Saturday, March 6, 2010

Amidst constant Police Surveillance, keep your house in order

I was reminded of a few things today around police surveillance and criminality. Yesterday, (Friday 3/6/10) Michael Lofton, a long-standing community activist and leader in Austin, put out a call. His e-mail offered the oft-told tail of a young black male high school student who gets into small trouble that spirals into major trouble once the police get involved.

I was immediately reminded of earlier examples of this scenario, as well as the research detailing the implications of police presence in our schools and the too-frequent criminalization of black boys in particular. The second reminder came the next day (Saturday 3/7/10), and after I had written a letter calling for research into the positive and negative impact of the police presence in central Texas schools. The reminder came in the form of a sheriff knocking on my Austin door in order to arrest me. The arrest was for failing to pay a 2008 ticket that I received for failing to wear a seatbelt. So whereas reminder one was about the prevalence and impact of police surveillance in schools, reminder two was about the need to have your house in order if you are an activist who will speak to police powers that be.

My thought is not whether my letter led to the attempt the next day to arrest me for a 2008 failure to pay a "no seat belt" ticket. Rather, my thought is that I don't need something as silly as this in the way of my trying to serve as a community resource. When you get arrested you can be embarrassed and sullied, and your work can become that much harder. I owe it to myself and others (including my kids who could have seen me arrested) to have all things personal in order when I go out to do and serve greater goods.

Friday, February 26, 2010

love and service trumps misguided anger

The last several weeks have been a bit overwhelming. I've been back and forth between Austin and DC four times -- twice scheduled (our family goal is for me to be home in Austin every other weekend), but twice unscheduled. The first time home was when I rerouted on a return from Florida because snow had shut down the DC airports. The second time home was to attend the funeral of Vernon Hunter, an usher at my family's church, Greater Mt. Zion.

This last visit was, of course, a bit difficult. I didn't really know Vernon, except our having spoken a few times, having been greeted by him at church, and having attended some of the same off-site retreats or events. What is widely shared and known within the church is that he was the epitome of the public servant. In fact, I am a bit saddened that the media is not paying more attention to him and his story. His story is the antidote to that of the misguided angry, murderer who crashed his plane into the IRS building where Vernon was working.

Vernon served more than 20 years in the military and almost 30 at the IRS. A friend of mine, who is a member of the ICUSP team and also a fellow member of GMZ, knew Vernon well and shared with me that Vernon's goal was to make 50 years of public service. He almost made it, but was cut short. At this point, the greatest that can happen is that folks end up learning about Vernon and see his example of love and service. His neighbors shared how he would make excuses to get to know and then be supportive of all of them, that he used to run out to bring gatorade to the garbage men during the summer and that he was simply a good person. I absolutely love that we got to learn this about him. It is most reminiscent of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that anyone can be great, because anyone can serve. Vernon was by this measure a truly great man.

The miracle is that Vernon was the one and only victim of Joe Stack's horrific act. Everyone got out but one. As a result, we get to focus on that one, learn about him, and God willing, be inspired to the type of service that defined his life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why blog? Why now?

Using the internet and web 2.0 technology as a tool for communication and action is always a work in progress. Those who grow up in the milieu have a distinct advantage over those of us who entered as adults. Regardless, I'm convinced that jumping in -- experimenting, taking care, thinking of and trying new uses -- is a good way to go. The tool is too ubiquitous and too powerful to ignore. Further, the alternative of playing the sidelines only raises the eventual barrier to entry. The whole situation seems a lot like learning to swim or acquiring a new language -- gotta jump in and be willing to be a learner (even one who sometimes looks a little silly). With that said, let the blogging begin ... what comes up in my own little world of education, politics, and community engaged, action oriented scholarship? We'll see. ...

Monday, February 15, 2010

missed the DC snow

Today is Monday 2/15 and I've been in Austin (i.e. home) since late last Tuesday night. The trip was courtesy of the huge snowstorm that hit DC last week. I had been in Cape Canaveral for the last night time launch of the Space Shuttle (amazing experience) but had become stuck there, which might sound great except that I wasn't there for vacation, wasn't there with family, and didn't have deep enough pockets (or credit) to keep paying for the hotel, food and rental car. Mom gave good advice when she admonished to simply "go home!" I was on a plane to Austin within 4 hours of that sage advice.

In the time I've been home I've been able to spend time with the kids, help my wife around the house, and do a lot of meeting and planning work for ICUSP going into 2010-2011.

Tomorrow I fly back to DC. If it is not too late, I'll still be working on highlights -- looking through funded projects in my program area at NSF and creating one page sheets that share some of the positive findings and activities of the various projects.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting Started ....

Alright, lots of great things are happening. I am starting this blog to share and document my experiences in DC and with the Federal Government. I plan to keep posting on Facebook, but also to go into more depth and provide more links and supporting materials here in this Fostering the future blog.