Sunday, August 31, 2008


AeroSOUL at Joyce Gordon Gallery

I went to a wonderful art exhibit in downtown Oakland Friday night: "AeroSOUL: We Do Fine Art." The exhibit is up at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th Street, Oakland (14th near Broadway) through Wednesday, Sept. 4, call (510) 465-8928 and

AeroSOUL features the work of the TCB crew: Refa One, Toons One, and Chris Herod. I took a few photos at the opening reception Friday night. I'm taking my English 1B class to the gallery 9/2 for a tour. We're meeting there at 9:30 AM. If you'd like to join us, stop by. We'll be there for an hour. I'm hoping to get a tour and talk with the artist Refa One. Refa One is pictured here with Malaika. His work is the writing, while Toons uses crayon on canvas and Chris does the larger pieces, (I think.)



Here is a rubric or grading criterion for the Changes essay. Each Student will get a checklist. I am looking to get the essays with grades to you (Pass/No Pass) by Thursday, no later than Friday.

Passing essays demonstrate the following characteristics:

1. Clearly stated thesis on the topic
2. Identifiable paragraphs (minimal 3)
3. The parts of the essay support and prove the thesis
4. The introduction introduces the topic and narrows the focus to one clearly articulated point, or thesis
5. The writer indicates a clear understanding of essay structure: introduction, body and conclusion
6. The topic sentences refer one back to the thesis
7. The paper stays on topic
8. The evidence is sufficient, appropriate and varied
9. The sentence structure is grammatically correct. The incidence of sentence fragment, run-on sentence (comma splices and fused sentences) are minimal
10. Grammatical errors do not interfere with meaning
11. Pronoun and antecedents agree
12. Student knows how to use a period and other forms of punctuation such as commas, semicolons, dashes, ellipses, etc.

No credit/Not passing essays

1. There is no thesis
2. No development of topic with supporting evidence
3. Essay structure doesn't indicate an understanding of essay structure: introduction, body and conclusion
4. The grasp of Standard English is limited and interferes with clarity and meaning
5. Too many grammatical errors and more than 10 sentence fragments
6. Misuse of punctuation

Thursday, August 28, 2008



This morning in the 8-9 AM class we started our Change essays. Students have until Friday, August 29, 11:59 p.m. to post it. Please post it at the assignment and include all the preplanning parts: Planning sheet and outline.

We also decided to move the presentation on Hip Hop Culture to Wednesday, Sept. 4, for both classes. See earlier post and your syllabus for the details.

Begin reading Dyson. Bring your books to class Tuesday, Sept. 4.

I also mentioned a gallery show opening Friday, August 29. I'll post the details later. It's at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 14th near Broadway. There is also an event at EastSide Arts Alliance (International Blvd. near 22nd Ave.) on Hurricane Katrina. Both events are in Oakland.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Change Essay Assignment

We have been writing about change for a week now. Your first essay takes its theme from this topic. Explore your life. Has anything changed recently which has caused you to behave or shift your perspective in a significant way? What happened and what was your response?

This essay can be cause and effect; problem solution, even classification, where you name the steps you have had to take to get where you want to go. It can also be a combination of strategies.

You have to have a point though, a thesis, that is clearly stated. This afternoon students spoke of TV addiction, others saw college or the intellectual vigor of college, a way to improve their overall quality of life. Other students, many students, looked at the difference between high school and college, being a child and now taking on the responsibilities of an adult.

One student wanted to write about Obama as presidential candidate and what that means to her as a young African American woman. These are narrative essays. Those goals you listed in the syllabus could be directly tied to the change in your life. What do you have to change to accomplish the goals listed there? Where do you see yourself in one year...five years...twenty years? How will you get there?

Does anything need to change now for that to happen? What are you doing now to ensure you get there?

The essay should be minimally three paragraphs, five sentences per paragraph: an introduction, a body and a conclusion, with a clearly stated thesis. Make certain each paragraph has a topic sentence and that the topic sentence relates back to the thesis. Use examples, facts, short anecdotes, dialogue, statistics, definitions, analogies, and/or consequences, to expand, illustrate, and elucidate, your point.

Put a title on the essay. Type it double-spaced, standard font, no italics. Read Diana Hacker: Planning to help you organize your thoughts and plan your essay. Bring your textbooks to class next week.

I have office hours Wednesday, 9:30-10:50 in L-236 (inside L-235).


English 201 extra credit Cyber Essay on Martin King's "I Have a Dream" Anniversary, August 28, 2008

In the afternoon class, we met in the L-building. I was on my way to A-200 and 20 students met me. We convened in L-202E, where we watched the film, Second Line. Students opened Word and wrote their responses and then posted them. Other students composed in their tablets and then typed the response in the comment section of the blog.

We spent the remainder to the hour developing outlines for the "Change" essay. Homework is to bring in all the prewriting exercises: planning sheet and outline, plus first draft of the essay.

We will have a peer review on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Also that day, students will present their objects for inclusion into the Hip Hop Archives. Imagine 100 years from now, what artifacts collectors and exhibitors will say represent hip hop culture. Students will have to present the object and tell us why they choose it. How is it hip hop.

A few students missed us, and a few more students wanted to add. We can talk about this Wednesday. If you missed class, do the homework, don't worry about what you missed. As a make-up read, then listen to Martin King's I Have a Dream speech (August 28, 1963). Reflect on it's significance in 2008 on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

You can post the reflections on King's speech here.


