Quote of the Day: “How can you thank someone/Who has taken you from crayons to perfume…” — “To Sir With Love” by Lulu
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
Due to some unforeseen (but not highly unexpected)
petty tyrannies dramatics, I am no longer, for the most part, a journalist. I did it for many, many years. I did it well. I helped finesse, according to a nicely-worded compliment from a complete stranger the other day, a new genre of journalism that helped define my generation.
But it’s a fickle world, the world of media—of New York media, in particular—and I found that out in the way most people do. But let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s emphasize the present and the future. Hiphop and hiphop journalism was good to me, and I think I was good to it. Now it’s time for a change. Many of you know that I went back to college last year, to finally finish my undergrad degree at Brown University. One of the reasons I did it was because I knew that at some point in my life I was going to teach, to share whatever sorta knowledge I’d acquired over the years with that next generation of writers and thinkers and doers the same way generous, smart people did for me 20 years ago. I certainly didn’t think my chance would come so soon. But it is true, as my mother always told me: When God closes one door, He always opens another—or at least a window that will get the same job done.
Now, here I find myself, today, January 26, 2009, starting my new life as a teacher. I’ll be standing at the front of a class at Brown University, teaching a course of my own devising, called Journalism and Black Popular Cultures. Luckily, students here seem interested in taking it, and excited about taking it. A few weeks from now, I start to find out from graduate schools if they’ve accepted or rejected me, and I will be, hopefully, as of September, a PhD student, preparing to start my new life as a professor and researcher. Yeah, I realized I’m sorta doing it the backwards way—it wouldn’t be the first time, believe me—teaching at an Ivy League university before even getting the advanced degree usually needed to do it. But maybe that’s part of the fun. First, an adjunct; later, the world!
So, all you faithful SCOTT TOPICS readers, wish a brotha luck as he starts this new phase, not looking back, only looking forward to the new worlds of challenge and adventure to come his way. Send me ideas; offer me advice; show me the way. I’m listening.
By the by, an oooooold friend from my very early days in journalism got in touch with me recently after hearing about this new adventure. We laughed about the old days, the mistakes we made, the triumphs (and tears) we shared. Then she mentioned one night, back in 1990, just after I’d left Brown that second and final time back then, when we lay on the couch in my tiny studio apartment in Brooklyn and watched a video of To Sir, With Love, a British film from the 60s that starred Sidney Poitier as a teacher in an English school. “You’re Sir, now,” she said, laughing. “Not quite,” I told her. “Brown students may be many things but they’re not juvenile delinquents. Well, not all the time, anyway.” We had another laugh over the long distance phone lines and shared some more memories. When we got off the phone, I had to think about it. Would I be a “Sir” to some kid like me, some baby Ivy Leaguer who thinks she or he has what it takes to stride boldly into the New York media world and try to conquer it with her voice and words? Maybe, maybe not. But I did have to think about the “Sirs”, male and female, who helped show me the way: from Hempstead High School, Miss Brett Truitt and Ms Sandra Dunn and Mrs, Sharon Fitzpatrick (RIP); from the early days at Brown: Meredith Steinbach and Patrick Comiskey and Tricia Rose and the dearly departed George Houston Bass and Roger Henkle; from the Village Voice, Greg Tate and Richard Goldstein and Lisa Jones and Vince Aletti and Donald Suggs—and all the other “Sirs” who taught me, scolded me, challenged me, helped me. I start this new adventure with you on my mind and in my heart.
To all those Sirs, I share one of my favorite songs from a scene in one of my favorite movies:
TOMORROW–A funny and smart SPB Q is coming down the pike….stay tuned!