Black Voices in Classical Education: How the Black intellectual tradition has been shaped and been shaped by the classical tradition.

On the evening of Friday, Nov. 12, Eastern University had the privilege of hosting three distinguished guests for a conversation on classical education and the Black intellectual tradition. The event was organized and hosted by the Templeton Honors College, and the conversation was led and moderated by Dr. Brian Williams, the dean of the Templeton Honors College and the dean of Eastern University’s college of arts and humanities. Dr. Williams is also the co-director of Eastern’s Masters in classical education program. The event also featured Dr. Eric Ashley Hairston, an associate dean and professor of humanities at Wake Forest University as well as Dr. Angel Adams Parham, an associate professor of sociology at University of Virginia. Perhaps the biggest privilege of this event was that Eastern University was able to also host Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and is the author of “Race Matters” and “Democracy Matters”. 

Dr. Williams opened the event by welcoming the three guests and giving a brief introduction to what classical education is and its connection to the Black intellectual tradition. After his introduction, Dr. Williams presented a water-color painting to Dr. West that featured West and the 19th century Danish theologian Søren Kierkagaard enjoying a conversation over tea. West warmly and enthusiastically laughed at the painting and accepted it before moving to the podium to give his introduction to the importance of classical education and how it is closely tied to the black intellectual tradition. West has been a prolific voice in the Black intellectual tradition as well as the classical tradition for many years and sparked controversy in April of this year when he spoke out against Howard University’s decision to dissolve their classics department. In his opening speech, West emphasized the importance of “raising every voice.” West layed out the significance of classical education in three parts: the formation of attention, the cultivation of a critical sensibility and the maturation of a loving soul. He outlined how the questions raised in classical texts are not only timeless questions, but timely questions: they are “enduring and timeless and timely questions.” He laid out that we need to turn our minds and souls and attention to things that really matter; we need to attend to things that are truly important as we ask the question “what does it mean to be human?” Questions in classical texts provide the formation of attention away from our “quest for insatiable pleasure” and towards what is important. Next, West affirmed that classical education also helps cultivate critical sensibilities in us, and most importantly, leads to the maturation of a loving soul. West went on to emphasize that the “black freedom movement is an important leaven in the democratic loaf.” He plainly admitted that we don’t know if the American experiment will last, but that every single generation must be up for the task. West concluded his speech with a question: how do we sustain hope? West answered his own question by saying that we sustain hope by coming together, and having conversation (not chit-chat).

The conversation was opened up to all three guests as Dr. Williams began to ask Dr. Hairston and Dr. Parham about their own work in their respective fields. The conversation stayed centered around the values of classical texts and the power they have to promote a better society. Dr. West spent some time discussing how the figures in the Black intellectual tradition provided themselves as examples of integrity and virtue and how we need to come to terms with suffering, not just in our education but in our daily lives. He contrasted popular figures in the past with celebrities by comparing current celebrities to peacocks: “peacocks strut because they can’t fly”; we need to fly, we need to leave the Aristotelian cave in order to fly back in and have influence on those still in the dark. Dr. Parham spent some time discussing the reality and dangers of “historical amnesia,” and how ancient classical texts along with black literary classics can help counter historical amnesia.

Before opening up the conversation for a very brief time for audience questions, Dr. West gave a message to our generation of students and young adults: be great, not successful; let awards and titles go because “great is the highest level.”

Favorite Fall Drinks: Which fall beverage will rule them all?

Only a select few members of our society truly enjoy cold weather. Most of us enjoy the fall season for its activities, colors and fashion, but not for its colder embrace.

For those of us who seek some kind of enjoyment in spite of the cold, we often turn towards warm and seasonal drinks. Some folks love to dive head first into the seasonal flavors of fall and choose drinks like a pumpkin spice latte, while others prefer to stick with classic drinks like hot chocolate.

To write this story, I had a pumpkin spice latte, chai tea, hot chocolate, and warm apple cider. I am not a pumpkin spice enthusiast, although I fully support those select people who are able to enjoy the seasonal latte. If you are a fan or fanatic of pumpkin spice, by all means, enjoy it.

