A (quick) Happy Holidays wish!

Dear Harlem Prep friends,

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! I just wanted to wish you all a very happy holiday season — and for those of you on the East Coast and beloved New York City, a wish to stay warm — and a very, very happy and healthy New Year. I am thinking of you all in this holiday season, more than you know!

In terms of an update on my progress, I am deep in revisions on the Harlem Prep project, and making good progress toward a completed dissertation/story by spring time. As I give thanks in this holiday season and in reflection of another year past, I want to thank you all for the richness of stories of you have given me, and more than anything, the faith and trust you have placed in me to tell your beautiful stories individually and collectively at Harlem Prep. I am continually humbled and grateful.

I have two little “gifts”: one, a raw 2-minute clip from the 1972 Commencement Ceremony in front of the Hotel Theresa on 125th Street, from the Associated Press video archives. Some of you may have seen this before, but if you haven’t, it is truly a beautiful and powerful clip. Click the image below to be taken to the website to watch:

Second, here’s a brief snippet of the end of Chapter 5, where I write about the educational program at Harlem Prep, such as the open-space building, curriculum, extracurriculars, scheduling, and other logistics. This is the first part of my conclusion of this chapter. Click the text-image below to enlarge:

Once again, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you all! As always, if you would like to reach out about anything — to tell a story for inclusion or about anything at all — please don’t hesitate to reach out.



A long overdue update -- draft completed and a video to share!

To my dearest Harlem Prep friends,

A picture of a pictures b-roll pages that I found buried at the Exxon archives in Texas.

Hello! It has been too many months since my last update — and I apologize for waiting so long to post. (However, I have a surprise to make up for it at the end of this post!) So many things have been going on in my life, but my love and passion for Harlem Prep has remained. I’ve now lived in Southern California for over a year now, and while it is wonderful to be close with family, I deeply miss my Harlem Prep family. I miss our visits and correspondences, and soaking up the energy in Harlem — and even just feeling that internal warmth knowing that many of you and the spirit of Harlem Prep were only a subway ride away.

Last year, as you all know, was spent writing the Harlem Prep story after many years of research in New York City, New Jersey, and beyond. Each day, I’d spend as many hours as my mind would allow writing about Harlem Prep, trying to synthesize over a thousand (yes, that many!) documents related to the school and its students, and hundreds of pages of oral history transcriptions. The beauty, the mystique, the complexity, the exceptionalism of this institution — as I see it — jumped off of these documents and transcriptions over and over again, and it was a challenge to somehow craft all of that into a powerful, yet honest, narrative that would give the school and it’s wonderful people justice the best that I could.

In result of this year-long writing — and in all its many imperfections — I finished a near-complete draft of this story in late June. After 370 pages (double-spaced on the computer, don’t worry!) of text, I took a break and gently put Harlem Prep aside, momentarily.

A beautiful picture — students working, with no one else in sight, under the Moja Logo slogan.

Shortly after, in July, I was hired as a part-time history professor at a community college where I live. Although I’ve worked with young people in the past, it is my first time teaching at the college level. While it has certainly been a whirlwind, I have loved every minute of it — it has truly been a privilege to be able to teach and learn from young people who are trying to reach their dreams. In my teaching, I think about Harlem Prep constantly. In every class that I plan and in every strategy that I employ, I think of Harlem Prep — what would the Sandy Campbell’s or the Ann Carpenter’s or the Dr. Ben’s do? In reflection, after 8 weeks of teaching so far, I realize how much Harlem Prep has deeply influenced my teaching style in countless ways.

The last few weeks, however, I have been jumping back into Harlem Prep. Where does this leave me? Where does this leave us? I am currently revising/editing/adding to each of the eight chapters that I wrote last academic year, based on feedback from my advisor at Columbia University. I plan to spend the next few months revising this current draft into a more polished one. The goal is to be finished sometime in March — in which, from there, I can hopefully begin to circulate a working draft and then, once it’s finalized, share it all publicly and begin to turn it into a book to send to publishers!

Here is an updated outline of what each of these eight chapters currently look like. Click the button to read the document:

Revisions so far are going well, although, as always, there is so much to say! One of the questions I am struggling throughout the narrative revolve around gender — particularly in the context of today. What were the gender politics like at Harlem Prep? (There has been history research on how the civil rights movement was often sexist, and African-American women were often marginalized in leadership positions.) Was Harlem Prep originally intended to be for men only? (The first class, 30 of the first 36 students were male and I can’t seem to find the answer to this question.) How I can include additional stories of Ann Carpenter in the narrative, since we all know that she did so much for the school even though Ed gets much of the credit. (Many of my documents I have found are written from the perspective of Ed, only.) If anyone would like to offer their thoughts on any of these questions — or narratives about Ann, specifically, too — I would very much love to hear them and to include them!

Finally, I have one last thing: in April, I presented some work on Harlem Prep at an education conference to teachers, administrators, and education researchers and practitioners. It was a true joy and extremely humbling! In hopes of sharing with you, I created a video of that presentation with my voice narration in the background. I hope you enjoy!


