What it Means to Be a Citizen

In part two of City of Rhetoric, the Placelessness of Political Theory: Citizen, Fleming argues that the identity of a citizen in America is not defined by shared political beliefs but by external characteristics such as race, gender, socioeconomic class, and education. Fleming introduces his argument with a quote from the National Standards for Civics and Government:

“The identity of an American citizen is defined by shared political values and principle rather than by ethnicity, race, religion, class, gender, or national origin”

Although our politics should be inclusive to all people and each person should have equal worth, the grammar and rhetoric of this statement is not cohesive with the state of American politics. Fleming proves this by comparing the sentence to the reality of what it means to be a citizen in America.

Protestors During the Civil Rights Movement

The first problem with the sentence is that America has always been a country which identifies its people by factors such as race and religion. In fact, less than two hundred years ago only white, land owning, men were allowed to practice their civic duties. They were the only people who had a political voice in this country, and for people who were not apart of that demographic, the government did not hear their cries. Furthermore, although white land owning men are no longer the only group of people who can take part in the advantages of being an American citizen, language and national origin are still barriers. For people, who are born outside of the United States and want to become citizens, they must have knowledge of the English language and show that they have shared political values and principles as the United States. Shared political values and principles have nothing to do with the legalities of being an American citizen, yet it is a requirement of people who want to become naturalized citizens. Excluding people because they do not speak English or have different political beliefs is hypocritical of what it means to be American.

Finally, the statement above ignores the fact that race, religion, class, gender, and national origin are important factors in political participation. First of all, “political participation in the United States is highly stratified” by these factors. Not only do white, Christian, males have the biggest voter turnout, they also vote very differently from black, Muslim, men or white, Jewish women, or even Asian Christian men. Leaving ascriptive identities at the door ignores that there is privilege in being a white, heterosexual, Christian man. The quality of life changes based on how people identify so that needs to be voiced in politics.  Differences are more important than shared political values in the arena, because it is these differences that affect social inequality, political participation, and political representation. Therefore, ignoring these differences is not a way of unifying people but dividing them even more.

Fleming’s argument is important to my research because I am researching a community that has been almost ignored in the world of politics. Because of their socioeconomic class and race, their voices are not heard in places where it is important to be heard. This community was left to fend for itself and it resulted in the displacement of its community members. It is important that I take this into account when I am researching.



Can You Truly Fail

In Worstward Ho!, Samuel Beckett writes the following:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Cover of the Book

What does Beckett say about “failure“? And why does it matter? You might also discuss form here. Why would one of the world’s great writers (poet/novelist/playwright/essayist), use such “simple” structures? How does the sentence structure perhaps affect how we read this? Would the impact be different if it were written in a DC, IC form?  How so? How would it change if he used question marks after the first two sentences? And exclamation points afterward?

One of the greatest writers in the world is using such simple structure to discuss failure because he knows his audience. Beckett is speaking to everyone so he wants to make sure it is easily understood by everyone who crosses this statement. The period after each sentence forces the reader to pause and think about their reality in relationship to the statement. He chooses not to make each statement a question because the answers is yes. Everyone has both tried and failed. It is a universal truth. Thus his advice after the question is not a suggestion but something you have to do in order to get on the road to success. If he had used independent and dependent clauses instead of periods, the statement would be much less powerful. There would be much less thought from the side of the reader. The break in between each sentence is what gives the power to the sentences. When he talks about fail

Fleming and The World Of Analysis

In his book, City of Rhetoric, Fleming argues that living divisions and classifications of American cities, is the reason for the increasingly divided political relationships that people have with one another. Fleming believes that political ideals, urban architecture, and persuasive thinking  are important factors in understanding how and why the “built environment” is so important to a municipal landscape. The “built environment” is the infrastructure itself, which includes the way the buildings are designed, where they are in the city, and how long it’s been since it was renovated. The built environment is so important because it is the foundation of how people interact in the city. Accordingly, Fleming believes that this environment needs to be governed a certain way for people to interact in a positive manner, however that is not the case for almost every major city in American civilization. Instead of lawmakers and leaders looking at the city’s big population, large diversity, and fast growing economy as positive traits, they have created a government that tries to moderate these important parts of what it means to be a city. Perhaps one of the biggest mishaps that the leaders of cities have taken, is trying to characterize different groups of people into different parts of the city. Fleming argues this characterization is to blame for the growing problems in government, economy, and political beliefs. Because people in cities live in relative distance from each other but never actually interact, it creates misunderstanding and divide between communities that could actually benefit from each other’s presence.
Many people believe that the poverty faced by many Americans, specifically African-Americans in the inner city is because of laziness and violence within their own community. However, in the introduction of City of Rhetoric, Fleming argues that it is actually the environment that plays a role in why the African American community is subject to so much poverty. Fleming’s evidence of this is introduced to the reader in an anecdotal manner. His introduction is a history lesson about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley trying to create a 1 million dollar government initiative in the poorest part of the city. Although, this would seem odd to anyone who doesn’t understand the relationship between the environment and its people, Fleming argues that this could be the most beneficial project for this specific community. Since the neighborhood has been plagued with poverty and violence long before African Americans inhabited it, it is the environment to blame and not the people.

