Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We had a productive class. We started out in D-204 and then moved to A-205, the classroom where we will be on Wednesdays, except where noted otherwise. On Wednesdays I will be in A-205 until 4 PM.

Review the homework for Monday, January 31, 2011. There is an essay due. The assignment is in the letter. Bring a copy to class to share. Buy your textbooks, they are in the college bookstore. Call me if you have questions about anything. I am on campus from 8 AM on Monday-Thursday. My long days are Mondays and Wednesdays.

I also forgot to mention that on Thursdays from 10-11 AM and from 12-1 most Thursdays, I will be in A-232 for office hours and for students who want to work on assignments connected to the class, drop by if your schedule allows. This is in addition to office hours posted: MW 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM, MW 3-4 PM.

I don't have a location for the other office hours yet, so call me.


Extra Credit

Read two critiques or responses to the President's State of the Union Address. How does this affirm or conflict with your conclusions?
Give the reviewers credentials and where their comments appeared.


Cyber-Freewrite Response to President Obama's State of the Union

Post your freewrite response to President Obama's State of the Union Address. If given the opportunity what would you say to the American people.

Re: the list of eight questions below in the other assignment, respond to three and post there.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Homework Recap Monday-Tuesday, January 24-25

Day one was fruitful. The class had an opportunity to get to know one another through shared freewrites. We also read an interesting op ed published in the current Laney College Town newspaper about singer/artist Lil Wayne. Is education really the opportunity it's chalked up to be or like success in the studio or on the athletic field, a combination of preparedness or skill combined with luck?

Obviously, students in class Monday afternoon believe education, even without luck, is an invaluable asset.

I thought the State of the Union Address was yesterday, when actually it is tonight at 6 PM. Watch it or listen to it.

Bring your responses to these questions to class on Wednesday. If you don't see these questions until tomorrow's meeting, don't worry, they can serve as talking points (smile).

1. Note at least three areas or themes covered in the address. What was the central idea or thesis of the speech? Restate it in your own words.

2. Summarize the speech or outline it--your choice.

3. What appealed to you most about the State of the Union experience: watching audience responses, seeing if issues that concern you were addressed, etc.?

4. Was this your first time watching the address? If not, how does this address compare to the other two President Obama delivered?

5. How did recent events such as what happened in Moscow yesterday with the bombing and in Arizona, January 8, 2011, when suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl who, according to the Washington Post, "went to the casual meet-and-greet because of her interest in politics."

In North Africa, Tunisia, there has been unrest, including self-immolation, and in Egypt citizens are upset over their president's recent budget. Côte d'Ivoire still has two presidents which has led to continued bloodshed since the November election results.

6. Does any of this creep into the speech? Are there any direct references to this or are the references implied?

7. Lastly, did you enjoy watching or listening to the speech and do you plan to listen again next year? What do those who opt out of listening to what some citizens look at as a very important occasion for American government, miss?

Other Homework

Homework from the syllabus and letter includes a response on the blog to both documents by this Friday. There is an essay assignment due Monday, January 31, outlines in the letter. Students are to email their contact information to me:

Students are to bring the Laney College Tower newspapers to class on Wednesday. We talked about visiting the exhibit at the Laney Art Gallery closing reception, next Friday, February 4, 2011, I think around 6 PM.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Course Syllabus

English 201, Spring 2011 at COA
Professor Wanda Sabir

ENG 201 A
20232 Lec 01:00-02:50 PM MW Sabir D-204

ENG 201 B
20239 Lec 01:00-02:50 PM MW Sabir D-204

Class Meetings: Jan. 24—May 18, 1-2:50

Drop dates: February 5, Full-Term Credit Classes and Receive a Refund. Note: Short-term and open-entry classes must be dropped within three days of the first class meeting to receive a refund, February 24, Full-Term Credit Classes Without “W” Appearing on Transcript; April 25 (w/W) and no refund.

