Saturday, August 18, 2012


Letter of Introduction

Letter of Introduction
17 August 2012

Dear Students:

Today is the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s birthday. Born in St. Anne’s Parish in Jamaica, he is perhaps the most influential black leader of the 20th century. I hosted a radio show this morning from home (programmed two hours earlier to accommodate Staff Dev.), before waking my nephew at 7 AM, pouring his cereal into a bowl, slicing a banana and taking the almond milk out of 'fridge and placing all of this, plus a spoon and a napkin on a silver tray, all the while continuing my conversation with my radio guest (smile).

Michael Ross, curator of the exhibit: "Race: Art Before Answers," ( never knew (smile). After my concluding remarks, I played on a song: Umoja’s “Yesterday’s Lettuce”—quite an image right? Put the phone which had been on mute on speaker as well, told Chris to take his cereal to the car, set the alarm, raced out the door and headed for the campus.

We were 5 minutes late.

I usually write a letter to students each semester, kind of an ice breaker—humanizing perhaps for students or faculty who really believe they walk on water (smile). This teacher doesn’t even swim, but she does love a good aerobic workout in the pool—Zumba, anyone? Ramadan ends this weekend as well—I didn’t fast, so I fed quite a few hungry people in Timbuktu, Republic of Mali and near Jack London Square I gave a woman, clearly high who asked for money for a burger. When my friend and I said we’d walk with her up to Nation’s, she said she wanted to get on a bus and sleep—that she was pregnant and tired. She was so full of game, she was lost on the board (smile). I couldn’t find any money so went to the ATM nearby and gave her a $20.00 bill and my good wishes. My friend said, she might not have noticed that it was a $20, she was so high. I hope she counts her change, but I’d already released that energy.

I hope your summer was fun and exciting and that you are prepared for classes. I’m sure, especially if you attended summer school, that this semester came sooner than anticipated. I taught English 1A this summer, so I feel rested and almost ready for the new academic year (smile).

My plan was to get this letter or at least the syllabus with the books we'd be using listed, so those of you who wanted to buy books on or Amazon -- a cheaper option than the college book store would be able too--that idea is gone, unless you use expedited shipping.

This semester we are back to looking at Tupac Shakur's life and the circumstances, some beyond his control that shaped the man and artist he became. A wordsmith, he certainly let the life he witnessed (often first hand) inform the palate he painted from. Not perfect, he like other young men felled before they reached maturity never had the opportunity to truly reflect on his life and make the transformation those who knew him well, knew he was capable of. Yet, for the flawed spirit journeying he was, certainly his life was absolutely remarkable and instructive, which is why he lives today and is the subject of scholarly discourse in books we will read such as
Michael Eric Dyson’s Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, Jasmine Guy's Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary, and Tupac Shakur's The Rose that Grew from Concrete. We will also use Diana Hacker's Rules for Writers and Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein's They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing.

I saw most of these books in the campus book store this week. I didn't see They Say or Stewart Pidd Hates English.

Many young people and elders too, find Tupac's work inspiring. Many also confuse the artist's vast work with his life. They see his work as solely autobiographical, rather then that of a gifted man who was creative. We will read scholarly work by Michael Eric Dyson.

We give human attributes to time, like “time runs, flies, and is fleeting,” time actually moves the same or not at all—maybe we’re the ones who are moving, our cosmic body of water this thing called time—invisible with visible consequences—lines, aches, sadness.

However we define this illusive phenomena—time, we need to make the most of our brief flash in the universe or on this planet earth. Given the finite nature of life, if we don’t take advantage of the time—I am intentionally redundant, to refine the talents we have been given or developed to get from here to yonder we might look up years later, older but no wiser.

Obviously, your presence in this classroom means you respect the passage of time and have decided to actively engage this process by not passively letting it pass you by. Your presence, says to me that you want to be an active not passive observer in this phenomena—aging, developing, growing, deteriorating. Each moment, we die a little, so this writing, this active engaging of oneself in one’s life is like planting a stake on the moon, a stake that says, I am here, I was here, and I will be here, even after I am no longer visible.

Life is a gift; we don’t want to waste it. That said, you might be here under duress. Sometimes life circumstances dictate that we try new activities, change old ways and develop more positive habits. Reflection, in the form of reading and writing is one of the most productive ways to spend one’s time, especially when one is trying to figure out what one plans to do with this finite time each of us has been given.

Well, before my 10 minutes on the computer are up let me tell you a bit about this semester and what you can expect:

The theme is hip hop culture in its purest form, by this I mean hip hop from its inception or the roots of the genre or musical form. In a few classes—I teach four classes, three preps: English 201, English 1A and English 1B, we explore the life of Tupac Shakur, a controversial, charismatic and creative architect in this movement. We will read books about him, reflect on him in our research and look for other artists who are also using their craft to better society—

Hip hop culture has influenced youth globally, and in my English 1B we will reflect on this global movement via the various aesthetic forms of expression: poetry, music, dance, theatre, spirituality, politics, visual arts, and media such as photography and journalism.

Though you might find the class fun, or entertaining, we are scholars, so the music and the videos, even the fieldtrips to concerts, all have a written component—the discourse is documented in what is called essays—short 250 word reflections and longer pieces depending on the assignment. We will have some assignments due on-line on the class blog called cyber-assignments and others will be due in class.

My office is D-219. I will give you my cell phone number. Office hours will probably be Monday-Wednesdays between 9-11 AM and perhaps Tuesdays-Thursdays after after 3:20 PM by appointment. I am not on campus on Fridays.

We will meet in a classroom in the A-bldg. with technology on Thursdays for the M-Th, T/Th classes. More on this later.

English 1A Composition and Reading (2 classes)

Class code: 400002 Lec 08:00-8:50 AM MTWTh Sabir meets in A 202 at COA
Class code: 400008 Lec 11:00-11:50 AM MTWTh Sabir meets in C113 at COA

English 1B Composition and Reading
Class code: 400009 Lec 09:00-10:50 AM TTh Sabir meets in A 200 at COA

English 201A Preparation for Composition and Reading
Class code: 40018 Lec 01:30-3:20 AM TTh Sabir meets in A 200 at COA

English 201B Preparation for Composition and Reading (meets concurrently with English 201A)
Class code: 40022 Lec 01:30-3:20 AM TTh Sabir meets in A 200 at COA

I highly recommend SPHE. It is required for English 201 and English 1A. Deceptively simple, the book is useful for all college writing levels as a refresher and also as an introduction to essay writing for college. SPHE gives students the language to talk about their writing and the skills to intentionally produce competent essays.

Students analyze the character Stewart Pidd’s essays and grade his essays by critiquing this work in essays they compose. The authors tell students how to write these essays and the assignments are prescriptive. Many essays are written in class and the exercises are also run in class. The book grows more complex as skills increase.

I received good feedback on the text from some of my more accomplished writers in English 1A over the years. Many still hate it though, and other students say they learned a lot about writing that they hadn’t know before. We are literally going to whiz through Pidd in English 1A. We will decide during the first two weeks if we need to complete Pidd or if student writing is up to standard already.

I have no tolerance for sloppy writing. Sloppy writing, my definition, is not writing that is illegible. Everything submitted formally is typed. No, sloppy writing is writing that is so drafty one needs a winter coat. There are grammatical errors left unchecked such as comma splices, run-on sentences, misspelled words, vague pronouns, subject-verb disagreement (smile), parallel structure errors, confused words, contractions, too many be-verbs and be-verb constructions like present participles, expletives, passive voice, subject complements, problems with comparisons. . . . All of this is covered in SPHE.

If English 1A fails the pre-tests, then we will run SPHE first. In English 201, we will definitely run SPHE first. We will use film, Rose and perhaps Evolution to liven up the often dull Pidd. Grammar is not exciting, but it is necessary.

We will start with the Jasmine Guy book and Tupac's collection of poetry, just because these books are easier to read. We will conclude with Dr. Dyson. I usually start with Dyson, students will have to let me know how this new system works.

The fourth book will be student choice. The book can be an autobiography or fiction related in some way thematically to our discussions this semester: personal transformation, choice vs. destiny, hip hop culture, the hero's journey, education for liberation, social movements like the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, Art for Social Change.

We will complete the first two books in the first month, then complete the last two books over a month as well, leaving the final month for research. The final paper is to identify and profile a social entrepreneur.

Keep all of your work, this is a portfolio based class. More on this later.

