Looking for Inspiration: (re)reading Cornel West’s essay “Race and Architecture”

Race & Architecture

Cornel West Reader (cover)

Cornel West, The Cornel West Reader (New York: Basic Books, 1999)

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction: To Be Human, Modern and American

I: Autobiographical Interlude

  • The Making of an American Radical Democrat of African Descent
  • On My Intellectual Vocation
  • Sing a Song

II: Modernity and its Discontents

  • The Ignoble Paradox of Modernity
  • Race and Modernity
  • Black Strivings in a Twilight Civilization
  • The New Cultural Politics of Difference

III: American Pragmatism

  • Why Pragmatism?
  • On Prophetic Pragmatism
  • Pragmatism and the Sense of the Tragic
  • The Limits of Neopragmatism
  • Nietzsche’s Prefiguration of Postmodern American Philosophy

IV: Progressive Marxist Theory

  • The Indispensability Yet Insufficiency of Marxist Theory
  • Frederic Jameson’s American Marxism
  • Race and Social Theory

V: Radical Democratic Politics

  • The Role of Law in Progressive Politics
  • The Political Intellectual
  • A World of Ideas
  • The Dilemma of the Black Intellectual
  • American Progressivism Reoriented
  • Parents and National Survival
  • On the 1980s
  • Michael Harrington, Democratic Socialist


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 It’s always been my passion to know who was crafting the wonderful hip-hop music I was listening to. J-Dilla, Pete Rock and Dj Premiere have always been some of my favorite modern day composers. They discovered and implemented a new way to compose/produce dazzling and infectious art in the late 20th century and have continued it into the 21st century. Music educators should take heed of the words of sociological phenomenologist Alfred Schütz, that notation is not music and the relationship created (the mutual tuning-in) is most important. Living in the vivid present…. within inner and outer time.

Checking out different dee jays is like going to a symphony’s performance of your favorite classical work. The beat, the collection and odrder of the break beats,  is a work of art of the modern day composer/producer of quality musical art for all to listen too. So, take a moment and check out some of these artist. 

#hiphopmusic #hiphopmusiced #hiphop #peterock #guru #premiere #biggie #jdilla  #kendricklamar #actionbronson #dejloaf #joeybada$$ #FrankOcean  #thedeejay #thedj #dj 




#hiphopmusiced today is dedicated to learning more about the future of hip-hop. In the featured picture, you will see the tremendous variety of great emcees (musicians/lyricist) in whose hands lay the future of the culture. As a music educator, I am always looking to be able to recognize the contemporary in art. I endeavor to know the most I can about the current trends and artist of the culture. These are but a few of the great new update hip-hop artist shaping the direction of, and voicing the issues of the American experience. #kendricklamar #dejloaf #bigkrit #joeybadass #actionbronson #frankocean #jcole #hiphopfuture #hiphop 

#HIPHOPMUSICED “Dealing With Difficult Discussions”

Most music teachers have little to no time to actually deal with difficult subjects in their classrooms. It’s enough, to struggle with inculcating the student with a fundamental grasp of the instrument, situating them within a team sport such as band, or improving the performance level of their individual ensembles. Arguably, It takes an even more committed individual to teach the fundamental enjoyment of aesthetics. The following is a short excerpt of a conversation that I had with a friend, via  social media (Facebook), that I believe can be used as a tool for investigation and exploration in the music classroom.

“If you’re cool with police brutality, let me clarify that…violence and brutal acts above and beyond the call of duty, then wait until it happens to you. It happened to me, and I teach college students, work in a high school performing arts after school education program. Violence is violence, bias, stereotypes, prejudice are all elements of mistrust and fear. I was harassed by the police of the 46th precinct here in NYC. Not as bad as the children in this video, but my civil liberties and rights were violated. This has got to stop! 

