Educating Youth on NYC’s Slavery History

By Sabriana Raco

The unconventional Alan Singer lends a voice to New York’s often forgotten past in his African American Slave Trail Tour.

Alan Singer

Alan Singer, graduate director for social studies in the School of Education and Allied Human Services Department sees Manhattan through the lens of history. While some view Wall Street as the troubled center of the global financial industry, Singer sees it as a former slave market, where enslaved Africans and Indians were bought and sold.

To Singer, Central Park is Seneca Village, Manhattan’s first prominent community of African American property owners from 1825 to 1857. At South Street Sea Port, Fulton Street and Foley Square, Singerpoints out spots that were once prime locations for slave trade and sugar exports.

“You can’t change the world unless you understand the world,” -Singer.

He introduced the African American Slave Trail Tour on Memorial Day weekend in 2006, as a way to educate students and teachers about the history of slavery in Manhattan. Using high school students as guides, he has seen how much of a difference it can make in their perspective.

“Students are able to comprehend the magnitude of slavery in New York . . . to walk along the roads and streets where slaves once walked was mind blowing and to stand at the burial grounds with my students was an unspeakable moment for me as an educator,” says Adeola A. Tella, a global history teacher at Uniondale High School.

While there are many reasons for offering the tour each May, some of the major goals are to discover what truly happened in history, inspire a campaign to restore history, promote student activism and help students to become educated on what many feel has been erased from the past. Singer notes that “people are still amazed at how much slavery history is within New York City and it is something that many no longer discuss mainly because they do not know about it.”

April Francis, a 7th grade Social Studies Teacher at Lawrence Road Middle School, describes the impact of Singer’s tour on her students, “My students thought Dr. Alan Singer’s Slavery Walking Tour was great, they were able to learn about historical downtown New York City, learn about slavery, and observe high school students publicly speak. It is educational experiences like these that leave a lifelong memory on students.”

Students learn the truth about the city’s past and also about their own which they have been denied access to. Singer says“New York City’s role in the African American Slave Trade has been erased from history, this tour gives us a chance to write it back in,” says Singer.

Singer enjoys getting some of his old students involved. Prior to teaching at the University, Singer taught at IS 292 at the Margaret S. Douglas Junior High School in Brooklyn, New York. “Being a middle school teacher and urban educator since 1971, I had been teaching history a long time,” says Singer. “To see some of my old students get involved with the tour brings a strong sense of pride and unity for me as a teacher and as a person.”

Singer’s interest in reshaping history dates further back, to the 1960s.“My desire to learn and teach came from my activism in the 1960s,” he says. “It was an exciting time and it made people believe that we could reshape the world and that all things were possible.”

His energy is evident in the classroom, where he has been known to spit out rap verses he wrote himself.

N’ York da- City ain’t so free
Banker Merchant Wanted Slavery,
Tear me a- way Africa Shore
Stole-a- my- name Can-stand- a no more,
Free or a- slave Can not hide
His-tory says Its-a-gen 0-cide.

“After completing the song, which is called, New York City Slavery Rap, I had an opportunity in October 2008 to rap on Hot 97, which is a popular hip hop radio station. It was fun and it was done right before the Obama Campaign,” says Singer.
He’s now in the midst of preparing for the next “African American Slavery Trail Tour,” scheduled to take place Friday, May 22, 2009. “No matter how time periods change, it is always important to know and appreciate the people who fought for justice in history,” he says.

Read Alan Singer’s personal profile piece

Watch Singer lead slavery tour below:

For the full story, check out the Spring issue of Pulse, available now.

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Virtual Reality Check

By Amanda Domurad

Professor Mitchell Schare treats phobias through simulated reality

Francesca Antonacci

Francesca Antonacci

Inside Hauser Hall, there is an office with shelves stacked steeply with psychology books. This is reality. The man behind the books spends a lot of his time outside of it.

Director of the Ph.D. Program in Combined Clinical and School Psychology, Professor Mitchell Schare, is researching how to treat people with phobias. Virtual reality is one of the ways in which he conducts this research.

“I’ve always been fascinated by people’s fears,” says Schare. “You should have a fear of standing in a bathtub full of water and using an electric hair dryer, because that fear will keep you alive. You should have a fear of driving on a rain-slicked highway. Some people do, and some people don’t. So fears really are healthy and have an evolutionary function.”

Schare conducts his research at Hofstra’s Joan and Arnold Saltzman Community Services Center where he and his colleagues create virtual environments for their patients. He describes the virtual environment by comparing it to something called called a “halodeck,” on the show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The “halodeck” was a recreation center on the spaceship that could create any situation imaginable through a computer and holographic projections.

Schare creates a computer-generated environment where people can interact in meaningful ways, and ultimately rid them of their fear, whether it be flying on a plane, or speaking in front of a large crowd.

Skeptical about how realistic the computer-generated images are, I took a quick walk over to the Saltzman Center, where Professor Schare showed me exactly how he treats his patients.

Schare had me sit in an airplane chair used in the treatment of patients with a fear of flying. He picked up a rather large contraption, which looked like a pair oversized goggles, and placed it on my head. My eyes fixated on a realistic, computer-generated airline waiting area.