Good intentions bad Results?

Work Hard. Go to College. Change the World”

That was the motto of Democracy Prep Charter School (DPCS). DPCS was designed to educate the underserved, underprivileged, and overlooked. Although new, it was already a well renowned charter school, which many parents in the community fought to send their kids to. These parents wanted opportunities for their kids that public schools could not offer. They wanted an environment which would allow their children to flourish and succeed, and DPCS promised exactly that.

DPCS ran on a rewards system. Dream Dollars. Dream Dollars could get you fully paid trips to D.C, Boston, and Canada. It could get you baseball game tickets, tickets to NYFW, the ability to teach a class for a day, or even skip one. All you had to do was make sure you had enough when it was time for the annual auction.

Each student would start with 20 dream dollars at the beginning of the day, and throughout the day you could lose and earn dream dollars for various acts. Everyday would begin at 7:45 am sharp. If you were late, you lost 5 dream dollars. The first thing the teachers would do was a uniform check. Black shoes, white socks, grey pants, black belt, and a white collard shirt with a Democracy Prep Charter School Emblem on the right . Each part of the uniform that was missing meant that you lost 2 dream dollars. Throughout class, you would lose dream dollars for not being disciplined, not having respect, not taking accountability, or for being immature. This came from the acronym D.R.E.A.M , which stood for discipline, respect, enthusiasm, accountability, and maturity. For students who did not possess these qualities at school, rewards were few and punishments were given often.

Although this system was beneficial in certain ways, it was also just as detrimental in other ways. For one, the school was situated in relatively poor area and many of the kids who were intending were also poor. While there were many dedicated parents who had the time to make sure that their kids were doing everything that they needed to, down to their uniform, there were also many dedicated parents who just could not spare that time. Things such as uniform violations or being late to class, may have been out of that child’s control but they were still punished for it. Moreover, beginning the day with less dream dollars than everyone else, is not good motivation to do well in school.

This rewards system was also created to encourage good behavior. Losing and gaining dream dollars mainly had to do with how well you were behaved, not how well you were doing academically. Often, the same kids were misbehaving. Instead of teachers trying to figure out the bigger problem behind the misbehavior, they were just punished. Many of these kids were acting out because that is all they knew how to do. The school, however, did  not create an environment where these kids could feel comfortable and safe in.




You Can’t Be What You’ve Forgotten

“Memories don’t live like people do”- Kanye West



The memories you have forged from a lifetime of useless experiences

will one day be forgotten

You won’t recall what it was like to pray without doubt

You wont remember the kitchen smells of potent foods and the bathroom smells right after

You wont remember the freedom of being alone or the magic in the waves of crowds

They all seem to slip, slip, slip

And in their place grows something sadder

There is suspicion in religion

And hunger you wish did not exist

And loneliness in a rooms filled with people

There is no magic in slumber

Or fullness in food

You will try and fill the empty crevasses your old memories left behind

But you will only long for them even more

And sooner than you expect

You begin to slip away

Faster than the memories that left before you


The Effects of Raising Your Hands

Part 1:

Fermina Daza had put on a loose-fitting silk dress belted at the hip, a necklace of real pearls with six long, uneven loops, and high-heeled satin shoes that she wore only on very solemn occasions, for by now she was too old for such abuses.

The first part of the sentence is an independent clause with a list. “And” is used to finish the list to the left of it. “That” is a subordinate conjunction which indicates that the clause to the right of it can not stand alone. “That” connects the dependent clause to the independent clause. Moreover, “for” is not only used as an interchangeable word with because it also introduces the last dependent clause in the sentence. Connecting the two dependent clauses to the independent clause instead of making them separate sentences forces the reader to focus more on how the dress connects to her mood, instead of just thinking of her emotions as separate from her clothing.


