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Standing Tall: Willie Long and the Mare Island Original 21ers, by Jake Sloan

Standing Tall: Willie Long and the Mare Island Original 21ers, by Jake Sloan, WISR Press and the African American Development Institute, second edition, 2017.

Jake Sloan is a WISR faculty member, doctoral student, and former member of WISR’s Board. After serving in the military, Jake Sloan started his working career as a pipefitter, working mainly on the construction of nuclear submarines. After leaving that field of work, while attending college, for a number of years he worked mainly in the area of programs directed at equal access and equality in training and pay for African Americans in building trades in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area. Since 1985, Mr. Sloan has owned Davillier-Sloan, Inc., one of California’s largest labor-management consulting firms, with a focus on the construction industry. Mr. Sloan holds an MA degree in history from San Francisco State University. The subject of his MA thesis was Blacks in Construction: A Case Study of Oakland, California, and the Oakland Public Schools Construction Program 1960-1978.

 

Standing Tall: Willie Long and the Mare Island Original 21ers is the story of how 25 men stood up, stood tall and filed a complaint against long-entrenched racial discrimination at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in the 1960s In writing Standing Tall: Willie Long and The Mare Island Original 21ers, Jake Sloan assumed literary leadership in telling a story of the quest for economic and social justice for African American workers who were employed at Mare Island. The book stands as a testament to sacrifice, the value of organization, solidarity and risk associated with speaking up. The book acknowledges the courage and resolve that is indicative of the struggle for justice for African American people. The work is essential for the realization that there are those who attempt to tell the story of African American people but what they produce is biased, grossly distorted, triumphalism/revisionist and tantamount to fomented misconceptions. The work contributes to the history of this country from the standpoint of telling a story that is not well-known, but bears witness to the need for standing up for one’s rights, the critical importance of leadership, using the approach of any means at hand as tools and the need to have a cogent agenda in the quest for equality. As part of the war industry, the more than 1,000 African American workers on Mare Island were confronted with racial discrimination in working conditions, unequal pay, hiring, training and advancement while the federal government and the larger society spewed platitudes about democracy, liberty and equality manifesting a glaring contradiction. The book confirms that freedom is not free and shows the value of collective action as opposed to individualism. In many ways, working at Mare Island meant good jobs. Conditions for those in the production shops were usually much better than those found in the private sector for similar work, especially in the building trades. However, there had been growing dissatisfaction with the status quo among a small but growing group of the African American workers. They were tired of being paid less than whites for performing the same work. They were tired of being supervised by whites that they had trained. They were tired of being tired, as the old saying goes. It was not easy to organize on the Shipyard. They were up against entrenched thought about the roles and expectations of African American in the workplace. This thinking was entrenched in the minds of both whites and many, many African Americans on the Shipyard. In fact, they sometimes had as much resistance from reluctant and fearful African Americans as we had from whites. Many workers, both white and African American, had come from the South where such discrimination was the norm. The organizing was hard dangerous. If the actions had become known to the leadership at Mare Island, they would have been fired. Over the years after the filing of the complaint, progress was made, but there were still challenges when the shipyard closed. For one thing, the leadership at the shipyard never admitted to discrimination. Everything was blamed on misunderstandings. Also, ironically, some of the people who refused to sign with the group, or even join later, received some of the best promotions. Across the country, there are unmarked graves of unsung heroes and heroines who represent countless acts of resistance which stand as testaments to the enduring struggle of African American people in the struggle for equality. The book is a monument that brings to light a virtually unknown group of men who made history by standing up for what was right and just.

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Accreditation Update and Next Steps

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January 6, 2018

Update on WISR’s Pursuit of Accreditation and Finances

Accreditation Update and Next Steps

WISR has been declared eligible to pursue accreditation by the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (www.deac.org ).  Even though WISR offers ongoing opportunities for onsite seminars and face to face interaction, it is possible to study completely from a distance and earn a degree at WISR. As always, there are no guarantees, but we are hopeful that we can achieve accreditation by June 2020. DEAC is approved by the US Department of Education. WASC turned down our application for Eligibility last month, because they felt that we do not have, nor will we be able to develop, the large financial reserve and institutional infrastructure in the next two years that they expect of the (usually very large and conventional academic institutions they accredit).

