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Banneker 5 Report 2: Advising

One of the refrains of the summer is that the Banneker Institute is not an REU program. It's not that REU programs are bad. It's just that we've just always had different goals in mind—and we are not seeking to reinvent the wheel. While REU programs are designed to provide undergraduate students an entrée into the world of research, we aim to prepare students of color for graduate school in myriad ways including a summer research project.
Since the beginning, the Banneker summer program has rested upon three pillars: research, classroom learning, and social justice education. This summer, we have articulated a set of high-level goals associated with these three pillars: Students will learn the process of research in astrophysics.Students will develop tools to describe the world as it is rather than as it has been narrated to them.Students will build and maintain a community that can sustain them through the trials of graduate school and their STEM careers beyond. The first…
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Banneker 5 Report 1: Building Community

From its inception, one of the primary aims of the Banneker Institute has been to build community within astronomy that can can be supportive and even nourishing for students of color. To be sure, this is a radical proposition. The field of astronomy and the social structures upon which it is built are extensions of the structures of US society at large. And building off of those structures, solidarity is not a natural outcome.
During previous summer programs, John et al. told the students that they'd like them to be in community with one another, and we even had a pledge that attempted to bring mindfulness to the values that we hoped would help us get there. Things like being greater than the sum of our parts, recognizing that things can get difficult, and standing up for each other when things get tough. This wasn't much to go on, to be honest, and the fact that so many cohorts did form a supportive community is a testament to the strength and good will of the students. Ban…

"Why do you care about war?"

Full transcript

The Triple Prong Sickness of America Excerpts From King’s Speech Delivered at the National Conference on New Politics
August 31, 1967 
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live…

...I wish that I could …

Hands Off Venezuela!

The US is gearing up for another attempt at regime change, this time in Venezuela. The first attempt in that country was on April 11, 2002. That coup lasted only a few days before millions of mostly poor, mostly brown and black Venezuelans took to the streets to demand the return of their democratically-elected president, Hugo Chávez. The power of the people prevailed, and the US-backed usurpers retreated with their tails between their legs.

Most people I've talked to about Venezuela say the same thing, that the situation seems overly complicated to fully comprehend. However, I assure you that this isn't complicated, nor is it unfamiliar. Do you remember Iraq, and how that went down, and how it turned out? Okay, then you understand what's going on in Venezuela: a nation of mostly brown people sits atop one of the world's largest oil reserves, and has refused to allow Western business interests to have full access to the nation's markets and resources. The corporate…

Iraq War 2: Electric Boogaloo

Sequels to Hollywood hits are rarely good. It's just too easy to succeed by being fundamentally lazy. Note the success of the original, sign the stars to new contracts, rehash the same basic story and jokes in a new setting, start advertising a year out, and finally: rake in the profits. It's great for the studios, but rarely good for the viewers. The Karate Kid was a masterpiece. The Karate Kid 2? Total bummer.
Remember the Iraq invasion? Not the prequel, when America barely dipped it's toes into Iraq. I'm talking about the good one when the military got all up into that sovereign nation, wrecked it, tried to install a government and set up shop in a gigantic fortified compound right in the middle of Baghdad (those madcap Americans!). Then, in a plot twist right out of M. Night Shaymalan, the Iraqi people fought back, pressured their government to kick the Americans out, and...something, something Surge! It turned out the Iraqi people were actually the bad guys all a…

Public Service Announcement About Corporate News

Five major corporations own almost all of the media Americans consume on a daily basis, and corporations have an outsize impact on national policy. This is just a friendly reminder that in a country run by a corporate elite, corporate propaganda is state propaganda:


If the corporate oligarchs don't want you to hear about something, they can make sure you have very little exposure to it, and bias you against that message when you manage to hear it. If they want/need you to know and internalize something, they can keep sending you that message until you do. The video above is a desperate attempt to keep you away from independent news sources. All while trying to convince you that we live in a democracy, and that that democracy is challenged by unapproved voices, open discourse of topics that have actual bearing on our lives, and independent thinking.  It's amazing that those newscasters warn against one-sided news sources and not checking facts without a shred of irony (hello r…

Questions for Those Seeking Freedom

I recently gave a "diversity talk" at a large public university, and I reiterated a point that I've been making whenever I get an opportunity. Namely, I believe there are two primary ways one can enact social justice activism. One is to recognize that injustices occur along various axes such as gender, race and physical ability, and then stake out a position on a perceived high ground from which you identify the Bad People who are responsible for those injustices. People taking this approach are the ones who seem to always have a story to share about a racist uncle on Facebook, or a sexist dude at work, or the person who made an insensitive remark in a meeting. While it is important to identify these types of actions and those who are prone to do them, if your activism ends at naming these actions and people, then I don't see how you can accomplish much. This is because the problematic actions of individuals are not inherent to those people. Rather they are symptomat…