blocks north of the WTC bombing. I also landed a position teaching English to foreign grad-students, at another institution of higher learning (private); which was located only a few blocks further north.

In retrospect, I think that back in 2001, fear of the unknown led many folks to desert the WTC catchment area. This abandonment led to many job-openings for intrepid fools like myself. During this period I familiarized myself with the program at CWE since I worked in a common building, and also because one of my political-activist-colleagues worked there. When I heard there were openings for adjunct-lecturers, I applied for one, and was successful.

So what did I bring to the table? Since this became an issue later on, let me expound. At birth, I just happened to have had political activism and public service thrust upon me in my cradle. My father was the consummate political-activist, trade-unionist, politician, elected-official, diplomat, author, organizer, and such. This is a man who researched my family lineage back to the War of 1812. Prior to the war, the family matriarch (Bashana Jackson) purchased her husband’s freedom out of slavery. She was born a free mulatto on a southern plantation and later fought on the side of the British. After the war, blacks who fought for the British had to be repatriated; some were sent to African countries; others to Canadian provinces; and others to the West Indies. This is how we ended up in Trinidad.

From his research, my father not only published a book; but also founded a fraternity of thousands. From his genes I have been politically active all my life. When my father ran for national office I was six years old. At that age I was already riding in motorcades and listening to powerful speeches from local intellectuals pushing for independence from Britain. Beyond all this I happened to have graduated from Columbia University in 1985 with a Bachelor’s Degree (Political Science/major; and English/minor). In 1987 I graduated from Fordham University with a Master’s degree in Public Communication. I had also studied both Macroeconomic and Microeconomics at Hunter College, before doing post-graduate work in Education at Brooklyn College.

Before being hired at GCWE I had accumulated close to a dozen years of teaching experience with the NYC Board of Education. I am a state-certified licensed Social Studies high school teacher. I had also worked in various educational programs, in places ranging from prisons, juvenile detention centers, adult-learning centers, programs for the homeless and underprivileged, et al. Beyond this I had already done close to two decades of adjunct-lecturing at various universities in the city -even outside CUNY. I have worked in the corporate world, in both mainstream and alternative-media, human services, banking, non-profits, the private sector, politics and government. I had also dabbled in a few entrepreneurial ventures with my brother and other personal friends. The point is I am well-rounded.

Of the many visions Dr. Wilson held for GCWE, one was to utilize activist-political-types as lecturers. The aim was to expose students to lecturers with varied backgrounds, by utilizing as teachers, folks who were deep in the political trenches: not just armchair theoreticians and intellectual wannabees. On any given week you could find GCWE students attending some book-launching by one of their professors; or attending seminars at some institution of higher learning; or working on some political campaign; or actively involved in some grassroots community-initiative. Students from GCWE were actively involved in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

The teaching-body at CWE was as diverse as can be imagined. Even Brooklyn’s state senator Kevin Parker once taught three. Do note that for many years prior to the coup, Professor Wilson had autonomy in selecting the program’s lecturers. Wilson, along with his deputies -Professor Immanuel Ness, and the administrator Ms. M. Pam Miller- had put together a racially diverse staff which attracted a racially diverse student body. They had built a successful program which was attracting students from all over the world.

Another thing worth noting is this: GWCE was paying its freight. It brought in money to CUNY’s coffers. Over the years, Wilson has demonstrated some very imaginative ways of generating income for the center. He created many money-making programs, and rented out space as often as he could. Various academic events and some rather interesting courses were frequently offered. In fact, one reason advanced for the contentious and acrimonious disposition of the “gang of five”, was that Wilson personally profited from these ventures. He was even charged with violating his contract in this regard.

At one of the many hearings to which Professor Wilson has been subjected over the years, CUNY higher-ups had to admit that he never violated his contract, and did indeed make money for the entity. At another hearing, it was shown that Wilson had the pre-requisite approvals for all his financial ventures (as per his contract). You would think that after these revelations, the “gang of five” would have licked their wounds, put their tails between their legs and then run off to hide; right? WRONG. They seem to have gotten more vicious.

As time goes by the maliciousness and rancor still hasn’t abated. Wilson -to this day- is a man tortured by the refusal to exonerate him from this horrific ordeal: so now he goes to court seeking justice.

My situation is a bit different. I was “laid-off” in December of 2011. I was informed by ostensibly late mail, that there were no classes available for me to teach: despite all my teaching experience. I was also informed that once a class was available I will be rehired. I haven’t been contacted by the department since. And yet, a student of mine -who had just graduated from the program- was hired to teach that very next semester. The course that this student was offered was “Introduction to US Government”. This is something I have taught in high school.

Here is the problem with that: this former-student, just happened to have been the baby-sitter for the chairperson of the political science department. To go even further; this baby-sitting arrangement had been in existence for quite a few years.

And yet, all this wasn’t truly surprising to me. You see in 2011, I was alerted via the grapevine, that I was on a “hit-list” of sorts; and that I will be axed by the end of the fall semester. By the time Christmas came that year: I was.

I will tell you more in part three of this series; so do stay tuned-in folks.