My 2014 Summer Classes

July 2, 2014

When I first thought about this summer, I was caught between doing what I did last year or doing something new. The academic year was so busy for me that I didn’t have the time to sit and do the research for the new classes I had in mind. When I had time off during Regents Week, I took a much needed break. During most breaks in the academic year, I was usually went away for something work related (ie. conferences, counselor trips).

Once I was fully rested during Regents Week, I cracked down on researching materials for the classes. It was so down to the wire that I almost considered just doing the classes I did last year. But I didn’t give up because I felt these new classes were as important as what I did before. So, I’m glad to share with you all the syllabuses. Feel free to follow along and engage!

The Daily Poverty Show
In this class, students will explore the issue of poverty using clips from The Daily Show, articles and other video sources.

Attendance: 15%
Discussion: 40%
Notes: 15%
Leading Discussion: 30%

Week 1
June 30th: Class Warfare

July 1st: Welfare Test and Health Care

July 2nd: The Welfare Abusers

July 3rd: The Wage Fight
Homework: Joseph E. Stiglitz’s “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” in May 2011’s Vanity Fair

Week 2
July 7th: Inequality for All showing (Netflix)

July 8th: Continuation of Inequality for All

July 9th: Growth or Lack Thereof
Neil Irwin’s “Growth Has Been Good for Decades. So Why Hasn’t Poverty Declined?” in The New York Times
Homework: Trip Gabriel’s “50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back” in The New York Times

July 10th: The Great Society vs. Now

Week 3
July 14th: Out of Touch

July 15th: Politics Over Life

July 16th: Cutting Life Lines

July 17th: Homelessness in Another Light

Week 4
July 21st: A Place at the Table showing (Netflix)

July 22nd: Food Insecurity
Continuation of A Place at the Table

July 23rd: History or Poverty

July 24th: The Poorest City in America

Week 5
Students’ Choice

Building a Complete Me
In this class, male students will explore topics that relate to their growth in discussions using videos and articles.

Attendance: 15%
Discussion: 40%
Notes: 15%
Leading Discussion: 30%

#1 Rule: What is Said by Another Student Stays in the Room

Week 1: Defining Manhood
June 30th: Barack & Curtis

July 1st: What It Means to Be a Man (Presentation)

July 2nd: Violence and the Media
Tough Guise – Violence Media and the Crisis in Masculinity

July 3rd: Free Talk

Week 2: Loving Yourself
July 7th: “The Importance of Male Self-Love”

July 8th: “Increase Your Self-Esteem”

July 9th: “The Skill of Self Confidence”

July 10th: Free Talk

Week 3: Having Swag and Productive Friendships/Relationships
July 14th: Changing and Creating Your Own Style

July 15th: Being Honest and Giving Respect
Matt Walsh’s “Dear single dudes: it’s time to man up”

July 16th: What is a Friend?
Fredric Neuman’s “What to Expect From a Friend”

July 17th: Free Talk (Setting Limits)

Week 4: Fathers
July 21st: Nothing but a Man showing

July 22nd: Continuation of Nothing but a Man

July 23rd: Smoke Signals showing

July 24th: Continuation of Smoke Signals

Week 5
Student’s Choice


#CDF40 and Skidmore YouTube Feature

September 30, 2013

Back in March, Skidmore College, where I graduated from, profiled me. Tonight is the Children’s Defense fund’s 40th Anniversary event. Leading up to it, CDF profiled 40 young people that has been involved with the organization. I was one of the people profiled. Skidmore and CDF has played huge roles in my life. I thank God for where I am today.


Oppose HR 2637!

August 27, 2013

If you’re aren’t sure what a For-Profit College is, watch this documentary!

The bill “Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act” (HR 2637), is scheduled to come to the floor in the House the week of September 9th when Congress returns from recess.

Representatives Foxx (R-NC-5), Kline (R-MN-2) and Hastings (D-FL-20) introduced The Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2637), which would repeal and prohibit specific regulations that protect students and taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse by unscrupulous colleges. Specifically, the legislation would:

-Resurrect loopholes that allowed for-profit colleges to pay bonuses for increasing admission numbers at the expense of students.
-Amend the incentive compensation regulation to allow third-party service providers to enter into tuition sharing agreements and allow colleges to use incentive pay to compensate individuals for enrolling higher numbers of students.
-Repeal regulations designed to reign in abuses at schools that waste taxpayer dollars and leave students with unmanageable debt and worthless degrees.

