There’s always plenty of great music around during the holidays in New York City: Phish at Madison Square Garden, Patti Smith at Bowery Ballroom, Gov’t Mule at The Beacon Theatre, and so many more. Let’s hope the North Mississippi Allstars have now established themselves as another New York holiday tradition with their recent appearance at Brooklyn Bowl on Friday night.Kicking off the final weekend of 2018, Luther and Cody Dickinson were joined by New Orleans bassist Carl Dufrene (a regular with Anders Osborne as well as many other notable musicians) for an extended set of their down-home blues. Luther’s guitar puts him in a class with the finest players on the scene today. His energy is infectious, and his connection with Cody on drums creates a synergy possible only among brothers. Cody stepped out from behind the kit to play washboard, keys and even a little guitar, while Luther slid in to keep time on drums. Carl looks like Father Time but is a gentle giant who appeared to be having as much fun as anyone.Last year’s Prayer for Peace was an impressive and timely release for the ongoing North Mississippi Allstars project. Drawing upon a range of regional musicians, the fluid interplay of artists keeps things fresh while remaining anchored to a core sound. Cuts from the album as well as NMAS standards such as “Shake ‘em on Down,” “Red Rooster”, and “Po Black Maddie” formed the basis of the set, but the boys invited Junior Mack to join them and add another layer of superb musicianship. Mack is a Blues Hall of Famer who’s sat in with the Allman Brothers Band and is a current member of Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, while fronting his own band.Despite a solid following and the respect of fellow musicians, Luther, Cody and their North Mississippi Allstars ensemble deserve a wider audience. If you haven’t experienced their unique brand of blues, explore their albums and above all, shake it on down to one of their lives shows.Check out a beautiful photo gallery below of NMAS’ Friday night Brooklyn show courtesy of photographer Lou Montesano.North Mississippi Allstars | Brooklyn Bowl | Brooklyn, NY | 12/28/2018 | Photo: Lou Montesano Load remaining images
Gerald Neuman ’80, the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School (HLS), has been elected to the Human Rights Committee, the premier treaty body in the U.N. human rights system. The committee monitors compliance by 166 states parties with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is part of the International Bill of Rights.The committee is composed of 18 independent members from 18 different countries with recognized expertise in the field of human rights. Members are elected to four-year terms by states parties.“After years of study of the global and regional human rights regimes, I am grateful for the opportunity to help increase the persuasiveness and effectiveness of the Human Rights Committee’s work,” said Neuman.Said HLS Dean Martha Minow: “Gerry Neuman has not only deep expertise in international human rights law but also superb judgment, an impeccable sense of fairness, and remarkable powers of analysis. He will bring these qualities to the critically important responsibility of implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — protecting the rights of individuals and also advancing into practice the vision of human rights that member nations endorsed on paper. This is a terrific appointment for the Human Rights Committee — and a very proud moment for Harvard Law School.”To read the full announcement, visit the HLS website.
Two gray vans with smoked-glass windows and U.S. government plates idled at the curb on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. Quickly, a line of unusually well-dressed teenagers streamed into each, and the vans swiftly pulled away.Was this the opening scene of a thriller? In a way. The teenagers are entering freshmen at Harvard and other area colleges, and they were in their opening moments of military service as midshipmen fourth class (MIDN 4/C), the entry level of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). Ahead of them are four years of academic and military education, followed by commissions as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.Before entering those vans that late August day, the Harvard freshmen first swore an oath to serve their country. There are currently 21 Harvard undergraduates in local ROTC units, including nine with the Navy, seven with the Army, and three with the Air Force. Two students at Harvard Extension School, both seniors, are in Army ROTC.The oath-taking ceremony had special meaning for Harvard, which had stopped formal recognition in 1970 and 1971, although its students continued to participate in ROTC through a consortium based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University. But last March, Harvard and the Navy signed an agreement to bring an NROTC presence back to campus, and opened the door to officer-training programs run by the other services.The change hinged on the legal demise of the military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which the University viewed as discriminatory because it disallowed service by anyone who was openly gay.That policy expired on Tuesday, and two NROTC offices officially opened in the Student Organization Center at Hilles in the Quadrangle off Garden Street.“Granting openly gay and lesbian citizens the opportunity to serve the nation creates new possibilities for men and women to pursue their aspirations, to grow as leaders, and to devote themselves to the noble work of supporting and defending the Constitution,” said Harvard President Drew Faust at the opening ceremony at Hilles. “It not only affirms our shared interest in an inclusive society, but also deepens the reservoirs of talent on which the military so vitally depends.”Those who are in ROTC, she added, “combine learning and service, thought and action to the benefit of humanity.”***Sebastian Raul Saldivar of Dallas was one of the Harvard freshmen who took the oath on Aug. 21. “I remember watching 9/11 unfold in a third-grade class,” Saldivar explained as his main inspiration to serve. “I saw innocent and helpless men and women attacked. I knew I wanted to protect. I saw so many Americans unite to help, I knew I wanted to serve.”The terror attacks, he added, were “the first time outside of a movie theater I witnessed evil. I knew I wanted to be on the other side.”Joseph Brennan, another Harvard freshman entering NROTC, said the discipline and dedication required by the program would help generally in life. But he offered a more basic reason for joining. “Service to my country and beyond has always been a calling for me,” said Brennan, who is from Boerne, Texas, “and joining the military was the best way I saw to heed that call.”Saldivar and Brennan joined the other NROTC candidates for the oath ceremony. Their first lesson in military bearing — how to stand at attention — came even before the oath, which was administered by U.S. Navy Capt. Curtis R. Stevens, commander of the NROTC consortium, which also includes Boston College, Tufts University, and — for nurses only — Northeastern University. He told the gathered freshmen, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”Learning how to stand at attention began six intense days of indoctrination into the military, which would be completed before any of the freshman set foot on their new campuses.When they arrived at MIT and broke into squads, Brennan reported to a basement classroom lined with photos of military aircraft and portraits of American naval heroes. His squad got a second glimpse of military life: paperwork. They filled out service agreements, travel voucher profiles, emergency contact sheets, and forms about medical data, drug policy, and even the locations of their tattoos. The initial barrage they faced in the Navy involved paper. “My first advice,” said one instructor to the midshipmen: “Have a pen.”Upstairs, two hairdressers, hired for the day, were busy clipping away. Curly locks piled up on the floor, largely from the men, who soon were nearly bald. (Only one women midshipman needed a trim, just enough to keep her hair off the collar.) During any down time, the new midshipmen stood at attention reading the “gouge” book, a manual of basic Navy lore, from insignia and Navy fleet information to the chain of command and general knowledge. “Gouge” is Navy jargon for the skinny, the scoop, the final word on something — the answers to the test.In less than two hours every new MIDN 4/C had been issued 26 pieces of gear, including “bag, duffel” and “boots, black 9-inch, steel toe.” They packed it all into big green sea bags. They changed from jackets or skirts into Navy or Marine physical training gear. Saldivar, wearing his new gold Navy T-shirt and blue running shorts, sat to try on the boots. “It’s nice to get out of that suit,” he said.***At midday, the midshipmen picked up box lunches and filed into vans for a two-hour ride to Naval Station Newport. There they would awaken at 4:30 a.m., make their beds tight in two minutes, run from place to place, and obey shouted orders from older midshipmen, including squad leader MIDN 3/C Catherine Brown ’14.“The greatest thing about yelling,” remembered MIDN 3/C Christopher J. “CJ” Curtis ’14, “is you get to yell back.”But the stress in Rhode Island only pushes so far, said Stevens. “This is not boot camp,” he said. “But there’s fire to it.” There’s inspiration too. Stevens, a 29-year Navy veteran who retires next year, said the indoctrination sessions are student-run, which is “the best leadership experience we get to do.”MIDN/3C Catherine Philbin ’14, who participated in the Rhode Island “indoc” last year, said teamwork was a big lesson, along with perspective. “A lot of it is learning you won’t be perfect,” she said, “but you do your best.”Stevens also sees the earliest weeks of midshipman service as a compressed introduction to the values that an officer embraces: “honor, courage, commitment, and discipline.”Those values enhance and complement the college experience too, said Stevens, who spent his early career as a submariner. “They know how to behave,” he said of the midshipmen, even in little ways. Stevens remembered telling one NROTC mother that her son would learn how to iron his own shirts. “She just beamed,” he said.***At its core, becoming an officer is also about the NROTC program’s strict academic requirements: eight naval science courses, which cover history, leadership, ethics, and amphibious warfare, as well as technology, including courses on a ship’s engineering and weapons systems. NROTC midshipmen on scholarships also are required to take two semesters each of physics and calculus.Summers are also an important part of the path to becoming officers. For entering freshman, there is the week of indoctrination. The next three summers are expansive explorations of careers in the Navy and Marine Corps. Midshipmen work and learn side-by-side with active-duty line officers.Exploring careers is most explicit the summer before the second year of college. Midshipmen like Curtis and Philbin spend four weeks in CORTRAMID, or Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen. Midshipmen third class (MIDN 3/C) spend a week learning about each of the Navy’s main options: surface warfare, submarines, aviation, and the Marines. “That’s the nice thing,” said Curtis, a lithe 19-year-old who is the NROTC’s fitness officer this semester. “You get to see it all.”Think of CORTRAMID as summer camp, but complete with machine guns, attack submarines, helicopter simulators, bail-out training, swimming pools rigged with parachute drags, and a 20-minute ride in a two-seat turbojet that does steep dives and parabolic barrel rolls. “It was a beautiful day,” said Curtis of his over-the-ocean aerobatic training flight at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego. “It’s cool to see the water upside down.”Then again, aerobatics in a T34C trainer can impart up to three Gs of inertial acceleration to those in the cockpit. It makes an occupant feel leaden, and sometimes nauseous.When Philbin went on her orientation flight this summer in San Diego, she had a plastic bag tucked into the front of her flight suit. Earlier in the day, one instructor issued a warning about what to eat beforehand. “Bananas taste as good coming up as going down,” he said.