McCormack Speaks

June 8, 2020
by jackli001
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Ubuntu – Poem by James Whitacre

James Whitacre, PhD Student in Global Governance and Human Security & Research Associate, Center for Governance and Sustainability

Ubuntu 2020 Event

For me, the poem “Ubuntu” marks a moment of solidarity in our Pan-African Graduate Scholars Association. While we have different research areas as Africanists, Africans, and African American Africans, “Ubuntu” explores a place some call home. Through a geophysical-psychology blend (Kano’s granite, etc), the poem grounds itself in Nigeria’s regional socio-cultural realities. Paying tribute to difference (because unity is not uniformity), the poem highlights a shared human orientation to the current Covid-19 scourge. A mirror peck of the ocean which is Ubuntu’s traditional meaning, this contemporary poem invites readers to transcend our “selves”, use our hearts, and contemplate our interconnection to our communities and the human whole.

One Professor,

With roots to one place,

Where 500 languages live,

In the hearts of 200 million people,

Whose feet walk, where soil speaks,

Loose sand Norths,

Granite in Kano,

Red Savannas,

Forest Souths,

Many people, sharing an orientation,

To the coming and going,

of droughts and floods.

 

Nigeria…

Now a land of who lives and who dies,

Because of a disease named after a crown,

One Professor,

With roots to one place,

Taught me one word,

Which our whole world needs now more than ever,

while we wait out this common drought:

Ubuntu. Ubuntu. Ubuntu.

“I am because you are.”

April 30, 2020
by jackli001
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Art Creates Community and Comfort – and We Must Defend It

By Hsin-Ching Wu, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs

Hsin-Ching Wu, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs

From late February to early March, as the world watched the outbreak of COVID-19 spreading like a wildfire from country to country, things seemed to be rather unruffled here in Massachusetts.  At UMass Boston, the spring semester had been in full swing.  I had then just defended my dissertation focusing on a case study of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is the state’s designated public agency providing funding and services to nonprofit cultural institutions, schools, communities and individual artists.

Before long, by mid-March, everything changed.  The COVID-19 pandemic turned into more than just a public health crisis, and social distancing became the new normal.

Personally, even though the PhD training has given me plenty of experiences of working in solitude, the adjustment has not been easy.  As I read about the developing situations here in the U.S. as well as back home in Taiwan, I found myself, maybe like many others, going through various emotions.  In the midst of uncertainties, I discovered an unexpected outlet through creativity when I started participating in weekly virtual drawing sessions with friends.  Once a hobby of my childhood and adolescent years, I have not drawn for a very long time.  Surprisingly, the simple action of producing images with lines and shadows has brought me calmness.

Elsewhere, stories have emerged that during the periods of social/physical distancing, forms of cultural, creative, and artistic expressions inspire and comfort many individuals across the globe. For instance, in Italy, residents have been seen singing and playing instruments on their balconies.  Here in the U.S., the students of Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music presented stay-at-home “Love Sweet Love” in a video to send a positive message.  A variety of nonprofit cultural institutions have been offering some forms of virtual exhibits, performance, and tours.  Some artists and musicians are providing free online courses.  Amid social/physical distancing, culture (an umbrella term that encompasses the arts, humanities, and heritage) gives people much needed solace.

However, in spite of these transcendental benefits, as compared to other industries, little attention is given to the nonprofit cultural sector, which is facing devastating difficulties.  From an economic standpoint, in the U.S. alone, by mid-March, nonprofit arts organizations had already lost at least $3.2 billons of revenues.

As pointed out by the UNESCO, this is a shared plight across the board.  Nevertheless, I would argue that it is time for public policy to move past the efficiency argument as measured solely by monetary value.  As this pandemic demonstrates, societies require more than a good economy to function.  There are other essential elements, including but not limited to equitable social benefits, universal access to healthcare, a clean and safe environment, communal support and connection, and the arts, heritage, and humanities, all of which are not quantifiable by market price alone.