H.R. 2637 would put students and taxpayers at greater risk of harm from high-pressure tactics and fraud by undoing regulations that protect against colleges putting financial interests above student well-being.

For-Profit Colleges prey on poor people and veterans. Almost half of the student default on their loans. Graduation rates are terrible.

Students take out more loans at these colleges.

The schools also lie
about job placement rates.

A whole bunch of organizations are against the bill.

Contact your legislators today to urge them to vote no on this legislation!


Flatiron Hot! News Article

August 23, 2013
The book cover

The book cover

Flatiron Hot News Article

Check out this article featuring my mentee and I talking about our life experiences and book.


My Summer Classes

July 2, 2013

In being apart of Pace University’s Liberty Partnerships Program, I’m teaching three classes in the combined Summer Program with Upward Bound. If you happen to keep tabs on me, I’ve taught activism classes for two years during the academic year with Upward Bound. This is my first time teaching in the Summer. I wanted to do something fun that had depth. One class deals with college admissions definitions. The other two are called “Superheroes in Media” and “The Philosophy of Rap.” The discussion in these two classes that I created has been great so far. Check out the syllabi for them below!

Superheroes in the Media
In this class, students will watch TV shows and movie clips containing the portrayal of superheros. The discussion topics are racism and sexism.

Attendance: 5%
Participation: 30%
Notes: 15%
Discussion Leading: 50%

Ground Rules
-What is said in here stays in here
-There is no such thing as a stupid thought
-One person speaking at a time
Breaking these rules will result in an automatic failure or grade reduction

Week 1: Adult Diversity Friends Part 1
July 1st: Justice League Season 1 Episode 4 “In Blackest Night”
July 2nd: Justice League Season 1 Episode 17 “Fury”
July 3rd: Justice League Unlimited Season 2 Episode 9 “Grudge Match”

Week 2: Adult Diversity Friends Part 2
July 8th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Episode 9 “Living Legend”
July 9th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Episode 11 “Panther’s Quest”
July 10th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1 Episode 12 “Gamma Word, Part 1”
July 11th: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 2 Episode 2 “Alone Against A.I.M.”

Week 3: Black Power and Being the Sidekick
July 15th: Black Panther Episode 1
July 16th: Black Panther Episode 3
July 17th: Black Panther Episode 5
July 18th: Iron Man Season 2 Episode 9 “The Armed Wars”
War Machine vs. Iron Man in Iron Man 2

Week 4: Young Diversity Friends
July 22nd: Young Justice Season 1 Episode 1 “Independence Day”
Young Justice Season 1 Episode 2 “Fireworks”
July 23rd: Young Justice Season 1 Episode 13 “Alpha Male”
July 24th: Young Justice Season 2 Episode 7 “Depths”
July 25th: Young Justice Season 2 Episode 14 “Runaways”

Week 5: July 29th to August 1st: Students’ Choice
Students get together to lead discussions based off their own materials such as TV shows, Movies or Comics.

The Philosophy of Rap
In this class, students will watch TV shows, documentaries, and analysis messages in rap music and videos. The discussion topics are racism, sexism, homophobia, politics and growing up in poverty.

Attendance: 5%
Participation: 30%
Notes: 15%
Discussion Leading: 50%

Ground Rules
-What is said in here stays in here
-There is no such thing as a stupid thought
-One person speaking at a time
Breaking these rules will result in an automatic failure or grade reduction

Week 1: Where are the Ladies?
July 1st: Back in the Day
Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything” from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

July 2nd: Before the Pop
Nicki Minaj’s “Autobiography”
Nicki Minaj’s “I’m the Best” from Pink Friday

July 3rd: Others Out There
Iggy Azalea’s “Murda Bizness” Feat. T.I. from Glory
Jean Grae’s “My Story” from Jeanius

Week 2: Kendrick Lamar’s View from the Streets
July 8th: Being Own Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “Vanity Slaves” from Kendrick Lamar EP
Kendrick Lamar’s “Faith” Feat. BJ the Chicago Kid & Punch from Kendrick Lamar EP

July 9th: Growing into Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “Average Joe” from O(verly) D(edicated)
Kendrick Lamar’s “Cut You Off {To Grow Closer}” from O(verly) D(edicated)