“I lot of people got sick when they pulled Gs,” said Philbin. “But I liked it.” Aviation is not a career track she is likely to pursue — she wants the submarine service — but the CORTRAMID summer allowed her a bit of stick time on an aircraft, a stint at sea in a surface vessel, and time at nearby Camp Pendleton, where she slept under the stars, fired a grenade launcher, and kicked in the door of a suspected terrorist house, M16 in hand.Curtis recalled, “I lost my voice the second day, and my legs were toast” from quick-marching around Pendleton’s sandy hills. He studied amphibious vehicles, hunted for weapons caches and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), learned how to extract intelligence from a captured house, and fired a variety of weapons — the M2 .50-caliber machinegun, the M4 rifle, and the belt-fed M240 machinegun. “Every week has been a blast,” he said. “Each experience is very different.”***Curtis, a San Diego native whose father is a Navy SEAL, is not saying yet what his career path will be. But he knows one thing about the Navy: “I wouldn’t want to do anything else with my life.”During her aviation week, Philbin did more than take a head-spinning, 20-minute trip in the T34C. She learned about hypoxia — oxygen deprivation — in a gray, steel training chamber that simulates high-altitude unpressurized flight. She flew a simulated SH-60B Seahawk helicopter (“I came in a little hard, sir,” she told an officer afterward), and she spent an afternoon in water-survival training.The highlight for her was swimming in a saltwater pool in a flight suit, helmet, and steel-toed boots. Speed was not the point; staying alive was. “No one here is Michael Phelps,” said one instructor. The secret to the survival breaststroke is treading slowly. Pull, breathe, kick, and glide as you edge through the water, head up and bulbous, like a turtle. “We take the swimming part seriously,” said Capt. R. Brad Robinson, a naval flight officer. “We do a lot of flying over water.”Robinson, who commanded the training cycle that Philbin and Curtis were in, oversees the NROTC unit at the University of Florida.Sampling the four main career tracks, one intense week at a time, “gives them a heads up,” said Robinson, a 28-year Navy veteran. The so-called “officer service selection” does not come until the summer before the students’ senior year, he said. But long before that, most midshipmen “know what they want to do.”***Second-year midshipmen have four weeks of lectures, adventure, physical effort, and exposure to Navy jobs. The submarine service may offer the most challenge. Less than 5 percent of Navy personnel elect to go on long deployments while gliding under the sea in a war machine that — depending on rank — offers its warriors just three to nine square feet of living space. Then there’s the sensory deprivation. “There’s one window on a submarine,” the Navy joke goes. “The window on the washing machine.”When Curtis came aboard for a tour, the USS Hampton (SSN-767) was moored and matted with seaweed. The Hampton is one of six Los Angeles Class fast attack submarines in the San Diego-based Submarine Squadron 11. Launched in 1992, it is a sleek propulsive tubular craft that is 365 feet long, 50 feet high, and designed to hunt and kill other submarines.In the control room, past the manhole-like hatches and the narrow ladders and interior decks, Curtis peered through the periscope at his hometown. The duty officer, Lt. Ron Hatt, explained the trim controls, ballast, and other balancing factors that make the sub handle “like an aircraft” underwater. Curtis was full of questions, about turning radius, power generation, and emergency drills, as well as the effects of currents, strong seas, and water temperature on undersea performance. “Those are good questions,” said Hatt. “You should definitely go submarines.” In answer, Curtis just smiled.Earlier in the day, at Naval Base Point Loma, Curtis underwent “wet training” at the O’Kane Submarine Learning Center. At the bottom of a two-story cylindrical simulator, nine midshipmen at a time are put through a drill that simulates undersea disaster in the boiler room. Ten leaks spring from valves and flanges, some with enough water pressure to knock a person over. The seawater is a chilling 58 degrees, the lights suddenly go out, and students are left with just electric torches, Kevlar gloves, Adams clamps, and balls of twine. Seal the leaks or “die.”Afterward, in dry clothes and wearing his smile again, Curtis shot hoops on a sunlit patio. With his Kevlar gloves still on, he pumped in a few jump shots and reflected on the drill. “I’ve missed cold water,” said Curtis, who grew up with the Pacific Ocean’s frigid surf. “Water is supposed to be 50 degrees.”***Now back at Harvard, Curtis and other NROTC midshipmen — two freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors, and one senior — awaken at 5 a.m. to attend military science classes at MIT. They work out one to three times a week. And every Wednesday they wear their uniforms on the Harvard and MIT campuses, barely drawing a glance from undergraduates.With the rancor of the Vietnam era far in the past, other students are simply curious about ROTC, said Evan Roth ’12, a midshipman first class. They wonder what it is, how it works, and what it requires, he said. Eventually they get the idea that military service is a form of public service, a unique kind of civic duty — a notion, said Roth, “that sometimes gets lost at elite universities.”Sometimes that curiosity turns to envy, said the Dunster House government concentrator. Last summer, many of his friends had jobs at big financial firms, working in offices for 12 hours a day. Meanwhile, Roth took a summer training cruise for junior officers. He flew into Hong Kong and sailed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destinations that made his friends have second thoughts about their own planned careers. “At this point,” said Roth, “they’re kind of jealous I won’t be sitting behind a desk when I graduate.”
Madeline Holland ’15 was nervous about coming to Harvard. Then she met the Smileys.“Before I came to school, I was worried that it was going to be an unsupportive environment,” Holland says. “Then, last semester, Student Mental Health Liaisons (SMHL) came to my dorm and gave a presentation about wellness and mental health. I admired them for addressing the difficulties of adjusting to a new place. Afterwards, I talked to one of the ‘Smileys’ about how to get involved.”Today, Holland promotes emotional well-being among her classmates as a liaison. Founded in 2008 by Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), the Smileys have become important partners to the College’s mental health professionals, according to Paul Barreira, director of behavioral health and academic counseling.“It makes all the difference in the world to have students involved,” says Barreira, a former deputy commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. “Surveys show that, when students feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, 70 percent turn to a friend and 60 percent turn to a friend on campus. Only about 10 percent go to a professional. That’s why it makes sense to get undergraduates engaged and involved in taking care of people.”SMHL supports wellness through events and activities that provide information on everything from stress management to clinical depression. Spring is time for one of SMHL’s signature events: the annual Rally for Smiles. On April 18, the Smileys will gather on the Science Center plaza to spread the word about Harvard’s behavioral health resources and wellness at Harvard, and to ask classmates to sign a pledge:“I pledge to be aware of the resources available for well-being at Harvard and to be an advocate for mental health on campus. I understand that simply being there for a friend and talking openly is of benefit to my community, and that everyone deserves to smile.”The Smileys say that the event is designed to foster a caring community at the College, to encourage students to watch out for one another, and to reduce the stigma of mental health issues on campus. Last year, more than 700 members of the College community signed the pledge.In the fall, SMHL helps Barreira and his colleagues conduct depression and anxiety screenings in Annenberg Hall and the Houses. Using $5 gift cards for J.P. Licks as incentive, the Smileys coax between 1,300 and 1,700 students to participate in the event each year. Liaison Annie Douglas ’12 wrote her senior thesis on the screening and says that its results underscore the importance of Harvard’s robust behavioral health resources.“About 10 percent of students score likely or very likely to have depression — usually 9 percent in the likely group and 1 percent in the very likely group,” Douglas says. “The survey is not diagnostic, so what we’re measuring is depression-related distress, which means that people could just be experiencing a rough couple of weeks. Still, it reinforces the relevance of the work that we do. You don’t know who will seek treatment, but everyone has a chance to sit down with a counselor after the screening. The event also informs students about resources so that they can help friends, teammates, classmates.”SMHL also visits Harvard Yard during both fall and spring semesters to conduct workshops at freshman study breaks. Trained by HUHS professionals, the Smileys discuss cases drawn from the experiences of College students who have struggled with depression, anxiety, or some other emotional issue. (The students give permission for the use of their case and always remain anonymous.)Student facilitators present cases in stages and ask the freshmen at each juncture what they think is going on with the subject and how they might respond to the situation. Is the person sleep deprived? Stressed? Is something more serious going on?“It’s important for first-year students to understand the signs of mental health difficulties in their friends or themselves, and to know what to do if they notice those signs,” says freshman proctor Kaitlin Gallo, who invited the Smileys to her entryway. “This workshop calls attention to the realities of mental health difficulties at Harvard and gives students room to get their questions answered and to discuss these issues in a small group.”HUHS officials say that the workshops make a difference. Evaluations indicate that, before the SMHL-led sessions, a majority of freshmen believe that seeking help for emotional problems is a sign of weakness. Afterward, many see it as a sign of maturity.Members of the College community can learn more about stress management, emotional well-being, and Harvard’s behavioral health resources at the Harvard Smiles website. Designed and built by liaison Seth Riddley ’12, the site provides information about common (procrastination, stress) and clinical (bipolar disorder, depression) concerns.“The site is another way to fulfill the mission of SMHL, which is peer education,” Riddley says. “We’re here to let others know about the resources available on campus. We’ve gotten a lot of traffic, which has made our group more well-known. Before we built it, most students wouldn’t have known what SMHL did.”Holland says that she gets tremendous satisfaction from spreading the word about campus resources for addressing mental health issues.“I’m involved with making resources known and easily accessible,” she says. “There are ways to talk about mental health that aren’t threatening or stigmatizing. I’ve gained a lot from the experience, and it means a lot to be part of a group that breaks down barriers for students who need help.”
Harvard Business School (HBS) will soon have a new home for some of its executive education programs.Ratan Tata, former chairman of India’s Tata Group and a 1975 graduate of HBS’s Advanced Management Program for senior executives, will join Dean Nitin Nohria, President Drew Faust, former Dean Jay Light, HBS alumnus and benefactor C.D. “Dick” Spangler, and architect William Rawn at a dedication ceremony on Monday for Tata Hall.Located on the northeast corner of the School’s campus in Allston, Tata Hall will enhance and extend the School’s portfolio of executive education program facilities. The building will house executives who come from around the globe to advance their education and then return to strengthen their organizations, thus furthering the HBS mission to educate involved leaders around the world.“We look forward to welcoming remarkable leaders and contributing to their ability to make a profound difference in the world,” said Nohria.The building is named in honor of Ratan Tata, who served as chairman of Tata Sons Ltd. from 1991 until his retirement at the end of last year. The building was funded through generous gifts from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Tata Education and Development Trust.“Harvard Business School is the preeminent place to be exposed to the world’s best thinking on management and leadership, and we are pleased that this gift will support the School’s educational mission to mold the next generation of global business leaders,” said Tata.The seven-story, glass-and-stone building was designed by William Rawn Associates and built by Bond Construction. Tata Hall, with its distinctive arc shape, complements the School’s existing executive education facilities, which also include McArthur, Baker, and Mellon halls (residences), McCollum and Hawes halls (classrooms), and Glass Hall (administration).The 161,000-square-foot building will feature two classrooms, 179 bedrooms, and three gathering spaces to enhance community among the nearly 10,000 participants who attend executive education programs each year.“We’ve created a destination for professionals who are shaped by different backgrounds, yet seek an executive education experience unlike any other. That’s why Tata Hall is all about building connection,” said Rawn.
It’s a difficult exhibition to explore, but one that its organizers hope will promote a deeper understanding of America’s brutal history of slavery, segregation, and racism, and their legacy.“Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture” is composed of items from the Harvard Theatre Collection in Houghton Library, which holds one of the world’s most extensive archives of minstrelsy materials. A selection of the library’s charged material, on view in three glass cases and two wall displays on the Loeb Music Library’s second floor, offers visitors a disturbing look at the racist history and enduring echoes of blackface minstrelsy in contemporary culture.Through a range of photos, music scores, playbills, and other artifacts, the exhibition pulls back the curtain on the 19th century entertainment niche in which white performers darkened their faces with burnt cork and enacted generally demeaning caricatures of African-Americans in song, dance, comedy, and variety acts.“To me, it’s really important for students, both graduate and undergraduate, to learn how to talk about racial issues, it’s one of the central aspects in a liberal education,” said Carol Oja, the Harvard Music Department chair whose seminar last semester, “Blackface Minstrelsy in 19th-Century America,” inspired the student-curated show. “A seminar and an exhibition like this give students an opportunity to learn how to do that.”Included in the display is information on Thomas Dartmouth Rice, a white blackface performer and playwright known as “the father of American minstrelsy.” Rice’s stage caricature “Jim Crow” became both a racial slur and the phrase for describing the segregation laws that undercut African-Americans from the end of Reconstruction through the middle of the 20th century.Other materials point to the long reach of minstrelsy in American popular culture. “Despite its degrading imagery and lyrics,” said Oja, “minstrelsy produced some of the most beloved tunes in the American Songbook.” Well-known melodies with minstrel roots such as “Oh! Susanna,” “Buffalo Gals,” and “My Old Kentucky Home” were printed in 19th- and 20th-century elementary school songbooks.Other songs were adopted as state anthems. Virginia’s state song “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” was only withdrawn in 1997 after complaints about its racist lyrics. Beloved entertainers such as the actor and singer Bing Crosby performed in blackface, and racist depictions of black protagonists endured in radio and television shows through the 1950s and beyond. Even the cartoon character Bugs Bunny was depicted in blackface.The exhibition, which runs through May 8, illuminates yet another complex and complicated dimension of blackface minstrelsy: African-Americans who performed in blackface. Following Emancipation, minstrelsy provided African-American entertainers with one of their primary means of work, and many took to the minstrel stage to earn a living, including James A. Bland. Dubbed the “world’s greatest minstrel man,” Bland not only appeared in blackface, he also composed dozens of popular minstrel songs during the 1870s and ’80s. (It was Bland who composed “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.”)For many black performers, the appropriation of the form was a way to rebel against white suppression, said Louis Chude-Sokei, a professor of English and African Studies at the University of Washington and author of “The Last ‘Darky’: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora.”“Blackface and its meanings and receptions by blacks in particular have not always been static,” Chude-Sokei said during a symposium to mark the opening of the show on Jan. 26. “These meanings have been active, but they’ve also been activist in multiple ways, not the least of which was that reversal at work in which blacks engaged in a form that was constructed to both mock and exclude them.”Now Grammy-winning vocalist Rhiannon Giddens is reclaiming minstrel music by regularly incorporating the melodies and their history into her repertoire. The lead singer of the old-time string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens and her group frequently perform music with minstrel origins. The singer took up the minstrel banjo in Loeb Music Library for the exhibition opening, at which her performance included a song that melded an old minstrel tune with original words, and an original, haunting composition based on a slave narrative.“Being a performer and dealing with these things, it’s difficult, but it’s the most welcome challenge I think I’ve ever had as a musician, because the more that I dig into it, the more that I find echoes that exist today in the music and in what’s going on in contemporary” society, said Giddens.“It’s time for this. It’s time for this music to come out again more and more, and I am glad we are having these conversations,” she added, praising scholars and musicians for bringing the history and the songs to wider audiences. “It does take everyone to get this information out there and to get the music and this part of history” to the public.Chude-Sokei echoed those sentiments. “It’s important for the scholarly and musical world to work together on this,” he said, “because we have to find a way to make it accessible to people, not without the complicated racial and political content, but for them to feel willing to engage.”Harvard graduate student Samuel Parler, who helped to conceive the seminar and exhibition, said it was a challenging but important project.“I think a lot of people just don’t know about the history and how much of contemporary popular culture comes out of this racist past,” said Parler, a Ph.D. candidate in music. “To realize that these negative stereotypes and portrayals of African-Americans have worked historically to justify enslavement, segregation, racial violence … that’s a big part of my investment in the material and in this exhibition.”
This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates. Read our full Commencement coverage.For Fadumo Dayib, the notion of home is a complicated one.A Mason Fellow in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration program at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Dayib was born in Kenya, the daughter of uneducated Somali parents. Her father, a truck driver, and her mother, a “nomad,” had left Somalia to start their new life together in neighboring Kenya.But the history of political and ethnic tensions between the two countries meant she and her family were never accepted by Kenyan society, said Dayib. In 1989, they were arrested and deported amid the spread of civil war in Somalia.“One of my earliest memories of being a second-class citizen, an unwanted person, a displaced person, was when they handed me a small card that said, ‘Go home,’” Dayib recalled. “And that was the boarding pass that I used to get on Somali Airlines to leave Kenya.”Finland offered asylum to Dayib’s family, as it did to thousands of Somali refugees. But she felt that the refugee community was largely marginalized, tolerated but never truly wanted. Still, Dayib built a life there. She got married, had children, and found work as a nurse. Although she didn’t learn to read and write until age 14, she went on to get a master’s degree in health care sciences, and later a master’s in public health.Still, she felt unfulfilled. A deep desire to help those suffering in Somalia gnawed at her. “I have to be there,” she told her husband. So in 2005, she left her family in Finland, taking only her breast-feeding baby along, and joined the United Nations and headed to Puntland, Somalia.“The first night I slept soundly. I felt I was at home. I was on a mattress, but that was the best thing I ever could have ever done in my life,” Dayib said. “And I never looked back.”With the U.N., she worked on maternal health issues and mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention, setting up clinics across Somalia. But security concerns prompted the U.N. to evacuate her to Nairobi six months later. More troubling, she said, was the hostility and distrust Dayib felt from Somalis, the very people she was trying to aid.“It was very similar to what the Finns were telling me: ‘Leave this country, you’re taking over our jobs,’” said Dayib. “So I’m like, ‘Where am I going to go?’ I left Finland because I felt unwanted, and I thought I can help you, and I really think I can help you.’ So, where do I belong?”Reunited with her family, Dayib went to Fiji and Liberia, where she helped set up HIV prevention offices and trained health care providers for the U.N. over the next several years.Seeing Liberia, which had recently emerged from its own long-term strife, brought Dayib’s thoughts once again to her ancestral land. “Why can’t Somalia be like this? I want to be in an environment like this where you don’t hear gunfire, girls are going to school, women are working, people feel happy,” she said.So in 2013, she began work on a Ph.D. at the University of Helsinki on women’s governmental participation and empowerment in post-conflict societies.After taking a break to attend HKS starting last fall, Dayib has high goals. She is preparing to run for president of Somalia in 2016.She is quite clear about the difficulties she faces, particularly as a woman. “Of course, I think about the instability, I think about the insecurity, I think about the challenges that lie ahead, but I think these challenges face women wherever they are,” she said. “But the ultimate challenge really is: How far am I willing to go with my convictions?”“It almost belittles what she’s trying to do to say she’s attempting to make history,” said Steve Jarding, a lecturer in public policy at HKS who teaches campaign management and political strategy. “It’s a bit more than that. I think it’s a profile in courage” for Dayib to seek office in a place where there are such “huge personal risks involved.” But with her “charisma,” “drive” and “remarkable” sense of public service, Jarding said Dayib has the power to unite the Somali diaspora and perhaps stir real change regardless of the election outcome. “I think in so many ways, Somalia and the world are already better.”“Coming here was really to see how far I could push the envelope. I’ve always wanted to see how far I could go even when people tell me it’s impossible to do,” said Dayib. “My mother always told me, ‘You hold all the possibilities in your palms.’ And it’s true.”
