Conversations on Race and Rural America with Dr. Alphonso Simpson: Part 1 – Making the Unconscious Conscious

 We’re excited to share this outstanding conversation about race and rural America with Dr. Alphonso Simpson.  Dr. Simpson is a professor of African American Studies at Western Illinois University and also serves as chair of the department of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  He’s been teaching at WIU since 2000 and is the author of 3 books “Mother to Son: A Collection of Essays and Readings in African American Studies, Ain’t Nobody Worryin’: Maleness & Masculinity in Black America, and Living the Life I Sing: Gospel Music from the Dorsey Era to the Millennium. Our essential questions are “How do we talk about race in rural America?” And “what advice do you have for young people growing up in rural counties that are predominantly white?”  Speaking with Dr. Simpson was super enjoyable and informative. We learned a lot from this talk and know you will too.

Image result for alphonso simpson wiu

Students listening for class should be able to answer the following questions: 

Part 1 – Getting to Know Dr. Simpson

  1. What is the name of the historically black college that Dr. Simpson attended, and why wasn’t this the place that introduced him to AAS?
  2. Where did Dr. Simpson first learn about AAS and why is this unique? BONUS: The Matthew Shepard incident occurred while he was a student there. Who is he and what is the significance about this incident?
  3. Finally, what does Dr. Simpson both love and loathe about living in Macomb, IL.

Part 2 – The Statement of Understanding and the Business of Unlearning

  1. Explain in your own words the purpose of the “Statement of Understanding” contract.
  2. According to Dr. Simpson, the best learning that takes place in his classes are “unlearning.” What did he mean by this and provide a specific example?
  3. What is the quote that Dr. Simpson gives that is worthy of being posted in your locker ASAP?

Part 3 – Advice to Students Growing Up in Rural America

  1. What advice does Dr. Simpson give to students who grow up in predominantly white communities?
  2. How does Dr. Simpson respond to criticism for having a degree in African American studies?
  3. When Dr. Simpson was younger, he was required to play the music of the DWEM society. What is the DWEM and what are other examples of this in culture outside of music?
  4. “We are all hyphens.” Explain the meaning behind this quote from Dr. Simpson.

*Forgottonia is produced by students and teachers at Cuba H.S. located in Fulton County IL. You can connect with us with any questions or comments through Facebook or by visiting our very cool webpage www.forgottoniaproject.com. Our purpose is to examine the rich history and culture of communities in western Illinois. A foundation of our project is IL Social Science Inquiry Standard #9 which seeks to apply democratic strategies & procedures to address local, regional, or global concerns & take action in or out of school. Join us next time!

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