(Photo: Sean Gruno)
By: Samantha Jewell, Humans Editor
What brought you to Regis University?
I came to Regis eleven years ago in the physical plant so I did construction and landscaping and shoveled snow. I started during this huge blizzard when there was 3 feet of snow and everyone thought I was bad luck saying this new guy brought all the snow. So that is what brought me to Regis. I grew up a block away and if you were for Regis full time they will pay for your tuition so that is how I got my bachelors and my masters. I then started working in the library and now I am teaching full time in the History Department.
What made you decide to study History?
When I was doing my undergrad I was primarily studying English and I had an English teacher named Jim Walsh who taught at the night school. Jim Walsh really dug into a different perspective of history, not so much top down but bottom up and I learned more about Irish History, Social movements and all of those protests. I make Hip-Hop music as well and I try and it tied in with the music that I had done and the occupy wall street music had come out at that time and I kind of just got pushed into that direction and a lot of that is to the credit of Jim Walsh.
What is your historical focus?
When I went to graduate school my historical focus was history and politics and it was in social movements and surveillance. The primary focus was the targeting of radicals in social movements throughout US History and that was primarily my focus. I then went over to MIT for a good portion of that and studied with Gary Marx sociologist and Noam Chomsky and did a series of interviews on provocateur and how social movements are infiltrated and broken up. Basically how social change is a tug – a – war between power. It is not just one thing it is a lead up with a good amount of resistance. When you look at the abolition of slavery, Lincoln did not roll out of bed one day eat some fruit loops and banish slavery. It was from hundreds of years of slave revolts, fighting on the ships, fighting to get ahold of the ships, sometimes steering them back, poisoning their owners, so slave revolts is what really built that movement. So for me, that is what is really interesting to me.
Will you tell us more about your rapping?
I try to incorporate music into my teaching more and more. I use others raps, I work with Common so I show him in class and talk about some of the work that we have done together. I have been making music since I was 13 and released my first album when I was in high school and touted then. I have been doing that way before I was in college and teaching. Now I am doing stuff with Talib Kwali, we are doing a show together at the end of the month. One thing that I have done in class is that I make rap battles and have students do them. In sociology, we have Durkheim and Marx rap battling each other. We do them in class and it has their philosophies intertwined. Another one we have done is Stephen Douglas and Lincoln battling each other. So those are some things that I have done. I try to incorporate it as much as I can. And that is really where I learned a lot of my history is through rap. I learned about the Civil Rights Movements and things that I didn’t learn in high school through rap.
What is your favorite Jesuit Value?
I really like the ‘in Service to Others’ and how it is intertwined with ‘Contemplatives in Action’ and I think that is the one that really ties back to Dr. King. You see these intersections, Dr. King was always talking about giving service to others instead of sitting in a room and planning things. Just like Ella Baker who worked with him. Ella Baker was always going out and getting things done. How that ties in with contemplatives in action is when you look at Kings later years he started to contemplate imperialism, white supremacy, and materialism. I think King has been pushed in this nonviolent person who did one speech. It is seen that he just did the I have a dream speech and what I really liked about King is the more he discerned and thought. He saw the violence that America was portraying and I think the more reflect on that with history we cant just see it as that time with the Vietnam War but applying King to today you see how the US is supporting Saudi Arabia and its attach on Yemen and you have this huge cholera outbreak with thousands of kids with it and famine and these are the things that I think Dr. King would still be speaking on and involved in. These are the things that need to be questioned. That is what I like about these Jesuit Values that they are about in service to others and reflecting about where we are.
Is there anything else you would like to leave with the Regis community?
I am grateful to be a part of the Regis community and I am grateful to be in the classroom more now where I learn so much from my students as well and sharing their stories. So, I would like to keep the conversations and dialogues going both inside and outside the classroom.