|The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Vision Award,|
"in recognition of your tireless effort to instill
and inspire the teachings and ideals of
Dr. Marting Luther King, Jr."
Words are not enough. I tried (and they made me promise to keep my acceptance speech to two minutes...um, I stole two more). The following is the acceptance speech I read last night at the Fairfield University MLK Convocation at the Quick Center. More than receiving the honor, was knowing the work of CWP-Fairfield was being recognized alongside the stellar leadership and vision of Joe Harding, a Junior at Fairfield, and my friend and advocate, Sydney Johnson, Fairfield University Men's Basketball Coach, who also receive the staff Vision Award. It was a night to remember (and I did a selfie with Claudia Rankine!). Much applause for the MLK Committee, especially the dedication of Kris Sealy and Wylie Blake.
Words of Acceptance, Bryan Ripley Crandall
The afternoon I received notification I was selected for the Martin Luther King Faculty Vision Award I thought of Nadia Craft, a student from my first year of teaching. I have a wandering eye, and sometimes it strays more than it should – a reality she loved to tease me about. 20 years later, she sends me eyeball toys and writes notes like, “I found your eye wandering in Los Angeles again. It was southeast of Compton.” When I learned my vision was being recognized by Fairfield University, I heard her saying, “What? Crandall? They gave you a vision award?”
Martin Luther King said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Love, for me, has been a foundation for teaching, youth advocacy, and research. I thank my nominators, Drs. Debbie Chappell and Emily Smith for taking time to write in my support. Yet, the vision belongs more to the communities who have made me who I am. This is Ubuntu, my philosophy, and I can be me, because of who we are together. My cousin, Mark Crandall, taught me this and I am a better human because if it.
My work with the National Writing Project allows me to invest in the voices, integrity, excellence and creativity of K-12 teachers and students in southern Connecticut. It includes work in communities often marginalized by America’s educational traditions and, more recently, exploited by corporate and political reforms. Last year, CWP-Fairfield teachers provided 35,000 hours of exceptional instruction to approximately 6,000 young writers across 16 school districts in Connecticut. Over the last four years through grants totaling over $400,000 and with support from NWP, Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Service Learning, Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network, Fairfield University Athletics (especially Coach Sydney Johnson), Senator Bob Duff, Office of the Dean of Students, Bank of America, LEAP, and Hoops4Hope, I’ve been able to bring a vision of inclusion, diversity, and Ubuntu to Fairfield’s campus. It is my way to address Connecticut’s zip-code apartheid and to counter the culture shock I first experienced when I first arrived to this campus. I find comfort when walls that barricade communities from one another are broken down.
I can be me, because of who we are together. My vision for Ubuntu arrives at the confluence of phenomenal human beings such as Dr. Carol Boyce Davies, a Caribbean scholar, who opened my eyes to the impact of colonialism, and Ruth Stone, a poet, who offered me license for being original, quirky, and passionate. My foundation for teaching arrived from the J. Graham Brown School in Louisville, Kentucky, where the mission to promote diversity, individuality, and academic excellence for all students became my rhythm in life. There, Sue McV taught me the importance of building relationships and Alice Stevenson helped to unshackle the allegorical chains that kept our students as prisoners within their caves. I couldn’t do what I do, either, without the influence of Jean Wolph, Director of the Louisville Writing Project at the University of Louisville, who invested in my work as teacher leader and encouraged me to write about my students, my classroom, and my profession.
Last summer, 152 young writers attended young adult literacy labs at Fairfield University and 58 of them were provided full scholarship, including refugee and immigrant youth. Last spring, a cohort of 350 students from rural, urban, and suburban high schools, too, joined forces for We Too Are Connecticut, a project funded by NWP, the MacArthur Foundation, and the John Legend Show Me Campaign. Youth innovatively added diverse perspectives to the state’s cultural pastiche through the creation of TedTalks, radio plays, blogs, and ethnographies, all of which were presented at the Writing Our Lives – Digital Ubuntu conference hosted on Fairfield’s campus.
In two days, spoken word-Diva Attallah Sheppard and I will host 80 middle school students during the MLK Youth Leadership Academy and I’m thrilled to know that Joe Harding, a true visionary on Fairfield’s campus, agreed to lend his undergraduate wisdom to the event. Later, Carol Ann Davis and Elizabeth Boquet will welcome hundreds of K-8 writers to the annual Poetry For Peace Celebration. This vision for empowering young people is not mine alone.
Dr. Alfred Tatum, an esteemed scholar at the University of Illinois-Chicago, advised me. “In literacy work, you cannot ignore history.” I learned through my work with relocated refugee youth that racial politics are both local and global. Drs. Kelly Chandler-Olcott, Marcelle Haddix, and Zaline Roy-Campbell guided me towards scholarship in action while at Syracuse University, and their patience with harnessing my poetic, creative brain into the world of academic research was a tremendous feat --- but they did it! I am so honored to
|Claudia Rankine, 2014 National Book Circle Award, Forward|
Prize for Poetry, National Book Critics Award for Poetry, &
the Los Angeles Time Book Award. Nice!
So, Nadia, I may have a wandering eye but I do have the ability to focus and carry forth a vision every now and again.
Chitunga, Abdi, Werdi, Ibrahim, AJ, Akech, Bior, Najm, Abu, & Lossine, you've blessed my life in the most amazing ways. Clowndall, man, Clowndall. Omar, Arcadius, Remy, & Peter, thank you for coming tonight and representing Ubuntu Academy. Your support means everything. Mom, dad, my sisters, my friends and colleagues, all of you…“Elephant Shoe.” It is you who have given me the base from which everything else has been made possible. Thank You.
Finally, Gisela and Cody, this one’s for you.
(strange to win an award for doing what is right)
(strange to win an award for doing what is right)