Brotherhood is an unspoken bond forged at a non-specific point. Although it may be extremely difficult to pinpoint the moment that the alluded to brotherhood is forged, its display is an occasion that is impossible to miss.
Considering that the duties of a college professor are unknown to those outside the profession, most are shocked to learn that we work long hours at tasks that are not enjoyable. As a person whose personality type lends me toward avoiding all interaction with people, I am confident that you understand my resistance to dreaded committee work that forces one into interacting with people that you would never even speak to, let alone have any significant interactions.
Dreaded committee work is by far my least favorite aspect of my duties as an Associate Professor of African-American Studies. So, I am quite confident that you understand my resistance to joining a committee assigned the task of selecting speakers for the academic unit that I belong. This burdensome task was made more difficult due to the reality that there was no budget, hence, whoever agreed to travel to our campus (on their own dime) and speak to our collegians (without any compensation whatsoever) would not just be volunteering their time, they would be working from a financial deficit. Let me add this fact, such arrangements are largely unheard of for notable speakers who can command up to $50,000.00 for a thirty-minute speech; most national level speakers reason that institutions have the money, so why not take it.
When assigned the task of bringing in a speaker for the 2018 Black History Month program, I immediately knew that Dr. Leonard Moore was the scholar that topped my dream list of speakers. I am confident that many would wonder why I immediately targeted “Len” for this duty. Well, the answers to that query are logical and numerous.
- We are both graduates of THE Ohio State University History Program.
- We were both mentored by a cadre of black intellectuals, most notably Dr. William E. Nelson. It was Nelson’s guidance that taught all who sat at his foot “what a black professor ought to be and to do” at every turn.
- Moore’s path to his current position as an Associate Vice President of Academic Diversity Initiatives and Professor of History at the University of Texas (Austin) is a veritable academic “rags to riches” story that I felt my students needed to hear.
Of all these matters, it was a brotherhood forged at THE Ohio State University that led me to issue the invitation.
So when I sent Dr. Moore an e-mail communication requesting his presence, I was unsurprised when my e-mail was returned with an immediate phone call that began with a gracious acceptance of the invitation, but also followed by a personal inquiry regarding my health; Leonard had learned via my students that I was stricken with a life-threatening illness that required emergency surgery.
It was only after convincing Leonard that I had made as much of a recovery from that episode as possible that the conversation turned with Dr. Moore making an interesting comment, “Man, your students love you. You are the first thing that they say after they hear that I went to Ohio State.” Such a statement no longer surprises me. Anyone who has witnessed my interaction with my students invariably comments that we truly have a love affair going on.
I have no reservation in stating that teaching and mentoring my students are the best part of my job. Although I rarely state this in public, my students are the only reason that I have remained in my present role; frequently they have been the only wind beneath my wings. Leonard’s words reminded me of how fortunate I am to be at a Historically Black College. Never one to miss an opportunity to teach, I was extremely pleased when Dr. Moore began his presentation by pointing in my direction and telling my students, “Do you know how lucky you are to have him? He loves y’all!!!!!” As if the moment could not be any grander, my students resoundingly communicated their understanding of Leonard’s assertion and communicated a matching affinity.
I guess that it is natural for each of us, regardless of occupation to look around and survey the landscape for other opportunities. It is during those moments of seeing if “the grass is greener on the other side” that we can lose focus on the bountiful blessings our present station is providing. In many ways, I recognize that my presence on the campus of a Historically Black College is a role that I was groomed to assume by my parents and mentors, frequently it feels as if this situation was ordained by God. After responding to a query from the aforementioned Dr. William E. Nelson that I “absolutely loved” my job, this wise man advised me with the following quip. “I have worked for over thirty-years in academia and have never used the word LOVE in response to any of those endeavors. You might want to consider staying there.” If nothing else, Leonard’s gracious visit reinforced the sage advice of Dr. William E. Nelson and reaffirmed my hopes that this love affair that I have with my students never ends.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.