I saw people walking around and heard sounds coming from the machine on my head. Schare told me to move my head around as if I was looking around the airport. I looked to my right and saw a coffee shop in the airport, I turned to my left and saw the gate to the plane.

“I feel like I should be able to smell things in the airport too,” I said.

“We’re actually completing a research study right now where we have different odors come out at set times to correspond with things on the screen,” Schare replied. “So you walk by a coffee shop and you smell the odor of coffee. The whole idea of Virtual Reality is to produce a total sensory environment.”

Virtual Reality is used to treat these phobias by immersing the patient in the environment. A clinic in San Diego, The Virtual Reality Medical Center, uses such tactics to even help people combat eating disorders, but Schare says he has not done enough research on that to comment.

Virtual Reality to Cure Phobias?

For the full story, check out the Spring issue of Pulse, available now

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Missy Dowse Becomes a Stage Sensation

By Kelli DeWalt

Missy Dowse
A 22-year-old drama major scores her dream role.

As a junior, Missy Dowse saw an ad online for open auditions to a touring production of Gypsy. She thought, “I’m tall and brunette….” Why not go for it? She never really expected to get the part. But sure enough, she was chosen, and from there her career just took off.

Now a Hofstra senior she is starring in a dinner theater production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in Hudson, Florida. In reference to returning to Hofstra after the show, she says, “absolutely, I only have one semester left. It would be foolish of me not to.”

Q: How did you get cast in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”?

A: I actually didn’t audition. It was complete luck. The people from the show saw me on tour in “Gypsy” as well as a video of me playing Millie at Hofstra’s Gray Wig Theater. So, they hired me from that.

Q: When did you first get bit by the “acting bug?”

A: I can’t ever remember a time of wanting to do something else. I always wanted to be a singer and I started dance when I was about two. I remember being seven and thinking to myself, ‘I can do all three of those things!?’ Not necessarily that I’m good at all those things, but how fun would it be to do them all. I had an amazing high school drama teacher that I still keep in touch with, but I never studied acting until I came to Hofstra. Everything sort of clicked. The professors don’t realize how much how a quick comment has affected the way I approach certain things theatrically.

Q: Do you ever get stage fright?

A: All the time. I’m always nervous before a performance but I think that helps keep my energy up and motivates me to improve.

Q: Have you ever had a disaster or an embarrassing moment on stage?

A: There have been so many. One moment that stands out was when I was playing Sandy in “Grease” and during the last scene when I’m supposed to be “Sexy Sandy” my leather pants ripped in the middle of a dance. Luckily, it was only a final dress but the cast and director definitely had a good laugh.

Q: Why did you choose Hofstra?

A: Well, I’m originally from Long Island. I saw some of the shows at Hofstra and because I’m a homebody, I wanted to be close to home. But I’m really glad I went because when you audition for the BFA the professors really get to know all the students from being in class with them.

Q: Who would you say has been your most influential professor at Hofstra and why?

A: I would say all of them. The great thing about this department is that everyone’s cohesive. They agree to not teach all the same method. Some of the other schools you only learn one method such as Stella Adler. But the way Hofstra works is like listen, here’s a bunch of beliefs and you put them in a tool box and you take out what you need to get to the place you need to. I really like that about the program. Even breathing methods trigger a certain emotion in a person. I know it’s funny, but those things really work.


Q: What has been your favorite Hofstra performance?

A: I did a staged reading of “Agnes of God” with Hofstra Entertainment. There I got to work with Talia Shire and Susan Sullivan who’s great. Talia was nominated for an academy award and Susan who is I believe is a Hofstra grad was Emmy nominated. They’re both crazy talented. I also did Millie at the Gray Wig. I feel as though Millie was a personal breakthrough for me. I was actually not the first choice for the part. It was a very long process and it was my dream role. And luckily I got the chance to actually get the part and perform it. It was the first time I was able to show other people and myself things I was capable of doing.

Q: Which character have you played that’s most like you and why?

A: As corny as it may sound, I think there is a little bit of each person in every role they play. That’s what makes each performer’s interpretation special. If I had to pick one that I most related with, it would be “Louise” in Gypsy before she becomes “Gypsy Rose Lee.” I am very shy and don’t always have the best level of self confidence. She also loved animals and so do I!

Q: Why do you think people don’t go to the theater as much as they used to?

A: A lot of it is convenience. And I don’t think a lot of people know about the theaters out there in their community and on Long Island where you don’t have to spend $100 dollars per show.

There’s something about a live performance. You’ll never see that exact performance again. While I’m not a huge fan of “High School Musical,” I’m grateful for how they’re getting kids interested. There are tons of programs now such as teen theater and acting camps that are thriving because the kids are interested.

Q: What would be the greatest praise you could receive?

A: Oh, dear. That is tough question. I think a lot of actors dream of receiving a prestigious award for their work or being complimented by someone they respect. I dream about those things too but I am grateful for any positive feedback I receive. If a performer were to receive a compliment from Meryl Streep, they could die happy.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I like to exercise if I can, eat and watch Sex & the City.

Q: Who do you look up to and why?

