Dr. Anthony Monteiro

Dr. Anthony Monteiro

STATEMENT TO THE PRESS BY ANTHONY MONTEIRO
FEBRUARY 12, 2014
1199C HOSPITAL WORKERS’ UNION

MY REINSTATEMENT AND THE MORAL REGROUNDING OF TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

 We are gathered here, because justice demands it. We, Black labor, the Black faith based community, scholars, academics, students and youth, the grass roots community and philanthropic organizations, are here to speak truth to power and to make it clear we will not be turned around. We insist without justice there cannot be peace. We, in one sense, are here because I have been fired and to call upon the President of Temple University to reverse Dean Soufas’ revenge and retaliatory action against me and my colleague Dr Maxwell Stanford.

This firing was preceded by a series of actions that if directed towards any group other then black people generally and black men in particular would have been cause for dean Soufas’ removal. Her statement that she did not see a Black community, pointing her finger in Molefi Asante’s face in a manner reminiscent of Jim Crow racism and slavery, sending an email to our past departmental chair stating that myself, Drs Stanford and Wonkeyor should not even think we could apply for a tenure track position, the harassment, bullying and driving from the university Dr Lewis Gordon and his wife Dr Jane Gordon, her turning down the vote by our faculty to appoint Dr Kariamu Welsh, a full professor, recognized dance scholar and twice chair of the dance department, as interim chair of our department. Her push to make a white woman scholar chair over the objections of the majority of our faculty and students. Her belligerent attitude and hostile body language when meeting with our faculty. Her denying me the right to advise grad students and chair their dissertations in violation of an accepted practice, which is so common that, the procedure is institutionalized.

This culminated in her letter of January 6, 2014 telling me my contract would not be renewed after the current semester. She gave no reason and only said I should contact the chair of my department for further explanation. In fact the only explanation I have received thus far appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune where she said my firing had to do with a “change of direction “ in the department. After more than ten years of teaching, mentoring, service to the university and the department I was told via the news media that my services were no longer needed because of a “change of direction” and an “exciting new curriculum”. She mentioned nothing of my scholarship, teaching, and community service or mentoring. The question is why not?

The answer is that this is nothing less than a retaliatory and revenge firing. It is her getting back at me for my standing up to her bullying, pointing fingers at black men, her authoritarian attempt to take over African American Studies and my taking the struggles for the life and integrity of our department to the Black community—those to whom we are ultimately accountable.

I am a scholar and activist. My life and work is guided by the moral imperative to stand for justice, to work to end poverty, homelessness and hunger, to fight to end mass incarceration and for justice and freedom for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, to end war and to save the earth and humanity from a climatic catastrophe.

My scholarship, as is well known, is anchored in the intellectual and moral courage of W.E.B Du Bois, the unflinching opposition to war, racism and poverty of Martin Luther King Jr., the wisdom of Ella Baker and witness of James Baldwin. I teach them and write about them and try to live like them as an example to my students and my community.

And need I say, I come from, am organically tied to and ultimately accountable to the great AfroAmerican people and their mighty strivings for freedom. This moral and intellectual positioning is viewed by some in the academy as outside the bounds of legitimate academic work. It is seen as threatening and certainly a challenge to the idea that higher education exists to make profit rather than uphold and teach human values.

I ask, is not the social historical grounding of African American Studies the Afro American people? Is not the basis of our phenomenology the humanity of the AfroAmeican people? Do these not then compel us to unconditional solidarity with our people?  If we reject the centrality of the AfroAmerican people to what we do and who we are, shouldn’t we just fold up our tents, go home or call ourselves something other than African American Studies?

We are now at a moment of truth. It is an existential moment. It is what Martin Luther King spoke of in famous sermon “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”. We can choose to either stand for justice or be indifferent to it.  We can choose, at our collective peril I might say, selfishness and egotism over service and the undeniable recognition that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. What affects me today will certainly be your fate tomorrow. And if you are Black what makes you think your loyalty to injustice now will protect you from the same evil tomorrow. We are compelled to break the betrayal of our silences.

I have been unjustly fired. I have been publically spoken of as a non-entity whose teaching, scholarship and service have meant little, practically nothing to the university and the department. There are scores of people who can replace me, I’m told. After all you don’t have tenure. But is that all there is to it? And some will ask, Dr Monteiro why are you choosing the path of resistance and protest rather than accepting your fate and going quietly into the night? Isn’t that what others in your position would do? Temple University and this dean are too powerful. They don’t retreat on things like this. This dean is too invested in getting you out of Temple. How do we the people fight such a powerful institution as Temple? Can’t they buy off those who would be your allies? My only answer is there’s more to this than Temple or me. The question is what is right, what is moral and how can we serve the cause of justice. And in the process how do we transform a powerful institution into a great university. Moreover, to make Temple a great university we must resituate it as a force for good and service to people, especially the poor and especially its neighbors. And we must defend the rights and dignities of all employees of Temple.

I agree with Martin Luther King, “We can all be great because we can all serve”. By standing up I believe I am serving my community, my people the great AfroAmerican people, Temple University and all who stand for justice.

It is far larger than me. It’s also about the children in Norris Homes. It is about the human beings that inhabit the two poorest zip codes in Philadelphia, which are neighbors to Temple. It’s about them. It’s about the kids harassed by the police and told keep it moving you don’t belong here. It’s about the closing down of Saturday Free Schools and W.E.B Du Bois Lectures and Symposia that opened the classrooms and lectures halls to the poor and working class.

In this whole thing I am but a part, an instrument if you will. Yet in this mix it is, as my friend Sacare Rhodes reminds me, my ancestral obligation to stand at this time in this place. I did nothing wrong. I have served the University and its neighbors. Ask my students. Ask people in neighborhoods near and far from Temple. I served and lived up to my contractual obligations. Now we must fight.  NOW IS THE TIME! Our demands are simple:

1. Reinstate me with tenure.

2. End the harassment, retaliation and bullying of others and myself. Allow me to perform my duties as a scholar and activists.

3. Restore my right to reserve rooms and lecture halls for lectures, conferences, symposia, the Saturday Free School and film showings.

4. An apology from Dean Soufas and others for defamation of my character and the belittling of my intellectual and professional achievements.

We want Temple to be not merely a powerful institution, but a great one. To do so it must recommit itself to those virtues that Russell Conwell, Temple’s founder, upheld—service to the poor and working class, the fight for racial equality and educating its students to have moral courage and in their chosen endeavors that they choose also to live lives of public service.

PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE REPORTS ON THE PRESS CONFERENCE

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