But if you, like me, are hesitant to try it or are simply ambivalent about it… I suggest staying that way. Chai is fantastic as tea or as a latte, but only if you enjoy spices (not “spicy”, “spices”). The rich aroma and flavor of a chai mixture will warm you right up.

For those who don’t really want to bother with spices or too much flavor: why mess with the classics? Hot chocolate not only warms you up, but it leaves a sweet aftertaste in your mouth. If you can obtain a rich and creamy hot chocolate, your night is complete.

All of this being said, if you want to indulge in the fall season but not worry about spices or flavors you’re not used to, look no further than apple cider. A mug/cup of hot apple cider will warm you up as you enjoy the familiar taste of apples without the drink being overly sweet.

When it comes to fall drinks, it really comes down to preference. If you are willing or curious enough, go for the spiced drinks. But there is never any shame when enjoying a warm cup of chocolate or apple cider. Stay warm out there.

The Art of Writing in Books: A look at why writing in your favorite books can be beneficial.

When one thinks about writing in books, they probably think about analytical, close readings of deep and difficult texts for academic purposes. While this is definitely one of the many instances in which one can write in their books, it is surely not the only one, and it is absolutely not most people’s favorite. There are a vast multitude of benefits to writing in the margins of texts and underlining and circling parts of texts, aside from just deeper analysis/understanding. However, because reading and writing are both different experiences for everyone, the benefits will vary for each person. Perhaps it could be a way to help someone pay attention to the text, to be able to stay focused and keep their mind active instead of having to reread the same sentence five times and still not grasp any meaning. Perhaps it could be a way to mark things down to remember them. This could be helpful if one is planning to have a conversation about the text with others; if they struggle to understand a large section and a quick summary in the margins is easier than rereading, or even if they just like to go back through books they’ve read before and get reminders of what is happening. 

My personal favorite benefit to writing in my books when I read, is for fun. I will underline and circle quotes that speak to me, things that are funny, or just anything that stands out to me. I love to put little remarks in the margins of my books, or just commentary and jokes I think of while reading. Then, when I come back to books I read in the past, I can look back and see where I was at that time and what I drew from each text specifically. 

For me, writing in my books has become an art for two reasons. First, it is a complex and yet also simple action that varies on how it actually looks for each person and on the benefits it has for each person. Second, for myself and those I have talked to who write in their books when they read, it has become a necessity. Just as a musical artist or a visual artist feels a desire, or even internal demand to create their art, there is an instinctual desire to continually write in texts once you start to. So whether you enjoy reading or not, whether you can make connections and comments in the text or if you just want to laugh at or throw a random smiley face in the text, it is always going to be beneficial to write in your books as you read. It is an art: there is no expectation, there is no grade, there are no rules, just allow yourself to look at books and read texts a little differently with a pen or pencil in your hand.

Afghan Refugees: A brief look at where Afghan refugees are fleeing to and what resettlement processes look like

On August 15th, the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled the nation and a militant group, the Taliban, took control over the country. According to the UN Refugee Agency, an estimated 600,000 Afghans have been newly displaced in the country this year. Due to the recent power shift within Afghanistan, there has been an influx in Afghan refugees. The UNHRA also states that many Afghan refugees flee to neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, which together have more than 2.2 million Afghan refugees. 

Among other nations, the United States has also had a history of accepting Afghan refugees, having taken in more than 20,000 in the past 20 years, according to the American University in Washington D.C. Based on studies by the Council on Foreign Relations, the refugee process to get accepted into the United States generally takes from 18 months to 2 years. HIAS Pennsylvania, a refugee resettlement program working with Afghan refugees in Philadelphia, writes on the process for Afghan refugees after being admitted into the United States: “the persons landing will not necessarily remain in Philadelphia. All evacuees, unless they are American citizens or long-term permanent residents (green card holders), will be tested for COVID-19 and then sent to a military base to receive health screenings, immunizations, and, as necessary, background checks and further processing. Once these are complete, the evacuee will be sent to their final destination for resettlement. The processing is expected to take between fifteen and thirty days.” Bethany Christian Services, another refugee resettlement program in Philadelphia, states on their website that they are projected to resettle 450 Afghan refugees during this refugee crisis. 

