Video Overview of Leadership for Social Change

The video below walks you through the syllabus for MLD 683 – Leadership for Social Change, a course I’m teaching this Winter in the graduate programs at North Central College.  The syllabus for the course has changed slightly since the video was produced, but all essentials remain the same.

 Go to the SOCIAL CHANGE page on this site.

 Go to the TEACHING page of this site to access a pdf copy of the actual syllabus being used this term.  Scroll down to COURSE MATERIALS and click on “View syllabus” under this course title.  When the course is not being offered, the link may not be active.

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Richard Durham: Destination Freedom

Richard DurhamToday most people would recognize Richard Durham (1917-1984) as the author of The Greatest, the autobiography of Muhammad Ali.  He also worked to analyze the Black Press in Chicago for the Illinois Writer’s Project in the ‘30’s, wrote a column for the Chicago Defender in the 40’s, and between 1948 and 1950 was the script writer behind the ground breaking radio series Destination Freedom produced at Chicago’s WMAQ.  Premiering on June 27, 1948, the show eventually ran to 91 different scripts dramatizing the lives of famous blacks, including Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglass, Joe Louis, Ida B. Wells, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, Buddy Bolden, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and more.   From the so-called Golden Age of Radio and for decades afterward, blacks had been casted as maids, butlers, assorted buffoons, and the like, roles which played heavily on the most insulting stereotypes of African Americans.  In contrast, Durham characterized the blacks  he focused on as “rebellious, biting, scornful, angry, cocky…not forever humble, meek….”  They managed to succeed despite racism, and they changed American culture.   “Nowhere else in radio history,” writes J. Fred McDonald, “did a single series, written by a single talent over as long a period, project such a strident reminder of liberties denied and rights abused.”  It always began something like this:

ANNOUNCER: Destination Freedom—dramatizations of the great democratic traditions of the Negro people—is brought to you by station WMAQ as a part of the pageant of history and of America’s own Destination Freedom!

Sugar Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson, the subject of Durham’s script.

In my book Black Writing from Chicago, I included an excerpt  from one of my favorite Destination Freedom scripts, “Premonition of the Panther,” about the great boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, born Walker Smith.  Focusing more on the inner turmoil of his subject, Durham deals less directly with black history and social issues than in his other scripts.  Yet the excerpt makes clear that Durham wants us to ponder important questions:  What is Robinson’s price? Who really owns him?—questions deeply echoing the slave past.  The drama opens with Robinson dreaming he has knocked out and killed his next opponent, a kid named Doyle.  His trainer, Gainsford, shakes him out of his nightmare and talk turns to whether Robinson will make weight.  He starts jumping rope and the rope’s rhythm takes him on a flashback recounting his rise to fame.  For a brief moment, his mother, Mrs. Smith, wanted her graceful son to be a dancer.  There’s too much violence and brutality in the world, she says, and she especially wants him to stay away from the big bully boxer boy next door.  That bully turns out to be Joe Louis.  He can’t, of course, and one night after Robinson watches Louis knock someone out, Louis gives him his gym bag, a symbolic mantle of boxing greatness. Robinson begins his career, but hides it from his Mom.  I began the excerpt just after he comes home with $3,000 made in boxing and tells his Mom to send back all the laundry she does for others.  She is furious.  She knows he’s been boxing.  He says he likes it and has seen Joe Louis and their boyhood idol Henry Armstrong “pulling in a night what no poor man makes in a lifetime.”  Mrs. Smith remains defiant.  After his Mom throws him out, Robinson, on Gainsford’s suggestion, goes to meet “the Tycoon,” his first big patron.  It’s there the question “Who owns him?” takes center ring.

The Destination Freedom cast.

The Destination Freedom cast.

 For a WTTW Feature on Richard Durham and Destination Freedom go to: http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?p=76,4,5,3

 Read an extended appreciation of Durham with many details on Destination Freedom by J. Fred McDonald at: http://www.jfredmacdonald.com/rddf/essay.htm

 Go to a List of Black Writers written about on this site.

 

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Me & Brother Ray – Part 4: Signifying

Ray-plane2Below is PART 4 of the “Me and Brother Ray” series.  Go to Part 1 to read more about the series concept.

“It is only in his music that the American Negro has been able to tell his story,” wrote James Baldwin in a great essay called “Many Thousands Gone.”  But Baldwin says this telling is only possible because Americans approach black music with a “protective sentimentality” that prevents them from truly understanding that story, a story that’s too horrible and too moving for them to comprehend.  If, however, you can learn to read the signs—understand what the music is signifying—that story, at least its outlines, begins to stand out boldly.  So Nat Cole’s great song “Mona Lisa” begins to signify something more than a reverie about a painting, or the woman behind it.  And so does Ray Charles’ great rendition of Don Walker’s country song “You Don’t Know Me.”

Wait.  Did I say “country song”?  Ray Charles?  Listen below.

 Go to the “Me & Brother Ray” lead post for links to all other episodes.

 Go to the main Ray Charles post which lists All Things Ray on this site.

Go to the Teaching Diversity main page.

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