Making Gumbo

Sun, 10 Sep 2017

Too Tired To Work to Save the Soul of America?







Listen up, young people. I am flabbergasted to read that any of you “…are tired” to have to still fight racism, heterosexism, and intergroup bigotry of all types.

I am a 65 year old, dark-skinned black man. I have lived through the horrific time of legal-racial segregation, riots and assassinations. I have fought many fights for equality and justice for our humanity…

I am not yet tired because I cannot afford to be.

I can still hear the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: “At a certain point in every struggle of great importance, a moment of doubt or hesitation develops. Some voices declare, “Let us stop here, we have gone far enough… [But]… Let nobody stop you; you are doing something that will ultimately save the soul of America. If you continue to struggle, there will be a new day in America.”

We are, we have always been, in a struggle for the soul of America.

No one ever told me that the struggle for a true America would be easy or short.

No one should have ever told you, no one should have ever implied that the struggle for a true America had an endpoint.

Tired, you say. I cannot afford for you to be tired. I need you to be motivated to work.

America cannot afford for you to be tired.

Morris Deeds (80 years old) who founded the Southern Poverty Law Center cannot afford for you to be tired.

Reverend William Barber (53 years old) founder and leader of the new “Moral Monday” movement cannot afford for you to be tired.

In 1968, with some of his last public words, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead.”  And now in 2017 we see his prophecy come to dramatic life in Charlottesville, Va.

That is a call to gear up.

Tired? We need you to be disgusted and outraged about the bold display of white supremacists in Charlottesville. We must then turn that disgust and outrage into positive energy and motivation to get to work.

We still have some difficult days ahead. Sixty-five years old, but I am still not yet tired.

What are you prepared to do?

posted by Rupert  |   10:14 PM  |   0 comments
Sat, 15 Jul 2017

My novella “Something that Didn’t Happen” shortlisted by Brain Mill Press

Excited my novella “Something That Didn’t Happen” was shortlisted as one the best of the 2016 Driftless Unsolicited Novella Contest.

 Of late, students of mine have asked me, here and there, “…what will you do when you retire Dr. Nacoste?” And that time does draw nigh.

 But I will have no problems staying busy. I will continue to be an advocate for social justice, speaking and writing, pushing and prodding our nation toward our goal of a more perfect union.

 Although everyone knows I am an activist-scholar, only a few know that I am also a writer of fiction (Logan.

 Not, of course, full time. I am not working on any new fiction right now. But in the past, I have taken a couple of summers to do so and one product is my 150 page novella, “Something That Didn’t Happen.”

  In my novella “Something That Didn’t Happen” Ro-bear travels back to his childhood home of Opelousas, Louisiana to try to recover and understand a vague memory of a mysterious event from his teenage years.

 ’He had a memory of something that didn’t happen.’

 Called back to Opelousas by his old Holy Ghost High School classmate Soothsayer, the memory, the event Ro-bear is traveling to confront occurred in 1965 Louisiana and is the centerpiece of the story; a story within the story.

 In that “story within the story,” we see the world of Louisiana Jim-Crow through the adolescent eyes of “The Seven,” Ro-bear, Ironhorse, Delores, Soothsayer, Dice, Kool-Aid and Ghost.  And we experience an alternate American history where there are actual, physical, giant walls of racial segregation.

 Called to a battle that will determine the direction of civil rights history, we see these seven black teenagers struggle to avoid a coming confrontation with dark supernatural forces that will arrive in the 1965 hurricane named Betsy.  But we also see the Seven helped to face their task by a classroom experience of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, along with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions’ song “People Get Ready,” and by the guidance of Ro-bear’s grandfather Raphael Malveaux who is a Creole shaman. With that help “The Seven” grow strong enough to come together to fight the dark forces that try to keep people down and keep racial hate alive.

 Last June, I submitted my novella to the Driftless Unsolicited Novella Contest sponsored by Brain Mill Press. In the announcement of the 2016 contest results, Brain Mill Press has shortlisted my novella as one of the best submitted.

 With that strong encouragement, I’ll start looking for a publisher. This leads to me think that in my retirement, when that time does come maybe I will find some small success in writing fiction. Who knows?

 Here is the Brain Mill Press announcement of the winning and shortlisted novellas to 2016 Driftless Unsolicited Novella contest:


posted by Rupert  |   8:03 PM  |   0 comments
Tue, 11 Jul 2017

Millennials, Me and David Brooks

I am sick and tired of hearing people through around stereotypes of today’s young adults; so called “millennials.” 

 Today’s young adults are not of poorer character, not weaker, than other generations have been. Those who say so are ignoring the fact that the social forces in today’s young adults’ lives are not the same as has been for other generations.

 In fact, I keep saying we are setting young people up. We are under preparing young people for the challenges of our nation’s neo-diversity, which includes the impact of new technologies. We are undermining young people’s ability to develop an adaptable skill set. 

