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Chuck D brings his brand of rap to Union College

Posted on Feb 24, 2006

Chuck D, founder of the legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy, staged his own version of a reality show at Union Thursday night, holding court on the political, social and cultural issues of the day.

The hip-hop icon spared few in his talk, titled “Race, Rap, Reality and Technology,'' in the Nott Memorial. He skewered President Bush, the media and the country's obsession with all things celebrity, which he blamed for the intellectual vacuum that is prevalent in conversations today.

Chuck D. speaks at the Nott

“There's a new drug in America,'' said the rapper, who was born Carlton Douglas Ridehour in Long Island. “It's called celebrity. Every time I leave Hollywood, I've got to go to IQ rehab.''

He poked fun at his former partner in Public Enemy, Flavor Flav, for his reality show on VH1 and, noting that his appearance was held as part of Black History Month at the College, he said: “They should call it Black Misery Month. It's the shortest damn month and definitely the coldest.''

Chuck D. also had some serious words for the audience of more than 200 people, urging them to take responsibility for their actions and to embrace the opportunities in front of them, particularly at college. Chuck D. attended Adelphi University.

“Graduating from college in 1984, now that's my greatest accomplishment,'' said the rapper, whose group in 1988 released “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever. The record helped introduce rap to white, alternative rock audiences.

“I look back 22 years ago and say, ‘That's a damn good day.'''

Hours after the Rev. Peter Gomes praised the ornate beauty of the Nott during his Founders Day speech, Chuck D. also noted how lucky the campus community is to be in the presence of the building.

“Is this a college or a university?” he asked, marveling at the 16-sided beauty as he took to the podium for the start of his two-hour talk. “It feels like a university. This building is absolutely gorgeous.''

Chuck D continues to be active politically, testifying before Congress on race relations and hosting a show on Air America Radio, On the Real.

His talk Thursday was sponsored by the Union College Speakers Forum.


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Campus community welcomes back Charles Holiday

Posted on Feb 24, 2006

The Union community welcomes back Charles Holiday '06, who returned to campus earlier this week after being attacked while visiting Cornell University last weekend.

Mara Vandenbold '06 & Charles Holiday '06

Holiday, 22, was stabbed in the chest on Saturday night after he was confronted by a Cornell student who allegedly made racial remarks. Holiday spent several days in an Elmira hospital and was released Tuesday. According to Interim President Jim Underwood, Holiday “is hoping to resume his class schedule soon.”

A well-known senior who has been described as “a gentle soul,” Holiday is a member of Union's male a cappella group, the Dutch Pipers, and is active in the College drama program. He also is involved in multicultural activities and helped coordinate this month's Black History Month events.

In one tribute to Holiday's spirit and resilience, this week's Concordiensis published a poem dedicated to him. It reads, in part: “He still has that / Unwavering smile — / It's impossible not to grin.” 

“My hope is that an incident like this will raise consciousness about the harm racism can cause,” said Stephen C. Leavitt, dean of students.

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Chuck D urges awareness

Posted on Feb 24, 2006

Maybe he should be Professor D.
On Thursday night, Chuck D, a founding member of celebrated rap group Public Enemy, delivered a free-wheeling talk at Union College, where he touched on subjects such as history, sociology and musicology, to name a few.

About 200 people attended the talk, called “Race, Rap, Reality and Technology.”

The rap star was energized by his surroundings, the ornate, 16-sided Nott Memorial, and told students they should be proud of the history surrounding them.

That, and other serious pursuits, are losing out in this country to lower goals, he said.

“The new drug of America happens to be celebrity,” said the 45-year-old rapper, who decried what he perceived as a dumbing-down of the country. “Every time I leave Hollywood, I've got to go to IQ rehab.”

He lamented hip-hop's devolution into thugdom and poked fun at the BET cable channel, which he called “the Booty and Thug network.”

Look up old-school rap, and P.E.'s man-in-a-target logo might as well show up in the dictionary. The group, which offers a mix of rage, lyrics urging radical social change and a furious beat, exploded with its 1988 second album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” and subsequently released two other seminal albums.

Chuck D, born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, still makes albums with Public Enemy. But he's branched out beyond the CD.

He has a weekly radio show on the liberal Air America radio network. He makes the rounds of college campuses, delivering speeches. And he was among the pioneers of distributing music via the Internet.