This presentation is based off a newly-published chapter that is in a book to help prepare pre-service teachers (i.e., those who are training to become teachers). Unfortunately, because of copyright issues — and I’ll get in trouble! — I can’t post a link online, but if you contact me (e-mail or phone or Facebook), I can share a copy of this chapter! Here is information about the book: Radical Educators Rearticulating Education and Social Change (I don’t know why the book is so expensive at this point!) Anyway, the chapter is not perfect and I was under certain limitations, but I hope people training to become teachers can become inspired — and learn from — Harlem Prep’s teachers and apply those same principles to the present. I know for certain that Harlem Prep has inspired me.

In the perilous times that we currently live in, Harlem Prep gives me hope — much-needed hope! — and it continues to be an honor to have the opportunity to tell this beautiful story. I am slowly having opportunities to share small parts of this story (in this book chapter and presentation, for example), and truly cannot wait until I am able to share this whole, amazing and beautiful and complex story with each of you and the world. I promise, though I am out of sight, all of you are not out of mind!

Thank you for all your support, help, trust and love — and I promise to post again soon. Please never hesitate to reach out. Wishing you all the best, happiness and good health.


Presenting in NYC on Harlem Prep

Dear Harlem Prep alumni and my dear friends,

I hope everyone is well! Since my last update, I have been continuing to write, write, and write some more -- sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I have now completed a first draft of five of the nine total chapters of the Harlem Prep story, with another first draft of a chapter (Chapter 7 on Harlem Prep's community coalition) almost done, too. (To keep track, click here to visit my last update where I posted a detailed outline of all nine chapters of my dissertation/book!)

However, I wanted to check-in with a brief personal update as I've been on a slight writing hiatus: I have been preparing for two presentations about my research on Harlem Prep at AERA -- the American Educational Research Association. AERA is the largest education conference in the world, with over 17,000 attendees expected this year to talk about every facet of education in the present. (Yes, there is a lot that needs to be talked about -- and fixed!) To my delight, this year's conference is in New York City, so I will get to visit my old stomping grounds for a few days.

While I know it is short notice -- and schedules are busy -- I wanted to make sure to invite you all to these presentations:

Monday, April 16, 10:35am-12:05pm: presentation about how Harlem Prep was able to build a diverse "community coalition" of philanthropy and business with local support, crossing racial and ideological lines.


Tuesday, April 17, 8:15-9:45am: presentation about Harlem Prep teachers and their emancipatory teaching, and what teachers today can learn from Harlem Prep teachers' use of love and relevant pedagogy.

Each of these presentations will be about 10-12 minutes, and then there are other presenters who discuss their research on a related topic (i.e., teaching or history of education) during that time slot. Unfortunately, these are early times (particularly Tuesday) and the conference takes place at various hotels in Times Square -- absolute madness, I know! Still, if you are interested in attending, please reach out to me individually.

However, if you'd like to view the visual parts of the presentation that I am going to give, you can view them by clicking below. (Once you get to the presentation, give it a few minutes to load and click the ">" arrow to go to each slide.) They start off similar, and then are different. Just imagine me speaking about each of these things! :) Click below:

Harlem Prep Community Coalition Presentation [Monday]

Harlem Prep Emancipatory Teaching Presentation [Tuesday]

I can also send you the actual papers for you to read (which I am presenting on) to you, too. Just reach out individually by e-mail or phone. Alright, that's all for now! Thank you for continuing to believe in me and for all your support -- each day I get more excited to one day be able to share the Harlem Prep story with the world. We're getting there.

With love and gratitude,


An expanded outline and 50% draft done (plus sneak peak)!

Dear Harlem Prep alumni and friends,


I hope you all have had a wonderful start to 2018! Since the calendar switched, I have been hard at work, continuing to write each day about Harlem Prep -- and not a day goes by where I am not deeply grateful for the opportunity to write your extraordinary story.

Since my last post, I have made a lot of progress! Unlike the last update -- and thank you to those who reached out -- this time I have attached a real-life progress report, with a detailed outline of each chapter. And, things have definitely shifted! When I originally posted my first outline back in October, I only had planned for six or so chapters -- but now, I have nine full chapters planned. What changed, you might ask? Well, "you" did (so to speak)! There is so much to say about Harlem Prep, about the people who went there; so many stories to tell and dynamics to explore, and I just felt there was more that needed to be written about something so extraordinary and so unique (and truly timeless). For example, how could a story exist without a section about administrators and a deep analysis of how Ed Carpenter embraced multiculturalism with "unity through diversity?" Or, that there needed to be a separate chapter just exploring all the educational components of Harlem Prep: its classes, curriculum, and daily life? Plus, highlighting alumni stories and poetry should also flow through each chapter, no matter the focus. I saw Harlem Prep unfolding in three parts: its origins, its rise, and its descent, and have re-organized my dissertation in this way.

