Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fisk University Names Nashvillian Dr. Agenia Walker Clark as Next President

The Board of Trustees of Fisk University announced the appointment of Dr. Agenia Walker Clark as its next president, effective November 6, 2023. She will be the University’s third female head and the 18th president of the 158-year-old-university, one of the nation’s highest-ranking Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

She replaces interim president Frank Sims, a member of the Board of Trustees, who has served in that position since 2021.

Dr. Clark most recently served as CEO for the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee – where, during her 19-year tenure, she increased the agency’s operational efficiencies, increased its reserves, built new facilities, and transformed the agency into one of the highest performing of the 111 councils in the Girl Scout network.

“Dr. Clark’s lifelong dedication to improving the lives of young people, along with her unique combination of fundraising and brand-building skills, are exactly what Fisk needs today,” said Juliette Pryor, chair of the Fisk Board of Trustees.

“I know that Dr. Clark’s bold ideas will positively impact our campus community today while assuring a fast-growing trajectory for the future.”

Prior to the Girl Scouts, Dr. Clark was the Vice President of Human Resources for the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, Senior Director of Human Resources at Vanderbilt University and directed human resources for Canadian telecommunications provider Nortel Networks, where she also served as a manager of government relations.

“To serve a new generation of brilliant, socially minded students—not unlike their counterparts of decades past, like W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, John Lewis and Dr. Diane Nash—is surely the honor of my lifetime,” said Clark. “No institution of higher-ed has a richer legacy—or a richer promise for the future—than Fisk.”

Dr. Clark was named “Nashvillian of the Year” in 2021 and as one of “Nashville’s 100 Most Powerful People,” 2015–2020, by the Nashville Business Journal. An inductee into the Academy for Women of Achievement, she is also a Nashville Post Person-In-Charge (2014–2021). She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), a member of the 2016 Class of Leadership Tennessee, and 1996 Class of Leadership Nashville.

She currently serves on the corporate board of directors for FirstBank Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK) as well as the boards of trustees for Belmont and Simmons Universities – and is a trustee emerita on the board of the Haslam School of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Dr. Clark earned a B.S. and MBA from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and her Doctorate in Leadership from Vanderbilt University.

The year-long search for Fisk’s 18th president was led by Board Trustee JoLinda Herring ’85, in conjunction with executive search and leadership advisory firm, Russell Reynolds Associates.

“The Board was searching for a uniquely bold and visionary leader, and we found her in Dr. Clark,” said Pryor.

Sen. Cory Booker calls on Sen. Menendez to resign

Sen. Cory Booker has called for his New Jersey counterpart, Sen. Bob Menendez, to resign, four days after Menendez was indicted for allegedly accepting bribes.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) issued the following statement:

“For nearly a decade, I’ve worked in the Senate alongside Senator Menendez. As New Jersey’s junior Senator, I imagine that I’ve had more professional experiences with him than most others, and I’ve witnessed his extraordinary work and boundless work ethic. I’ve consistently found Senator Menendez to be intellectually gifted, tough, passionate, and deeply empathic. We have developed a working relationship and a friendship that I value and believe has furthered our effectiveness in serving New Jersey.

“Senator Menendez is again facing a federal indictment, one that contains shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of wrongdoing. I’ve found the allegations hard to reconcile with the person I know.

“It is not surprising to me that Senator Menendez is again determined to mount a vigorous defense. And I still believe he, like anyone involved with our criminal justice system, deserves our presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A jury of his peers will make the ultimate decision as to whether he is criminally guilty.

“There is, however, another higher standard for public officials, one not of criminal law but of common ideals. As Senators, we operate in the public trust. That trust is essential to our ability to do our work and perform our duties for our constituents.

“The details of the allegations against Senator Menendez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core.

“As Senator Menendez prepares to mount his legal defense, he has stated that he will not resign. Senator Menendez fiercely asserts his innocence and it is therefore understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair. But I believe this is a mistake.

“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost. Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.”

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Recommended Book, Black on Black: On Our Resilience and Brilliance in America by Daniel Black

A piercing collection of essays on racial tension in America and the ongoing fight for visibility, change, and lasting hope.

“There are stories that must be told.”

Acclaimed novelist and scholar Daniel Black has spent a career writing into the unspoken, fleshing out, through storytelling, pain that can’t be described.

Now, in his debut essay collection, Black gives voice to the experiences of those who often find themselves on the margins. Tackling topics ranging from police brutality to the AIDS crisis to the role of HBCUs to queer representation in the black church, Black on Black celebrates the resilience, fortitude, and survival of black people in a land where their body is always on display.

As Daniel Black reminds us, while hope may be slow in coming, it always arrives, and when it does, it delivers beyond the imagination. Propulsive, intimate, and achingly relevant, Black on Black is cultural criticism at its openhearted best.


New Book Alert! Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriot

From acclaimed columnist and political commentator Michael Harriot, a searingly smart and bitingly hilarious retelling of American history that corrects the record and showcases the perspectives and experiences of Black Americans.

America’s backstory is a whitewashed mythology implanted in our collective memory. It is the story of the pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington’s cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin. It is the fantastic tale of slaves that spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and negro spirituals. It is a sugarcoated legend based on an almost true story.

It should come as no surprise that the dominant narrative of American history is blighted with errors and oversights—after all, history books were written by white men with their perspectives at the forefront. It could even be said that the devaluation and erasure of the Black experience is as American as apple pie.