Hurricane Katrina Stories Cyber-Assignment

Friday, August 29, 2008 is the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the worse natural and man made disaster in this century. Bodies are still being recovered, people are still homeless, children are still lost. What is more unfortunate is our government's response or lack of response to its citizens in crisis.

We watched a film this morning, Second Line. Watch this video of an interview
with directors:

We brainstormed about the piece, then three students shared their personal experiences and stories of escape and loss or family, friends, and property. The directors said they were looking at stereotypes and stigma.

Think about the story, the characters, what happens when the men are hired. Think about the symbols: teddy bear and machete. What emotions are invoked by the betrayal MacArthur feels when he his savings are stolen, yet he returns the savings of his employer?

Talk about the lighting, music, and landscape and how this adds to the feeling of despair, disaster and doom.

What is the movie about? Katrina's aftermath is the theme, yet there are universal concepts which resonate throughout the film, such as honor, and love; kinship and pride, honesty and exploitation.

Does the employer get what's coming to him? Should MacArthur have beaten his employer up? Was he dead, or just injured? What is the proof for either scenario? What else could the men have done differently? Was the ending surprising, yet, realistic?

Post your response here, no later than Friday, August 29, 11:50 p.m. You can also share your personal stories about Hurricane Katrina. If you want to share links to music and videos that show the hip hop communities response, you can do so also. The primary assignment though is the written response to the film: Second Line. For those not familiar with the term, Second Line, it has to do with the "death march." In New Orleans, the band marches through town, pulling the hearse with the body...the mood is sad, somber, and then after the funeral the same band dances the family back home playing uplifting and celebratory music. Visit

With this in mind, think about the two brothers as they walked down the road at twilight after the murders. It was as if they were participants in a second line funeral march. Visit

Film Notes from

Short Student Competition

This is a test
[SSPLI] | 2007 | 20 min | Short Narrative

Directed by: John Magary


New York Premiere

Interests: Drama
Cast & Credits
Director: John Magary
Principal Cast: Al Thompson, J.D. Williams, Dane Rhodes, Karen Pritchett, Saida Arrika Ekulona, Brittany Parker
Screenwriter: John Magary
Producers: Geoffrey Quan, Myna Joseph, Nelson Kim
Director of Photography: Chris Teague
Production Designer: Mara LePere-Schloop
Music: Kai Gross

Program Notes
After MacArthur's savings are stolen from his FEMA trailer, he and his cousin Natt take work gutting a house. The Second Line was a national finalist for the Student Academy Awards® and has played at Sundance, SXSW, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


M-Thurs. class

Today we reviewed the syllabus. It took most of the morning. I gave students a sample of an outline I'd like them to use to develop the essay on Change. Homework was to complete the outline and bring to class.

Thesis (Declarative sentence)

1. Major Point (write as a complete sentence)


2. Major Point (write as a complete sentence)


and so on...

Concluding sentence

Grammar/Style notes: independent clause, coordinating conjunction, thesis, topic sentence, sentence types. You can find these topics in Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers.

Monday, August 25, 2008


How to Mark a Book; Index Cards

In the afternoon class we summarized the Adler essay together after reviewing the syllabus. My goodness there were a lot of errors. The syllabus posted Friday here is correct. I enjoyed the discussion of Tupac's song, Changes. Students offered thoughtful mature comments which showed an ability to interpret the text, read critically and understand the context the narrator depicted, even if the conclusions differed.

Here is the rough summary we wrote together:

In Mortimer Adler's essay, How to Mark a Book, he explains how to "read between the lines," so that the readers can grasp the information from the text (376). He gives examples of three types of book owners.

We found ourselves copying the author verbatim, so students were told to out down the essay and respond from memory or their notes. Thus, the jump. A transition is needed, but we didn't add one.

The one who owns the material is the active reader. And although, there are different ways to mark the book, how one does this doesn't matter as long as s/he owns it. Adler mentioned a couple of drawbacks, a funny one is, "You can't lend it to a friend [because] it would be like like giving your mind away" (380).

I changed this sentence and added "because" to make the two sentences one.

I gave students a copy of the Initial Planning Sheet and told them to fill it out for Wednesday, August 27. The topic is change. Change in your life. Significant or important change(s).

Students also listed five goals for the semester and then answered the index card questions for me on a sheet of paper. I don't have any index cards this semester.

I read over the index card assignment responses and quickly (1-3 p.m.). While your responses are in my head, I want to tell those who asked, that I am always available to look at your planning up to the writing process. I can help you develop topics to write about, if you ever get stuck.

I don't hold students' hands; I am too busy, so if you need this kind of encouragement, you'll have to start your own fan club. This is where a study group is most helpful. The best way to get my attention is to come to my office hours, or schedule an appointment if the posted times don't work for you.

You will certainly have an opportunity to make presentations and get over any shy feelings. This is not a forensics class, but I think scholars should practice defending their arguments or thesis, where better than with peers who you've had the opportunity to work with for an entire semester.

Let's see, what else? A few students mentioned learning disabilities. I hope you are plugged into DSPS or Disabled Students Services. If not, make an appointment. In college we want you to work smart, not hard. It's already hard enough :-)

If you are a procrastinator, keep a calendar. Even if you aren't keep a calendar and do not wait to the last minute to start an essay. Start the day you get the assignment. I also suggest students who haven't been in college for a long while to take a College Success Course. There is a free class offered through the Adult School and taught here. I met the teacher. You can email Ms. Jean Rowland at or call (510) 748-2337.

For a glimpse of my style, read my welcome letter Spring 2008. It's in the January 2008 archives posted here.


First Full Week of Classes

Welcome to week 2. Class this morning got off to a great start. We reviewed the Adler essay (if you were not in class last week and missed the assignment, I left copies of the essay in the bin outside my office (L-236). If the door (L-235) is locked or closed ask the teacher in the Writing Center to unlock it for you. Most likely it's unlocked, just shut, knock and enter. Everyone knows my office is inside the middle room. I gave the morning class a tour, so you understand what I am talking about. Right now, my office hours are MW, 9:30-10:50 and W afternoon, 3-4 by appointment and Th 1-2 by appointment.

Thanks Ernest for calling me to tell me you would be absent; I asked about you. Next time call a classmate also. I listened to the message after class.

Homework is to develop an essay plan for your first essay on Change. There are handouts you can pick up in the bin outside my office. I will recap the questions you should ask here:

1. What is the subject of your paper?

2. Why do you want to write about this subject? Is your purpose to explain, explore, evaluate, describe a problem and propose a solution, or argue a point.

3. What audience will you write for? (Your audience determines the language and information you need from your sources. In this essay, you are a primary source.)

4. What question do you want your essay to answer?

5. What is the main writing strategy you think you will use? (Description, process or causal analysis, compare/contrast, problem/solution, classification. I mentioned that all discourse is argument, or persuasive.)

Bring the answers to these questions to class tomorrow (the afternoon class will do this today.)

Wednesday, we will work on developing an outline for our essays. We will also write a summary of the "Changes" song in the morning class. The afternoon class will write the essay after developing an outline. The morning class will write an essay in class. We will meet in the L-building in L-202. It's next door to the Open Lab.

Thursday, August 21, 2008



If you ever have a question about anything, shoot me an email: You can also call me, just be respectful of my time. Make certain that you identify yourself. I have four classes, three preps, all writing about some aspect of hip-hop culture. Read all the posts. If you don't read them, you are still responsible for the information contained there. The first one is the letter. The syllabus is in there also, read it all--there are two assignments there for the coming weeks. I will print copies of the syllabus for students, as well as assignments posted for this week and in the future whenever possible.

It's hard to plan too far in advance because the class assignments come from the discussions. I might have an idea and change it depending on the dynamic in the room. Stay loose and you'll be fine :-)

I am a jazz riff singing off the chart. I'll try to stay in view, but you have to look up


How To Mark a Book Cyber Assignment

You can post your responses to Adler's essay here sometime before Wednesday, August 27. Answer the questions and respond in 1 paragraph to 1 prompt in Suggestions for Writing. If you have any questions about the essay ask them here. I want all students to respond to 3 posts. Don't forget to include your name.

If you already posted it in the August 20, recap, copy it and paste it here. Thanks! We'll continue working on the accounts and blogspot creation for your COA academic work. As mentioned this morning, you can create multiple blogs with the same email address, so don't mix business with pleasure. You could have a separate blog for each course, then when you take other English courses you can just add the course and continue saving your work. Keep it simple, use you name as your email address, name the blog whatever you like, but English COA would describe what it's about. Lastly, in creating your web address, use your name. I have a blog with my name: The name of the blog is "Interchange."

I will print copies of the syllabus for you. I will also try to remember to print copies of the homework assignments for you. I will always print the assignment on the board, but I will try to remember to do the other.

You are responsible for everything posted here, so read it all. You are to respond where asked; do not get behind on the logs. They do count.

Stay loose and you'll be okay. If you are stiff, or like lots of structure, this is not the class for you. I am not the one.


Course Syllabus

English 201, Fall 2008 at COA
Professor Wanda Sabir

Course codes: 42966, 42974, 42984, 43046, 43054
Class Meetings: Aug. 20-Dec.11, 8-8:50; 1-3, MW Rooms C-213; A200
Drop dates: Sept. 4 (w/refund), Sept. 13 (w/out a W), Nov. 18 (w/W).

No classes: 9/1; 10/22; 11/11; 11/27-28
Final Exams: If you meet M-Th, 8-8:50 your final is Fri., Dec. 19, 8-10
If you meet, MW, 1-2:50, your final is Wed., Dec. 17, 12-2

Syllabus for English 201A/B: Preparation for Composition and Reading

The English 201 series (4 units) is a preparatory course designed to emphasize the thinking, reading, organizing and writing skills required for successful execution of college-level papers in all subject areas. This course is designed to for those students requiring minimal preparation for entering English 1A.

Absences must be kept to a minimum. If you miss 6 consecutive hours or 8 cumulative hours you will risk being dropped from the course, doing poorly or both. English 201 consists of weekly essays and daily assignments. This is a portfolio driven class. Keep all of your written work, graded and otherwise to turn in the last day of class. There will be an assessment, a midterm, a research project, a final and a class presentation.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the life of one of rap’s more well-known artists, Tupac Amaru Shakur (25), who died before we had a chance to know the fullness of his genius. We’ll be reading a memoir about his mother Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary by Jasmine Guy; Holler if You Hear Me by Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D.; The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur; Rules for Writers , a college dictionary (American Heritage recommended)

The questions and analysis will come out of the discussions and listening parties as we look for themes in the work and try to reconstruct the artist’s life through his songs which were quite autobiographical. Tupac loved his mother, but he was angry with her too. We will describe this relationship and how mother and son were able to mend it. Forgiveness is preached, however, it takes a certain kind of personality to actually let by-gones be by-gones. Tupac personified “thug life.” He had old ladies tattooing his TL on their arms. What is a thug and why did Tupac celebrate it?

