What Would Frederick Douglass Say?
You read the news of the day. Southern legislatures pass laws limiting the right to vote that largely target largely African Americans and the party not in power. Across the country, Black men and women die, murdered on the mere hint of an accusation, without arrest, trial or due process. Organizations form to protest, gather petitions, and demand action and legislation, only to be accused of causing the problem, perpetuating the color line, and dividing the nation.
These are not just today’s headlines, but also those of the 1880s and 1890s. The present echoes the past.
People often wonder what significant historical figures might have said about current events. While it is impossible to say, given the millions of little contextual differences that position an individual in their time and place, historians look to what those historical figures said when they met similar circumstances, those echoes in the past.
Frederick Douglass had plenty to say on the news of the day throughout the 19th century, demanding an end to the slavery he suffered in the 1820s and 1830s to those depredations against his race half of a century later. He has been claimed across the political spectrum in the present day, often by those who know of his enduring belief in the promise of American democracy but little about his despair over the depths and persistence of American racism.
Throughout the century, Douglass played key roles in the Black Convention Movement that called for a more expansive agenda than abolitionism. He proclaimed the beauty and strength of his people. “Drive out the Negro and you drive out Christ, the Bible and American Liberty with him,” he argued, pointing out Black heroes of the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and Civil War, the latter of which included his own sons. Yet, he knew well that, “Human law may know no distinction among men in respect of rights, but human practice may.” By the 1880s, the erosion of rights gained under the 13th though 15th Amendments disgusted him. He denounced the strict construction of the U.S. Constitution that influenced the Supreme Court to declare the 1875 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional and that paved the way for Jim Crow practices. Of the slaughter of African Americans, he demanded, “Where are the sworn ministers of the law? Where are the guardians of public justice? Where are the defenders of the Constitution? What hand in House or Senate; what voice in court or Cabinet is uplifted to stay this tide of violence, blood and barbarism?”
What might Frederick Douglass say of current events? The implication echoes through every
word that he said during his own lifetime: Black Lives Matter.
Leigh Fought, Ph.D., Department of History, is a Douglass scholar and author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass.
Investing in this community
The ability to empathize with others. To be resilient in the face of challenges. To balance multiple and sometimes competing priorities. These are the qualities that Hasan Stephens believes make great entrepreneurs. Stephens has drawn upon them himself as the founder of the Good Life Youth Foundation, an organization committed to ending cycles of poverty, incarceration and violence through hip hop culture and entrepreneurship. Now he is nurturing them in the students he works with as an entrepreneur-in-residence (E.I.R.) at Le Moyne.
As E.I.R., Stephens’ chief aim is to provide students with opportunities to gain real-world experience to supplement what they learn in the classroom. This includes allowing several students who have created retail products the opportunity to sell them at a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Syracuse known as The Life. The store gives individuals like Goodline Marshall ’21, founder of the beauty company Abelle, the opportunity to put their ideas in the marketplace, gain feedback from the community, and solve problems in real time. Now Stephens and his fellow E.I.R. James Shomar are collaborating with Martin Babinec, the author of More Good Jobs, to create an online community comprised of entrepreneurs from Le Moyne and the surrounding community. As they network and learn from one another, the possibilities are endless.
“The best companies have a social mission centered on investment in the community,” Stephens says. “More and more major corporations are creating charitable foundations or encouraging their employees to give back. We need to nurture this desire to give back in the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”
The Logistics of Fighting a Pandemic
What mankind has accomplished is astounding. In the past three decades alone, scientists and engineers have mapped the human genome, launched the International Space Station, and developed powerful computers small enough to fit into our pockets. Now humanity is facing what is arguably its greatest modern challenge: vaccinating enough of the world’s nearly 8 billion people to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of July 2021 had claimed more than 4 million lives. Our collective response to this crisis will have serious implications, not just for our health, but for our economy and security.
Furkan Oztanriseven, Ph.D., has thought a lot about what it will take to meet this pivotal moment. An assistant professor of business analytics, he is, in his own words, “a numbers person,” accustomed to relying on trusted, repeatable mathematical models. And inoculating people against COVID-19 will certainly be a logistical feat of historic proportions. Exactly how many individuals will have to be vaccinated to achieve worldwide herd immunity is not known. However, many experts put the estimate at anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of the global population – or between 5.6 billion and 7.2 billion people. That is a monumental undertaking. There are hundreds of moving parts to be considered, from procuring the raw materials necessary to produce the vaccine, to manufacturing the shots, to transporting the dosages, to administering them safely. Beyond that, there is a moral obligation to ensure that the vaccines are distributed equitably – that no one is left behind. For instance, people may not have the computer or Internet connection necessary to make an appointment online, or a way to get to a vaccination site, or may have not received good, accurate information about the vaccine’s efficacy.
Responding to this global health crisis will require not just scientific and technical expertise, Oztanriseven says, but the so-called “soft skills,” namely communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, that lie at the heart of a liberal arts education. In his classroom, Oztanriseven impresses upon his students the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency, he explains, is about using the fewest resources possible in order to maximize profit, while effectiveness is about the quality of your work. Effectiveness is more than a numbers game. And that is what Oztanriseven hopes people will remember about facing this challenge.
“It’s not about money,” he says. “It’s about people’s lives.”
by Molly K. McCarthy
Caring for Our Caregivers
Burnout among healthcare providers is widespread and increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting a growing strain on an already fragile system. According to a recent Harvard University report, physician burnout is “a public health crisis that urgently demands action.” Healthcare burnout upsets what happens within the four walls of a clinic, as it can increase medical errors, decrease caregivers’ empathy for their patients, and negatively impact clinicians’ mental health. Each of these factors poses a severe threat to public health. Fortunately, Le Moyne is taking a leading role in doing something about this.
The College was recently awarded a physician assistant primary care training grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration in order to strategically address the aforementioned caregiver burnout and other important mental-health issues. Based on my conversations with our alumni and my own experiences caring for people living with HIV, I know that clinicians are at their best when they address their own well-being. As a Jesuit institution, Le Moyne is committed to embedding wellness into the P.A. curriculum. We believe it is a critical part of educating the whole student and producing healthy, resilient healthcare professionals. To that end, one strategy we plan to adopt is the “Healer’s Art” curriculum, which is centered on “recognizing, valuing, enhancing and preserving the human dimension of health care.” Ultimately, it is our hope to equip students and alumni to address wellness so they can provide the best patient care possible.
Mary Springston, M.S. Ed., PA-C, clinical associate professor and director of clinical advancement in the College’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies.