Making Gumbo

Sat, 20 Jul 2019

Dr. Nacoste Speaks Against “America… Love it or Leave it” Bigotry

America… love it or leave it!

How have we come to this level of bigotry and hate for America’s neo-diversity? How have we ended up having this bigotry shouted from the office of the Presidency?

Back in 2013, my students said I “had to” do a TED talk about neo-diversity. Pushed by my pushy students, I did nineteen (19) minute TEDxNCSU talk with the title, “Speaking Up For Neo-diverse America.” I started that talk singing, yes singing “America the beautiful.” That was my way of getting the listeners to begin to really evaluate “….love it or leave it” bigotry.

My TEDxNCSU talk came to mind because of President Trump’s recent immoral and bigoted statements saying to other Americans “… if they don’t like it here, go back where you came from…”

In that TEDx talk I say that too many Americans have bought the sales pitch of “America the beautiful” and so don’t want to hear about the injustices we have done and do. Having let the sales pitch influence them to buy an unrealistic, shiny image of America, when someone points out our real and ongoing dirty American engine problems of injustice, those who have bought the sales pitch say “America… love it or leave it.”

That has never, and will never, work.

If you’re interested in my TEDxNCSU talk, here’s the link:

posted by Rupert  |   1:41 PM  |   1 comments
Sat, 13 Jul 2019

Appalachian College Association Calls on Neo-Diversity Expert Dr. Nacoste

Neo-diversity in Appalachia?

Since 2006 I have been saying, lecturing, writing essays and books to herald that America is in the midst of a struggle with its neo-diversity.

Everywhere in America, all across America people are trying to understand and manage neo-diversity; this new interpersonal situation in which we all have to encounter and sometimes interact with people who do not look like, sound like, worship like or love like, “us.”

There has been no better confirmation of that for me than my being invited and hired to be the lead-instructor for the Appalachian College Association 2019 Summer Teaching and Leadership Institute, June 3-7.

When I got the first email, I didn’t know, had never heard of the Appalachian College Association. I found out that, “The Appalachian College Association is a non-profit consortium of 35 private four-year liberal arts institutions located in the central Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.”

Why did the Association want me to lead the institute?  Well it turns out that the theme for the institute was “Diversity and Engaged Teaching.” Having learned about the content of one of my books, and my reputation as a classroom professor, the organizers were especially interested in my work on neo-diversity in the classroom and on college campuses.

You see those small (900 to 1000 student) campuses were beginning to realize that in every classroom there are people with different group identities whether those identities could be seen or not. They realized that the effectiveness of their teaching was being diminished when they did not take that mix into account in their classrooms. My job was to lay out strategies for their neo-diverse classroom teaching.

I spent a week at Emory & Henry College (Emory, VA) leading college professors through teaching workshops and workshops on facilitating difficult conversations. Participants’ responses to my teaching leadership were positive and powerful.

I went from thinking that this would be “interesting” to feeling truly excited. I began to realize that with a group of college professors from 15 or so different Appalachian institutions, the experience of learning about, being engaged about neo-diversity would now be rippling out into the whole of the Appalachian College Association campuses.

I had a really good time with this group of college professors who teach in Appalachia.


posted by Rupert  |   9:34 PM  |   0 comments
Wed, 07 Nov 2018

Ghosts of the Yellow Dog: A Poetic Homage to August Wilson and his Piano Lesson

They rises up

fierce and strong.

They rises up

‘cause it’s been too long.

They rises up

‘cause nobody sings the song

of that terrible wrong.


When they comes back

it’s always at night.

When they comes back

it ain’t for no Halloween fright.

When they comes back

it’s to take away

one of those who stood by

and let them burn like hay.


Yeah you see

when those klu kluxers set that boxcar on fire

some colored mens was locked in thar.

I know some says that stories as flat as a tire.

But I got no reason to give you a scare.

I’m gone tell the truth.

It’s the only way to be fair.


You could hear ‘em…

oh… yes you could.

First just-a banging on that doe…

Then they started to scream and yell.

Sounded awful,

just awful, I’m here to tell.


That fire set off a high bright light.

And the rest of the white people came to see the sight.

But not one would help,

not even when they heard them men yelp.

This was sumpen’ evil,

sumpen’ straight out of hell.

Nobodied even ring the fire bell.


So now…

now they come; yes they do.

And when they come

there’s always a sound

You might think it was a train whistle

Or the howl of a hound.


But oh lord…

when they rises from that bog,

they comes through

a smoky yellow fog.

And all I know…

all I know…

is that it’s the ghosts of the yellow dog.


Published in The Blotter Magazine, November 2018

posted by Rupert  |   12:25 PM  |   0 comments
Sat, 04 Aug 2018

My most surprising read of the summer; DREAD NATION by Justina Ireland.


War Between the States is ended because of the sudden appearance of Zombies; Shamblers.

I was skeptical. Sounded a bit gimmicky. But I was drawn to it by the book cover.  A young black woman dressed, literally to kill; carrying a sickle.

Blacks, you see, “negroes,” are put in schools to be trained to fight, to protect whites from these shamblers. So that young woman on the cover must be the hero of the story.

