Saturday, April 20, 2013

From Lord Buckley to Freire to Beard Papa


Stephen has received a response back from the Pantha du Prince people. We’re into negotiations  now. 

Lynnea is looking for an old jail cell set piece from years ago, maybe even a previous production of Measure for Measure. Stephen recalls that it was last used last summer in Glen’s  Dem Dahk Days Down South production as something in the slave trade. Amazingly it turns up. Still here.

RL comes in. He shows me a strange trail of white pigeon feathers leading all the way up to the fifth floor. Fine and white.Like there’s pigeon babies  somewhere. Or a ripped open pillow. Mysteries like this, at the right moments, make want to just give up.Surrendur. Like the building has a spirit of its own. 

RL invites me into his studio.  Shares his concerns about a building issue.  Then plays me an old cassette of the most original hipster, Lord Buckley, performing his beat masterpiece and therefore the Nazz..) story. The Nazz was a carpenter kitty...when he laid it stayed laid....An eleven minute caffeinated florid trip that to your amazement somehow makes sense. In the Eisenhauer 50’s, Buckley was as probably as subversive as he was thought to be. With friends like Lenny Bruce and Ed Sullivan and one of Bob Dylan’s influences, Buckley managed to produce an art that anticipated rap and perfomance art by decades.  Before being  hounded out of show business, he made contemporaries like Ginsburg and Ferlinghetti seem simple and staid. His Nazz is perhaps the quintessential interpretation of Jesus in the Beat era. His performance is what an era was. 

                                                     Lord Buckley performs  the Nazz

My best time of the week? Danielle had a presentation to do in in one of her graduate classes at Hunter. A presentation on Paulo Freire. Gave me the opportunity to talk about one of the most influential figures of this time. (I will resist saying be was the Lord Buckley of education) Gave me the chance to talk about education for critical consciousness. And his idea that people become the subjects of their own history. That their lived lives were part of their curricula. 

Along with Sol Alinsky, Freire is one of the lightning rod thinkers of our time seen as almost demonic by the defenders of establishment and empire. Accused of imposing a Marxist agenda on education, Freire was the opposite. His educational theory flows organically from his   philosophical understanding of the nature of humanity which put into practice can only lead to revolutionary praxis. His thought not only transformed education but deeply influenced liberation theology and community organizing as well. 

Once in a meeting between Newark School of Theology staff and grassroots people, a community representative objected to our use of the term empowerment. That implies we are empty vessels waiting to be filled, she said.What we need you to do is help us discover and put into use what wis already inside us ...that’s the essence of Freirian education.

while I first heard  about t   his  from my friend Mjchael James and his Oakland literacy project in the  late ’70’s , it was my colleague, mentor and friend, Warren Dennis, now the The Dirk Romeyn Professor of Metro-Urban Ministry and Director of Doctoral Ministry at New Brunswick theological Seminary, who showed me what Freirian education is in practice. He was the first educator who ever made it real for me. Working with him in an introduction to ministry practice course with second career adult students changed my teaching style. I would later used what I learned from Warren  with my own students at NST. By helping students read their own lives as text, this model is appropriately  perceived as threatening to structures of domination and power. 

After a dinner with Katie and RL, I’m working late. I hear Chris talking to someone outside. He’s the homeless guy I saw yesterday. Loos like the logo man for the Japanese cream puff chain, Beard Papa.
 Later, I’ll find him inside the church. Tells me he’s homeless. Just needs a place to spend the night. Yesterday Danielle had directed him to the Arc program. He has an appointment for Monday. i tell him he can’t stay here inside, we’re not equipped for that. And he leaves.

Walking home, i see all our doorways are filled....perhaps Beard Papa among them. 

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