Keep a reading log. Discussion groups will meet each week. Students will also keep a reading log/journal/notes with key ideas outlined for each discussion section, along with vocabulary and key arguments listed, with primary writing strategies employed: description, process analysis, narration, argument, cause and effect, compare and contrast, definition, problem solving.

Research Project
Your research project will entail finding an artist or organization that uses hip hop culture as a tool to develop consciousness and mental, economic, social and spiritual liberation among the members of its discourse community. Cov Records, out of Covenant House, is an example of such an organization. The Ella Baker Center’s Stop the Violence Initiative is another such organization. EastSide Arts Alliance is another such organization. DESTINY Arts is another such organization. All are in Oakland. The social entrepreneur has to have been active in his or her community for at least 20 years and have documented resources you can draw from: books, essays, articles, films.

The paper will be about 4-5 pages. This will include a works cited page and bibliography. Students will make 5-10 minute presentations of these papers the day of the final. The paper will be due about two-three weeks prior to the presentation. We’ll discuss this task further later on.

New Heroes
Visit “The New Heroes,” to read about social entrepreneurs. (I’ll show you a few episodes from the series.) Too often people feel helpless or hopeless when there is a lot you can do as an individual as soon as you realize the answer lies inside of you. If possible choose an entrepreneur who lives in Northern California, someone you’d like to interview and perhaps meet. Students can work on the project together, share resources. Each person has to write his or her own paper, but you can make a group presentation if you like.

Course Objectives
English 201 will look primarily at writing which persuades: argumentative writing, as well as expository writing, narrative and descriptive writing. At the end of the course students will have read work of accomplished writers, as well as practiced writing in a variety of styles to suit the writer’s purpose.

Student Learning Outcomes
At the end of the course students will also have an altered or heightened awareness of the world around them, especially discourse: speech and text. Students will see that everything is an argument, whether that is a cartoon, advertisement, or lyrics in a song. Students will be able to analyze and critique each incident or contact to evaluate its author’s purpose, audience, and evidence to determine whether or not such goal was met and if appropriate, act accordingly.

This course is intended to be both a group learning experience as well as an individually rewarding one. Mid-semester we will schedule conferences so students can confer with the instructor to evaluate his or her progress in the course. Classroom instruction will consist of lectures, small group work, and students working in pairs. This is an effective way for students to exchange ideas with classmates, compare reactions to readings and practice giving and receiving constructive feedback on class work.

Preparation for class, regular attendance and active participation is imperative for those students who wish to succeed in this course.

It is a student’s responsibility to contact the instructor if he or she plans to miss class. The student is responsible for all materials and information given during the class time, so please get telephone numbers for three (3) classmates in case you are late or absent. You will not be able to make up in-class assignments when you miss class.

Requirements for homework assignments:
Not late papers are accepted unless arranged in advance. Any papers below a C grade are an automatic revision or rewrite. Essays under 500 words (750 words for English 201B students) will not be accepted. (Put a word count on the upper right corner of page 1.) Choose topics which give you enough to write about. We will use documentation to substantiate all of our claims. With this in mind, I expect all papers to utilize at least two (2) different outside print sources, in addition to the occasional interview, or broadcast journalism, that is, radio or television, internet also. You will learn to document sources; we will practice citing sources in text, using footnotes and endnotes, and writing bibliographies and notes pages. Remember save all your work! This is a portfolio course.

All essay assignments you receive comments on have to be revised prior to resubmission; included with the revision is a student narrative to me regarding your understanding of what needed to be done; a student can prepare this as a part of the Writing Center visit (see below), especially if said student is unclear over what steps to take.

Library Orientations:

We will write short essays that reflect themes and ideas discussed that week. Some of these essays will be written in class and posted on the class blog. The research essay will be an argument. There will be a midterm and a final.

Jot down briefly what your goals are this semester. List them in order of importance.






Index Cards Week 2 August 25-August 29
Please list your contact information: Name, Address, phone number e-mail address, best time to call.

What strengths do you bring to the class? What do you hope to obtain from the course – any particular exit skills? What do I need to know about you to help you meet your goals?

Presentation 1: Due Tuesday, Sept. 2 or Wednesday, Sept. 3
Bring in an object that represents hip hop culture. Write a brief profile on the object justifying its inclusion in the archives (100 words or so). Be prepared to share. This is also a cyber-assignment to be posted later.

Presentation 2: Due Tuesday, Sept. 9 or Wednesday, Sept. 10
Bring in an object that reflects America, American values, its people, landscape, or history. Write a brief profile on the object justifying its inclusion in the archives (100 words or so). This is also a cyber-assignment to be posted later.

