Remembering “Rev”

The Reverend Eugene Callender—or “Rev” as he insisted we call him—served as the very first New York Life leader-in-residence in the early years of CCNY’s Colin Powell Center. He embraced the opportunity of working with our students with incredible joy and energy, and was particularly committed to bringing the lions of the civil rights struggle—people like Derek Bell and Vincent Harding—to campus to meet our students. He was a mentor and a leader to our students, and to many of us who had the chance to work with him.

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The Reverend Eugene S. Callender speaking at the City College of New York. Reverend Callender passed away on November 2.
The Reverend Eugene S. Callender speaking at the City College of New York. Reverend Callender passed away on November 2.

by Vince Boudreau, Director, Colin Powell Center

The Reverend Eugene Callender—or “Rev” as he insisted we call him—served as the very first New York Life leader-in-residence in the early years of CCNY’s Colin Powell Center. He embraced the opportunity of working with our students with incredible joy and energy, and was particularly committed to bringing the lions of the civil rights struggle—people like Derek Bell and Vincent Harding—to campus to meet our students. He was a mentor and a leader to our students, and to many of us who had the chance to work with him. Continue reading “Remembering “Rev””

Marshall Berman: A Life Steered by Our Human Possibilities

Here one sees one of the truly precious elements of the moral and political commitments by which Marshall steered his life. He thought that we were all, in a radical sense, equal. We were equal not just in terms or our political or human rights, but in our ideas and in our minds. Marshall was breathtakingly, dizzyingly smart. He possessed one of the most agile, comprehending minds I’ve ever known. But he carefully regarded every last idea that passed before him, threw up no boundaries to incorporating hip hop, graffiti art, poetry slams, and even the watery coffee of the student cafeteria, into his conceptions about human accomplishment and creativity.

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Marshall Berman, distinguished professor at City College, was drawn to a radical equality of human potential and thinking.

By Vince Boudreau, director of the Colin L. Powell Center

Marshall Berman was a distinguished professor at CCNY, a designation that, like associate and full professor, requires a formal review and recommendation process, including the review of his scholarly work, and testimonies to their significance.  A committee is selected to solicit reviews from appropriate scholars, but as a candidate, Marshall also was able to nominate reviewers, and add letters to his application file.

His application was immensely strong, and included ringing and warm endorsements from the very best and most established political theorists (a sub-field of the political science discipline) in the world.

But it also contained something peculiar, inserted into the file at Marshall’s insistence—an unsolicited “review” of Marshall’s luminous, expansive work, All that is Solid Melts into Air. The review was hand written, and crumpled—the pen having apparently been set to paper years before—and the note itself abused by years of residence in Marshall’s tumultuous apartment, or atop the crazed jumble of books and papers that always concealed his office desk.

Continue reading “Marshall Berman: A Life Steered by Our Human Possibilities”

Walking Free While Black: Unlocking Streets, Communities

Some of our most recent national news stories paint a definitive picture: institutional racism, which has a long and painful history for many Americans, is still very much a part of our lives.


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Attorney General Eric Holder promises to overhaul America’s prison system.

by Atreish Ramlakhan

Some of our most recent national news stories paint a definitive picture: institutional racism, which has a long and painful history for many Americans, is still very much a part of our lives.

In particular, the criminal justice system has been under close scrutiny; the Trayvon Martin shooting and subsequent verdict, the stop-and-frisk ruling in New York City, and recent comments by Attorney General Eric Holder about mass incarceration have had all shared prominent media coverage this summer, one by one shedding further light on the rampant racial disparities within the criminal justice system—a system that has grown increasingly unacceptable for many Americans.

Continue reading “Walking Free While Black: Unlocking Streets, Communities”

A New Yorker Responds: Bloomberg’s Plan for Mandatory Composting

Just last month I had documented the wonderful work of our faculty and student fellows with their community partner at the Lower East Side Ecology Center. That a city of New York’s size intends on establishing a serious, progressive city-wide program to handling waste is something to celebrate. The New York Times article cites benefits beyond the environmental impact: the city will save about a third of the money it spends disposing residential trash (over $300 million last year) by diverting the organic material to composting plants. Furthermore, the city would pursue plans to build a plant to convert the waste matter into a renewable energy source used to generate electricity for the New York region.

San Francisco compost bin. Photo license: Creative Commons.
San Francisco compost bin. Photo license: Creative Commons.