Holidays: Feb. 18-21; April 21-22, May 19, May 30; Spring Break: April 18-21;
Final Exam Week: May 21-27. Last day of semester May 27. Grades due June 3.
Class blog:

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. I believe we are to write about 6000words, which includes rewrites and revisions. I tend to go overboard on this; I am told students in my classes write a lot more. Perhaps it’s a good thing we use cyber-space and post on-line, so I don’t feel as guilty as I would if I were contributing to the death of trees, which I treasure like I treasure people (smile).

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.

Stewart Pidd Hates English will provide a context for essay writing which will hopefully allow students the opportunity to become conversant about the writing process and use grammar in context, as well as, employ MLA documentation. Keep a reading log for the Half the Sky noting key ideas, themes, vocabulary, questions and an analysis of 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 a woman in Northern California who is a social entrepreneur. This research project will be an extension of the themes explored in Half the Sky. The essay will be about 4 pages. This will include a works cited page and bibliography. Students will make 5-10 minute presentations of these papers in May. 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. There is also a program called Frontline World. We will explore this assignment more, later in the course.

Why socially responsible economics?

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.

Academic Blog

In this course students will submit essays and other written work on-line. The academic blog is an opportunity for students to utilize multiple intelligences as they engage one another in a variety modalities.

Student Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students will 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 range between 2-3 pages, 500-750 words (English 201B students write the longer essays).

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, and broadcast news, 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: TBA. We will meet in the library at the reference desk.

We will write short essays that reflect themes and ideas discussed that week. Stewart Pidd has essay assignments attached to the text. Some of these essays will be written in class. 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.






Please email a response to the following questions with your contact information: Name, Address, phone number e-mail address, best time to call. This assignment is also mentioned in the letter. Also respond to the syllabus on the blog. Speak to the plan, the materials and what you think about the course at least on paper (smile). You can share your list and anything else you like in the post, just remember that this blog is a public one and everyone in the class has access to whatever is posted. If you email me, that is private unless the FBI subpoena my class records—I’m kidding, but cyber-space is also monitored by the government. The only safe or private thoughts are the ones left unspoken (smile).

Respond to the syllabus by next week, Monday, January 31, 2011, 12 noon. I also encourage students to start study groups. I will give all students who participate in a study group credit for hours spent there if you get a professor to sign off on the hours. If you study in the library in the classrooms, one of the librarians can sign document, you can draw up, for you. List all the participants by name and class and give a description of what was covered in the session each meeting. If I can, I could drop in and be available sometimes to meet with students in such sessions. Let me know if you desire my presence.

I am not around on Fridays.

E-mail recap: 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?

Half the Sky: 10 percent
SPHE: 20 percent
Student Book—presentation and essay: 15 percent
Midterm—On Friendship: 10 percent
Research Essay and presentation: 10 percent
Cyber-Assignments & other essay assignments: 20 percent
Portfolio: 15 percent

The essays which take their themes from the readings 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 cyber assignments, along with the 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 (510) 748-2132). It is a great place to get one-on-on assistance on your essays, from brainstorming and planning the essays, to critique in areas like clarity, organization, clearly stated thesis, evidence or support, logical conclusions, and grammatical problems. In the Writing Center there are ancillary materials for student use. These writing programs build strong writing muscles. The Bedford Handbook on-line, Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers on-line, Townsend Press, and other such computer and cyber-based resources are a few of the many databases available. There is also an Open Lab for checking e-mail, a Math Lab, and an Accounting Lab. All academic labs are located in the Learning Resource Center (LRC) or library upstairs. The Cyber Café is located in the F-bldg.

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. Students also need to sign up for a free LRC course to use the labs. See your counselor or LRC personnel.

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 College’s Writing Center, as well as Laney’s Writing Labs.

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 the best 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.
In past semesters, students have skipped the portfolio and/or the final. Neither is optional.

Office Hours

I’d like to wish everyone good luck. I am available on Monday and Wednesday morning 10:30-12 noon, Thursday 1-3 PM and by appointment MW after 3 PM. My email address varies from class to class: I have a address as well, but that address is not the best one to reach me at.