While societies continue to weather the crisis, I remain hopeful that this shared experience will lead to an increased recognition and appreciation of the value of culture, and the significance of continuing public support for the sector.

March 30, 2020
by jackli001
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UMass Boston Africa Day 2020 – Challenging Pan Africanism through Migrations

By Ojemire Benjamin Daniel, PhD Student, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance

Photo of the Organizers in Africa Day 2020

Africa Day 2020 focused on migration within Africa and the challenge of Afrophobia — a form of xenophobia directed by Africans toward other Africans.  Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the African Union ambassador to the United Nations, spoke passionately about the continent’s successes in transcending the issue. Mohammed, the luncheon keynote speaker, said Africans should celebrate their differences and “transform this thinking into positive action.”

This year’s event theme was titled, Challenges to Pan Africanism: Afrophobia and Migration Across Borders” to reflect the African continent’s attempts to achieve integration and unity across its deeply pluralistic and diverse borders in spite of the challenges that mitigate its success. It was hosted by the McCormack Graduate School’s Africa Scholar Forum (ASF) – a campus-wide academic platform for faculty who are teachers or scholars of the study of Africa- and that is chaired by McCormack’s Associate Dean and Professor of international relations, Rita Kiki Edozie. Held on March 6th, with welcoming addresses from Professor Edozie, Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman, Interim Provost Emily McDermott, Vice Chancellor Gail DiSabatino, and Dean David Cash, this year the all-day event was delivered through four components – a keynote plenary African-menu luncheon speaker, a keynote plenary panel of Greater Boston scholars of African Studies, an UMass Boston doctoral student panel, an evening keynote speaker, and a gala evening cultural extravaganza that included an African-inspired fashion show and an Afrobeat DJ.

UMass Boston ASF faculty, Dr. Nada Ali, a senior lecturer in the department of womens, gender, and sexuality studies, and Professor Quito Swan, also William Trotter Institute Director, and other scholars from Harvard, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, and SUNY Geneseo Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, and SUNY Geneseo  debated the relevance of race and neocolonialism as a factor of Africa’s global migration trends and a spearheading of South African challenges in receiving African migrants. Organized as the Pan African Graduate Student Association(PAGSA), several doctoral students from McCormack Graduate School, the College of Liberal Arts, and the School of Global and Social Inclusion, whose dissertations engage critical topics in African affairs, spoke to these policy issues in relation to the problem of African xenophobia. Evening keynote speaker, Rahman Oladigbolu, a Boston-based, Nigerian filmmaker showed scenes from his film on African immigrants’ experiences in the United States, Soul Sisters.

With luncheon and evening reception food prepared by local Boston Nigerian, Somalian, and Cape Verdes restaurants, and an evening African cultural show; the all-day event marked another successful affair at the UMass Boston campus which hosts a sizeable number of African immigrant, international, and heritage students.

February 27, 2020
by jackli001
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Celebrating and Reflections on Black History Month

By Esther Rogers, MPA student in Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs

Photo of Esther Rogers and KrystalGayle ONeillPhoto of UrbanIntellectuals.com flashcards

McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies hosted its first informal discussion on Celebrating Black History Month on February 26th.

The discussion included personal reflections on what Celebrating Black History means and was enhanced by informational flashcards of known and unknown African Americans and individuals from the African Diaspora and the Caribbean and how they all contributed to our robust history in America and abroad.

The discussions were thoughtful and offered differing perspectives that included: individuals who immigrated to the US and their challenges in facing racism and discrimination, becoming aware of the lack of diversity in their workplaces and on college campuses, ambiguity regarding Black History Month being only one month and the lack of unsung individuals, environmental justice and older adult students’ challenge in accessing their pensions, as well as many other topics.

The consensus among those in attendance was that it was a great opportunity to share their experiences and it was much needed. One key point that came out from the discussion was, as a nation and globally, although we collectively haven’t reached a post racial society, we have made strides, and will continue to make them, toward achieving this goal.