Academic Blogs
Here is a link to older posts in this topic (English 1A)

English 201

English 1B (academic blog)

I have not forgotten you (smile). In English 1B, we are not using Hip Hop culture as a theme. I have in the past, but not this semester. Students in this class will look at women's writing. The books have been used in past semesters, so you can check the academic blog for content.

We are practicing skills which you developed in English 1A. The difference is we are looking at literature and analyzing other genres, in our case: poetry, fiction and dramatic literature. I will be looking at the writing, but more than this I will be paying attention to the scholarship, which is why each essay has to include a citation from a scholarly article—4-10+ pages.

Your essays can use multiple styles . . . be creative. However, I need to know that you know how to write an essay, so save the creative work for last (smile). And if you plan to deviate from the norm, don’t surprise me, share the idea with me first.

We are going to read a book or play every few weeks. We start with short fiction and then move into a novel, dramatic literature, another novel, a poetry unit, which involves group research and a presentation. The final essay and presentation are due the final two weeks of class.

The selection can be two short poems or a longer one, a novel, another play or a short story.

Short Story
1. The Dance Boots by Linda Legarde Grover is the text for the short story unit. Each unit includes the definitive essay, plus in-class writing, group writing and blog assignments.

The Novel
2. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok and The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is the text for the fiction unit (2 essays), plus a film.

Dramatic Literature:
3. Ruined or some other selection (handout).

Poetry Unit
5. Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian Poetry edited by Neelanjana Bannerjee, Summi Kaipa, and Pireeni Sundaralingam

6. Final essay –student choice re: literature (book)

Textbooks Recap for English 1B:

Gardner, Janet E. Writing about Literature: A Portable Guide. Second Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

Grover, Linda Legarde. The Dance Boots. Athens, Georgia and London: The University of Georgia Press, 2010. Print.

Kwok, Jean. Girl in Translation. New York: Riverhead Books, 2010. Print.

Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Pantheon Books, 2007. Print. ISBN 0375714839

Bannerjee, Neelanjana and Summi Kaipa, Pireeni Sundaralingam. Ed. Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian Poetry. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2010. Print.

Students need a grammar/style text book. I recommend.
Hacker, Diane. Rules for Writers. 6-7th Editions. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martins. Print.

A college dictionary. I recommend American Heritage.

Textbook Recap for English 1A

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

Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birenstein. They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, Second Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010. Print.

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

Hacker, Diane. Rules for Writers. 6-7th Editions. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martins. Print.

Pollitt, Gary, and Craig Baker. Stewart Pidd Hates English: Grammar, Punctuation, and Writing Exercises. Fullerton: Attack the Text Publishing, 2011. Print.

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

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

Textbook Recap for English 201

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

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

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

Pollitt, Gary, and Craig Baker. Stewart Pidd Hates English: Grammar, Punctuation, and Writing Exercises. Fullerton: Attack the Text Publishing, 2011. Print.

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

It might seem as if I am the absent-minded professor, but I am no Fred MacMurray (actor). I expect students to come to class prepared, to be respectful of differing opinions, to not waste our time pontificating. Contributions to the discourse are welcome especially those comments that expand and further the discussion. It is fine sometimes to listen and ask questions.

Shuluo Fu
22 August 2012
English 201A

Hi Sabir
I am wandering do I need to pose my assignment on the comment?
Jorge A. Rodriguez
Professor Sabir
English 201A
28 august 2012

The author Mortimer J. Adler in the article “How to Mark a book” is giving a point of view of the benefits of marking a book and also give reasons of why people may be against it or just choose not to do it. Sitting down reading a book is a good way to pass time, but do people really retain information and comprehend what they read? Marking a book keeps you on point and demands the reader to pay attention to the piece of literature they are reading. While marking a book a person underlines or puts stars next to a word they don’t know or simply because the sentence they read may be the theme of the book or it’s just a sentence they believe is interesting. Whatever the reason the reader needs to be alert because the markings they place on their book is for them to understand what they are reading and if they only write nonsense its really no help for them and they are only hurting themselves. There are some who believe marking a book is vandalizing the book that the only writing on the book should be what’s already printed on its pages. Other people say taking your time to stop get a pencil or pen write your thoughts down then continue reading takes up to much time and extends the reading process of a book. Overall like any other issue there are people who believe in something and then there are people against it at the end of the day it’s what people prefer.
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