Weekly essays: 15 percent
Daily journals: 15 percent
Midterm: 10 percent
Final: 15 percent
Research Essay/Presentation: 20 percent
Portfolio: 15 percent
Peer Reviews from Lab teachers: 10 percent
Participation: 5 percent

Each book will have collected writings or essays. The essays which take their themes from the books are practice essays, and are about a fourth of your grade, your midterm and final are another fourth and your portfolio is the final fourth. (Save all of your work.) You can average the grades to see how to weigh the various components. Participation is included in the daily exercises and homework portion of the grade, so if your attendance is exemplary, yet you say nothing the entire 18 weeks, you loose percentage points.

You will also need to plan to spend time weekly in the Writing Lab (L-234-235, 748-2132). It is a great place to get one-on-on assistance on your essays, from brainstorming and planning the essays, to critique the essay for clarity, organization, clearly stated thesis, evidence or support, logical conclusions, and grammatical problems for referrals to other ancillary materials to build strong writing muscles such as SkillsBank, the Bedford Handbook on-line, Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers on-line, Townsend Press, and other such computer and cyber-based resources. Call for hours. There is also an Open Lab for checking e-mail, and a Math Lab. All academic labs are located in the Learning Resource Center (LRC) or library.

Students need a student ID to use the labs and to check out books. The IDs are free and you can take the photo in the F-Building, Student Services.

Have a tutor of teacher sign off on your essays before you turn them in; if you have a “R,” which means revision necessary for a grade or “NC” which means “no credit,” you have to go to the lab and revise the essay with a tutor or teacher before you return both the graded original and the revision (with signature) to me. Revise does not mean “rewrite,” it means to “see again.”

When getting assistance on an essay, the teacher or tutor is not an editor, so have questions prepared for them to make best use of the 15-20 minute session in the Lab. For more specific assistance sign up for one-on-one tutoring, another free service. For those of you on other campuses, you can get assistance at the Merritt Colleges’ Writing Center, as well as Laney’s.

All essay assignments you receive comments on have to be revised prior to resubmission; included with the revision is a student narrative to me regarding your understanding of what needed to be done; a student can prepare this as a part of the Lab visit, especially if said student is unclear over what steps to take.

Students can also visit me in office hours for assistance; again, prepare your questions in advance to best make use of the time. Do not leave class without understanding the comments on a paper. I don’t mind reading them to you.

English language fluency in writing and reading; a certain comfort and ease with the language; confidence and skillful application of literary skills associated with academic writing. Familiarity if not mastery of the rhetorical styles used in argumentation, exposition and narration will be addressed in this class and is a key student learning outcome (SLO).

We will be evaluating what we know and how we came to know what we know, a field called epistemology or the study of knowledge. Granted, the perspective is western culture which eliminates the values of the majority populations, so-called underdeveloped or undeveloped countries or cultures. Let us not fall into typical superiority traps. Try to maintain a mental elasticity and a willingness to let go of concepts which not only limit your growth as an intelligent being, but put you at a distinct disadvantage as a species.

This is a highly charged and potentially revolutionary process - critical thinking. The process of evaluating all that you swallowed without chewing up to now is possibly even dangerous. This is one of the problems with bigotry; it’s easier to go with tradition than toss it, and create a new, more just, alternative protocol.

More on grades, and portfolio
We will be honest with one another. Grades are not necessarily an honest response to work; grades do not take into consideration the effort or time spent, only whether or not students can demonstrate mastery of a skill - in this case: essay writing. Grades are an approximation, arbitrary at best, no matter how many safeguards one tries to put in place to avoid such ambiguity. Suffice it to say, your portfolio will illustrate your competence. It will represent your progress, your success or failure this session in meeting your goal.

Office Hours
I’d like to wish everyone good luck. I am available for consultation on Monday mornings 9:30-10:50 a.m. , Wednesday 9:30-10:30 a.m., Wednesday afternoon after 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment in L-236 (inside the Writing Center Lab L-235). Tuesdays and Thursdays, if you want to take me to lunch—just kidding, I am available after 12 for appointments if you notify me in advance. I am not on campus on Fridays. (Jot my cell number down in this section.) My office number is (510) 748-2131, e-mail Let me know the day before, if possible, when you’d like to meet with me. My office number is (510) 748-2131.
Ask me for my cell phone number. I do not mind sharing it with you.

I don’t check my e-mail on weekends, so I’d advise you to exchange phone numbers with classmates (2), so if you have a concern, it can be addressed more expediently. Again study groups are recommended, especially for those students finding the readings difficult; don’t forget, you can also discuss the readings as a group in the Lab with a teacher or tutor acting as facilitator. Keep a vocabulary log for the semester and an error chart (taken from comments on essay assignments). List the words you need to look up in the dictionary, also list where you first encountered them: page, book and definition, also use the word in a sentence. You will turn this in with your portfolio.

Students are expected to complete their work on time. If you need more time on an assignment, discuss this with me in advance, if possible to keep full credit. You loose credit each day an assignment is late and certain assignments, such as in-class essays cannot be made up. All assignments prepared outside of class are to be typed, 12-pt. font, double-spaced lines, indentations on paragraphs, 1-inch margins around the written work (see Hacker: The Writing Process; Document Design.)

Plagiarism is ethically abhorrent, and if any student tries to take credit for work authored by another person the result will be a failed grade on the assignment and possibly a failed grade in the course if this is attempted again. This is a graded course. There might be an option to take this course C/NC. See Admission and Records.