I briefly interviewed the Pre-arrival Associate at Exodus Refugee Immigration, a refugee resettlement non-profit in Indianapolis that is also working with Afghan Refugees coming to the United States. My interviewee, when asked about projected numbers of Afghan refugees working with Exodus, called it a “deceptively difficult question to answer,” Exodus Refugee Immigration explained. Agencies like Exodus are given funding based on the number of refugees they are expected to resettle, but in a crisis like this, they are not given much time to prepare. 

“[Exodus is] in constant communication with our global and National partners who are doing [the] processing and allocating of these new refugees, and we are currently preparing to receive up to 250 Afghan refugees in addition to our predetermined number,” the Exodus Refugee Immigration employee shared. My final question to my interviewee was “Is there anything else you would like to add on the process that Afghan refugees go through to be resettled, or on what kind of work Exodus does for Afghan refugees?” This was their response: “I think it’s extremely important to make clear how difficult and traumatizing this move can be for our new Afghan clients to the US. Many of them have spent years serving with U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan, and would be in serious danger if they had stayed. Most arrived in the U.S. unprepared for their lives to change so dramatically, and I think it’s essential that those of us who have the opportunities and resources to help do all we can to make them feel safe and welcome. There are organizations like Exodus all across the country, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to help to contact one of them. Even if you aren’t sure how best to assist us in our work, we rely on a whole lot of charitable donations and volunteers, and we can always find a way for you to help us welcome folks to the U.S,” Exodus Refugee Immigration stated. 

Sources: American University, Bethany Christian Services, Council on Foreign Relations,

Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc., HIAS Pennsylvania, UN Refugee Agency

A Move of Énormité: A brief look at Lionel Messi’s career and departure from FC Barcelona

On Dec. 14, 2000, Barcelona FC, one of the most well-known football clubs in the world, scrambled to sign a child prodigy. It was the father of the 13 year-old player who signed the contract that was, in the moment, written on a napkin. This 13 year-old boy was none other than Lionel Messi. Messi has broken and set many records at FC Barcelona, including most appearances for the club (778), most goals for the club as well as most goals ever scored under one club (672). However, over the summer of 2021, the unexpected happened. At the mark of midnight on July 1, Lionel Messi’s 4-year nearly $600 million contract expired. This meant that one of the best soccer players in history was now a free agent. While there were talks of FC Barcelona attempting to re-sign the giant they had attained many years ago, the Spanish club simply couldn’t afford him anymore.

On Sunday, August 8, Messi held an official farewell press conference where he sorrowfully said goodbye to his club of 21 years. Then, after numerous rumors, Messi was signed by another club: Paris Saint-Germain FC (PSG), the wealthiest club in the French football league. Despite turning 34 over the summer, Lionel Messi is still considered to be one of best players in the world and recently won the Copa América (an international tournament for all South American nations) captaining the national team of his home nation, Argentina. Because he was a free agent, PSG didn’t have to pay anything to FC Barcelona; they only had to worry about Messi’s wage. Lionel Messi signed a contract with PSG for two years, a yearly salary of about $41 million and an option for a third year. After having officially signed with PSG, Messi’s old FC Barcelona teammate who left to join PSG in 2017, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (Neymar), offered to give up the number 10 for Messi to claim.

Instead, Lionel Messi declined the offer and has taken up the number 30 on his jersey, which was the first number he wore for the senior FC Barcelona team. Having attained four extraordinary players over the summer—Messi, Ramos, Donnarumma and Wijnaldum—it is speculated that PSG is making an immense effort to win the Champions League for the first time ever in 2022. Yet it can not be overstated how big of an impact Messi will have on the team off the Parisian pitch as well. Rumors on how many Messi jerseys have been sold in the first 24 hours of the signing span from 250,000 to 830,000. No matter the actual amount, it is sufficient to say that Lionel Messi will be drawing in massive amounts of revenue for his new club. Lionel Messi made his debut for PSG on August 29, featuring in a 2-0 win against Reims in League 1. All League 1 games can be streamed on beIN SPORTS.

Sources: ESPN, FC Barcelona

Broadway is Back: A brief look into the return of live theatre and the role it plays in society

Over the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to attend three performances on Broadway: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Hadestown.” I have performed in a multitude of shows, my most recent one being “A Doll’s House,” and have designed the lighting for shows including “Kiss Me, Kate.” While I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Broadway shows as a fan of theatre, they also spoke to me as a student of literature and philosophy. However, my experience on Broadway also gave me a perspective on our culture as a nation. The values found in these performances like empathy, kindness, and resilience, mixed with the experience of sharing in these stories with strangers from all over the world moved me towards a newfound appreciation and hope for the world we live in.

That, in a sense, is a simplistic overview of the power of live theatre like Broadway. Even though theatre is not everyone’s cup of tea, people know about Broadway; people understand that Broadway is a cultural monument in the United States, if only as a tourist hotspot. But not even a year after my time in New York City, tragedy struck the world in the form of a pandemic. On March 12 2020, all Broadway performances were shut down due to the growing dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic. After 18 months of Broadway, as well as most live performances around the nation being closed, I have often found myself reflecting on the values of hope and resilience I witnessed in the performance of “Hadestown” I experienced. While the show acknowledges itself as a tragedy, it emphasizes the importance of retelling itself with an ever-present hope that “spring will come again.”  Now, as of September 2021, Broadway performances are starting up once more.

While only a few shows opened early September, most performances are expected to be performing again by the end of the year. One of which includes “Pass Over,” which Playbill describes as: “Inspired by both “Waiting for Godot” and the “Exodus” saga, “Pass Over” follows Moses and Kitch, two young black men who dream of an existence beyond their street corner. Between stagings, [the playwright] Nwandu modified the play to center on the joy rather than trauma.” Another play, “Waitress,” follows Jenna, a waitress that stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Her customers, co-workers, and the town’s handsome new doctor all offer her conflicting recipes for happiness but Jenna must ultimately decide for herself.” The 74th Tony Awards ceremony that was postponed from 2020 will be taking place on Sunday, September 26th, and is a reminder that Broadway is back. 

Sources: Playbill

Anything’s a Sport: A look at the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Festival.

The fundamental actions in sports can be strange. For example, throwing a leather ball, kicking a rubber ball, hitting something with a stick and hitting something with a stick but on ice. The oddities of sports are often overlooked due to their competitive nature, the immense skill they demand and the cultural significance they possess. Yet while all sports can be seen as strange, there are some that could be considered unique, bizarre or even befuddling.

The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll is one such sport. Netflix’s We Are the Champions pilots their limited series on uncommon competitions around the world with the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll in Brockworth, England. On the last Monday of every May, contestants start on the top of a steep 200-yard hill as a wheel of cheese is sent rolling down. The contestants then race at full speed, falling and rolling down the hill, to chase the cheese and reach the bottom of Cooper’s Hill first. The winner of the race is awarded the 8-pound wheel of cheese and goes down in legend with the former winners. Brockworth’s Cheese Roll is a very old tradition that dates back to at least the 1820s. No one knows quite why this sport originated (some local lore consists of barrel racing and pagan rituals) but it could be traced back to the large cheese industry in Gloucester, wherein the village of Brockworth is located.

As expected, this event leads to many injuries spanning from small bruises to broken or dislocated bones. While no one in recorded history has died during the cheese roll, the English government has canceled the event in past years due to overcrowding and general health. Despite the injuries, weird looks and government intervention, the people of Brockworth continue to hold the annual cheese roll. A question arises from such an activity: why? Why do regular people annually throw themselves down a hill to win a wheel of cheese?

Well, it isn’t really about the cheese. All sports have cultural value and significance, but cheese rolling and other wacky sport traditions reach back to the roots of the area. At their best, sports can bring people together and push people to live more boldly. The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll is only one example of a sport reflecting the unique personality of its people. However, the publicity of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Roll has grown exponentially since being featured on Netflix. The annual cheese roll now has contestants and spectators from all over the world. There are three men’s races a year on Cooper’s Hill but only one women’s race a year. Chris Anderson holds the record for most wins in the men’s races with 22, and Flo Early holds the record for most wins in the women’s races with four.

Source: Netflix, We Are the Champions