In Black AF History, Michael Harriot presents a more accurate version of American history. Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story, placing Black people squarely at the center. With incisive wit, Harriot speaks hilarious truth to oppressive power, subverting conventional historical narratives with little-known stories about the experiences of Black Americans. From the African Americans who arrived before 1619 to the unenslavable bandit who inspired America’s first police force, this long overdue corrective provides a revealing look into our past that is as urgent as it is necessary. For too long, we have refused to acknowledge that Americanhistory is white history. Not this one. This history is Black AF.


Cathedral Unveils ‘Now and Forever’ Racial-Justice Stained Glass Windows

On 09/23/2023 The Washington National Cathedral unveiled its new racial-justice-themed stained glass windows, created by world-renowned artist Kerry James Marshall, in a public dedication event. 

In addition, celebrated poet, author, scholar and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander debuted a new poem titled “American Song” that will be engraved on stone tablets beneath Marshall’s window installation.

The reimagined windows—titled “Now and Forever” — signify a new chapter in the Cathedral’s historic legacy of art and architecture and mark the completion of a year-long project to replace windows that honored Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which were removed in 2017.

During the dedication, acclaimed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) also provided readings from Scripture.

Throughout the event, Cathedral staff emphasized the Cathedral’s role as a sacred gathering space where all Americans can see themselves reflected in the building’s expanding art and iconography.

“Simply put, these windows were offensive, and they were a barrier to the ministry of this cathedral, and they were antithetical to our call to be a House of Prayer for All People. They told a false narrative, extolling two individuals who fought to keep the institution of slavery alive in this country. They were intended to elevate the Confederacy, and they completely ignored the millions of Black Americans who have fought so hard and struggled so long to claim their birthright as equal citizens,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, during the dedication on Saturday. 

“I want to be clear that this is not the end of the end of the Cathedral’ s journey; rather, today is an opportunity to recommit ourselves, and to recommit this Cathedral, to join that march toward fairness for all Americans, but especially for African Americans. There is a lot of work yet to be done to confront systemic racism, to foster racial reconciliation and to be repairers of the breach, both in the past, the present and in our future.” 

Windows creator Kerry James Marshall also provided remarks, comparing the story of creation in the Bible and the fall of humanity with the creation of America and the nation’s ongoing struggle with racism.

“The church in general, across all faiths and this National Cathedral in particular, exists as a symbolic representation of humankind’s aspirations toward perfection, and a desire to keep the promise of redemption when we offend and fall short of the impossible,” said artist Kerry James Marshall during his remarks at Saturday’s dedication. 

“Even the God of the Cathedral didn’t have a permanent remedy against the evils that humans seem destined to inflict on one another. Today’s event has been organized to highlight one instance where a change of symbolism is meant to repair a breach of America’s creation promise of liberty and justice for all, and to reinforce those ideals and aspirations embodied in the Cathedral’s structure and its mission to remind us that we can be better, and do better, than we did yesterday, today.

“[Pieces of art] can invite us and anybody who sees them to reflect on the propositions they present, and to imagine one’s self as a subject and an author of a never-ending story that has yet to be told. This is what I tried to do, with words, images and colored glass, for right here and right now.” 

“I am deeply humbled, incredibly grateful, for the opportunity and hope that the things the windows propose continue to be a catalyst for the kind of transformation that the Cathedral stands for, what this nation stands for … and what I hope we all will embody and stand for and bring forward ourselves.”

“‘American Song’ was composed to invite meditation in the unique sacred space of the National Cathedral, which also has a broad and crucial civic function,” said poet Elizabeth Alexander. “I am forever honored to have been invited to offer these words to live alongside Kerry James Marshall’s magnificent stained glass windows, making space for feeling and reflection on our multivocal history as we try to move forward into a more just and beautiful future.” 

Over the next nine months, Dr. Alexander’s poem “American Song” will be hand-carved into the stone tablets beneath Marshall’s window installation.

Following the unveiling and dedication event, the Cathedral hosted an afternoon of festivities including an open house with tours, live music on the building’s west front, DC food trucks, and kid-friendly activities. Visitors had the opportunity to watch a new documentary about the “Now and Forever” windows and listen to a special docent presentation highlighting African American art within the Cathedral.

This fall, in collaboration with Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center, the Cathedral will host an interactive “maker space” focused on the new windows, where vistors will be able to contribute a community poem. The exhibit will be open in the lower level Visitors Lounge until November.

In addition, the Cathedral has released a new book, “Now and Forever,” which documents the history of the Lee-Jackson windows and the process of replacing them. The book was written by Kevin Eckstrom, an award-winning journalist who now serves as the Cathedral’s Chief Public Affairs Officer.

Support for the windows replacement project and related public programming to highlight the Foundation’s and the Cathedral’s ongoing commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is provided by the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation (as part of the Foundation’s Monuments Project).

The Hearthland Foundation, founded by Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, is also funding the project, with support for the poetry-inscribed tablets.

A Windows Replacement Committee oversees the future of the former Lee-Jackson windows, co-chaired by Dr. Eric L. Motley, the deputy director of the National Gallery of Art, and Chase Rynd, former director of the National Building Museum. Additional members include Dean Hollerith; Dr. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Class of 1940 Bicentennial Term Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania; the Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Canon Theologian at Washington National Cathedral; the Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan, Canon for Worship at Washington National Cathedral; and the Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin Sr., Canon Missioner and Minister for Equality and Diversity at Washington National Cathedral; Blake Coleman, Class of 2021 graduate, National Cathedral School; Gwendolyn King, President, Podium Prose; and the Rev. Dr. James P. Wind, former president, The Alban Institute.