So, please click the button below to view the new outline (and please reach out with any questions or thoughts, too!). As you will see highlighted in yellow, I have completed first drafts of chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (that's a total of 223 pages so far), and I am starting on chapter 7 soon. Of course, this outline may change, such as chapters 8 and 9 might be condensed and the introduction might just fold into chapter 1, but this is my best guess as of now! Without further ado, click below:

Oh, and one last thing! Here's a sneak peak of the last page and half of Chapter 5 on Harlem Prep's students, teachers, and administrators (click to enlarge):

As always, if you have not shared your story and experiences about Harlem Prep, and would like to do so for inclusion into the dissertation/book, please reach out to me personally at bmg2136@tc.columbia.edu or here on the website (or via Facebook or phone). I would to hear from you! (Or, if you have any documents/photos you would be willing to share.)

We are getting there -- I can't wait to share it all with you in due time.

With tons of love and endless appreciation,


P.S. Of course a few "goodies" from the archives! First, a short newsletter called The Lamp put out by Standard Oil at Harlem Prep. Second, a PDF of two letters between Ed Carpenter and Ford Foundation program officer Joshua Smith, that details budgetary information about funding academic departments. Enjoy!

A positive progress report + Happy Holiday wishes!

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all!

I hope each of you are well, and have been able to enjoy this time with family and friends (and for those of you in the Northeast, able to keep warm!).

A sneak peak into my work space -- post-it notes are starting to take over! Chapter Three in progress...

Since the last update in October, a lot of progress has been made on writing my dissertation -- on writing the Harlem Prep "book." Each day I wake up and write...and then write some more! Although it can sometimes be hard to stay disciplined, I continue to be inspired as I write your stories into this manuscript and explain all that is Harlem Prep, going through all my wonderful conversations (the oral history transcripts) and the hundreds of documents I have collected. I love flipping through pictures of the Prep, trying to find the proper words and sentences that can best represent the learning and personal growth occurring in these photos. Each quote, each picture, each document is snapshot of the Prep, and the challenge is to take each of these snapshots and weave them all together in a complete, accurate, and meaningful way. On a "good" day of writing, I can write four, sometimes even five or six pages. Other days when I can't seem to find the right words, I may only write a few pages. But, thankfully, the beauty -- and beautiful complexity -- of the Harlem Prep story inspires me to have mostly "good" days of writing!

As of today, I have written 131 pages into this story -- it is really coming a long! A few weeks ago, I completed the first draft of Chapter Two (I skipped my first chapter onto the history of Harlem for now), which details the founding of Harlem Prep: all about the New York Urban League and their Street Academy Program, as well as about Dr. Eugene Callender and the people who came up with the idea to start a prep school in Harlem. Each chapter begins with a quote, and this chapter starts with this one:

"The school would represent more than quality education. It would become a symbol of educational hope." --Dr. Eugene Callender, 1967

Callender was certainly right in his early hope. The rest of the chapter explains in detail the hiring and biography of Ed Carpenter -- one of my favorite sections to write -- and how Harlem Prep came together in terms of staffing and partnerships (with the nuns at Manhattanville College, for example). Finally, the last thirty-five pages of the chapter describes the inaugural year at the Harlem Armory, including the teaching that occurred, student stories (with plenty of student poetry), and the first graduation in spring of 1968.

Currently, I am working on "Chapter Three: The Rise of Harlem Prep, 1968-1971." I am about 43 pages into this chapter, and it's also coming along. The first third describes Harlem Prep in relation to other Black alternative schools emerging in the country as a result of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power -- and I argue how Harlem Prep was different and unlike any other school. Then, the rest of the chapter is about Harlem Prep as an educational institution: what was the school's educational philosophy? How did Headmaster Carpenter employ his "unity through diversity" concept? How did the teaching happen and what did the pedagogy look like? How did the open-space work each day? What was daily student life like? Activities and clubs? For these questions and many others, I am relying primarily on my conversations with many of you -- and please feel free to reach out if you have more stories to tell or would like to make sure your story is included.

Perhaps the quote that I begin this chapter with is most fitting when I think about the wonderful challenge of writing this Harlem Prep story. It is from Dr. Joshua Smith, who worked at the Ford Foundation and would become Harlem Prep's biggest advocate, helping secure funding for Harlem Prep at its most dire times. However, when he first visited Harlem Prep, he did not know what to expect! He wrote in 1970:

"To visit this school is an emotional experience which will require considerable sorting out of stimuli over a period of time. Never having visited the institution before, I was somewhat unprepared for that which was to follow my cross the threshold. The haze of blue smoke floating toward the ceiling and the high decibel level made it unlike any other educational institution I have visited."

After 131 written pages, Harlem Prep, to me, is still unlike any other educational institution I have ever learned about or visited. I think of each of you every day, trying my best to piece together your stories of achievement, of struggle, of empowerment, and of love. I wish so very deeply that I could share each page of this book with you as it is being written, and just know that while I am out of sight, Harlem Prep is never out of my mind.

I hope you have a happy and healthy New Year, and look forward to sharing more progress with each of you in 2018. Please always feel free to reach out to me if you would like to chat more -- on here, through e-mail, or on the phone -- about my progress or to share your story, or about anything at all! Sincerely,


P.S. A few pictures that I have been enjoying. Don't forget to view the photo gallery for more.

Students looking out into Harlem from inside the Prep

A great overview pictures of students in a class

Article about Harlem Prep in the New York Times... anyone know who is leading the dance group? :)