Podcast: Is Altruism Real?

Does true selflessness exist? Is the non-profit sector doing more harm than good in communities of color? Black and Cuba director Dr. Robin J. Hayes sits with human rights activist Chitra Ayar – director of the Sadie Nash Project in Queens – to discuss how to fundraise with integrity this holiday season.

https://w.soundcloud.com/icon/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fprogressive-pupil&color=orange_white&size=64Follow Breaking Down Racism podcast series on Soundcloud.

Pictured Philanthropists Dr. Priscilla Chan (l.) and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (r.) 2012 Courtesy Forbes magazine.

Produced/Directed/Written by:
Miranda Fay
Patricia Lee
Racquel Samuel

Recorded at TNS_Logo1_Small_RGB in New York City.

Pictured: philanthropists Dr. Priscilla Chan (l.) and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (r.) 2012 courtesy Forbes magazine

Glossary: Environmental Racism

Image Courtesy of The Cross Roads Fund

Image Courtesy of The Cross Roads Fund

The trip through ER can be a scary, threatening and life changing experience for people of color.

I am not talking about a trip to the emergency room, but a trip through life for the people who have to deal with environmental racism. If you are unfamiliar, environmental racism is the oppression of people of color through environmental degradation. According to Do Something, African Americans are 79 percent more likely to live in areas with industrial waste facilities, compared to Whites. The effects of living within close proximity to toxic dumping sites can have long-term effects on community well-being, specifically affecting the neighborhood water, air, and food quality.


St. Edmonds Tenants of Chicago Protesting for Better Housing Conditions. Image Courtesy of STOP.

St. Edmonds Tenants of Chicago Protesting for Better Housing Conditions. Image Courtesy of STOP.

STOP and FLY are two grassroots organizations bringing together residents from the Southside of Chicago to fight back against injustice. In an area that is known for its lower-income residents and higher crime rates, it is important for the community to empower themselves and demonstrate for their needs.

Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) brings the community together and has two focuses: mental health and housing. STOP tries to erase the stigma of mental illness and mental health services. While doing so, the organization rallies for the right to healthcare. One example of the Southside residents’ effort was the continuous petitioning for a trauma center in their area so people could receive needed the medical care. Through cooperation with different tenant associations, STOP advocates to improve housing in the neighborhood. The Housing Justice Program also works with subsidized housing councils in order to liaise for their stakeholders’ rights.

The Battle for the Bronx


Image Courtesy of FreshDirect

In 2012, the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, offered millions of dollars in tax subsidies and incentives to FreshDirect so they could build a new headquarters in the South Bronx waterfront. South Bronx Unite (SBU) is a coalition of South Bronx residents and allies that have brought a multitude of legal obstacles to the FreshDirect development. The community organization contends that the new construction will disrupt the growing residential neighborhood that already has a history of environmental and health challenges.


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What does Activism do?


Happy Black August!

AFROPUNK and Progressive Pupil are co-curating Activism Row: an interactive, inspirational and informative experience to be featured at AFROPUNK Fest 2014 (August 23 and 24 at Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn). Activism Row’s goals are to facilitate voter registration, inform youth about civic participation opportunities and to encourage the festival’s multicultural audience to envision themselves making a difference. Highlighting social justice as a work of art, Activism Row shows activism lives today in communities of color.

Today, Activism Row launched an Indigegogo campaign to raise funds for the costs associated with producing the festival, which include staff, signage and programs.  You can support this effort by making a tax-deductible contribution and sharing the link (http://igg.me/at/AFROPUNKActivismRow14) with your friends, family and colleagues. Rock star perks are available for your generosity including VIP passes to the festival, which features D’Angelo and Meshell Ndegeocello, a chance to get on stage and more.

Activism Row features local non-profits that advance racial equality by solving urgent community problems such as violence, mass incarceration and HIV/AIDS. In addition, voter registration will be available. On-line and in person, Activism Row will provide AFROPUNK’s audience—who are predominately youth—the empowering opportunity to see themselves as agents of social change. By showing #ActivismLives, this exciting exhibition reveals that the best time for social change is NOW!

I hope to see you later this month at AFROPUNK FEST.  If you have suggestions for organizations that should participate in Activism Row, please share at facebook.com/ProgressivePupil.

In solidarity,







Robin J. Hayes, PhD

Principal Organizer

Instagram @robinjhayes




Victory of Vieques


In April 2010 the W Hotel opened a Retreat & Spa on the beautiful island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Vieques now welcomes visitors from around the world… “Bienvenido a la Isla Bonita.”

From the W Hotel Website:

Lose yourself in the tranquil island life at this luxury Puerto Rico resort and let the stress of the every day recede with each wave. Frolic in our secluded natural haven and discover charmed island life amid lush landscapes. Starwood Preferred Guests can use their points to visit this luxury hotel and its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Starwood Hotels & Resorts call it ‘a new way to escape’. You would never know from this that ten years earlier and less than 8 miles away, the US Navy was using this beautiful ‘island paradise’ as a practice range to test missiles, bombs, and other weapons.


Highlights from AfroPunk 2013

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Thanks to everybody who made it out to the 9th Annual AfroPunk Festival! We’re already looking forward to next year’s festivities!

On August 24th and August 25th, an estimated 30,000 people from all walks of life united at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn to celebrate “the other black experience.”

Progressive Pupil tabled on Activism Row during both days. We made new friends while discussing Black studies with festival-goers, sold Progressive Pupil tees, tanks and totes and promoted our film Black and Cuba. Many people also took advantage of our invitation to ask Principal Organizer Dr. Robin Hayes any Black studies question!

According to Joselyn Cooper, festival organizer, “We describe AfroPunk as a free space for African Americans — and anyone else who wants to come onto that space — to just be who they are, and not being defined by monolithic definition of what, sort of, the outside culture puts on us as African American people.”

So, what does AfroPunk mean to you?

By Claudie Mabry

Photographs by Dr. Robin Hayes and Alexis Handcock

The Problems Are So Big. What Can I Do?

A young girl at a demonstration for the release of Nelson Mandela circa the 1960s. Photo courtesy of the ANC archives.

A young girl at a demonstration for the release of Nelson Mandela circa the 1960s. Photo courtesy of the ANC archives.

I am optimistic that we can create change because I meet so many people from different walks of life who ask me the same question: “What can I do?” Because they know I’m a Black studies professor and documentary filmmaker, many airplane seatmates, taxi drivers, the owner of the bodega around the corner, my friends who work in advertising and corporate law and other everyday people I encounter share their profound concerns about racial inequality with me. I don’t need to convince them that violence is causing a crisis in Black communities around the world, that there is not enough educational opportunity and health care access or that our prison system is unjust. They are well aware that the world needs to change, yet these same intelligent and capable folks are rarely involved in any organization that is trying to make a difference. They often ask me, “Robin, the problems are so big. What can I do?”


See Yourself Clearly

Faces and Phases Exhibition.  South African lesbian artist Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of artnews.org

Faces and Phases Exhibition. South African lesbian artist Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of artnews.org

Is your nonprofit organizing an empowering local event? Is a neighborhood gallery or community-based museum exhibiting your art? Are you an independent filmmaker, writer or musician creating work that inspires and excites? Share your creativity and political action with us so we can share it with the world. Email community@progressivepupil.org a photo or video clip with a few words about your event, art exhibition or current project so that you and other progressive pupils can see your work clearly on our blog, Facebook and Twitter.


Congratulations to our interns Rebecca Alvy and Alexis Hancock for earning their Master’s in Management from The New School.

Congratulations to our former interns Rebecca Alvy and Alexis Hancock for earning their Master’s in Management from The New School.

¡Viva Class of 2013! Progressive Pupil celebrates the achievements of graduates who are fighting for racial equality and human rights. Their diplomas and tassels symbolize the aspirations of many young people to learn and improve — aspirations that too few are able to fulfill. After the understandable euphoria of commencement settles into the reality of work life (or the reality of searching for work), I hope this cohort continues their commitment to making this dream possible for others.

At my own school’s commencement ceremony this year, I was reminded of the true value of an education. I watched with my fellow professors as each student grinned with anticipation of hearing their name, proudly shook the Dean’s hand and triumphantly posed with their degrees for a personal crowd of supporters who cheered and demanded poses for a camera. Afterward, my colleagues and I met our students’ parents, partners, aunts and cousins and for the first time connected faces to the life experiences students brought to our classrooms.