This isn’t as simple as saying, “that’s them and I don’t have to worry.” It will happen to you next, and I’m speaking about all races, there is never a “I’m good, it can’t happen to me” get away free card. If it’s not happening to you, and you see it, you’re part of the violence. Point blank!” – Sheel (2015)

So,  how can we apply a rant on social media or a quote from a prominent member in society to spark debate, discussion and/or dialogue?


This literal, comical take, on a famous verse by Method Man from the Wu-Tang clan, can be interpreted as a invitation to get to know students and their secret musical world that they are/or are not participating in outside of the physical space of school. Over the course of this past Fall 2014 and following Spring 2015 semester I have been dealing the various ways in which we can deal with hip-hop in arts courses. I’ve been teaching a capstone course at a CUNY community college in New York City. the course, Democracy & Hip-Hop, centers on the site where the topics of democracy and hip-hop meet. Much of what we discussed in the weekly, Monday night, two and a half hour capstone course was centered on these themes; civic engagement, democracy, critical theory, voice, prejudice, justice, injustice, documentation, hip-hop and it’s elements, discussion and dialogue, among many other things.

Because the class was for non-music majors, and liberal arts & science students, at the end of their experience (2nd year) at this particular CUNY community college, the class was structured around open forum dialogue (Socratic method) and a group project (PBL). The way I kept the dialogue going on the subject of music and arts, was to give them a weekly assignment of creating a blog/playlist using the social media tool Spotify. In this blog/playlist, that I had previously created, they would have to answer five key questions along with reviewing or adding “hip-hop” music or related aural material in the open sourced Spotify playlist.  The playlist/blog was named “Democracy and Hip-Hop 2015”. The students were challenged with adding new material, hip-hop music, to the playlist weekly, daily or at least during the time that the class took place (February – June, 2015).

Below you will find a bare bones schematic of what students used as prompts to complete the blog/playlist. Dr. Dan Brown (2010) in the Journal of Finnish Music Education (Vol. 13, No. 2, p.8-16), published an article called “Band As Reflective Collaboration, Advancing an Alternative Rehearsal Paradigm.” . Brown (2010) states that “there are those, including myself, who are looking for band to be a more collaborative experience.” (2010). The Blog format, as the vehicle, I feel is something which music educators all over America can use to engage students outside of the physical space of the classroom. A word of caution, please know, that blogs and open forum social media tools/ projects require teachers to be moderators. Moderators but not the police of it. In order to have an organic conversation or dialogue, it’s best to be part of the conversation instead of controlling it. Below you will find the substance of what we did regularly during the course of the semester together.

SPOTIFY – Blog/Playlist

Directions: Spotify…

You can click the following link to find the playlist for the capstone course link here SPOTIFY LINK ( https://play.spotify.com/user/blutrio/playlist/60nG3XuDrrOWcMirPkVxnd ). I hope you enjoy it and take the time to add to it, and/or create your own. If you create your own spotify playlist please share it on your _________________.


Title of Song:

Artist/ Band:

Current Mood:




Please answer the following questions in your blog entry. You may add more questions, but please do not take away from the prompts I have provided you. I look forward to reading your thoughts.


  1. How did you experience democracy this week?
  2. How many times did you witness or experience prejudice, bias or injustice this week?
  3. What tools did you use to cope with the various situations (prejudice, bias or injustice) you witnessed this week?
  4. Please add your favorite verse or lyrics that express your experiences this week.

Created by: Jarritt A Sheel 2014-2015

Throwback to the origin of the conversation….

The conversation was about the recent “pool party” incident that happened in McKinney, TX. During this incident a police officers serious over-stepped (egregiously) outside of their bounds during a call by a white community resident, to come to a community pool at which the young black teens were having a pool party. The white resident was angered by a group of neighborhood children (black) that had come to the pool and was slinging racial slurs at the underage teenagers (14-16 years old). The police arrived and started to man handle the children without cause or reason. The neighborhood was suburban and racially mixed, but apparently the police were not aware of this. The black children were not section-eight, but belonged to the suburban community, just like the white resident that had called the police on the children. So, this is how the social media conversation (Facebook) ended.