 I have been saying all that for some time. Well, here is another voice saying some of the same things.  In a recent column, David Brooks wrote:

 “…one of the oddest phenomena of modern life [is] childhood is more structured than it has ever been, but then the great engine of the meritocracy spits people out into a young adulthood that is less structured than it has ever been.”

 Mr. Brooks goes on to say: “When I graduated from college, there was a finite number of career ladders in front of me… Now college graduates enter a world with 4 million footstools. There are many more places to perch…but few of the footstools pay a sustaining wage, seem connected with the others or lead to a clear ladder of rungs to climb upward.”

 Then Mr. Brooks makes his major point: “And how do we as a society prepare young people for this uncertain phase?  We pump them full of vapid but haunting praise about how talented they are and how their future is limitless.”

 And there you have it.  Limitless, you see, is a far greater truth that it used to be, and that is not all positive.  I have been pointing out, and Mr. Brooks seems to agree with me when he writes:

“Before there were social structures that could guide young adults as they gradually figured out the big questions of life. Now, those structures are gone.”

 Social structures?  I mean do people even remember “Blockbuster Videos,” “Borders Bookstores”?  And now Sears is fading away; whole malls are closing down all over America.

 That is the challenge young adults face today that no other generation has ever faced. No, Millennials are not whiny, weak, cry-babies. Today’s young adults are living in a new and newly unstructured work-life situation.  And Mr. Brooks is right about the psychology of that new work-life situation when he writes:

“Young people are confronted by the existential questions right away. They’re going to feel lost if they have no sense of what they’re pointing toward…”

 I say, it’s no wonder that all of a sudden a new word has been introduced to the American vocabulary and its, “adulting.”  And the given word is, “adulting is hard.”

 Look, to manage the new work-life situation, a more flexible and nimble skill-set will be required from here on. Psychologically, the first part of that skill set must be awareness of this new situation.  And that awareness must include understanding that much of what your well-meaning elders tell you is the answer doesn’t fit the shaky, wobbly, earth-quaking-with-change 21st century situation of the world of work.

 And to be of any help to young people, those of my generation, the elders, must accept, admit and tell that truth.

 Reference: David Brooks (2017, June 25), “How today’s youth navigate their 20s.” News & Observer (p. 17A).

 New York Times (post):



posted by Rupert  |   11:13 PM  |   0 comments
Mon, 03 Jul 2017

American Eclipse and America’s Long Struggles With Bigotry






No part of our history is untouched by the one-time American enslavement of African peoples.

 That thought flashed into my mind as I began to read “American Eclipse” by David Baron.

 From my summer book stack I picked up American Eclipse to break away (for a little while) from my summer reading of fiction.

 American Eclipse is a non-fiction book about early American astronomers and their attempt to observe and measure the effects of the total eclipse of the sun in 1898. Within two pages of reading, in setting the context for the lives of astronomers at that time, the author talks about the civil war ending and that end motivating scientists to get to work.

 Nothing in the psychology of American enterprise is uninfluenced by the one-time enslavement of African peoples, was the second flash of thought I had.

 To see, observe and measure the effects of the eclipse of 1898, meant heading to the then still somewhat untamed West where people yet remembered George Armstrong Custer’s attempt to eradicate Indians and people still talked about “Indian savages.” 

 No part of our history is untouched by the unfair, genocidal treatment of American Indians. Yep, that flashed through my mind as I read.

 I went on, learning the history of American astronomy, enjoying the writing, enjoying the well-written story that includes the inventor Thomas Edison, among other inventors and scientists interested in the eclipse.  That included a name I didn’t know because, well because this person was a “woman scientist”: Maria Mitchell

Another flash: Nothing in the psychology of the American enterprise is uninfluenced by the too long resistance to acknowledging the powerful intellect of women.

 If you are at all interested in early American scientific endeavors of astronomy (and a bit about early meteorology), “American Eclipse,” is a fun, five-star read. Stories of the real lives and motivations of a bunch of eclipse obsessed scientists; their technological challenges and human adventures leading up to their chance to observe the 1898 total eclipse that could be observed from America.

 You see, “American eclipse” is not about any of my flashes; not the enslavement of Africans, not the stealing of land and life from American Indians, not demeaning views of women. But those are part of the context of America even in a book about early American astronomy.

 In American Eclipse, there are statements people made in 1898 that are the same statements people make today about blacks, American Indians and women. That is why it is more than fair to say that nothing in the psychology of our 21st century is uninfluenced by our histories of intergroup bigotries.

Yet, know this too: Nothing in our American psychology has been so profound, and important, as discounted peoples pushing through, and defeating, America’s too many intergroup bigotries.

posted by Rupert  |   8:01 PM  |   0 comments
Fri, 30 Jun 2017

The Fireman





Joe Hill’s “The Fireman” is a good read.

This time by fire the apocalypse has come; a bacterial contagion that causes humans to burst into flames. A human conflagration that becomes a story of the horror of the breakdown of human society through a rise of human fear of other humans, abandonment of kindness, hard survival of some who have learned to control the flame of self-fear.