A gene therapy that delivers a protein that suppresses the development of female reproductive organs may improve survival rates in patients with ovarian cancer that has recurred after chemotherapy. Recurrence happens 70 percent of the time and is invariably fatal.In their report receiving online publication in PNAS Early Edition, a research team from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) describes how a single injection of a modified version of Mullerian inhibiting substance (MIS), a protein critical to sexual development, suppressed the growth of chemotherapy-resistant ovarian tumors in a mouse model. While not all the tested tumors — grown from cells grafted from patient tumors — were sensitive to this treatment, the investigators also outlined a noninvasive way of screening cancer cells in vitro for treatment responsiveness.“Our findings are important because there are currently no therapeutic options for recurrent, chemoresistant ovarian cancer,” said Harvard Medical School (HMS) instructor in surgery David Pepin of the MGH Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories. Pepin is the lead author of the report. “This is also a proof of concept that gene therapies with the AAV9 vector can be used to deliver biologics for the treatment of ovarian cancer, and represents the first time this approach has been tested in this type of ovarian cancer model.” During embryonic development, MIS is secreted by tissues in male embryos to prevent maturation of the Mullerian duct, which otherwise would give rise to female reproductive organs. The potential of MIS to treat ovarian cancer and other reproductive tumors has been studied for many years by Patricia Donahoe, director of the MGH Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories and senior author of the study. Previous investigations by Donahoe’s team have shown that MIS suppresses ovarian cancer growth, both in animals and in human cell lines, by targeting the cancer stem cells that survive chemotherapy; but previous methods of producing MIS were unable to generate sufficient quantities of high-quality protein for preclinical testing.The current study employed a modified form of the MIS gene, developed by Pepin to generate protein of greater purity and effectiveness, combined with the accepted viral vector AAV9 for delivery into the peritoneal cavity, a common site for the recurrence of ovarian cancer. The modified MIS/AAV9 construct was tested against tumor cells taken from ascites fluid that had accumulated in the abdomens of several patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. Initial experiments confirmed that these cells expressed the MIS receptor protein, carried markers indicating their identity as cancer stem cells, and that their growth was inhibited in vitro by MIS. A single injection of the MIS/AAV9 construct into the peritoneal cavity of mice resulted in elevated expression of MIS by multiple tissues throughout the abdominal cavity and in adjacent muscles.The effectiveness of the MIS/AAV9 construct was tested in mice implanted with ovarian cancer cells. The test revealed that treatment with MIS/AAV9 three weeks prior to tumor implantation significantly inhibited tumor growth. In a more clinically relevant experiment, applying the therapy to mice in which tumors already had been induced by implanting cancer cells from five different patients significantly inhibited further growth of tumors generated from the cells of three of the five patients. Analysis of tumor samples from more than 200 patients revealed that 88 percent expressed some level of the MIS receptor, with 65 percent expressing moderate or high protein expression.“Since the response to MIS gene therapy is not the same for all patients, it will be important to first screen each patient’s tumors to ensure they will respond” said Pepin. “While we have not yet identified biomarkers of treatment response — something we are currently searching for — we have described a way to rapidly grow tumor cells from ascites to be evaluated for drug sensitivity. If further study confirms the susceptibility of chemoresistant tumors to this MIS gene therapy, the ability to inhibit tumor recurrence could significantly extend patient survival.”“All of the implanted tumor cells were from patients who failed all previous therapies, so a 60 percent response rate is quite significant for a single agent,” said Donahoe, who is the Bartlett Distinguished Professor of Surgery at HMS. “The ability to administer this MIS/AAV9 construct — prepared by Guangping Gao, director of the Gene Therapy Program at the University of Massachusetts and a long-term leader in the field of gene therapy — as a single, long-acting injection makes the use of this effective but complex protein both clinically feasible and patient-friendly. Our results provide proof of concept and predict a translation into patient care that was not previously possible.” The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.