David and Kiki and others will be working on holding these exciting informal discussions on a monthly basis and will be featuring other heritage celebrations throughout the semester.

I want to thank everyone in attendance and look forward to inviting even more voices to the conversation. For those who are interested, the flashcards can be found on UrbanIntellectuals.com.

Until next time, please take care of yourself and each other.

January 31, 2020
by jackli001
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Talking Race, Party Politics, and the 2020 Presidential Election with Harvard Professor and Author Leah Wright Rigueur

By Christopher C. Graham, PhD Candidate in Global Governance and Human Security

Photo of the DOSS Town Hall Event

As we come closer to the US 2020 presidential election, scholars are weighing in on the future of American democracy.

One such scholar is Leah Wright Rigueur, award-winning author and associate professor of at Harvard Kennedy School. Dr. Rigueur was the guest speaker at a recent Public Affairs Networking Reception hosted by the Dean’s Office Student Success Program (DOSS) at the McCormack Graduate School.

Drawing parallels with previous events in American political history, Rigueur’s talk explored how issues of race, political ideology, and party politics factors into the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

Highlighting the growing public discontent with partisan politics in America, Rigueur suggested that one of the main goals for voters is to elect a president capable of unifying the nation. Over the last decade there has been deepening discord between Democrats and Republicans in their policy preferences, social values and levels of tolerance for the other’s political views. Meanwhile in the nation’s capital, Congress remains deeply divided. Policymaking has strictly been along party lines. As a result, stalemate ensues on issues important to the American public, such as gun control, the environment and immigration.

On matters of race, the upcoming presidential election is a pivotal moment for institutional reform. The political landscape, dominated by two major political parties, has created an environment where both the Republican and Democratic parties are engaged in a zero-sum game that seldom benefits racial minority voters.

Rigueur explained that minority voters were looking to elect a president who was committed to reform aspects of the political party system. For example, neither of the two political parties seems to be providing the type of political leadership needed to address issues important to the African American community. These issues include voter suppression, criminal justice reform, generational wealth gaps, increasing student loan debt, gentrification and civil rights enforcement.

Rigueur identified voter suppression as one of the most concerning issues for racial minority communities. Since 2010 voting restrictions have tightened in over two dozen states. These restrictions include new voter identification laws and reduced ballot-casting locations. And more recently, the use of social media and other technologies to exploit racial tensions, spread misinformation, and suppress minority voters. Citing increasing reports of these strategies to prevent minority groups from voting, Rigueur called for more resolute political leadership on this issue.

Even with the presidential election less than a year away, and with voters mere weeks from casting the first votes in the Democratic primary, many of these issues remain unaddressed by Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail or Republican leaders. Rigueur, like many Americans, remains vigilant in holding political leaders accountable to upholding the values of American democracy.

In her closing remarks, Rigueur offered career advice to graduate students in attendance at the reception, encouraging students to remain committed to their vision for a better world. Many of McCormack’s students plan to pursue careers in public administration, the non-profit sector, international politics and academia, saying they will use their research, expertise and community engagement skills to make positive changes wherever they are needed.

Since its inception two years ago, the Dean’s Office Student Success Program has provided an action-oriented student success platform that deepens, complements, and enhances graduate student support initiatives. The DOSS program continues to cultivate a community of educational and career relationships that build professional competencies for students at the McCormack Graduate School.

The program facilitates student success from recruitment to degree completion and successful post-graduation placement. Engaging with scholars, community leaders and activists like Dr. Rigueur provides students with examples of the excellence that they should aspire to and the impact that they can make in the world.


Christopher C. Graham is the Program Assistant for DOSS. He is also a Fellow at the Center for Peace Democracy and Development, a Fulbright Scholar 2014-16 and a Doctoral Candidate at the McCormack Graduate School.

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