“I do feel bad for the good officers Paul Mahoney, however I believe the problem is endemic to the policing culture in America. We have to change the policy and culture of law enforcement here, and fewer people with badges will be hurt and will hurt other citizens. Somewhere along the way, police became separate from the other citizens, and above reproach. That wasn’t started by the police, but rather the people who were giving them semiautomatic rifles, rocket launchers and small tanks to militarize the police force. It was part of policy that had no educative element. It’s a shame, because the country is on the verge…tipping point.” – Sheel (2015)

I wish you well in your attempts to implement this in your music classroom, and the various aims that you may have in using them with your students. Good luck!

Why I Dropped Everything And Started Teaching Kendrick Lamar’s New Album

Great read!

Brian Mooney

When Kendrick Lamar released his sophomore album, To Pimp A Butterfly (2015), I was in the middle of teaching a unit on Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). My freshmen students were grappling with some big ideas and some really complex language. Framing the unit as an “Anti-Oppression” study, we took special efforts to define and explore the kinds of institutional and internalized racism that manifest in the lives of Morrison’s African-American characters, particularly the 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove and her mother, Pauline. We posed questions about oppression and the media – and after looking at the Dick & Jane primers that serve as precursors to each chapter, considered the influence of a “master narrative” that always privileges whiteness.

Set in the 1940s, the Breedlove family lives in poverty. Their only escape is the silver screen, a place where they idolize the glamorous stars of the film industry. Given the historical context…

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Against the Structured Generation

The 14th Floor

One of the unfortunate characteristics of our generation is that we have tended to live highly structured lives.  Those of us born in the 1980s, who spent their twenties in the transitional era of the early 2000s, amidst the violent cacophony of the two Bush Wars, have experienced at least some shared sense of structure to our lives.

The typical life of an upper-middle class son or daughter born in Canada during that generation would go something like this: a childhood spent in public schools, with no lack of activities in which to immerse oneself (soccer, piano, theater, etc.). Then high school hits, with its swirl of hormonal desire combined with the looming pressure of standardized tests. It is generally here that the adolescent learns the rhythms of capitalist work-time: school during the day, nights filled with study and ever more structured activities.

If the student is lucky he or…

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“Music was better back then”: When do we stop keeping up with popular music?

Skynet & Ebert

After sixty years of research, it’s conventional wisdom: as people get older, they stop keeping up with popular music. Whether the demands of parenthood and careers mean devoting less time to pop culture, or just because they’ve succumbed to good old-fashioned taste freeze, music fans beyond a certain age seem to reach a point where their tastes have “matured”.

That’s why the organizers of the Super Bowl — with a median viewer age of 44 —  were smart to balance their Katy Perry-headlined halftime show with a showing by Missy Elliott.

Missy don't brag, she mostly boast Missy don’t brag, she mostly boast

Spotify listener data offers a sliced & diced view of each user’s streams. This lets us measure when this effect begins, how quickly the effect develops, and how it’s impacted by demographic factors.

For this study, I started with individual listening data from U.S. Spotify users and combined that…

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Toward a Saner View of Text Complexity

To Make a Prairie


As happened a few years ago, when eighth grade students took to Facebook to share reactions to a nonsensical passage about a talking pineapple from the New York State ELA test, this year’s Common Core-aligned test made it into the news again for another Facebook incident. Somehow a group called Education is a Journey Not a Race got their hands on a copy of the fourth grade test and posted over three dozen images of passages and questions on their Facebook page. Facebook quickly took the page down, but they couldn’t stop the articles that soon appeared, such as “New York State Tests for Fourth-Graders Included Passages Meant for Older Students” from the Wall Street Journal and “Educators alarmed by some questions on N.Y. Common Core test” from The Washington Post. 

PG13_rating_WaiAs their titles suggest, these pieces took a hard look at the kind of questions and concerns teachers…

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