Let me know the day before, if possible, when you’d like to meet with me on MW. Ask me for my cell phone number. I do not mind sharing it with you.

I don’t check my e-mail frequently 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 Writing 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, 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, Times New Roman, double-spaced lines, indentations on paragraphs, 1-inch margins around the written work.


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 is an option to take this course C/NC. See Admission and Records this week to discuss this option as there are deadlines to consider.

Textbooks Recap:

Pollitt, Gary. Craig Baker. Stewart Pidd Hates English: Grammar, Punctuation, and Writing Exercises. Second Edition. California: Attack the Text Publishing, 2008. ISBN: 13: 978-0-9755923-4-2

Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

I’ll have the bookstore get copies of The Pact by Drs. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt with Lisa Frazier Page, Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and Sula by Toni Morrison, after we do a count and see who might want to read these selections. All the books are in the public library, perhaps even Peralta sister colleges, if not COA, Laney, Berkeley City or Merritt. If money is an issue, use the public and institutional lending libraries for course books. Do not wait to the last minute to get the books. Several copies of Pidd are on reserve at the College of Alameda library. The book doesn’t circulate but there are about five copies on reserve.

Students need to choose a book by a woman author or about a woman, who lives here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Biographies and autobiographies are great. If you want to read a novel, let me see it first. Students will have a paper and a presentation based on the book. Choose one now and when we finish Half the Sky you can start reading it. The presentation and paper will be due in April.

I will give students more detailed essay assignments for each of the four essays: Half the Sky, Friendship or midterm, student selection, social entrepreneur.

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.


Introductory Letter to Students Spring 2011

January 24, 2011

Dear Students:

I have been away most of the Winter Recess. In fact, just one week ago I was in Dakar, Senegal visiting artists after spending the morning in Rufisque shopping for last minute items before my flight home later that evening. Sunday we caught a bus into Dakar, the number 83, which reminded me of AC Transit bus 82 that travels down what used to be E14th Street, now International Blvd. in Oakland, a line that passes through Oakland and Richmond, El Cerrito and Albany on one end and San Lorenzo and San Leandro in the opposite direction. Similarly the Dakar 83, which also looked like the newer AC Transit buses, just shorter, the upper deck a step up as well, passed through so many cities, I lost count, especially on the way back when every corner was our stop.

For only 275 CFAs, less than a dollar if 400 CFAs is the equivalent, but I was poked by elbows and I had to resist the urge to shove back because one father had his little boy wedged between his legs and then resting against mine, and at one point two women with babies on their backs were shoved into my side. There was not much courtesy in the way of letting mothers with babies sit. In fact, when a seat opened up after we’d been riding for what felt like hours, someone stepping onto the bus took it even after she saw the second mother with child headed for it. So the mother who was getting off first let the second mother have the seat. One woman had three children: one on her lap who was coughing a lot and two next to her. One man’s briefcase kept hitting the boy in his head. I marveled at the kid’s patience until the man finally looked down and moved back a bit. It was as we say a crush.

We thought we’d missed the last bus in at 5:00 or 6:00 PM that evening, so we were happy to see it. I only had 2000 CFAs and some change left by the time we were ready to head back to Rufisque.

I’d been wanting to get to the Artist Village in Dakar for over a month and it was my last day in the country so here we were, my friend Mouhammedou and I. Later Amadou met us. First we stopped by another friend, Suzanne’s home for a visit. She lives near Arafat which is near the stadium, Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium, the largest stadium in Dakar where the FESMAN or World Festival of Black Art and Culture took place in December. Suzanne hosted me the year before last when I visited Dakar. Since then, her husband died and she wasn’t feeling well. He was an Islamic scholar and all his work was stored in an upstairs library. Her nephew who was living with her and a young woman she had adopted were back with their parents. She was still caring for her mother, but had had to retire from her job as a teacher since her mobility issues connected to her back hadn’t healed.