A: At the risk of being cliché, I admire my parents and my brother a lot. None of them perform but they’re so great and so supportive of me. They, along with my boyfriend and friends have been selfless with the sacrifices they’ve made to help me to do what I want to do.

Q: Any funny backstage moments?

A: A lot. I can’t think of any specific moments but I will say this…a lot of the entertainment happens backstage.

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mr. Republican

By Sara Kay

Senior Sean Nabi brings conservatism to a liberal campus.

Photo: Sara Kay

Photo: Sara Kay

Sean Nabi has accomplished more in his four years at Hofstra than many people do in half a lifetime. He is chairman of the College Republicans and editor-in-chief of Hofstra Freedom, a new conservation publication on campus, as well as chief justice of the judicial panel of the Student Government Association. Once a leader on the Men’s Rugby team, Nabi has gone on to become a leader in the conservative movement at Hofstra and across Long Island.

Q: How did you get so involved with politics here at Hofstra?
A: When I first came here I played rugby for two years. I got injured, broke my nose a bunch of times, got a lot of concussions and my parents said, ‘You need to step down.’ The moment I got into student government, things started falling into place; I became a senator in the spring of 2008, joined the College Republicans late last spring, became the chairman right away and took over the club. I got appointed to the judicial panel in October, became the Long Island chairman of the college republicans, Nassau County chairman of the College Republicans and I’m running for state chairman now. I spend a good 13 hours of the day at school with everything I do, while also taking 18 credits. I enjoy what I do, it’s so much fun.

Q: What do you think makes you a stand out person in political science?
A: I honestly think it’s the motivation and enthusiasm that I’ve brought to the conservative movement on campus. Before I got involved in it, there were one or two token Republicans in the department. The moment that I joined College Republicans, we grew. We grew right away to 40 members; we had 120 members at our meetings around the time of the debate. I became this face; people started calling me ‘Mr. Republican.’ I became the head of this movement, at a university like Hofstra which is a good 70 to 80 percent Democrat. I built this machine of republicans. We are putting out publications where the Democrats aren’t; we’re putting on events where the Democrats aren’t; we’re doing all these things to build up. Administrators ask me sometimes how many members we actually have — 500, 600? And when I tell them we have about 40 active, 120 registered, they can’t believe it.

Q: How were you involved in the debate? Was it fun?
A: One of the greatest moments of my life. Late August, I got a phone call from the McCain campaign, asking me if I wanted to start organizing in Nassau County. When we got back to school, I became the precinct captain of Hofstra. The debate rolled around and it was one of the biggest days of my life. I was in charge of about 300 volunteers for the campaign and for all the media coverage. By the end of the day I did about 110 interviews for hundreds of different countries. I even got an interview with an Iranian television network; my family in Iran saw me live on TV. The funny part about that is they never knew I was in politics, so to see me live on TV sort of scared them. It was a great experience; it opened up many doors for me.

Q: Do you consider the fact that you’re Persian an important factor in your decision-making in politics?
A: That’s a question I get a lot. I’m a local political commentator for Fox News of New York Saturday show and they ask me, ‘You’re Persian: how could you be a Republican?’ And what many people don’t know is that Persians in the United States are the wealthiest minority and about 95 percent Republican. I was born in this country, my parents immigrated to this country, and they taught me to love this country for what it’s worth. I’ve never lived a non-American life. Our family has dinner, sits in front of the TV and talks politics.

Q: You’re in the public eye a lot. Have you ever done anything embarrassing?
A: Last semester I had the opportunity to host a show on MTV. Sitting there in a sweater vest and a suit, in about 70 to 80 degree weather, sweating all over the place, having to read cue cards, messing up the cue cards, while there’s a crowd of 90 people behind me — I was frustrated sitting there and looking at people who are thinking, ‘This is boring; this sucks.’ I messed up my lines repeatedly. We had to do 22 takes.

Q: Would you consider yourself to be a pretty controversial person on this campus?
A: People like to think that we’re so controversial because we’re so far right; we’re a crazy, war-mongering, gun-having group… What I believe is what many Americans believe. Take a specific topic: the war in Iraq. Many people in this school want us to get out. I, on the other hand, understand the history of the country and I would like to think with reason that we can’t leave. Because my statement isn’t in tune with the majority, it’s controversial.

Q: Has anyone ever had a confrontation with you based on your beliefs?
A: No, and I attribute that to being larger than many people. I’ve heard people talking behind my back, shouting from distances…At the debates, I got all over world news because they video taped me at the debates screaming at the top of my lungs at other people about my beliefs. I’m not afraid to get in people’s faces, but for some reason people just never step up to the plate.

Q: What are your plans after college?
A: I’m looking at law school, but I have some life-long goals that I’ve set for myself. I do want to run for office. I love talking in front of people, I make it a point to talk to anyone at any time and to find out their life story and to find out what their needs and wants are. That’s made me want to run. Law school is something I want to do – to go into corporate law maybe — anything to get me from here to a time where I feel I am ready to be able to run for office, to stand in front of a state or district and say, ‘I’ve done all these things in my life and I’m ready to lead you.’ I’ve never left myself closed to options. Anything’s a possibility..

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment