Last semester at Rutgers-Newark one of my students stood before the class to present his idea for a play that dealt with an issue striking the core of Newark. That tall and lithe black (I do no know his cultural identification) male student said to us the truth as he knew it: “Urban Renewal means Negro removal.” He wasn’t trying to be funny. That phrase has been over-used into a cliche but on that cold day in Newark, in the refurbished second floor Bradley Hall rehearsal space, we all felt a little smaller and colder.
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With the rise of exclusive online teaching via WebCT and Blackboard where teacher and student are never in the same room together, we are in a rebirth of a strange form of the 1805 Lancasterian Monitorial System in 2005 and beyond where thousands of students will sit and stare at a flickering image of an instructor standing before them.
On May 1, 2005, the New York Times reported the following:
“Shereef Cheatham, a single mother of four, had been waiting five years for a rent assistance voucher when the Newark Housing Authority diverted $3.9 million in federal funds from the program in 2003 to pay for property near a proposed hockey arena downtown. She is still waiting.
Millions of dollars have been diverted from providing affordable housing for the urban poor in favor of building self-interests in the inner city. The New York Times continues to unveil the Newark disgrace:
More than 21,000 people were on the waiting list for the vouchers when the housing authority used the $3.9 million, a small portion of the total budgeted, to buy 12 privately owned lots. The purchase came after a lawsuit thwarted the city’s plan to seize them through condemnation. Those lots were crucial to building the arena, which was at the time intended to be the home for both the New Jersey Devils hockey team and the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The arena, now for the Devils alone, is scheduled to open in 2007.”
The beat goes on but someone is needed to end the beating of the poor in the urban core.
During the Fall 2004 semester Dr. Robert Snyder, publisher of The Newark Metro — an online journal published by Rutgers-Newark University — asked me if I had any original student-created work that he could publish on the web as a “recorded live” theatrical performance.
The other day I was riding the PATH train from Journal Square to Newark. 30 seconds before the train pulled into the Harrison stop the train’s horn repeatedly sounded and the brakes were applied so hard that several people who were standing in the car lost their balance for more than a moment.
The other day I was in the Rutgers bookstore and a cashier told me I looked like Australian Cricketer Mark Waugh. After I asked for, and received, the definition of Cricketer, I told that student I was going to look up Mark on the web and I said, “if he is ugly there is going to be trouble!”
As I was leaving, the student told me Mark has a twin brother Steve and that I may be the missing triplet.
It’s interesting how people have never been shy about telling me who I look like.
In high school I was told I looked like movie star Tom Cruise.
In college I was told I looked like actor Tom Hanks.
In graduate school I was told I looked like former Yankees pitcher Matt Nokes.
As an instructor at both Saint Peter’s College and Rutgers-Newark my students told me I looked like outstanding actor Edward Norton.
Perhaps one day I will simply be recognized as me.