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At Founders Day, Rev. Peter Gomes sees College as towering icon of hope

Posted on Feb 23, 2006

The Rev. Peter J. Gomes told those gathered in Memorial Chapel that a small liberal arts college like Union is “a beacon of light in a cultural wilderness… and the darker it gets, the brighter your light shines. All you have to do is keep it burning. You are civilizing an uncivilized country.”

Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian morals, delivers address at Founders Day, Feb. 23, 2006.

Speaking Thursday at the Founders Day celebration in observance of the 211th anniversary of the College, Gomes – one of Talk magazine's “Best Talkers in America” – discussed the importance of Founders Day, noting that a wise institution takes the time to regularly, publicly and formally applaud its past while securing its future.

“It good for us to remind ourselves and others that we are not the first, nor will be the last to be here,” said Gomes, Harvard University chaplain, American Baptist minister and best-selling author.

“I am happy that Founders Day is a separate occasion that pulls us out of our routines to remember great hopes and great ambitions.”

Union received its charter on Feb. 25, 1795, the first college charter granted by the Regents of the state of New York. The first Founders Day observance was held in 1896.

Gomes called the creation of Union College “a bold experience in a closed world,” introducing French and engineering, among other forward-thinking initiatives at the end of the 18th century.

Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University, center, acknowledges the audience at Founders Day on Feb. 23, 2006 with James Underwood, interim president, left, and Raymond Martin, professor of philosophy.

“This college reflected the little notion of a national union, an outgrowth of a sense of community devoted to unity rather than sectarianism, to community rather than division.”

Gomes, 64, is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and Pusey Minister in Harvard's Memorial Church. He holds degrees from Bates College and Harvard Divinity School, as well as 30 honorary degrees. During the Union ceremony, he received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Interim President James Underwood.

Gomes said both Union and Harvard, as heirs to an act of a state Legislature, “share this institutional beginning at the hands of the public good. The state has every right to expect great and glorious things from us. We exist to improve the landscape, to reform the world… to take the rough stuff of human nature which comes to us as freshmen.

“The whole purpose of this enterprise is not personal, private interior decoration,” he said of a liberal arts education, “but for the public good. A college that commits itself to improving the wider world deserves everything we can give it.”

Gomes said “we are living in barbarous times,” with mistrust, anxiety and fear pervasive “throughout the land.”

And in these troubled times, “we celebrate the virtues and opportunities of an institution such as this. It is in such schools that I invest the greatest hopes for this country.” 

Gomes reflected at length on the Nott, both the building and the man, marveling at Eliphalet Nott's 62-year tenure – the longest of any college president in the nation.

Gomes was perhaps most engaging in his long, dramatic story about his first encounter with the Nott, which appeared to him like a lost spaceship.

“That is a very extraordinary thing in the middle of your campus,” he said. “Was it an Italian baptistery set up in Upstate New York? Was it a remnant of another planet? Was it the top of some enormous building that lies underground? I approached it both reverently and warily.” 

Gomes drew laughter when he noted that once he entered the spectacular 16-sided edifice, “it was no clearer from the inside what the building was about. I said to myself, ‘This is an academic mystery.' A splendid, glorious, wonderful mystery. No one knows what to do with it.

“It's very much a center, a power and a presence,” he continued, talking of the Nott's majesty and grandeur as a metaphor for a broad liberals arts vision. “It almost sounds – dare I say it? – religious.”

Bemoaning the current state of American education today as ‘dumbing down,” of “a kind of manufactory in which we all play our little part,” he said, “How I wish every college in America could have its center. It might make us a little bit more reverent in the face of ignorance,” and aid in the “transformation from darkness to light, from petty division to broad, human tolerance.”

He added, “Wherever I go from now on, I will invoke the specter of your great mystery.”

Concluding his talk, Gomes evoked the Nott once more, reminding his listeners that this glorious heart of the Union campus “can remind you of a great hope to be cultivated.”


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Update on Olympian

Posted on Feb 23, 2006

Lowell Bailey, biathlete

Lowell Bailey and his fellow U.S. Olympians gave an exemplary performance in this year's Winter Games' biathlon relay. Bailey, a former Union student, and his teammates were able to break into the biathlon top ten for the first time in many years, finishing a mere 2:30.9 behind medal winning Germany in the 30-kilometer event. The young team – with every member under 30 – eagerly anticipates competing in the 2010 Olympics.  

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