Monday, May 19, 2008

Professor WIlliam E. Cross, Jr.

Me and the guru of Black male identity studies, Bill Cross of the CUNY Graduate Center. He just recently retired and that's too bad, because he's an extremely valuable figure for nonpretentious scholars. Bill was my doctoral advisor in the social personality psychology program. And though I decided to define academic success on my terms, he still nurtured and celebrated my ambitions. I don't take away from anyone who makes the decision to chase the letters. If letters can be useful to The People then I'm all for it. But it's important to tell the truth about the phd gig. It's not just about the money and the egotrippin. It's also about making serious changes in your personal life and your sense of self. It's about readjusting yourself to fit a culture that goes against the very kind of emotionality it takes to sustain one's soul. It's about turning away from spirituality and learning to become a scientist. It's about believing the obvious and rejecting the unseen. It's about having to deal with cold, racist vibes and brothas who don't acknowledge one another in hallways and elevators. It's about disconnecting and fragmenting. It's about depression and denial.

I'm gonna miss Bill. I already miss him. And if you've had the opportunity to turn to him for support, wisdom and magnificent grace you'd most definitely miss him too!

Besides calling my admissions essay one of the best in the program's history (thanks, man), Bill appreciated my take on Black male identity concerns; that part of the problem is Black men aren't allowed to be themselves. Just what's expected of them. Another form of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. It would've been nice to continue working with such an important figure in the field of psychology, especially when the likes of him are so few to virtually non-existent. There was a time when the doctoral program was limited to students working with only one advisor for the entire rigourous process. I'm almost certain I would've gotten them letters, had Brother Cross been my sole source of nourishment since what he was feeding us was worth coming to the table for!


Marcy Decides said...

I am writing a paper on Dr. Cross's theory of Nigrescence. I would like to interview you over the phone for this. I'm the associate dean at Stony Brook University School of Journalism. This paper is for a Master's course.
thank you.
Marcy McGinnis 917-880-6935

Margaret Honore said...

I know what you mean about Dr. Bill feeding your soul in the barren environs of academia, my friend.
I was a teaching assistant for Dr. Bill during my undergraduate years at Cornell University and he was my academic advisor. He kept my head on straight through an emotionally debilitating Cornell experience that I barely survived. His humanity, kindness and respect helped me maintain my dignity during a time when it was under attack on so many levels. Thank you, Dr. Bill, wherever you are as I write this today from Ithaca where I am visiting for the first time in 31 years and reminscing about those consequential days at the Africana Studies and Research Center back in the late 70's.