As negotiators make their way back to their home countries from the Paris climate talks, the world is taking stock of the agreement that many analysts describe as a landmark shift in global climate cooperation but some criticize as lacking mandatory targets to keep temperatures to a rise of less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.To gain a greater understanding of the agreement, the Gazette spoke with Robert Stavins, the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and head of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, who traveled to Paris and conducted briefings and side discussions for delegates from various nations. GAZETTE: From your perspective, were the Paris talks a success or failure?STAVINS: The Paris talks were absolutely a success in that the agreement that was achieved is one that meets all of the requirements of what would be a meaningful foundation for long-term action. But it’s only a foundation, so whether the agreement itself is ultimately successful, that’s something that can be judged only 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.GAZETTE: You call it a foundation, but some scientists have gone on record calling it a fraud and saying it falls far short of action needed to reach the 2-degree-Celsius target to avoid serious global impact from climate change. Where do you think the difference in interpretation is there?STAVINS: Can I answer that with a metaphor? You and I are walking down the street and we see a construction site. There’s a sign with an artist’s rendering: “70-story office tower going up on this site.” That’s pretty impressive, and so we walk over to get a closer look. We can see two stories of the 70 are already above ground level. But when we look down into the construction site, we are shocked to see that the foundation for this 70-story office tower is 10 feet by 10 feet. We know it’s going to collapse on itself — they’ll never be able to build to that height.That’s the Kyoto Protocol, the current approach. Participating countries account for only 14 percent of global emissions: the European Union (EU) and New Zealand.Under the new approach, you and I go back to the construction site. We look: The same sign is there for the 70-story office tower, but we don’t see the two floors. We look over the edge and discover that they’re constructing a new foundation, but now the foundation is not 10 feet by 10 feet, it’s a full square block. That’s a lot more meaningful than a two-story building that’s going to collapse and not go anywhere. This new foundation is what the Paris agreement provides.It was absolutely impossible with the previous structure to make meaningful emissions reductions, because 100 percent of the growth in emissions is outside of the OECD countries — the wealthier countries of the world [in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that are covered by the Kyoto accord]. The growth is the large emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia.So unlike the 14 percent of the Kyoto Protocol, there are now 186 countries that have submitted what are called “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs), and together they account for 96 percent of global emissions. That’s a dramatic change, and it is a necessary condition for meaningful progress. It’s not a sufficient condition; one also has to look at what the stringency is, of course. Now the stringency of even this very first step, I think, is remarkable, because the business-as-usual predictions of temperature increase by the end of the century without the Paris agreement were about 6 degrees [Celsius]. With the Paris agreement, if it’s fully implemented, even a conservative estimate would be 3.5 degrees [Celsius].Is that more than the 2 degrees? Yes, it is, but it still represents a very significant bending of the emissions trajectory, and, more importantly, this is only the first step. Part of the Paris agreement is that every five years they revisit progress; there’s monitoring, reporting, verification, assessment. In this “stock-taking,” they compare the overall effects to the 2-degree target, and then countries submit new, more stringent INDCs. So it would be shortsighted to focus on the immediate temperature effects of what is a foundational agreement that establishes a system for progressively greater emissions reductions over time.GAZETTE: What about the impact on the business community, and how important is the signaling to business and to everyone else?STAVINS: There are signals to the business community and others in two ways. One way is that, for example, people listened to the radio this morning, and if you’re a CEO, then when you get to the office you might be likely to have a conversation about the possibility of carbon prices increasing. I don’t mean actually a carbon tax or cap-and-trade carbon allowance price, but simply a shadow price on carbon — it being more costly to use fossil fuels. That will be perceived to be more likely than it was the day before. That’s the direct effect.The indirect effect, which is the more important one, is through domestic policy in the 186 countries that submitted INDCs. In the case of the United States, for example, the INDC target is a 26 to 28 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions below the 2005 level by the year 2025. That’s going to be achieved through a combination of federal actions: the Clean Power Plan in the electricity sector, CAFE standards — Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards on motor vehicles — appliance efficiency standards, California’s very ambitious climate policy, and the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). That’s how companies and individuals will really feel it. It’s the domestic policies used to implement the international agreement. The same is true in the EU, and the same is true in China. It’s through domestic policy actions that individuals and firms will feel the effects of the agreement.GAZETTE: How comfortable are you that the voluntary nature of this agreement will actually result in meaningful change?STAVINS: The voluntary nature of it internationally is not, from my perspective, an issue, because all international agreements, with the partial exception of trade agreements, are fundamentally voluntary.In the case of the Kyoto Protocol, which was binding under international law, when it got to the end of the first commitment period, 2008-2012, Canada recognized it was going to be very costly or difficult for it to comply, and if it didn’t comply, it would face a fine. So you know what it did? Canada withdrew; it dropped out. So the key binding law is not at the international level. Where these agreements bind is in domestic laws and regulations that themselves are binding under domestic law.So in the United States, for example, if the automobile companies did not comply with the motor vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, they’re going to be fined and possibly find themselves in court. If the U.S. government itself does not follow through on the Clean Power Plan, it will be sued by green organizations. This is where the agreement’s provisions are not voluntary — in domestic laws and in regulations used to implement the deal in each country.GAZETTE: What happens going forward? When is the next big conference?STAVINS: One year from now in Marrakesh, Morocco. They happen every year, and during the year there are also meetings that take place, typically in Bonn.The big work now is going to be implementation. In the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements we’re going to be working on a wide variety of research questions that come up in regard to how the Paris agreement is implemented. So, for example, something that we worked on a great deal — and I’m proud to say we had a significant part in — is Article 6 of the Paris agreement. That is where linkage comes in, the ability for countries to share their emissions-reductions responsibilities. There are many questions now of how that will be done, how