Friday, February 14, 2014

Dr. Tony Monteiro speaks to the press re Temple University firing of him and Dr. Muhammad Ahmed

Dr. Tony Monteiro


/FEBRUARY 12, 2014/



We are gathered here, because justice demands it. We, Black labor, the
Black faith based community, scholars, academics, students and youth,
the grass roots community and philanthropic organizations, are here to
speak truth to power and to make it clear we will not be turned around.
We insist without justice there cannot be peace. We, in one sense, are
here because I have been fired and to call upon the President of Temple
University to reverse Dean Soufas’ revenge and retaliatory action
against me and my colleague Dr Maxwell Stanford.

This firing was preceded by a series of actions that if directed towards
any group other then black people generally and black men in particular
would have been cause for dean Soufas’ removal. Her statement that she
did not see a Black community, pointing her finger in Molefi Asante’s
face in a manner reminiscent of Jim Crow racism and slavery, sending an
email to our past departmental chair stating that myself, Drs Stanford
and Wonkeyor should not even think we could apply for a tenure track
position, the harassment, bullying and driving from the university Dr
Lewis Gordon and his wife Dr Jane Gordon, her turning down the vote by
our faculty to appoint Dr Kariamu Welsh, a full professor, recognized
dance scholar and twice chair of the dance department, as interim chair
of our department. Her push to make a white woman scholar chair over the
objections of the majority of our faculty and students. Her belligerent
attitude and hostile body language when meeting with our faculty. Her
denying me the right to advise grad students and chair their
dissertations in violation of an accepted practice, which is so common
that, the procedure is institutionalized.

This culminated in her letter of January 6, 2014 telling me my contract
would not be renewed after the current semester. She gave no reason and
only said I should contact the chair of my department for further
explanation. In fact the only explanation I have received thus far
appeared in /The/ /Philadelphia Tribune/ where she said my firing had to
do with a “change of direction “ in the department. After more than ten
years of teaching, mentoring, service to the university and the
department I was told via the news media that my services were no longer
needed because of a “change of direction” and an “exciting new
curriculum”. She mentioned nothing of my scholarship, teaching, and
community service or mentoring. The question is why not?

The answer is that this is nothing less than a retaliatory and revenge
firing. It is her getting back at me for my standing up to her bullying,
pointing fingers at black men, her authoritarian attempt to take over
African American Studies and my taking the struggles for the life and
integrity of our department to the Black community—those to whom we are
ultimately accountable.

I am a scholar and activist. My life and work is guided by the moral
imperative to stand for justice, to work to end poverty, homelessness
and hunger, to fight to end mass incarceration and for justice and
freedom for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, to end war
and to save the earth and humanity from a climatic catastrophe.

My scholarship, as is well known, is anchored in the intellectual and
moral courage of W.E.B Du Bois, the unflinching opposition to war,
racism and poverty of Martin Luther King Jr., the wisdom of Ella Baker
and witness of James Baldwin. I teach them and write about them and try
to live like them as an example to my students and my community.

And need I say, I come from, am organically tied to and ultimately
accountable to the great AfroAmerican people and their mighty strivings
for freedom. This moral and intellectual positioning is viewed by some
in the academy as outside the bounds of legitimate academic work. It is
seen as threatening and certainly a challenge to the idea that higher
education exists to make profit rather than uphold and teach human values.

I ask, is not the social historical grounding of African American
Studies the Afro American people? Is not the basis of our phenomenology
the humanity of the AfroAmeican people? Do these not then compel us to
unconditional solidarity with our people? If we reject the centrality of
the AfroAmerican people to what we do and who we are, shouldn’t we just
fold up our tents, go home or call ourselves something other than
African American Studies?

We are now at a moment of truth. It is an existential moment. It is what
Martin Luther King spoke of in famous sermon “Three Dimensions of a
Complete Life”. We can choose to either stand for justice or be
indifferent to it.We can choose, at our collective peril I might say,
selfishness and egotism over service and the undeniable recognition that
an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. What affects me
today will certainly be your fate tomorrow. And if you are Black what
makes you think your loyalty to injustice now will protect you from the
same evil tomorrow. We are compelled to break the betrayal of our silences.

I have been unjustly fired. I have been publically spoken of as a
non-entity whose teaching, scholarship and service have meant little,
practically nothing to the university and the department. There are
scores of people who can replace me, I’m told. After all you don’t have
tenure. But is that all there is to it? And some will ask, Dr Monteiro
why are you choosing the path of resistance and protest rather than
accepting your fate and going quietly into the night? Isn’t that what
others in your position would do? Temple University and this dean are
too powerful. They don’t retreat on things like this. This dean is too
invested in getting you out of Temple. How do we the people fight such a
powerful institution as Temple? Can’t they buy off those who would be
your allies? My only answer is there’s more to this than Temple or me.
The question is what is right, what is moral and how can we serve the
cause of justice. And in the process how do we transform a powerful
institution into a great university. Moreover, to make Temple a great
university we must resituate it as a force for good and service to
people, especially the poor and especially its neighbors. And we must
defend the rights and dignities of all employees of Temple.

I agree with Martin Luther King, “We can all be great because we can all
serve”. By standing up I believe I am serving my community, my people
the great AfroAmerican people, Temple University and all who stand for

It is far larger than me. It’s also about the children in Norris Homes.
It is about the human beings that inhabit the two poorest zip codes in
Philadelphia, which are neighbors to Temple. It’s about them. It’s about
the kids harassed by the police and told keep it moving you don’t belong
here. It’s about the closing down of Saturday Free Schools and W.E.B Du
Bois Lectures and Symposia that opened the classrooms and lectures halls
to the poor and working class.

In this whole thing I am but a part, an instrument if you will. Yet in
this mix it is, as my friend Sacare Rhodes reminds me, my ancestral
obligation to stand at this time in this place. I did nothing wrong. I
have served the University and its neighbors. Ask my students. Ask
people in neighborhoods near and far from Temple. I served and lived up
to my contractual obligations. Now we must fight. NOW IS THE TIME! Our
demands are simple

1.Reinstate me with tenure.

2.End the harassment, retaliation and bullying of others and myself.
Allow me to perform my duties as a scholar and activists.

3.Restore my right to reserve rooms and lecture halls for lectures,
conferences, symposia, the Saturday Free School and film showings

4.An apology from Dean Soufas and others for defamation of my character
and the belittling of my intellectual and professional achievements.

We want Temple to be not merely a powerful institution, but a great one.
To do so it must recommit itself to those virtues that Russell Conwell,
Temple’s founder, upheld—service to the poor and working class, the
fight for racial equality and educating its students to have moral
courage and in their chosen endeavors that they choose also to live
lives of public service.

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