David Goodman, brother of slain civil-rights activist Andrew Goodman, told Queens College graduates his brother’s story is linked to them. Goodman, a Queens College student, was murdered in Mississippi in June 1964 along with two other civil rights workers. “Andy had the idea that he could be a meaningful participant in our democracy – an idea that flourished right here, at Queens College. So as you learn, so shall you serve,” Goodman said.
With a $100 million investment from Mayor Bill de Blasio and the arrival of artisanal businesses like Jacques Torres Chocolates, Sunset Park seems poised for a revival. But the transformation of this eclectic Brooklyn neighborhood won’t be easy, says Queens College urban studies professor Tarry Hum. In her new book, Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Hum traces historical struggles and new challenges including job development, environmental issues, an underground sex industry, gentrification and forging alliances between Chinese and Latino immigrant communities.
“There’s something in you that you know should be told,” says U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine, but “you have to stay at it forever because it doesn’t come easily.” Levine, at 83, sees an authentic story at the kernel of every true poem. A 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner, he was named poet laureate by the Library of Congress in August, and appeared at the New Salon in Queens, a partnership between the Queens College MFA Program for Creative Writing and Literary Translation and the Poetry Society of America.
The author of a critically acclaimed new book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years, insists that although much has been written about the early and middle stages of Armstrong’s career, he was every bit as busy and creative in the last 25 years of his life. “There was only one Armstrong,” says Ricky Riccardi, who is also the project archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum research archive at Queens College. “The man who was making those canonical works in the 1920s was also a very funny man who loved doing pop songs, and, in the 1950s and ’60s still played an incredible trumpet,” adds Riccardi, “So why not take all of him.”
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Six out of every ten females worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the United Nations’ UNITE to End Violence Against Women campaign. “Violence against women and girls is not a women’s issue — it’s everybody’s issue,” says Carmella Marrone, founding director of Women and Work (W&W), a free, 15-week life-skills program for women in need and based at the Queens College Extension Center. In April, W&W earned membership in the UNITE to End Violence’s “Say No” campaign, which will enable the organization to expand its educational and outreach efforts even further. “The work we do locally now has a global face,” says Marrone.
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Julian Bond, social activist and former chair of the NAACP, says that although slavery was abolished nearly 150 years ago, achieving true racial justice is an ongoing struggle. “The truth is that Jim Crow may be dead,” says Bond, “but racism is alive and well.” Bond appeared at a Queens College Black History Month event celebrating the legacy of civil rights activist James Forman, whose family recently donated his personal library and audiotapes to the college’s Civil Rights Archive. Bond, who worked with Forman on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, said, “We need to have a constantly growing and always reviving activist movement across America, if we’re going to maintain and expand our victories.”
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A year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Nicole Cooley saw the scale of destruction for the first time, as she drove from Florida to her hometown of New Orleans to visit her parents. “Everything was gone,” says Cooley, a professor of English at Queens College, recalling the ride with her husband and two daughters along Highway 90. “It was as if someone had erased all of the towns — from Mississippi to New Orleans.” Cooley, a poet and founding director of the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at the college, was so affected by what she witnessed, she devoted her next book of poems, “Breach,” (April 2010), to the tragedy and its aftermath. “I had to spend the next year working on this book about Katrina.”
“I like to think that the poem, itself, dictates what sort of shape it wants to have in the world,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. “The only thing that carries weight is whether the poem is any good — at some level grabs you, changes how you view the world.” At an event sponsored by the Irish Studies Department at Queens College, Muldoon, a native of Northern Ireland, read selections from his works and discussed his influences, including fellow Irish poets. Muldoon currently chairs Princeton University’s Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.
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Sports-industry jobs have never been easy to land — positions are limited and the competition fierce. But Matthew Higgins, executive vice president of Business Operations for the New York Jets, says there is still a way in. “There is no natural path to be part of a sports team or league,” says Higgins, “but the two I’ve seen work are internships and [ticket] sales.” Higgins, Queens College class of ’98, participated in the third annual Sports Alumni Roundtable, sponsored by the college’s Office of the President. He was joined by fellow alumni Frank Supovitz, ’79, senior vice president of events for the National Football League, and Howie Rose, ’77, sportscaster for the New York Mets and Islanders, to discuss their careers and the tough culture of the business. “The world doesn’t start at 9 o’clock in the morning and it doesn’t end at 5 p.m.,” says Supovitz, “You’ve got to get in somewhere, get involved, get seen, get known.”
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Not only are blacks and Latinos disproportionately charged with marijuana possession in New York City, the tactics used by the police are questionable, says Harry Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center. In his report, “Marijuana Arrest Crusade: Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York City,” Levine found that between 1997 and 2009 nearly nine out of ten people charged with possessing marijuana came from the two groups, the majority being African Americans, even though national surveys show whites to be the heaviest users. Levine points out that possession of seven-eighths of an ounce, or less, of the drug in New York is a violation, not a crime. “But if that marijuana is open to the public view–meaning someone had been told by the police to take it out of their pocket–then it becomes a crime. The cops are allowed to trick people.”
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