This was my third visit. I’d gone to see her when I first arrived and later before I went to Mali and now before I left for America. Her sister was there, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, well over a year, and a family friend, I’d never met only spoken to on the phone—he speaks English. We had a nice visit. I really have to learn French and Wolof and Bambara (for Mali). Although, French is spoken in both nations, it is really a language of the elites, so if one wants to talk to the people, she has to speak French. After a few phrases one finds the person one is speaking to often speechless or tongue tied. It is the same in Gambia, where the former colonizer’s tongue, English is supposedly the national language, but everyone speaks Wolof, a choice I applaud. Why give one’s oppressor that kind of leverage or power in one’s governance especially one’s life?

Last year I went to Haiti twice: for Spring Break and during the summer after summer school.

I like traveling in the African Diaspora. I don’t have many plans just a few contacts on the ground –a wish list which is flexible, and after I purchase my tickets I am off. When I went to Haiti the second time I wanted to get to the coast. It didn’t happen. I ran out of time. I also, didn’t have an opportunity to visit with people I’d met before, but next time. In Senegal next time I want to go to Casamance or the southern part of the country and get back to Gambia to say hi to friends. I have to see how I can manage that and still get to Timbuktu for the Festival in the Desert 2012.

I have never been in a desert, so Mali was a challenge. I met a woman in Dakar at a concert from Southern California, who hooked up with me and we traveled to Mali together. I already had my press credentials and added her to my media team. She and I shared a tent together. It was desert boot camp: mattress on dirt, when one swung one’s legs in either direction there was dust and dirt, without the occasional gusts of wind. Tracey and I teamed up at Hotel Des Almadies where she spent the night and then moved with me to the FESMAN Artist Village near N’Gor, a fishing village and island, I have yet to visit. It was also not too far from the Renaissance Monument, where I walked on red carpet, below a spectacular bronze emblem of African unity: father, mother and child.

Yes, it was pretty spectacular. President Abdoulaye Wade, of Senegal, (the country's third president since independence) spoke as did his invited guest, the president of Libya, President Muammar al-Gaddafi. The president of Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was there too. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak. I was more than a little excited. Oh, did I mention that I was added to the American delegation the second day of FESMAN, which meant I was a guest of the government, which meant, the Republic of Senegal picked up the tab for my stay, hotel and then Artist Village, accommodations.

Every evening there was a concert or a play or something exciting happening. I had trouble getting around. Wyclef Jean gave several concerts, as did various international hip hop artists from around the globe like Super Natural who was there with his teenage son. Mama Africa was responsible for getting such a large hip hop contingent to FESMAN and almost daily she was taking artists to Goree Island so they could feel the agony and painful energy of the enslaved Africans before they were shipped abroad.

At the Door of No Return, they were flesh and blood witness to the return, not only were African descendents in the Diaspora still here, we were back. President Wade loaned Mama Africa his yacht for one of many visits. He was a great host.

It was a fairytale beginning that shifted, not back to sweeping embers from the fireplace, which might have been nice, since the desert was cold (smile), but gone were the chartered buses and FBI-type assistance once FESMAN ended when we were on our way to Mali, which went without a hitch. I loved flying Kenya Airlines (yes this is a sales pitch).

Okay, at the Bamako airport, we were met by Aissata Ba and Cheikhna Somare, friends of a friend in Chicago. The fairytale was not over yet . . . we still had a few pages to go when we met Mrs. Ba, who lived in the ghetto in a mansion—beautiful mansion. Now, the term ghetto is a loose one. There were just no mansions nearby to match hers, nothing close at all—which is what she wanted. A Fulani, she liked open space.

We spent a day and a half there and then were one our way north to Timbuktu by was of Mopti, a city I might explore on subsequent visits.

Oh, I didn’t mention spending New Years in Saint Louis, the former capital of Senegal. Akan was the headliner that night. I was not impressed and left to walk around the island. Earlier I’d gone to the museum and Tracy and I went on a horse drawn carriage tour of the island. I thought it strange that the Muslims went back to using a bell to announce the prayers instead of the human voice. Strange indeed, when Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, specifically enlisted the services of former Ethiopian slave, Bilal ibn Rabah, for that purpose. His voice was so lovely; tears would steam from supplicants’ eyes.