July 10th: Defining Self and Struggling to Stay Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “No Makeup” Feat. Colin Munroe from Section.80
Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPOWER” from Section.80
Kendrick Lamar’s Verse from Drake’s “Buried Alive” from Take Care

July 11th: On Top Being Self
Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools (Drink)” from good kid, m.A.A.d city
Extended Version
Kendrick Lamar’s “I’m Dying of Thirst” from good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar’s “Real” Feat. Anna Wise from good kid, m.A.A.d city

Week 3: Lupe Fiasco’s World View
July 15th: Real from the Start

Lupe Fiasco’s “Real” Feat. Sarah Green from Food & Liquor
Lupe Fiasco’s “American Terrorist” Feat. Matthew Santos from Food & Liquor

July 16th: On a Deeper Level
Lupe Fiasco’s “Gotta Eat” from The Cool
Lupe Fiasco’s “Dumb It Down” from The Cool

July 17th: Never Breaking
Lupe Fiasco’s “Word I Never Said” Feat. Skylar Grey from Lasers
Lupe Fiasco’s “All Black Everything” from Lasers

July 18th: Going Higher
Lupe Fiasco’s “Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free]” from Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1
Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad” from Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1

Week 4: Social Issues in Rap
July 22nd: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes viewing

July 23rd: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes Discussion

July 24th: The N-Word
The Boondocks Season 2 Episode 11 “The S-Word”
Julian Curry’s “Niggers Niggas & Niggaz”
Sha Stimuli’s “The N-Word Song” from Hip Hop Dock-Trine 2 (The Saga Continues) [Hall Of Justus Edition]

July 25th: Homophobia
The Boondocks Season 2 Episode 13 “Story of Gangstalicious (Part 2)”
The Advocate’s “Homophobia in Hip-Hop”

Week 5: July 29th to August 1st: Students’ Choice
Students get together to lead discussions based off their own materials such as documentaries, TV shows, music videos or audio.


“The Point of Life”

June 26, 2013

Today, I gave the Keynote Speech at George Westinghouse High School’s graduation. Above is the video. Below is the full text as prepared. I graduated from the school in 2005. This is my most important, greatest and shortest speech I’ve given so far. I’m so thankful and honored for the opportunity. Eight years ago, I never thought I would be where I am today. I’m so glad that I got to see my former guidance counselor and favorite teacher. This speech was two months in the making. With the mindset of what would I like to know in high school that I know now, I wrote the first draft the night that I heard I was selected. I revised and practiced it since then. Now, the full text:

Beating the odds may seem like a strange concept at first. But, it is indeed a phrase with a powerful meaning. It means to overcome a challenge or struggle. Believe it or not, all of us have odds we must overcome.

I grew up in a home where my parents fought each other very often. I grew up in a home where my parents were more focused on their packs of beer than my education and doings. I grew up in a home where I didn’t let myself be full, so my siblings can be full. Since my parents weren’t invested in my siblings, I had to be there for them too. While going to Westinghouse, I realized that the life of being on Public Assistance and living in the projects in East New York isn’t a good life at all. Being in Pace University’s Upward Bound Program in the tenth grade made me realize that education was my only way out.

Upon graduating Westinghouse, where I saw half of my class disappear since the ninth grade, I got into Skidmore College’s Higher Education Opportunity Program. At Skidmore, I’ve seen how things were better on the other side. I developed leadership skills in creating a Hip Hop Culture club called Hip Hop Alliance, where we talked about racism, sexism, and homophobia and successfully pushed for a Hip Hop Culture class. I learned more about myself, new heroes and poverty in my major American Studies. I met two mentors in college who pushed me to give back even more.

Listening to them, I became a mentor to two middle school students who were Hispanic. After I graduated from college, without loans, I became a mentor to a Black high school student. In being a mentor to these boys, I shared my life story and knowledge of the world with them. From there, I started teaching activism classes in the same Upward Bound Program I was in. I also became the co-chair of the Youth Ministry at my church in East New York.

In doing all of this, I started speaking to young people like you about progressing in the world and the evils of poverty at various events. At the same time, I came out with a book with my recent mentee promoting mentoring and giving advice to young people called Different Families, Still Brothers. Now, I help students like you get into colleges like Skidmore for Pace University’s Liberty Partnerships Program at the High School of Economics and Finance.