Textbooks Recap:
The Rose that Grew from Concrete. Tupac Amaru Shakur. Pocket Books. 1999. ISBN: 0-671-02844-2

Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary. Jasmine Guy. Atria Books. 2004. ISBN: 0-7434-7054-0

Holler If You Hear Me. Michael Eric Dyson. Basic Civitas Books. 2001. ISBN: 0-465-01756-8 (or latest edition)

Rules For Writers. Fourth or Fifth edition. Diana Hacker. Bedford/St. Martins.

Students also need a dictionary. I recommend: The American Heritage Dictionary. Fourth Edition.

The Prepared Student also needs...
Along with a dictionary, the prepared student needs pens with blue or black ink, along with a pencil for annotating texts, paper, a stapler or paper clips, a jump drive to save work from college computers, a notebook, three hole punch, a folder for work-in-progress, and a divided binder to keep materials together.

Also stay abreast of the news. Buy a daily paper. Listen to alternative radio: KPFA 94.1 FM (Hardknock), KQED 88.5, KALW 91.7. Visit news websites:, Al Jazeera,,,,, CBS 60Minutes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



The first day of classes went well. Both afternoon and morning classes seemed engaged and excited about the semester to come. No one ran out screaming when I read the letter or shared the textbooks. I handed out the Adler essay for students to read, which looks at the importance of annotating the text. We'll explore this essay further at the next meeting. While reading, note Adler's argument when you find it. Look at the end of the essay for the discussion questions to help guide the reading.

Other homework is to continue freewriting about change, change in your life or change in the world and how that effects or impacts your life. Do any of these changes impact you in such a way that robs you of control, something that imposes on your ability to choose where you want to go, and what you want to do?

I remember when my mother left my dad I had to assume responsibility for my younger brother. I didn't have a childhood as a result of this, but he grew up and now I am able to do what I want to do. I made the choice, but I felt as if I had no choice. Sometimes life is like that, but the one constant is that nothing lasts forever and change is a constant, as long as, we're still breathing. Sometimes we get stuck and can't figure out where to go, but inquiry is an active process and often when we reach beyond ourselves or our comfort zone we find answers or answers come to us.

In the afternoon class as we edited my letter, we looked up coordinating conjunctions and I mentioned parallel structure. We looked in the Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers' index and then a student volunteer read the entry aloud to the class. I mentioned that Hacker was akin to an operating manual for the English Language. Don't come to class without it.

One of your classmates, Charles, waited after class and introduced himself to me and told me a bit about his ambitions. Please feel free to do the same whenever time permits.

I also told students, again in the afternoon class, which was almost unbearably hot--75 degrees--(The air kicks on at 78 degrees--I agree, crazy!)that we will write the "Change" essay next week in the lab.

For those of you who ride public transportation, you can buy a bus pass for the year in the cashier's office (F-Bldg. first floor).

While we were sharing this afternoon, one student, Yesra, was moved by Stephanie's freewrite about coming to the USA from Thailand, not knowing any English and how difficult this was for her.

This morning, Josh was moved by Ernest's reflection on his first meeting with his dad after a 20 year absence. Powerful!

Keep writing. Respond to the letter where it is posted. You can respond to specific aspects of the letter as well as to my questions. The syllabus will be posted by tomorrow morning, maybe tonight. I need to revise it.

The freewrite day 1 was to respond to Tupac's song, "Changes." However, your essay is not about the song, rather, as already noted, it's about personal change.

In the meantime, your textbooks are: Holler If You Hear Me by Michael Eric Dyson; The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur; Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary by Jasmine Guy, plus a grammar style book, I recommend Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers (5 or 6 edition)it is required for English 201 A students, English 201 B students might have something else, which is okay. Students also need a collegic dictionary. I like The American Heritage dictionary, and a notebook. You also need a jump drive to save your work.


First Assignment

Respond to my letter and tell me what you hope to take away from the course. Also, tell me what skills or expertise you bring. This is due by Friday, August 22. Also come by my office, L-236 and pick up a copy of the syllabus before class Monday, August 25. I will post it here later on this morning.



My daughter and I at my birthday party this summer.

Revised First Drafts

August 20, 2008

Dear Students:

I’ve been writing this letter in my head for a few months now and here we are, the first week of school , the last weeks of summer. I hope you had a chance to enjoy the season now that it’s nearly gone. I had the opportunity to attend a family reunion in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was our first. We all met at Great Aunt Bea’s funeral in January and decided that as a family, we really needed to stop meeting like this…funerals are so depressing.

The weather in Ocean Spring, Mississippi, was 92 degrees daily with 100 percent humidity. My hair still hasn’t lost its natural curl and my skin…it was a facial delight, like being in a sauna…great for getting rid of toxins. We had the usual family drama—I was standed in New Orleans when the one Greyhound bus back to Chicago had no seats, but another cousin rescued me, so I spent the week in New Orleans and was able to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday at Ashe Community Center, attend a great African film festival featuing the work or Kola Maseko, visit relatives, walk the levess in Algiers, interview Malik Rahim, co-founder of Common Ground Relief, an all volunteer organization that was a first responder to Hurricane Katrina victims about his bid for the Louisiana Congress on the Green Party ticket. I was also able to catch up with some ex-pats—just kidding, friends who went to New Orleans to help, who now live there like Sakura Kone and Don Paul. (Sakura and I will be interviewed on KPFA, 94.1 FM, on Chris Welch’s show Friday, 12-1 p.m. I am co-host of a Hurricane Katrina benefit and report back at Rebecca’s Books in Berkeley. Visit for the details. It starts at 7 p.m. We’re asking for a $5 donation.)

When I walked out into the Oakland evening a week later—July 22, I actually felt cold. It had been about two weeks since I’d flow to Chicago, to ride/drive with my cousin, Wlydflour to Mississippi. She has a new RV that she wanted to take on the road. Cousin Ronald also went. He’s a professional driver—he drives trucks. Between my uninhibited cousin and the more laid back Ronald, who’d never driven the Mississippi from Chicago, it took 16 hours—sixteen long hours. I do not recommend this trip unless you make stops in between, such as in Memphis to see the sites, Alabama and elsewhere.

I was sleepy almost my entire time away, but I never got a chance to sleep well. You see, there were these huge roaches that one finds in the oddest places. I didn’t want to keep the lights on and attract unnecessary attention to myself, and then I didn’t want to step on one or get into the bed next to one either. Oh, need I mention the misquitoes?

It was scary at times, but my cousin Ronald would remove the offending bug whenever I spotted one. And I found some anti-itch cream that worked when I was bitten by a gnat or other predatory bug.

Everything seems to grow bigger where there is wetness, heat and open space.

In New Orleans where the houses were demolished in the Lower Ninth Ward, all that’s left of the hundreds of families displaced by the broken levees, are weeds which grow taller than a man if not contained. There are signs of life…an occupied house here and there. However, miles of abandoned land lie between—the levee still not complete.

Okay, so back to the letter. Yes, everything you heard is true. I am tough— I treat my students like the adults they are or will be soon, which means, I do not take responsibility for those tasks students need to stay on top of themselves, like doing one's homework, having good study habits, getting proper sleep, staying on top of assignments, such as, the reading.

I try to be clear, but if I’m not, please ask questions for clarity—often I have so much on my mind, I speak really fast and native speakers can’t keep up. Also, if you are in an early class, or have my class after lunch, you might be sleepy. Bring water to class, stand up, if necessary and stretch, step to the side by the wall and touch your toes.

You can try your hand at negotiating…I’m fair and reasonable. I realize that life-happens, but you need to be serious about what you have committed yourself to when you enrolled in this course. If you haven’t taken College Success, I highly recommend the course (3 units). If you don’t have time, keep you ears open for the Super Saturday when some of the same information is decimated. Visit counseling and ask for the date(s). At the Back to School Bash, Sept. 2 and 4, pick up a student organizer. It’s free and you can put important assignments in it.

The only things I will not compromise on are the objectives and goals of the course. Whether you remember all the specific language of the discourse we will have this semester or not, is not the point—but I do suggest keeping a vocabulary log, beginning with this letter which I want you to respond to for the next meeting—this is your first blog assignment— the point is that each of the students in this class grow to understand their unique purpose. You’re honoring your gifts. Every one of you has something unique and precious to offer the world. I am the coach. We’re going to identify it and help you polish it.

Language is communication, whether this is written or verbal or nonverbal. We are all sharing a story. Just the clothes you decided to wear this morning or afternoon, indicates something about you.

Human beings are judgmental and because we jump to conclusions often without weighing the evidence, separating bigotry and ignorance, from other biases, we make mistakes, some costly. A critical thinker brackets his or her biases and tries to look at each communicative event or genre as openly and freely as he or she can. It’s hard being unbiased because we all unconsciously bring our entire life, all our experiences, both good and bad to the table whenever we have to make a decision. Advertisers know this, so they complicate the choices with lies called propaganda (logical fallacies, is the technical term). Nothing is clear, everyone is suspect in the market place whether the salesman is the presidential hopeful or the clerk at the dress shop or the photograph in your favorite magazine.

We will try to be as honest as we can in our writing. Don’t confuse honesty with truth. Truth is subjective and as I mention above, if all of us has an agenda, then there really is no such thing as objectivity only shades of gray in a black and white world.

Let’s just say, if we leave this 18 week experience, better listeners, this would be a start toward opening ourselves up to the larger more human dialogue we need to have with each other and by extension the planet because as I said, all communication is not verbal. If we are to survive as a species, we need to learn to speak other languages—fluently, and respect the voices of those creatures whom we have a tendency to disrespect or look down on like children, animals and other species like trees, rocks and toads.

Too philosophical? Well my undergraduate degree is in philosophy, which I call a degree in learning how to articulate those values which determine one’s direction in life and avoid those arguments which are incongruent with one’s soul’s journey. I’m talking about the stalkers or propagandists lurking everywhere trying to sell you false ideas, trip you up and confuse you so that you purchase with your soul their ideas, often to your determent, not always, but most often.

In the academy, or the halls of higher education—translate, college, the goal is to become freer, and to do this one has to notice everything and learn the language of query. We have to enjoy asking questions because only then will we locate the answers—the most important answers inside each of you.

All I can do is guide the process. I know a bit more about writing than you so. I know a bit more about life than most of you because I am a bit older than most of you. I’ve raised two daughters and have tried to live consciously in the world and there are some tools I can share with you to make the journey a little less treacherous.

What does this have to do with the writing process? Everything. Remember when I told you the great writer is honest. Well to be honest, one must first know oneself.