Okay, so once Cheikhna dropped Tracy and I off at the bus station where we waited for close to six hours, but maybe only four for the bus to fill, all the magic had dissipated and we were back to breathing dusty air (smile). While seated in the waiting room—I jest, a bench somewhat out of the direct sun, I made some of my best deals on jewelry and wraps for my turbans I would wear for most of my time in Mali. All that was visible was my eyes. I had the man who sold me the fabric, 500 CFA a meter, to wrap my scarf for me. Folks were so used to the dirt and dust that they didn’t understand the concept—dirty, that dragging the fabric in the dust was a turn off. I bought orange, blue, white, tan, green and yellow. I should have bought black and red. My favorite color was the green. Everyone in Mali knows were you are from based on the wrap—the only folks sporting the turbans are those folks from the north were there is a lot of dust and yes, conflict.

Camels and motorbikes were the chosen mode of transport, oh and 4-wheel drives. I rode motorbike—burned my thigh the first ride and have a mark now where the hot pipe singed it. I was lost when I met Yacouba; my friend Tracy had been looking for a bank and I saw her ride by waving on a motorbike and when I asked the guys seated nearby was she returning and they said they didn’t know, so I decided to walk back to the Festival, how hard could that be, right?

I could find the main street that ran into the Festival, so I kept asking people on the street if I was headed back in the right direction. When Tracy returned she was worried I hadn’t—she’d left word for me to wait. So Yacouba gave me a lift back after taking me on a mini tour of his town Timbuktu. Oh, did I mention he spoke English, really spoke English?

It was helpful.

I loved it in the desert, minus the dust, which I never got used to. I need to visit Joshua Tree in Southern California, which is in the desert and Death Valley of course, just to compare the two.

If asked what I have learned most from traveling, I would have to say faith in the goodness of others and belief in the kindness of strangers. I do not have linguistic access to anything if English is not understood, but I have met really kind passengers on buses who will take my phone and talk to a friend on the other line who can explain to them where it is I am going.

Oh, a phone is a necessary purchase –at least for me, when traveling alone. It was great both Mali and Senegal used the same monetary and phone system. Gambia was a different system. I don’t know about Libya or Guinea, where I want to go next time. While in Saint Louis, Mauritania was just across the border. I met a Peace Corp volunteer and his mother while at one of the interchanges—I am not certain which one. We were on our way from Dogon to Djenné, which is where the largest mud brick or adobe building in the world is built. Now that was phenomenal.

The architecture in Mali is so different from that in Senegal and Gambia, which reminded me somewhat of the architecture in Haiti. If I saw any French colonial representations, it was more the palatial plantation style residences, now hotels and office buildings.

I have been meditating on friendship and what or how one defines friendship. Mouhammedou invited me my last week to a get together with friends he’d know since childhood; they trade off hosting the Friday evening gatherings—where they’d thikr or remember God’s blessings and pray for the community and for the world. Seated in the twilight, the sun traveling south on the horizon, I listened to the harmonies of the baritone and tenor and bass voices, rising and falling. I recognized some of the words from Qur’an others from prayers. It was so lovely, so healing, so refreshing.

Later, Mouhammadou introduced me to his friends and told me that they’d been getting together since youth on Fridays, at first to listen to music and kid around and then as they matured and started families they began to turn inward and look at developing their characters and polishing their souls. The women came with little ones after the lights came on—I think the electricity came back on (a running joke, it’s presence always a pleasant surprise).

The women dressed in finery brought laughter and more chatter and then food arrived on platters—I was so hungry and was so happy I could eat it: chicken and not red meat. We washed our hands and passed around the bread to use as a spoon and dug in. Mame Fatim, dressed so elegantly in a blue tie dyed dressed took Pape Lyle’s teething and vomiting in stride, wiping it up and off her garment. Other mother’s nursed, while one toddler walked the circle of men shaking everyone’s hand as a father played with his young daughter. We walked back to Mouhammadou or Pape’s house to get our computers and then went to the Cyber Café for a few hours to check email. I was just transferring pictured to my portable drive. I couldn’t do that at Pape’s house because the best plug was in his bedroom and I didn’t want to impose; the other had a short and as I said, electricity was iffy—one never knew where it would be shut off and for how long.