DEAC has a number of very specific guidelines for course syllabi, so we will have to do some further tweaking of our syllabi. Still, as we do so, we will retain WISR’s strong emphasis on personalized/individualized degree programs and learning, and of course also, our commitments to social justice, multiculturalism, and action-inquiry and creativity in the content that students study.

We will have to make a transition to having our syllabi accessed through an online Learning Management System (such as Moodle or Canvas), our students will have to do a certain amount of “online studying” (studying some of the WISR-required readings and relevant videos online, not just hard cover print books), and some regular posting of “thinking out loud” ideas for feedback from other students and faculty (online dialogue—which will be easier for some students than having to come to two seminars per month—a requirement that so far only MFT students and a couple of other students have complied with).  We will have an initial discussion of first steps toward such refinements at our All School Gathering, Saturday, February 3rd (please try to participate, onsite or by phone/video conference).  In addition, our new volunteer staff (and student) Learning Technology Specialist, Mark Wilson, will conduct needed trainings on technology for students and faculty, alike, to help make this transition smooth.

Indeed, WISR has the opportunity now to become, after several years, a rather distinctive and appealing option—a distance learning alternative that:

  • Can be onsite and face to face for those who want that,
  • Will be engaging and socially progressive, rather than cookie cutter and conformist,
  • Will support and encourage self-directed learning that is also highly collaborative (through a combination of seminars, online forums, and student initiated collaborations),
  • Will continue to be affordable (despite likely, modest tuition increases in the not too distant future) and accessible to adults—especially those who are attracted by WISR’s long-held, steadfast commitments to our distinctive social and educational mission and methods.

Update on WISR’s Finances

We have made enormous progress, financially, in the past year, although we will need to continue and sustain this progress over the next several years, in order to become accredited.

 

In 2017, we received $44,108.12 in cash donations from 9 currently enrolled students, 5 Board members, 12 alumni, 2 current and/or former faculty, one staff person and 3 friends of WISR. The size of the donations has ranged from $18 to $15,000. All part-time faculty have been donating their time; John Bilorusky donated 33% of his salary and the cost of his health benefits for 2017 ($26,000 in salary, $9,000+ in health benefits).  These donations have been extremely valuable in our efforts to move WISR toward long-term sustainability.  Moreover, beyond this, WISR is benefiting from the continuing engagement of students, faculty, Board and alumni in learning at WISR and in WISR’s institutional planning and development.

One anonymous and very generous donor has given us $15,000 in 2017, based on our having received just over $12,000 in donations since their “challenge” match a month ago. If, in 2018, we can come up with $3,000 to finish matching their $15,000 already donated, and then an additional $15,000, they have promised to donate another $15,000 in 2018. That is, we need $18,000 to be donated in 2018 to match the $15,000 added donation pledged. So far, we have pledges totaling $12,250 for 2018, so beyond these pledges we need only another $6,000 to gain another $15,000 from this donor, in 2018.  In addition, in 2018, John Bilorusky will donate one-sixth of his salary ($13,000) plus health benefits ($9,000+).  Part-time faculty will continue to donate their time. John is asking that we also match his $13,000 donation of salary.

So, our challenge for 2018 to match $18,000 needed to receive the second $15,000 anonymous donation pledged, and to match the $13,000 in salary to be donated—or a total of $28,000.  So far, $12,500 has been pledged by others for 2018, so we need to receive from others who have not yet pledged, an additional $15,500 for 2018 to receive the $28,000 in monies from these two offered donations in 2018.

Based on donations received in 2017, we will be able to pay off the last $5,000 of debt in January 2018. Our ability to eliminate ALL of our debt is crucial to our becoming accredited, and whichstood at $45,000 in debt 18 months ago, and $37,500 in debt just six months ago. (go to next page . . .)

Regarding our use monies in 2018, we will use about $20,000 of these monies for accreditation fees, about $6,000 for technology and online library expenses, and about $8,000 for CPA-related expenses. These expenses will total $34,000.  Remaining funds will be used to set up a much-needed contingency fund—which is also expected by the accreditation agency.