Want to know the crazy part of my story? When I went to Westinghouse, I couldn’t speak at all. I stuttered a lot. Barely anyone understood me. I was shy. This struggle made me cry at night. I started to come out of my shyness when I volunteered in various things like Open School Night and founded a Video Game Club where I put on tournaments. I fully came out of my shell in college with the encouragement of my best friend Mike Thomas. I was never able to express my story verbally into I took acting classes and hosted a radio show in college. Now, the boy who was scared to talk to people is helping people get to the next level. Now, the boy who thought he didn’t have a voice is showing you how golden his voice is.

All of you graduates have beaten a set of odds, but I’m here to tell you all that this is just the beginning. You are going to be beating the odds all your life, from college to graduate school to career to raising a family. The toughest obstacle to overcome is your own self. There will be times where you will ask yourself: “why me?” There will be times where you ask yourself: “what’s the point?” There will be times where you feel like giving up. But, you must remember these words President Obama once said, “Being defeated is a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”

We are our worst enemy. We must fight ourselves. It can be done. If you have a dream, believe in yourself, work hard towards making that dream a reality, you will achieve it. Muhammad Ali once said, “Even the greatest have to suffer sometime.” All of you are great, indeed. Don’t let your suffering ever stop you. Let it push you to new heights!

And when you reach those heights, don’t forget when you came from. Don’t forget that there are brothers and sisters who suffer the same things you have suffered. The point of life is not to become rich. Becoming rich creates a sense of selfishness for most people. You can’t take it all with you when you pass away. It won’t bring you happiness.

The point of life is to overcome the odds and build others up to do the same. This is what will bring you happiness. This will bring a sense of fulfillment in your life.

You never know, one day you can be up here speaking to your alma mater too. If there is anything I can help you with, feel free to reach out to me via email, Facebook or Twitter. I wish you all the best in whatever you do. Stay strong. Keep it pushing. Peace be on to you all, brothers and sisters. God bless!


Letter to My Father

June 16, 2013

What It Means.

This letter was produced around when my mom left my dad. I had gathered their documents related to my sister’s ACS situation to organize. My father pressured me to give back his documents. He thought I was trying to mess things up for him. I wanted to help. His tone got me upset. That feeling got me to write this letter. I gave this letter along with his documents, that I organized by dare and summarized on sticky notes, in a folder. I don’t know if he even read it.

July 27, 2011

Dear Father, Daniel Tejada Sr.,

I’m writing you this letter because you never let me talk, never listen to me, never hear me out. I don’t know where that comes from, but I hope it stops for the betterment of yourself and the people who love you. If there is one thing I learned in my lifetime, it is that with written words, no one can shut me up. If you don’t read this letter, it’s your lost, not mine.

First, let me say that I’m not siding with anyone when it comes to my mother leaving you. But I will say she has chosen the wrong time to do something like this. I’m highly disappointed! Why? Because I’m feeling as your daughter isn’t being placed first. I could care less about what you and my mother are dealing with personally right now because my sister’s #1 to me in all of this, just as she should be #1 for you.

She’s been feeling hurt by all of this. She feels like you guys don’t care, like you guys don’t love her. I know this is true because she tells me this. I’m the only one she truly expresses herself to. She might seem fine on the surface, but she’s not okay deep down. I can relate to that because I used to do the same thing when I was her age.

Let me say that, I’m proud of how far you have come. It brings tears of joy to my eyes. It warms my heart to hear you talk about your program, how you enjoy it and how it impacts you. I feel this way because I don’t even ask you about it first. I smile when I see how much you’ve gain weight and how much life you have in you.

You fighting your demons is so inspiring and empowering to me. One thing I’ve always feared was you passing away before you get to see and hold my first child, and even before I get married. I feel like God is granting me a great wish. I feel like God is working for you. He’s with you! If there’s one thing I learned in church and know is true, it is what one of my inspirations Martin Luther King said in a sermon entitled “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart,” “[God] does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.”

Don’t close the door on Him. Reach out to Him. Don’t close the door on me. I’m with you. I’m here to help you anyway I can. All I ask is that you treat me with the same respect you want from me. I’m not a child anymore. I’m an adult who has a job, his own place, paying his own bills and can feed himself. I don’t deserve to be talked down to or have someone talk and talk without trying to hear me out. Don’t call me if you’re not trying to talk to me like I’m a human being.

I know you’re hurting. I know what you’re feeling. I’ve been there before. Things do get better. I have faith! Stay strong. Keep it pushing. Peace be on to you. God bless!

Your namesake,
Daniel Tejada Jr.