2) Complete the following template and connecting the quote to the project(s) the class is working on:


Take a look at pages 41 & 42, and 205, where he discusses this.

David Fleming concludes his City of Rhetoric by arguing that “education [should be] oriented to the ‘strong publics’ of decision making rather than the ‘weak publics’ of opinion formation” (205). For Fleming, then, composition courses, which traditionally have asked students to write in the “weak publics” of opinion formation  should instead have students “strong publics” of decision making  In other words, students have been taught that they have no real ability to make decisions since decisions are usually mad by some foreign more educated group; thus they are taught to write their opinions, and not to write like someone who has the power to make change.


Now briefly connect your project to Fleming’s concept.

My project involves the public sphere so I need to follow Fleming’s advice and write like I am a citizen who is allowed to use her knowledge to make change happen and not like someone who only has an opinion and no connection to the building that I am working on.


3) Watch the trailer  (begins about 1/2 way through) to The Polymath (2007), a documentary on the Samuel R Delany, a science-fiction writer and professor.  In this section, he explains why he has every student raise her hand when he asks a question.

Here’s what he says:

Don’t you realize that every time you don’t answer a question, you’re learning something? You’re learning how to make do with what you got, and you’re learning how not to ask for a raise…you’re learning how to take it. That’s not good! That’s not good! So, from now on, whenever I ask a question, everybody’s got to put their hand up. I don’t care whether you know the answer or not. You have to put your hand up…I’m going to call on you and if you don’t know the answer, I want you to say nice and clear: I don’t know the answer to that, Professor Delany, but I would like to hear what that person has to say. And we’ll pass it on. And so this is what we started doing. And I said, whenever I ask a question, everybody put their hand up. I don’t care whether you know or not…You need to teach people they are important enough to say what they have to say. (The Polymath)

Please briefly discuss the different experience (if any) you have in watching the clip and reading the transcription. Your answer should revolve around Logos / Pathos / Ethos, maybe?

Little boy raising his hand in class

When I read the manuscript of the speech it appealed to my logos more than anything. It was as if I was reading an equation, not your raising your hand not asking for more because you aren’t important enough. The professor then decided to change that by forcing everyone in class to raise their hand so that everyone would learn that they are important enough to ask questions. The video however appealed to my ethos and pathos the most. The guy talking about Professor Delaney made the professor sound like some sort of genius and absolutely someone I should listen to. Thus, when the professor spoke I trusted everything that he said. When the professor finally got the chance to speak, he struck a cord with my ethos. He was vey emotional about wanting his students to speak up. He even teared up a little, which made me want to take his advice even more seriously. The actual speech was quite refreshing. When I was younger I was very curious and very hard working, so I would raise my hand quite often in class. As a result, during conferences with my mom on report card day, they would talk about the fact that I am too eager in class. They told me that I had to give the other students a chance to speak in class. Although the teachers were right in the fact that I needed to give other students a chance to speak, it made me think that I wasn’t important. It made me believe that my hard work or attentiveness in class did not really matter. It made me feel less important, and it sort of changed the type of student I am. I’ve also had the idea in my head that you can raise your hand too much and this videos message is literally the opposite of that.


An Analysis of Unrequited love Through Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“In reality they were distracted letters, intended to keep the coals alive without putting her hand in the fire, while Florentino Ariza burned himself alive in every line”- Love in the Time of Cholera

Although I’m only half way through the novel, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez has already made a lasting impression on me. Each line in the book is written with such caution and detail that I imagine Marquez’s readers are discerning the novel exactly as he intended. Moreover, Marquez’s experienced writing is reflected in the versatility and depth of his characters. His characters can neither be hated nor loved for their sometimes erratic behavior because they are so relatable. Although, the book is written in the 3rd person, Marquez allows both major and minor characters a chance to be understood by readers. Because of this there is no true antagonist. There are just characters who live in different truths.  Love in the time of Cholera is a story of unrequited love between Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, who fall madly in love as teenagers and just as quickly fall out of it.

The sentence I chose above is not only beautifully written but also perfectly articulates the relationship between Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. At the beginning of their young love, Fermina and Florentino constantly write letters to each other since they lack a different means of communication. Florentino who is madly in love at first sight and who continues to love Fermina for the rest of his life, writes each love letter as if it is his last; on the other hand, Fermina’s hesitancy is obvious in her letters, but is completely ignored by Florentino because he is blinded by his passion for her. Marquez purposely compares the act of love to burning because it is so indicative of the rest of the novel. Florentino’s relationship with love is like burning alive in a fire because it causes him so much pain. Fermina, however, is almost immune to the pitfalls of love because she never allows herself to fully embrace it. Like each line in the novel, this sentence was no accident. Each sentence seems to haunt you at another point in the novel because every sentence is so purposeful in its intent.

