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Black In Brooklyn Tech. Alumni Edition: Will We Even Matter In 20 Years?

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I am a Brooklyn Tech alumnus. Class of 1993. My older brother is a Brooklyn Tech alumnus. Class of 1988. I am African so you can assume he is the same. My best friends, business partners, and associates are also of African American descent and also former Technites (what we affectionately refer to either current or former students of B.T.H.S).  Needless to say, I hold a strong personal affinity for B.T.H.S. so imagine my delight when the recent hoopla erupted regarding racial disparity at my alma mater?

As an unofficial ambassador of the school, I received numerous texts and emails as the #blackinbrooklyntech hash tag began to trend on social media. For those not in the know, the trending hash tag began when the minority student body, believed to be experiencing racially insensitive language and behavior from both faculty and students, took to the Internet as a manner of social protest. I typically don’t tend to chime in on news stories until I’ve gathered a certain amount of information relating to the story so I read all I could and attended the appropriate meetings before responding.

Brooklyn Technical High School is an institution, and like all institutions in America, it is subject to institutionalized racism. Lets also be clear here. Institutionalized racism is not a faceless, ominous entity floating through the annals of the west wing. It comprises the individuals who make up the student body and the faculty as it relates to Tech who engage in such discriminatory behavior or language. With that said, can we really believe that a specialized high school approaching 100 years of existence that used to be an all boys (and most likely all white) school wasn’t at some point plagued with racism by virtue of environment? Even the most liberal of liberals in the 1930’s and 40’s were mildly supremacist by virtue of social evolution, or a lack thereof. With that said, I personally did not associate racism with my experiences there and whether I was aware or not, Tech had probably made considerable advancements by the time my formally scrawny behind decked the halls in 1989.BTHS

Brooklyn Tech didn’t feel racially charged when I attended. Upon my arrival and throughout my academic career, I can only once recall one racial incident personally that transpired. It occurred in my Electrical Engineering class from a faculty member (Mr. Becker) who proceeded to inform me that Abraham Lincoln should be my hero because he freed my people. Firstly, and as stated earlier, I am African, Nigerian to be specific. My “people” came here on Air France via Nigerian Airways, so unless the captain who flew either jumbo jet was named Abraham Lincoln, I am no more indebted to him for my individual emancipation than I am Mahatma Ghandi.

I did not report this incident, which probably allowed lord knows how many other racially insensitive comments to be made by this teacher to other students. My only recourse was to locate the closest African American face and confirm if my anger was just. I found one black face (no pun intended) and we locked eyes and exchanged the exact same incensed look that could only be translated as “He won’t survive the fall if we throw him out the window, and we’ll get arrested so it’s not worth it, but did this man really just say that to us?!!?”

This is all an assumption but I am wiling to bet my Tech-given intelligence that this issue, like most modern day issues, seems prevalent not because it recently arose but because the current communication mediums that brought about exposure simply did not exist prior and most incidents had gone under-reported. Coupled with the decline of the Af-Am minority student body when I attended (35-40%) vs. now (8%) and the increased overall student body (1,200 additional students, raising the overall population to 5,200) and one may begin to understand how these types of incidents can increase in frequency. A dwindled population will certainly lead to an environment where ignorance festers. In any instance, where there is under representation, prejudice is often not too far behind.Racism

As always, and when choosing where to pledge your allegiance, one must weigh both sides as I saw many of my former classmates doing and proceed accordingly. Were the modern day students overly sensitive? Was this a figment of their imagination? IMHO, no they weren’t being sensitive and were just. Students will speak they mind and they absolutely should make their voices heard. When we had our sit-in during the Rodney King riots in the center section, it was one of the most defining events I had participated in at that point in my adolescence. I did what was in my power as a student and wouldn’t want that taken away from anyone.

As for the faculty, were they engaged, responsive and fostering a nurturing environment for diversity? IMHO, yes. The faculty can also only do what is in their power and not only listen but also acknowledge their students. These are, after all, not your ordinary students. These are the future leaders of tomorrow. These are the Nobel Prize Laureates, engineers and future innovators of society. What I believed to be rhetoric preached to us as students was in fact true as was evidenced by several members of the current mayoral administration in attendance at the alumni meetings who also happen to be former classmates. Faculty can only do what is within their power and within the confines of the institution and they seemed to be doing so.

Rather than blame the faculty or blame the students or pick sides, I would like to take ownership and accept my roles and responsibilities as alumni. No offense to any alumni currently engaged in bringing about an awareness for higher education, but I submit to you that we ALL could and SHOULD be doing more. There are more African American graduates of Brooklyn Tech than there ever will be students and faculty combined! EVER!! If we were operating on sheer numbers alone then who collectively has the ability to cause a seismic shift if we deem the current conditions inappropriate and non representative of our diverse history? #bthsalum

I was recently asked a fairly simple question. Is there any literature that exists which;

  1. Informs potential student and their parents of the admissions process?
  2. Provides alternatives if you don’t past the test on your first try?
  3. List the preparatory courses available?
  4. List the benefits of attending Tech?Alum

Sadly, I did not know the answer to these questions at initial point of inquiry, which further attests to my lack of pro activity on this issue. I have since acquired much more information regarding this.

When my brother went to take the specialized test, he did so of his own volition. After having had quite the miserable time in junior high school (I.S 391 / Mahalia Jackson… in Brooklyn.. in the mid 80’s..nuff said), he had decided at the ripe old age of 13 that he would sign up for the specialized examination and take it without alerting my parents. He was punished for not being where he was supposed to be as a result but he passed the test and was admitted. When I took the test, my parents had spared no expense and enrolled me in Stanley Kaplan, which taught me how to navigate the S.H.S.A.T (specialized high school standard aptitude test). That is the difference between an informed parent and one not in the know.

I speak of Brooklyn Tech with a deep adoration even almost 30 years after entering the building. I have gotten into countless arguments with students of other specialized high schools who shall remain nameless (rhymes with Iverson) as to who reigns intellectually dominant in NYC. Former Tech students have often been accused of behaving cult like in the manner we still congregate in all corners of the earth. We are seemingly everywhere and quite boisterous about our alma mater. Be it an official stamp of intelligence (real or imagined) or the camaraderie formed with other students who had to walk seven flights up to the lunch room after swim class in the basement, Tech was home and will remain home emotionally.

Brooklyn Tech holds a special place in my heart and yelling “Tech” with fond adoration is no longer enough to retain the rich and diverse history of this institution. If we alumni do not take action, the Tech name will become a scar rather than a badge of honor and we may not matter in 20 years.

Brooklyn Tech

Crazed Afrykan is a writer / hip hop producer (Nas / Damien Marely) and aficionado of hip hop culture. For over 30 years, he has gained personal introspective into the motivations, rhymes and reasons for one of the most revered genres in modern music. He is also a smug, smart ass with a perplexing penchant for alliterations. You’ve been warned.

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Hip Hop Now

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Here’s five acts doing their thing in the first installment of Hip Hop Now.

Chicago rapper Saba‘s new record Care For Me features Chance The Rapper on “Logout.”

From Everything is Fine, a collaboration between rapper/satirists Jean Grae and Quelle Chris, here’s “Zero.”

Tyler, the Creator stays weird and rhymes chicken nugget with fuckit on rap nugget “Okra.”

Dallas rapper Bobby Sessions lost his cousin to police violence and channels that energy into the controversial “Like Me.”

Rapper/actor A$AP Rocky samples Moby‘s “Porcelain” on “A$AP Forver.”

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A Quiet Place

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“A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.”

1522983854988A lot of skepticism crossed my mind when I first saw the trailer for A Quiet Place. A lot of familiarity to the falsely-marketed It Comes of Night were smeared all over this film. A family trapped in what seems like a post-apocalyptic world, forced to farm, hunt, and live like 1930’s Okie’s in the dust bowl. No real explanation of what happened and what is hunting them. Nah! I figured that they would foresee the comparisons and will stray away from the “its the people that are the real monsters” trope.

Thank the Lord that they did.

From the beginning of the film we see that there is a real threat, and the family is just trying to live in silence, literally. They have to keep extremely quiet in order to not be heard by the creatures who kill by sound. The theater experience was very interesting for this film as the audience fell to dead silence, as if we were participating in the same scenario.

This movie relied heavily on some tremendous acting. John Krasiniski not only directs but stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt, and holds down the lead role with a mix of grit and sincerity. Blunt knocks it out the park as the mother who suffers through grueling moments, pantomiming some extreme pain that had the audience cringing with tension.

More impressive were the kids. Noah Jupe, who has been quietly making waves with his acting in movies such as Wonder and the sub-par film Suburbicon, was stretched in this movie portraying the son, but Millicent Simmonds, who I couldn’t pinpoint to any other film, carried a lot of the emotional weight and was burdened with the heaviest guilt.

Now the creatures were obviously CGI and it was noticeable, but when they make their grand appearance it doesn’t really matter. The way they hunt, move about, and made their weird clicking noise, made them fascinating monsters and even a bit creepy.

This movie did a great job of mixing emotion and tension and even though I found it toned down on the horror, I think it could have a few people curled up in their seats from the thrill.

Overall Grade: B

This movie was good and it was held up but some truly stellar acting, directing and writing. Don’t expect a lot of horror, but do expect to be uneasy with a few scenes. Oh, the ending was simple but very bad-ass!

Drama, Horror, Thriller
April 2018
Director: John Krasinski
Paramount Pictures
1 hours 30 minutes

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Aegyo – What the What?

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You know how you and your significant other do the baby talk thing? Come on, you do it, admit it. Sometimes you talk to each other in a childish voice or make silly little gestures that you would never use at, for example, a business meeting or at the dentist. Well, this is a whole cottage industry in South Korea and they call it Aegyo. 

Aegyo, a tool long leveraged by South Korean ladies to get what they want through sheer cuteness, has been leveraged by male and female K-Pop Idol groups to ginormous success. In fact, there are songs where one can do little cutsey gestures to the whole thing. Two popular aegyo anthems are The Gwiyomi Song and Oppaya, and there are videos aplenty on YouTube where folks of all ages and backgrounds vie for cringe-worthy cuteness. Some of these videos have millions upon millions of views. There’s even K-Pop Idol shows where folks watch each other express aegyo and react with howls of laughter.

Holy cow, the more I talk about this, the weirder it gets. Yet, I can’t look away.

Other cultures are jumping on the band wagon, too. Check out the videos below for some adorable examples.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcgGASL8EXo

 

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