Writing is one of the disciplines that encourages honesty and revelation. Whatever you read or share in the class needs to stay here. You can’t tell anyone unless you get permission from your classmate who wrote the paper first. If I say it, feel free to publish it :-)

By the end of the first month, we will have established a writing community and in the next week or so, we will have to develop ground rules so everyone will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about the topics we will discuss.

Hip hop culture is the lens we will be using to explore the writing process. We will look at the history of hip hop, how it has developed and most of all the controversy, especially involving women. However, the purpose of the class is not to become experts in hip hop culture. This is just the hook to keep you in the room, on the floor, in the club, buying drinks, staying high.

You will become scholars and learn to talk about a culture many of you participate in unconsciously without really knowing its history…your participation, depending on how old you are is a result of subtle brainwashing or inheritance—if this word sounds better. In any case, you have swallowed these ideas about women or girls, fashion and career goals—the bling bling of life, without a blink or any analysis.

Scholars do not do this. Scholars evaluate the evidence and motives behind the argument before making a decision about its validity or value.

I am rambling and will get to the point now. You need to be awake when you come to class and prepared. Visit me in my office hours at least three times this semester, more if I ask you to. We will have a study hour—attend a few of those, especially if you are weak in certain areas like reading comprehension.

Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D. is difficult, a lot more difficult than my English 201 students will find, Jasmine Guy or even Tupac. Jeff Chang is not hard, per se, but Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, is dense. There is a lot of information here, so students need to apply certain reading strategies, so that the material which is most important is identified.

A good writer is a good planner. A good writer is also a good reader. If you don’t like to read, if you are lazy and don’t like to look up words when you can't pronounce them, let alone, don’t know what they mean—you are in the wrong class.

Some of you are here because this is the only time you could fit an English class into your schedule. You’ll just have to make the best of it; however, if you have a choice and find, after this class or subsequent ones, you and I are not a good match, transfer to another section.

A this level its all about personality. I am seemingly laid back, easy going, and kind of scattered—blame that on my Gemini nature, no seriously, we’re peers and then we’re not. I have something you want—information, knowledge, skill. But so do my other colleague teaching this same course—the objectives and goals and students learning outcomes are consistent across the department, so you will not loose anything if you transfer to another class.

I encourage you to shop around and not buy the rhetoric or arguments of this salesperson standing before you without understanding that you have options. You are not stuck; you can make choices.

I try to keep track of your grades, but if you’d like an A, I’d suggest you keep track of all your papers, especially the graded ones. This is a portfolio class and your final grade is cumulative. Do not throw anything away. I am serious. If you are careless, then at the end of the 18 weeks you will not have any evidence of your progress in the class and so I will not be able to substantiate the grade you say you deserve.

Attendance is important, so come to class and come on time. Get a classmate's phone number and email address so if something is unclear when you get home, you can get help. You can always ask me; however, I think we are all thinking beings and your ideas and thoughts are just as valid as mine when it comes to interpretation.

Respect for each other’s ideas is paramount for this class to function optimally. It’s easy to slip into dysfunction when we allow those unexamined values to intrude on authenticity. We need to disclose, if to no one other than ourselves who we are and what baggage or unexamined ideas we have carried for so long that we need to let go.

This cleansing process is on-going. Look at our nation, seven years post-9/11. Look at how our views of Muslims and the Middle East shifted that early morning in September 2001. Look at the world now, and the world, pre-Sept. 11. Look at the policies tied directly to Sept. 11. Look at what you believe and what you know about Arabs and war, and how that effects your consumption, of both ideologies and commodities.

The possibility of a first black president is a reality, as was the possibility of a first woman president. We will look at the presidential election and how the hip hop community is responding. I hope all of you who can vote are registered. If you are not on parole and are an American citizen, you can and should vote, otherwise you can’t complain.

What else? We will be going on fieldtrips, so stay tuned to the blog or on-line diary. If you don’t have access to a computer with Internet at home, do your assignments in the Writing Center, L-234 suite. It is open six days a week, five of them until 7:45 p.m. it opens at 9 a.m. which is not convenient if you have an 8 a.m. class.

Oh, I am a professional writer. Over the summer the San Francisco Bay View, after 20 years of publishing, stopped printing the paper. We have a web presence, but my editor doesn't know how to maintain the website and has no money to pay someone to do so. If you can help her or know someone who can visit and drop her a line at

Good luck on everything. Writing is a discipline where your life leaks into the process; try to separate the assignment from your narrative. Of course, everything you write is your story, but there are ways to appeal to different audiences. Remember you are a scholar, and the language of the discourse here is not the same as the one in the streets, locker room, or on the dance floor—even if the topic or theme—hip hop culture—it’s poetics if you are in my English 201; it’s politics especially regarding women, if you are in my English 1A or the global movement of this form of discourse, if you are in my English 1B.

Peace and Blessings,

Wanda Sabir
English, Basic Skills Instructor
L-236 office
(510) 748-2131

PS Let me know if there is anything happening which you might recommend we watch or attend that will broaden our knowledge of these themes and the topic we are exploring. Did anyone attend Rock the Bells last weekend? I wish I’d gone, but I couldn’t find anyone in my peer group who wanted to attend :-) Next time though, I’m going anyway. If any of you is a performance artist or visual artist, also let us know so we can support you and attend your exhibitions.

PSS My email address is

The blog site for English 201 is
English 1A is
English 1B look at the more information, scroll down and you will see the address.

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