Meaningless Freedom and Life in Black America

I was in my Race and Racism class discussing the plague of the minority in America. Although I’ve become pretty immune to what it means to be black in America, for some reason I was really moved in class. The poem that I wrote last week really helped me focus so I thought I would write another one.

Freedom comes in hues of red, white, and blue

It stands tall and proud as we stand vulnerable

It lurks around us like a dark shadow

Then it pounces in for the kill

As our pain echos through our mouths

It entraps us, so only we can hear our deafening screams


Freedom hangs on our necks

It confines our hands underneath its heavy metals

Frigid, cold, and lifeless

It let’s us trudge forward

Then pulls us back as soon as we have turned the corner


Freedom rots in our souls like year old meat

Its smell make our noses flare and our tummies ache

It maneuvers through every corner of our hearts and minds

It’s darkness spilling over the light that once held us together

Latching on to our hope

It’s warm arms wrap around it, the way a mother holds the baby she just bore


But freedom is restless

So it rips us apart

First slowly, peeling away at the edges

Then all at once , pulling away at everything that defined the glory within us


And then it starts again


And although this time we expect it

We go willingly

We let it take us to its land

Where it promises everything we have hoped for

We ravish in the compromised happiness it gives us

Then suddenly it shoots us down


Because we were too quickly unraveling the chains it once held us with

Because freedom only let’s us prosper when it is prospering itself


So as we lay there

Cold, frigid, and lifeless

It cradles us in its arms, singing us it’s lullaby

“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…”

Maya Angelou

I was inspired by Maya Angelou and her presence, so I wrote a poem myself.

Harlem, NY, Kaolack, Senegal, and Simsbury, Connecticut have been integral parts of my life. My experiences in each of these places have allowed me to flourish into the person that I am today.

The tree is dark mahogany, breathing with life

It’s emerald green leaves sprout from every wick branch

And the air is sweet with the springtime ripeness

Though the rush of the city threatens to uproot its foundation

It stands firm and bold and strong


She comes out screaming

Her eyes shut and her body trembling

Her hands stretch out

Yearning for the warmth between between her mother’s breast and protective arms

She opens her eyes with intense curiosity

Innocent and ignorant of the world around her


The tree is dark mahogany breathing with life

Its long arms and spindly fingers grasping for Heavens unknown

Its bark tightly wound by the secrets of generations past

Woven in the branches is 6000 years of Senegalese history

That even the Griots can not tell

6000 years of culture

6000 years of crime

6000 years of confusion

And still it stands firm and bold and strong


All knowing and protective

Its light spilling over every dark corner

Conducting the orchestra of the birds

Nourishing the inklings of life nestled in the ebony earth

She turns over from the buzzing noises

The mosquitoes can smell the sweet nectar

Dripping out from the little girl

Sleeping between the white netting


Her dreams are filled with innocent laughter

Under the cloudless skies that make her skin as black as night

She dreams of her grandmother’s gossip

And the savory smell of the tender lamb

Rising from above the crackling fire


The tree is dark mahogany breathing with life

Its limbs broken and bruised

Its leaves lying frozen on the ivory cement

The harsh winds are neither forgiving nor merciful to its naked being

And yet it stands firm and bold and strong


She wakes up under red, white and blue

Her passion was red

Her craving was unending

Time was white

Each tick of the short hand

Is innocence past, lands forgotten

Her hope is blue

Bright and unwavering

Her skin is dark mahogany

Breathing with life


City of Rhetoric Introduction Analysis

Many people believe that the poverty faced by many Americans, specifically African-Americans in the inner city is because of laziness and violence within their own community. However, in the introduction of City of Rhetoric, Fleming argues that it is actually the environment that plays a role in why the African American community is subject to so much poverty. Fleming’s evidence of this is introduced to the reader in an anecdotal manner. His introduction is a history lesson about Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley trying to create a 1 million dollar government initiative in the poorest part of the city. Although, this would seem odd to anyone who doesn’t understand the relationship between the environment and its people, Fleming argues that this could be the most beneficial project for this specific community. Since the neighborhood has been plagued with poverty and violence long before African Americans inhabited it, it is the environment to blame and not the people.