I was intrigued, but still skeptical when I bought it, and put it on my bookshelf.  Then one day, I picked it up, looked at the cover, opened to the first page, read the first line and two days later was done.

Zombies in the time of confederacy yes, but used as a way to show the psychology of slavery and the bravery and genius of resistance.

A novel that is surprising because it is so subversive. Catching you off guard because it could be a frivolous zombie-novel but isn’t with its insistence in making the reader think about the problems of slaveholding yes, but also the problems created by the whole psychological-walls that a society must build to make it work, and the psychology it leaves lingering in its aftermath.

Subversive by making the reader think about the inner decay of the whole social structure by simply hinting, mentioning, all the groups that get put into the category of “other” to support white supremacy.

Subversive by making the reader think about how unsustainable the “othering” is because humans will always strive for freedom.

Subversive in showing that ever persistent striving for freedom by using small but powerful bits of the language of the modern civil rights struggle: “Survival… by any means necessary.”

Subversive by making the heroine a young, educated, biracial, mocha-skinned African American girl.

All that in an entertaining, exciting, scary, fast-moving story.

Whether you are a reader of young-adult fiction or not, I highly recommend my most surprising read of the summer, the novel DREAD NATION

posted by Rupert  |   1:42 PM  |   0 comments
Wed, 11 Jul 2018

Calling the Cops to Calm One’s Neo-Diversity Anxiety

Lately, and too often, white people have been calling the police on black people who…

…are two men sitting in Starbucks waiting for a friend…

…were children selling bottled water…

…is a graduate student who fell asleep at a table in the graduate residence where she lived…

…is a twelve-year old black boy delivering papers on his new paper route…

If you have been wondering why this has been happening so often, despite the Starbucks approach, the answer is not “unconscious bias.” That overlooks the real problem.

Our history of segregation is haunting us filling people with uncertainty and anxiety about being in proximity to and having to encounter other Americans “not like me.”  The real problem, you see, is that denied, unmanaged and panic-inducing neo-diversity anxiety.

Here’s my full analysis:


posted by Rupert  |   1:28 PM  |   0 comments
Sun, 01 Jul 2018

College E-Advisers: Day-Breakers

There is always good being done in the world. Not covered by “Breaking News”, there is always good work being done by day-breakers.

Monday (June 25th), at UNC-Chapel Hill I spoke to a group of new College E-Advisors. I was with this group for the first day of their training because of my former student Gabrielle Barnes.

College E-Advisers?  Turns out NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill has created and provides finance support (as in salaries, work places and spaces) to a college advising corps. Their job, to help students in high poverty schools learn about how to, and prepare to, get into and go to college. One component of that advising corps is a set of advisers who work with students remotely, through video-chats, email, texting.

I was with this year’s group of new E-Advisors to alert them to the social interaction challenges they must prepare for that comes with electronic communications.  I was there to alert them to the fact that those challenges will happen in a neo-diversity context; that they will be trying to help, mentor young people who are “…not like them,” which might cause the advisors to experience neo-diversity anxieties that might make the social interactions less than productive.

I was there to “…shake them up,” so they would not take too much for granted about how these neo-diverse social interactions might go. They were receptive, after the usual initial shock at my dramatic opening.

I wanted to get their attention because I wanted to help, and I also wanted them to know that I believe their work is important. I wanted them to know I see them as day-breakers, a la the Arna Bontemps poem, “The Day-Breakers.”

“We are not come to wage a strife with swords upon this hill.

It is not wise to waste a life against a stubborn will.

Yet would we die as some have done.

Bearing a way for the rising sun.”

I was honored to be able to work with this group of young day-breakers who want to help other young people get to college and be productive students. We had a good time. In fact, Gabrielle told me that some of the advisers asked about how to invite me to their respective alma maters. See, this is how I “…get in trouble.”

No matter the day, no matter the “Breaking News,” there is always good being done in the world.

Look for your chance to be a part of that good in your social world, in large and small ways. It all matters. Small moves matter.

Dawn is coming.

posted by Rupert  |   10:41 PM  |   0 comments
Tue, 26 Jun 2018

MEM by Bethany C. Morrow

What if you could have a traumatic memory extracted from your memory bank?

What if after having that memory extracted you went on with life as if whatever you had experienced you no longer knew anything about?

Would that be a good thing?  Those are the questions asked and answered in a stunning new novel of speculative fiction by Bethany C. Morrow.

The answers are not easy especially when the memory extracted actually takes on your physical form at the time of the experience. And that physical form of you, that MEM, exists, and must be housed somewhere, for some time, as is the case with our heroine Delores Extract 1.

That idea just adds to the questions about the meaning, power and importance of a memory.

In my teaching about relationships, I show my students that trying to forget a relationship is not the way to go because each relationship experience teaches us something and can make us stronger. Hard as it can be to remember, I believe that.  I know it hard, but I know too that there are always lessons that can strengthen us. The author of MEM believes it too.  At one point she says:

“The extraction [of the memory] abandoned her to be just as she had been before, unprepared to cope with subsequent traumas.”

Insightful and surprising, this is a short (178 page) novel that is piercing; with beautiful writing, a meditative and emotional story, unforgettable (so to speak).

posted by Rupert  |   8:52 PM  |   0 comments