Academic Musings, Gratitude, News

News and Updates

Okay.. it’s been .. a really, really long time since I updated the blog. There are two main reasons for this neglect. First, most of my public writing these days now takes place on Twitter. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, my professional writing absorbed most of my brain power for the past few years. The good news? My first book – a significant revision of my dissertation – has finally been published! Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France is now available from Temple University Press and can be purchased wherever books are sold.


Resurrecting Slavery uses critical race theory to significantly advance scholarship on racism in France and Europe. Drawing on ethnographic observation, archival research and in-depth interviews with activists and descendants of slaves in Paris, I examine how commemorations of enslavement and abolition both challenge and reproduce the racial order.

This project has been a long time coming (to say the least) and it’s wonderful to be able to finally say it’s DONE! Aside from the satisfaction of revising the doctoral thesis and completing a major requirement for tenure, the book also represents the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I remember. Although it’s an academic book, I wrote Resurrecting Slavery with a broad audience in mind and hope that it will be of interest to people who would like to know more about the legacies of slavery as well as the global dynamics of racism, white supremacy and anti-blackness.

I will post more about the book and upcoming events soon, but for now, I’d just like to express gratitude to my longtime readers on the blog. While there haven’t been many recent posts, I still receive positive feedback from people who followed my early chronicles on the tenure track. Stay tuned..

Gratitude, Life Musings, Unexplained Phenomena


As all three followers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of pleasant and delightful synchronicities.  I’ve experienced quite a few cool ones this summer , but none as remarkable as what transpired earlier this week.

To be honest, I am not sure I would categorize this as a coincidence so much as it was a confluence of fortunate circumstances that boiled down to one man deciding to do something that he, in no way shape or form, had any shred of obligation to do.

I met Eric about a month ago at the screening of an independent film.  Mostly, I did not meet him.  I was there with my girlfriend Tracey who, at the last minute, told me to come through to the event, which included a Q&A with the filmmakers and a wine reception afterwards.  I found the film quite moving and provocative for reasons I might explore in another post at another time.  At the reception, I found myself engaging with a number of really interesting people – including a wonderful lady in her 60s who has been deeply involved in labor union organizing and activism.  I sipped a bit of the red wine, watched my girlfriend take pictures with the filmmaker and generally enjoyed myself.

I am still not sure how or why Eric and I began speaking, or who spoke to whom first, or what exactly went down.  All I know is that Tracey and I were on our way out when we encountered a group of folk standing by the door.  Pleasantries were exchanged, conversation ensued.  A gorgeous young lady and her friend were talking excitedly about something with Tracey.  Eric, the father of the gorgeous young lady, was talking to me excitedly about so many things that it all blurred together in one pleasant, yet diffuse, impression.  There was something about his recent move from California, a bit about his work in the arts and activism, our shared interests in antiracism and his beaming pride at being a father.   I told him that he reminded me of an older version of my very good looking friend Ron, who also lives in California.  I wondered if they were related.  He gave me his business card and said to drop him a line. I enjoyed our exchange and promised to be in touch.

Tracey and I left to have a drink and exchange notes about our most recent dating adventures.  I told her about this ostensibly fabulous guy I had just met–a Buddhist academic doing meaningful work who was both interesting and good looking in an adorably bookish kind of way.  He was also above my minimal age requirement for dating (mid 40s).  Alas, I would find out in a few days time that we were definitely not a romantic match, though we might make good friends.  That night, though, I was still floating on cloud 9, waxing poetic about our lovely first date and sharing my latest spiritual insights with Tracey over cocktails at the bar.  At some point, she casually said something about “that guy” we met at the theater earlier that evening.  I said he seemed really cool.  And, he was easy on the eyes.

“Well, I think he was there with that woman,” Tracey said.

“What woman?” I raised an eyebrow as I sipped my amaretto sour.

“You know, the film director.”

“Oh really?  I didn’t get that vibe at all, but hey, who knows?  He’s the one who gave me his card.”

“I think they were a couple,” she intoned, with knowing authority.

I finished my drink.  I hadn’t spent much time trying to analyze the man’s romantic entanglements and it was not really at the top of my agenda, given my ill-fated infatuation with Buddha.

The next day, I saw Eric’s business card on my living room table and decided to drop a line before I lost it.  He replied right away.  I let him know I was about to go out of town.  He suggested meeting up for a meal in the city sometime soon.  I went on about my life, he went on about his.  I got an email a few weeks later from him following up on the meal rendezvous.  He was out of town but wanted to know if I’d have time when he got back.  I wasn’t sure if his interest in me was friendly, professional, romantic or all of the above, but I also didn’t really care.  He seemed like cool people and I could use an excuse to force myself to go into the city, given my general inclination to luxuriate in the good life on the north shore of Long Island.

Fast forward to this Monday.  I found myself in a pickle.   I had to move a few things from my old place to my current residence immediately–by Tuesday, in fact.  It would be a relatively easy job for two people, but I had been deathly ill for 10 days and had not secured someone to help me.  The main complication was the distance involved: there’s one hour between the two apartments and many of my friends are scattered in areas that are already 1-2 hours away from either my current or former residence.  My local friends had various impediments: one had just been hospitalized, another has an ongoing health issue that limits her mobility.  The other complication was that my ex was involved.  In a frenzy, I contacted everyone I could think of: platonic friends, old flames, cigar-smoking buddies, Tracey, even Buddha.  I got not a single response.  Nada.

Then I noticed that business card, still on my table from weeks ago.  I had forgotten who it belonged to.  Turning it over, I saw Eric’s name.  I knew that we had never even had a phone conversation since our first meeting, much less had time to get together and actually get to know each other.  I knew he was out of town until Tuesday, meaning he would be flying back to New York on the very day I needed help.  I knew the chances of his even responding to me were pretty slim, but I texted him anyway.

Hours passed.  No one could help me.  A few friends said they would be free that weekend or the next week – but sadly, that would be too late.  I sent up a prayer: “Lord . . . . please have some pity on me.  I need some help.  Can You work it out and hook a sista up?”

Later that evening, a smiley face appeared on my phone.  It was a text from Eric.  He didn’t refuse, he didn’t ask why I was contacting him with such a crazy request or tell me how busy he was.  The brother didn’t even say hello.  Instead he cut to the chase and asked about logistics: “How much stuff do you have to move?” 

Copious texts and a phone call later, a plan emerged.  I told him I would do whatever/drive wherever he needed me to in order to accommodate him.  It turned out that I could help him, too.  He had to move from one apartment to another this week.  I let him know my SUV would be at his disposal.  I offered to pick him up in the city after his flight arrived.  He declined and said he would take the (1 hour) train out to make it easier for me and save time.

To be clear, let us review the situation.  This man agreed to help me in spite of the following facts:

  1. He didn’t know me.
  2. We met exactly once, for a grand total of 15 minutes.
  3. He was extraordinarily busy and had a Lot of Important Things to Do.
  4. He was not even in town.
  5. He would be flying in the same day.
  6. He had a business meeting to attend after his arrival.
  7. I live an hour away from him.
  8. He would be taking the train.
  9. He would then have to ride with me another 45 minutes to get to the other apartment, then 45 minutes back again to my place.
  10. He would have no time to eat all day.
  11. He had his own move to finish preparing for and organizing.
  12. He would have to do heavy lifting up and down several flights of stairs.
  13. He would have to spend the night with me. (I know, poor baby).
  14. He would be involving himself in a potentially uncomfortable situation where my ex would be “around”.
  15. Did I mention that he didn’t know me?!

Tuesday came and I wondered if it all would actually happen.  I mentally prepared myself to put my big girl panties on and do the move myself or, if I couldn’t manage it on my own, just leave all the shit there and let my ex throw it out.  I wondered if Eric’s return trip was going according to plan.  I further wondered what our interaction would be like since our entire friendship history involved speaking for a few minutes at a theater a month beforehand.

Well, not only did Eric show up at the exact time he said he would, he also waited for me when I rolled up 20 minutes late to the train station to get him.  (I was delayed due to that silly accident I had with my elbow.)   To make a long story slightly shorter, all I can say is that Eric made a very icky situation not only bearable, but pretty fucking awesome in the light of his company, great sense of humor, fascinating reflections, and so on and so forth.  In another cosmic synchronicity, he happened to have extensive experience as an expert packer – the brother cleared my car, loaded and unloaded the boxes, files and bags with such military precision that I could only gaze in silent awe and gratitude.  What was to be a two person job turned out to be, sadly (for Eric), a one person ordeal as I was sidelined with my elbow contusion.  Not only did he take care of every detail of the move, but he also kept me laughing – and showed me how to care for my injury.

He finished putting everything in my attic around 11:30 PM that night.  Then we stayed up talking till well past 3 in the morning, sharing music from our respective iPads, stories about our lives, thoughts on metaphysics and jokes about everything.  We played with Zora.  I forced him to listen to a few of my original songs.  He gave me feedback like Randy from American Idol, right down to the “It’s kind of pitchy, but . . .”

A few hours later, we drove to the city and moved his things.  Afterwards, I dropped him off at his office.  Before I could even text to tell him I made it back safely (somewhat of a feat given the flash-flooding that occurred on my way home as I drove with my one good arm), the brother called to check on me himself.   Later that night, I found that he had also fixed my bathroom sink.  He had left no stone unturned.

All of this to say that, of all the people I asked to help me, Eric was probably the busiest, the least available and certainly the least likely to feel any kind of inclination to jump through hoops for someone who was essentially a stranger.  And yet, against all odds, he showed up, handled every single detail of a tedious and unforgiving task and showered me with remarkable kindness in the process.   I could not have asked for a better road-dawg, logistics-handler and friend to help me deal with a challenging situation. I’m just really grateful and still, I admit, in a state of disbelief that any of this even happened.  When I expressed these sentiments to him, he simply said: “I figured if you asked me, it needed to get done.  So I made sure it did.”