that will be tracked, how double-counting will be avoided. So for us, it will be research on implementation. For the parties involved, it will be a whole series of decisions that will have to be made in order to implement.GAZETTE: Can you suggest how linkage might work?STAVINS: I’ll give you an example of two cap-and-trade systems. Europe could say to the firms in Europe that, in addition to using one of the emissions allowances they get from the EU to comply, they can use an Australia allowance. If Australia says the same thing about European allowances to its firms, then we have a bilateral linkage. And if the allowance price was initially different in the two jurisdictions, which it inevitably is, firms would trade, and that would lead, if the market is robust enough, to a convergence of allowance prices, and cost-effectiveness is achieved.Now that’s the example of two cap-and-trade systems, but linkage can also be between a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax. It can also be between a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system and a performance standard. It’s a very important issue, so we’ve done a great deal of work on this in the Harvard Project.GAZETTE: What would you say is the most vulnerable part of the U.S. carbon-reduction plan should the next president be hostile to the idea of fighting climate change?STAVINS: The most vulnerable part is the Clean Power Plan, without a doubt. The CAFE standards on motor vehicles are already in place, are bipartisan, and were approved by Congress. The appliance efficiency standards are in place and are bipartisan. The California climate policy is important because that state is a large part of the U.S. economy. Both houses of the California legislature are controlled by Democrats, and the governor is a Democrat. Given demographic change in the state, that’s unlikely to change.In regard to RGGI in the Northeast, these are among the most liberal states in the country, so they’re not going to reverse their policies. That leaves the federal Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act. It’s the only vulnerable component. It’s vulnerable to being invalidated through the courts. Several states’ attorneys general have sued the government, and are asking for a stay while lawsuits proceed in order to stop implementation. I don’t know if those will succeed.But if the stays do not succeed and the lawsuits go forward, my view is that the next president — even a Republican — will not try to overturn the Clean Power Plan. I say this because the electric utilities are already planning how to comply. If the federal government then comes forward a few years from now and reverses course, that’s going to create stranded assets for those companies. The utilities will want it to go forward at that point. So I think it’s less threatened than commonly thought. That question about what a future Republican president would do with the U.S. policies to implement the INDC was the most frequent question I received when I spoke with delegations from other countries — Europeans, Chinese, everyone. They’re very aware of U.S. politics, and very concerned.GAZETTE: How long do we have to get to standards that would limit the globe to a 2-degree increase? Do you think that will be a natural process, or at some point is it going to require a lot of pain?STAVINS: It’s very difficult to make predictions about this, partly because of technological change, which is notoriously difficult to forecast. Price signals exist in the private sector to carry out research and development of less carbon-intensive technologies across the board. That kind of technological change can turn out to be very important, but it is very difficult to predict.The 2-degree target may be an important political target, but it is not a target that comes directly from the science, although most scientists seem to support it. There isn’t a bright line, a discontinuity in the damage function that occurs at that specific level. Nor does it come from economic analysis. Higher levels are worse, that’s clear, and there are probably increasing marginal damages at those higher levels. I’m not saying there isn’t urgency. It is important to be working as hard as we can right now.
A Harvard program to improve health care delivery around the world is increasing its focus on the leaders and decision-makers who ensure that local health clinics are properly supplied and fully staffed.Nine finance ministers from developing nations spent four days at Harvard’s Loeb House to discuss the importance of health to a nation’s economic performance and how to design health care systems that are both efficient and effective.Michael Sinclair, executive director of the Ministerial Leadership in Health Program, said there is often internal tension between health and finance leaders because their aims are at odds — at least on the surface. While health ministers are concerned with implementing programs that reduce disease and save lives, finance ministers want to ensure scarce government funds go where they’re most needed and are often beset by competing priorities from different government agencies.The program Sinclair leads helps finance ministers understand the common ground they share with health ministers: ensuring health programs are well designed, well executed, and provide the biggest health boost for the buck. Waste reduction is particularly important, he said, because some estimates say as much as 40 percent of health spending is squandered each year through corruption, theft, and inefficiency.It can be difficult to predict a health system’s burdens from year to year, Sinclair said, because natural disasters and disease outbreaks can upset even the most carefully designed plans.“The budget drives everything in health. It does in all other sectors, but most particularly in health,” Sinclair said. “We’re trying to align the two.”The Ministerial Leadership in Health Program, sponsored jointly by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School, is conducted in a workshop setting that draws on the personal knowledge and experience of participants. This month’s gathering was attended by finance ministers from Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guyana, and the Bahamas. A similar event for health ministers is scheduled for June.Ministers were paired with experienced partners — many were former ministers themselves — who facilitated goal-setting and the initial drafting of possible programs to reach those goals. Ministers heard case studies of successful programs in Turkey and Malaysia, as well as the potential effects of specific initiatives, such as universal health coverage, tobacco control, and public-private partnerships.The event included sessions on leadership — learning from mistakes, priority setting, and budgeting. Rifat Atun, a professor of global health systems at the Harvard Chan School and faculty chair of the program, said that it emphasizes links between economic growth, poverty reduction, and health. One of the program’s strengths, he said, is that it allows ministers to step back from the often frantic day-to-day business of government to get a larger perspective.“There’s a very good sharing of experience, sharing of perspective,” Atun said. “They’re thinking about action, which is very useful.”Rosine Coulibaly, Burkina Faso’s minister of economy, finance, and development, has been on the job for only three months. She said the sessions helped her understand the particulars of the health sector and highlighted possible policy tools.“I think it is very, very useful,” Coulibaly said.With the Bahamas about to embark on an ambitious health-care expansion, Michael Halkitis, its minister of state for finance, was hoping for insights from his counterparts that might smooth the process.“It’s been very helpful … to hear the experiences of ministers from other parts of the world,” Halkitis said. “What you learn is that a lot of the problems are common. The bottom line is we’re basically all in the same boat.”