In the story telling, there were lovely bits of literary genuflections in the writing of Joe Hill (son of Stephen King); genuflections to popular music, to ‘The Lord of the Rings,” to “Harry Potter” and genuflections even to poetry. 

 Characters, people who struggling to survive are talking and not always understanding each other.

 “I really don’t understand,” Harper said. “What Allie just said… it has poetry in it, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense.”

 “That’s what poetic speech is for—for the things that are true but don’t make sense. For the rough beast and the widening gyre,’ Renee said.”

 Reading lets my soul rest in the fiery poetry of life imagined.


posted by Rupert  |   7:43 PM  |   0 comments
Wed, 28 Jun 2017

Jam on the Vine






We are not the first generation of Americans to be fighting to claim the rights of full citizenship.

Yet, I know that right now some are struggling with the question of “how” to work for change against what may sometimes feel like insurmountable odds. I know that is a struggle because young people ask me for guidance; what can I do Dr. Nacoste?

 I just finished reading an important novel; “Jam on the Vine,” by LaShonda K. Barnett. A story of “colored people” in Jim-Crow East Texas, that begins in 1897.  Our heroine, Ivoe, is a curious, intelligent child.

 “After May-Belle, Papa and them, Ivoe loved books best. Books were a friend to anyone who opened them.”

 Her eargerness to read, her intelligence noticed and encouraged by a teacher, and through the help of people in her community Ivoe gets and takes a chance on education beyond high school. Narrow though that education was for a black woman, Ivoe learned all she could.  Later, beyond that education, strong willed and focused Ivoe eventually founded one of the early newspapers of the black press (really only a newsletter at first

But this is no fairy-tale. For Ivoe, even finding romantic love was a risky long shot. But Ivoe does find it with another woman, Ona, who became Ivoe’s hope, challenger, friend, co-worker, companion and lover. About Ivoe’s ambitions to make a difference, Ona has the insight that “…a dream without love is the most dangerous weapon in the world.”

 Ivoe ‘s family was her first emotional foundation. Her parents were firm, loving and imperfect. Lemon, her mother, a Muslim-African who early on cleans houses for a white family, but ends up developing her own business cooking tomato and fig jams. Ennis, Ivoe’s father, is a big, dark-skinned man who works as an iron-smith, dotes on his children (Ivoe, Timbo her borther, Irabelle her sister). Ennis, though, grows weary of Jim-Crow and leaves the family in the hope (futile in that time) of finding a better place for them in America

You see, Ivoe’s world is disheartening, vulgar, with vicious racial hate around every corner. Ivoe has to live through and see too much inequality and hot, violent, racial-hate aimed at black people. As she begins her work, Ivoe herself is accosted and beaten by police for what she writes in her newspaper.

 Yet with her education and focus, through it all, Ivoe finds a role; she finds a way to be of some use; she finds her voice.  That is what makes the novel more than a novel. Lyrical in the writing, strong, vivid, heart wrenching and compelling in the storytelling, profound it the racial history of America it reviews, this book becomes a call to us all.

Find your way to make a difference in our difficult days. And no, we should not all be doing the same things at the same time. As was true in Ivoe’s time, many different hands are needed to make the work effective, to change the story we are living.

 In that way, Ivoe’s story can be a motivator. Ivoe’s story, you see, is an example. Yes, this is a fiction, but a fiction crafted from our American history in which strong and determined persons found ways to make a positive difference.

 Ivoe’s story shows that even in the darkest hours of America’s racial nightmare, there was something that could be done. Many different people found large and small roles to participate in working for social justice

 We are still in the fight. There is still much work to do. For a little motivation read “Jam on the Vine.”

posted by Rupert  |   5:56 PM  |   0 comments
Thu, 22 Jun 2017

Teaching about neo-diversity matters





2006 is the year I coined the concept of neo-diversity. And that year was the first year I began teaching my course the is grounded by and centered on the idea of neo-diversity; this time, circumstance where in America we all have to encounter and interact with people not like us on some dimension.  Attached to the concept is the idea that neo-diversity can cause interpersonal anxiety that can become volatile.

 What difference does my course make in the lives of my students?  June 2017, a student wrote to me to tell me.  She wrote:

 For me, your course truly opened my eyes. I was aware of hate acts occurring across the nation- I would witness them myself, experience the hate, or see it on the news. But I viewed this all with such a tunnel vision. I saw these hate acts as isolated events and foolishly taught that only racists or extremists committed these acts. And as a result, though these events would upset me, I did not take them as seriously and view them as being detrimental to our society. Your class changed me to having more of a funnel view.  Becoming aware of why bigotry still exists really altered my perspective. Besides helping me in my own life, understanding hibernating bigotry in a neo-diverse America has reinforced why [incidents of bigotry like the lynching of a black teddy bear outside of a high school] should be taken very seriously.”

 Turns out, teaching about neo-diversity does matter. Here is a link to my full Psychology-Today essay on that point:

posted by Rupert  |   8:47 PM  |   0 comments