By Amanda Krupman, Communications Coordinator, Colin Powell School

I want to say that I am typical New Yorker—a typical non-native, not-yet-forty, not-ever-making-a six-figure-salary New Yorker.

I live in one of the outer boroughs, don’t own a car, and rent an apartment in a crumbling four-story walk-up. A kind, older Korean woman living across the street is paid to handle our trash and recycling and occasionally (bi-yearly?) sweep the hallways and stairs. She does this despite the fact that, she told me last week, the building’s owner hasn’t paid her since December. The owner is a typical New York City landlord, but I have lived in the city long enough to grade on a curve:  he is an absent, but not abusive, figure. I give him a C-minus.

We are all typical New Yorkers: so it only took about three-and-a-half seconds into reading about Bloomberg’s push for a comprehensive composting program for my thoughts to transition from those apropos to Responsible Earth Citizen to those of Paranoid Urban Survivalist. Continue reading “A New Yorker Responds: Bloomberg’s Plan for Mandatory Composting”

Framing and Deepening the Hurricane Sandy Response

The crisis of Sandy still serves as a catalyst to engage students in in-depth discussions on everything from the appropriate role of government, public resources, and infrastructure planning and development to scientists’ growing concern about climate change and disaster preparedness. In light of the urgency of the lasting crisis, how do we reconcile the bureaucracy of higher education timetables with the real-time needs of next-door neighbors and citizens, and expedite services? How do we make use of large-scale student resources and labor while remaining mindful of the students and staff who have been personally affected by the storm?

By Genéa Stewart, Director of Service-Learning

With the start of the new semester, service-learning practitioners across New York and New Jersey have a distinct opportunity to leverage the matchless teachable moment created by Hurricane Sandy for social change. But how exactly? When? What factors should educators and advocates consider in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? How should we talk with our students?

Continue reading “Framing and Deepening the Hurricane Sandy Response”

Save NYC’s Abandoned Buildings, Save the Planet

Converting vacant buildings to housing for homeless New Yorkers might just save the Earth from climate change.

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A vacant building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo: Flicker Clicker / Creative Commons

By Alex Davies, Communications Coordinator

In a January 2012 report, grassroots advocacy group Picture the Homeless surveyed vacant buildings and properties in New York City, finding enough space to house nearly 200,000 people — four times the homeless population of the city.

As the Center expands its work on environmental issues, I’ve been thinking about how the expression, “the greenest brick is the one already in the wall” applies to the report. It’s the unofficial mantra of the design section of TreeHugger, an environmental blog I contribute to. Here’s a simpler way to put it: It’s a waste (of time, money, energy, and resources) to build an entirely new structure when there’s one already there.  Continue reading “Save NYC’s Abandoned Buildings, Save the Planet”

Service-Learning in NYC Schools: Outcomes and Lessons Learned

NYC Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford explains why service-learning is the route to stronger education and communities.

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NYC Service Chief Officer Diahann Billings-Burford and NYC Schools Chancellor Walcott honor Service in Schools 2012 award recipients. Photo: NYC Service

By Diahann Billings-Burford, Chief Service Officer of NYC Service.

Last month, NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and I celebrated the accomplishments of more than 587,000 students who participated in service during the 2011-2012 school year as part of the City’s Service in Schools initiative. Thirty schools were recognized for student participation in projects that included working on a sustainable organic farm serving Crown Heights and leading workshops for elementary school students as part of City Year’s Young Heroes program in Hunts Point.

Our Service in Schools initiative, a partnership of the Department of Education and NYC Service, encourages student participation in service of any kind. But since our launch in 2009 we’ve seen that the greatest impact on academic performance and student engagement is a result of service-learning. Continue reading “Service-Learning in NYC Schools: Outcomes and Lessons Learned”

To Improve Health in Harlem, a Fellow Joins the Community

Forget “veni, vidi, vici.” A Colin Powell Center Partners for Change fellow explains that before you can help change a community, you must become part of it first.

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Rebecca Moore at a health fair attended by the Partners for Change health care fellows. Photo: Sophie Gray

Before having the opportunity to be a Colin Powell Partners for Change health fellow I had never truly recognized the health crisis facing the Harlem community. I knew it existed, but before I was given a chance to meet the community and discuss the daily lives and activities of people past whom I have walked on the streets for the three years I have lived in Harlem, I did not know how complex and deep rooted these issues were.

Continue reading “To Improve Health in Harlem, a Fellow Joins the Community”