In Haiti, my friend Rea solved that problem by having her own generator and also using a combination with solar as well. She captured rain water for her plumbing and then used the gray water for the garden—clearing a woman before and of her times.

So faith and friendship. I don’t believe any of us can do anything alone—I am freefalling because I have faith that I will fall into someone’s open umbrella. Like my friend Yacouba said when asked how much he was going to charge me to take me to the Festival Gate, his kindness to me could be an opportunity, but even if it wasn’t he believed that goodness was its own reward.

I too think goodness is its own reward. Get the book Random Acts of Kindness and practice one a week for the semester and reflect on how it makes you feel. This semester we are looking at Women and Girls. Our assigned book is Half the Sky: a book written by a husband and wife that looks at how with education, health care and economic opportunity, women and girls are escaping the cycle of depravation and despair. There are more women and girls in the world, yet they control the least and it would take so little to address the ills which plague this population if we made it a priority.

I almost got to visit a prison in Mali. I had a two hour visit with a prison warden and saw the compound where the women, some mothers lived. There was a school, an infirmary, a place for the mothers with children zero to four years old, a stand where the women sold crafts they made. Yet, despite the activity, the rehabilitation took place after incarceration. Most of the women probably couldn’t read or write in their language, let alone, French. The prison also housed children. In Mali there was no system in place for orphans over five years old, so the children without guardians or runaways lived in the streets and often committed crimes to get picked up for shelter.

Aissata Ba, my friend, is from Northern Mali and has relocated an entire family to her home to save their girls from early marriage and exploitation. She is sending the children to school, has set the mother up in a micro-business or shop and employs the husband, paying all of them wages. The children are both engaged to be married: five and thirteen years old. The mother was married at thirteen with two miscarriages and her first child at fifteen. At twenty-eight, she said she feels so old. She had an infant tied to her back and another under foot. Aissata, who is also a radio personality, has already spoken to her about birth control pills and her neighbor is ready to take charge of her life with no resistance from her husband.

This is not always the case; however, this woman is lucky, then again, when one leaves the confines of one’s closed community, often one’s mind expands as one’s experiences are broadened. It really is the case often that people don’t do better because they honestly don’t know what their options are.

So we will read Half the Sky and students have the opportunity to choose a book of their own with the theme: friendship. I recommend: The Kite Runner, The Pact and Sula. All three books, one a memoir, the other two novels, look at friendship as a theme. However, if there is a book you like with a similar theme, let me see it before you commit to it. The essay connected to this assignment will probably be the midterm.

In English 201 we are also going to read the play, William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew. In English 1A, Greek playwright Aristophanes's Lysistrata. There will be a short cyber-assignment attached to it. I like the Barnes and Nobles series of Shakespeare books. I have copies made of Lysistrata which like Shakespeare is published on-line.

Lastly, students will have the opportunity to read a book about a women they admire who exemplifies the qualities of a social entrepreneur, a business woman or a woman who has used her life to better society in some way. The woman has to live in Northern Californian and be alive. This is the final paper.

The book we will start with is Stewart Pidd Hates English, Second Edition, by Gary Politt, Craig Baker. It is a workbook which for English 1A should be a refresher and for English 201 maybe, maybe not. For English 1A I plan to run through Pidd in six weeks, so get the book. For English 201, it depends on student competency. We will finish the book before the first big paper is due, the one on Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. We will use it to practice paraphrasing and summarizing; citations, that is signal phrases and block quotes, MLA for Works Cited, etc.

I like film and theatre and art galleries and music, so film trips will be proposed; it would be nice to go to a play together and maybe a film or concert. As I said, I am still waking up at 12 midnight ready to go and at 3 PM feeling like retiring. There is an eight hour difference between West Africa and here. Can you imagine leaving Dakar at 1:30 AM, Monday, January 17, 2011, arriving in Virginia at Dulles, at 4:30 AM and then heading for San Francisco at 8:40 AM arriving at 11:30 AM—the same Monday, January 17, 2011?

Time is certainly unreal when so much can happen in 24 hours—

My granddaughter’s birthday was Saturday, January 22. Now eight, she attended the COA childcare while my older daughter, Bilaliyah, went to school here. Bilaliyah is finishing up this semester at Cal State East Bay. We went to Build a Bear where Brianna and a few friends, and her aunt, my younger daughter, TaSin. The kids made a stuffed rabbit, a bear and a dog. On Friday at Bree’s school, Bilaliyah took cupcakes and a bouquet of balloons, one which sang, Happy Birthday. I’d never heard of singing balloons before. Tweetie Bird was cute (smile).

Homework: Getting to Know You Essay (smile)
Your first essay assignment is to look in your life for a woman you admire. In a short essay, 4-8 paragraphs, about 250 to 500 words, tell your audience a little about her, your relationship, that is, how you met, what you admire, and list four qualities or strengths you find inspiring about this woman and how knowing her has changed you for the better.

Be descriptive, we want to see, hear and feel this woman’s spirit. This paper is due January 31, 2011. This essay needs to be typed, 12 pt. font, double spaced, 1-inch margins. Bring in a printed copy of the essay to class to share. Oh, for the creative writers in the class, if you want to personify an inanimate object with female references like the planet earth or your favorite car, you can.

Cyber-Assignment 1
Your very first assignment due the first day is to respond to my letter (smile). Write me a letter this evening telling me about yourself, what you want to share, that is, what strengths you bring to the class and what you’d like to take away from the class and what I can do to help you achieve these goals. Indicate in the subject line the assignment and the course title (English 1A, English 201 A, English 201 B) and day/time. I am teaching two sections of English 1A and right now, one section of English 201 A/B,
a combined class, so if students do not indicate who they are I cannot sort by course, time, or class. Thanks! On Mondays and Wednesdays I teach from 8-10 AM and continue from 1 PM to 2:50 PM. I need to sort some things out re: assignments this semester before I can confirm office hours. My schedule is not what I planned last year, and I have to see the dean today to see what can be done with it.

My email address is for English 201:
For English 1A:

My office is D216. I just moved there, so I don’t know the office phone number, so call my cell which I will give you today. This is the best way to reach me. If you text me I might not see it (smile). I have a radio show and a column in a newspaper, so I am a working writer. This is not my only gig and so I need everyone to be an adult. I will not nag you about assignments and though I am flexible, within reason and respond to students who visit my office hours and notify me in advance when crisis happen, which they—crisis do happen, especially around the time an assignment is due, there are certain academic standards I will not compromise, so if life gets too complex, drop the course and try again when you have more time in your schedule to read and write.

We have a few long weekends, like President’s Day and then there is Spring Break. There might me a Staff Development Day. I have to check, but the prepared student does not wait to the last minute to start an assignment. I encourage students to have a personal blog for saving assignments on-line, that way if a student loses the paper copy or the travel drive, it’s not lost. Also, make a practice of emailing assignments, even in draft form to oneself.

Reading and writing are time consuming and students really can’t fake their way through the process. I am very very good at what I do, just put my name in a search engine and read about me. I can help those who are committed to improve their writing and critical thinking skills. Some students come to English 201 and English 1A underprepared. This is only a problem when said students refuse to put the extra effort into the class needed to bring their skill level up. I cannot write student papers for students. I wrote this seven page letter without notes in two hours and could have gone one for longer. I love academic engagement. I love talking to people who have prepared themselves by doing their research and have formulated ideas on a topic we are about to discuss. I am not easily bored or discouraged, but the success of the class depends on the kind of students we have in the course. Last semester, students in more than one class didn’t read the books and so in class we were limited in our discussions. In one class I dropped all the English 201B students.

Students who come to class late without their readings and homework are headed for failure. I hope everyone seated here is serious and plans to be around in May for that A or B or C or CR (edit). Some students are starting their college careers this semester, others need this course to graduate (smile).

Again, if you need a drill sergeant, I am not the one. I don’t lock doors. I am pleasant. I don’t yell or scream. I treat my students as adults and expect them to handle their business and be in class on time and alert and prepared each meeting. I expect students to communicate with me in advance if there is any problem re: assignment due dates. I expect students to not make excuses for themselves, rather be responsible, get their children to school before class time, to make appointments outside class time, to eat breakfast before class, lunch after class.

I am not easy, but I am good and you will learn how to write better than you do presently. For students who were in Honors English in high school, you don’t have to take English 201 and I think you can challenge English 1A; check this with you counselor. For former students, you might find the journey through Stewart Pidd again boring, I am perfectly fine if you drop this class for another. I found last semester that students in all my classes who didn’t do a Pidd refresher, had problems with simple essay structure and of course with the grammar associated with this.

What else? I am time challenged, so if I can be at the college early then you can be on time too. I encourage students to take advantage of college life, clubs and certainly support services such as the academic labs: Writing, ESL, Math, and Accounting—all located in the LRC or Learning Resource Center, the “L” building. The library is on the first floor. If this is your first semester take College Success, a three unit course.

Audio books are also an option. You can put the book in a listening device and listen to it as you work, so don’t overlook this option—you also need a physical copy for in-class discussions. I am talking about the three books on friendship. I don’t know how one takes notes or annotates when you listen to a book, but I’ll leave that for you to work out.

Good Luck and don’t forget to visit my office hour at least three times this semester: the first month, before or just after midterm and then week 16-17 before finals. More on office hours in the syllabus. We don’t have a sitting final. Student finals are an electronic portfolio. Visit (English 201) and (English 1A).

I will post notes from class lectures and homework there. This letter is posted there already and the syllabus. The assignment for the syllabus is to be posted there. We will meet once a week in an electronic classroom. We will also have a visit to the library for an orientation in February.

I like themes and so we will have an assignment and presentation on love to tie into Valentine’s Day and something on the anniversary of the War in Iraq and Afghanistan in March, not to mention International Women’s Day. There will be college activities next month, February, each Tuesday from 12 noon to 1 PM. If students attend they can have credit for that attendance if they write a short, 250 word response about the event. It is the College of Alameda’s 40th Anniversary year, so there will probably be many special events. If any student goes to any event at the college, said student will get class credit for attending if he or she writes something and turns it in. Email is fine, after a face to face discussion. Keep track of your extra credit assignments.

Textbook Recap:
Pollitt, Gary. Craig Baker. Stewart Pidd Hates English: Grammar, Punctuation, and Writing Exercises. Second Edition. California: Attack the Text Publishing, 2008. ISBN: 13: 978-0-9755923-4-2

Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

I’ll have the bookstore get copies of The Pact by Drs. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt with Lisa Frazier Page, Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and Sula by Toni Morrison, after we do a count and see who might want to read these selections. All the books are in the public library, perhaps even Peralta sister colleges, if not COA, Laney, Berkeley City or Merritt. If money is an issue use the public and institutional lending libraries for the books. Do not wait to the last minute to get the books. Several copies of Pidd are on reserve at the College of Alameda library. The book doesn’t circulate but there are about five copies on reserve.

Students need to choose a book by a woman author or about a woman, who lives here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Biographies and autobiographies are great. If you want to read a novel, let me see it first. Students will have a paper and a presentation based on the book. Choose one now and when we finish Half the Sky you can start reading it. The presentation and paper will be due in April.

I will give students more detailed essay assignments for each of the four essays: Half the Sky, Friendship or midterm, student selection, social entrepreneur.

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

Peace and Blessings,

Ms. Wanda Sabir, English Professor,
College of Alameda, Spring 2011

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