Review of Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James

The Black students at the Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts, picked a memoir about a Black student’s time at a white boarding school for the summer of 2022 book. Here is my review.

ADMISSIONS: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James (she/her) is a memoir by the first African-American legacy student to graduate from one of the world’s most elite prep schools.

James, an adolescent Black nerdy (Blerd) whose father was a graduate of the Taft School, a very elite, predominantly white private boarding school in Connecticut, discovered that Taft was not built with Black people or any people of color in mind.

The book starts as “coming of age” biography. Who was wearing what? Who had money? Who didn’t? Who was wearing their hair how? Who came from where? Pretty much all the same stuff any teenager would worry about. And Legacy or no, the narrator realizes she is not part of the elite.

The second half of the book delves a bit more into issues such as racism by other students, daily verbal insults, everyday microaggressions, otherings, racial segregation, and derogatory or harmful attitudes towards students of color. While James doesn’t romanticize the exclusivity or elitism of having an experience only 1% of American students get to have, she only scratched on the surface of how lonely and cold a place these school are for black students (and employees!)

While working as an admissions officer as an adult, she reflected back on her own time at an independent prep school and felt as though she was selling a lie.

This is the best line in the book: “Like many Black people, the life I dreamed of was paid for with the American currency of a minor trauma.” (page 111)

Those contradictory feelings of hating the social element of her private school experience and feeling as though the administration of the school was not on her side but her still benefiting from the academic experiences would an interesting discussion to add depth to her book. James illustrates that it’s not enough to simply have marginalized people at an institution. The institution needs to demonstrably change to be truly inclusive and to protect newcomers from bigotry and hate. Diversity work should be more than just a statistical quotient or a brochure opportunity.

I finished the book wondering how James came to be working for independent schools as a recruitor of students of color and affiliate programs after college despite her feelings of nonacceptance during her time at Taft and her unwillingness to send her own children to a boarding school?

Being a person of color at PWI is a special kind of trauma and truly impacts how you see yourself and navigate the world. If you don’t fit the high achieving, white and wealthy demographic your journey through these schools is lonely one.

These things reminded me of the independent school where I work:

•Self-segregation / black-only tables at lunch (except for that one misfit white kid)

•The Black kid each year who manages to cross over into the mainstream, white prep culture of the school by completely ignoring the rest of students of color (occasionally two, if you added a white-passing Latinx to the mix.)

•Nerdy students of color shunned by other students of color

•White students assume that all students of color are on financial aid and are recruited athletes

•Being good at sports was simply a Black male stereotype white people expected, and when Black boys fulfilled that stereotype it made the white people around them more comfortable; it was a supposed ‘norm’ they could work with and eventually accept.

•Female and nonbinary students of color are rarely assimilated

• “friends by circumstance”, where in a school so small and so white that students of color end up friends with other students of color whom they do not have a lot in common with except that you have even less in common with those other people. This small pool of people, who realistically you would not be speaking to in the real world, is now your friend group because there’s literally no one else.

•The bad behavior of the rich white kids, the rules-don’t-apply-to-me attitudes, and the entitlement is familiar, as is the administration’s willingness to look the other way for certain students and not others.

•The casual and overt racism of both other students and teachers – as well as in the curriculum – is rampant.

•The gossip mill works overtime

•The school administrators regularly ignore, downplay or whitewash racial incidents under the guise of inclusiveness

•School does an okay job admitting students of color and an awful time keeping them – they are kicked out, left back, or decide to leave, while white students get an unending stream of “second chances.”

•The institutions champions and certainly favors the straight white male athletes with Jesus-like reverence.

•The dynamics of respectability and perception of “the other” create pressures to perform differently for students of color than it did for the white students. I see this double-standard expressed itself in the student of color experience where I work.

Trigger warnings: bullying, racism, racial slurs, microaggressions, misogynoir, sexual harassment, false accusation of theft, discussion of officer-involved shootings, homophobia (not toward or by author), homophobic slur, sexism, body commentary, death of classmates post-graduation (including murder-suicide and car accident), bierasure/biphobia (author states her only option at school as a straight Black girl was straight Black or Latinx boys), teacher convicted of possessing child pornography (post-graduation), author stole a goose egg from its nest and it did not hatch, vomit (food poisoning), underage drinking, inebriation, hangover, drug references, cigarettes, brother is adopted, witchcraft, STD stigma (not countered), conversation about an actor/character being “dickless”, gendered pejoratives, gender essentialist language, ableist language, frequent Harry Potter references, hyperbolic language around suicide, mention of teachers who had inappropriate relationships with students, mention of school that covered up sexual assault incidents for decades, mention of fatshaming (author’s friend), brief reference to disordered eating (not author), references to parents’ divorce (post-HS), reference to mom’s past miscarriage, reference to infidelity in movie

July Notes

Steal shamelessly from every source.

Share freely and be open to new information from sport and every other disciplines. Everyone has different ideas.

Catfishing – the act of misleading somebody with a fake internet persona

Any story that starts will also end. This is the way novelists think: beginning, middle, and end. Curiosity is the rock upon which fiction is built.

The difference between hearing and listening | Pauline Oliveros | TEDxIndianapolis

In fiction time is condensed—one action springboards into another, greater action. Cause and effect are so much clearer in novels than they are in life.

Cynophilist ~ a dog fancier: one that is favorably disposed toward dogs.

Opacarophile ~ lover of sunsets Latin opacare meaning dusk = Greek phile meaning love.

Non-fungible tokens ~ (NFTs, colloquially, “nifties”) ~ a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger. NFTs can be associated with reproducible digital files such as photos, videos, and audio. “Non-fungible” more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. A bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. A one-of-a-kind trading card, however, is non-fungible. If you traded it for a different card, you’d have something completely different. Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from, say, an ETH coin.

NFTs can really be anything digital (such as drawings, music, your brain downloaded and turned into an AI), but a lot of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art. You can copy a digital file as many times as you want, including the art that’s included with an NFT. But NFTs are designed to give you something that can’t be copied: ownership of the work (though the artist can still retain the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical artwork). To put it in terms of physical art collecting: anyone can buy a Monet print. But only one person can own the original. With digital art, a copy is literally as good as the original.

NFTs give artists a way to sell work that otherwise might not have a market. NFTs have a feature that can be enabled that will pay an artist a percentage every time the NFT is sold or changes hands, so the artist is benefits from every sale. Buying an NFT gets buyer some basic usage rights, like being able to post the image online or set it as a profile picture. NFTs can work like any other speculative asset, where you buy it and hope that the value of it goes up one day, so you can sell it for a profit. Technically every NFT is a unique token on the blockchain. Technically anything digital could be sold as an NFT. Part of the allure of blockchain is that it stores a record of each time a transaction takes place, making it harder to steal and flip than, say, a painting hanging in a museum. Bit rot is a real thing: image quality deteriorates, file formats can’t be opened anymore, websites go down, people forget the password to their wallets.

Since NFTs use the same blockchain technology as some energy-hungry cryptocurrencies, they also end up using a lot of electricity. Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs are stored in digital wallets (though it is worth noting that the wallet does specifically have to be NFT-compatible).

Blockchain ~ a distributed database that is shared among the nodes of a computer network. As a database, a blockchain stores information electronically in digital format. Blockchains are best known for their crucial role in cryptocurrency systems, such as Bitcoin, for maintaining a secure and decentralized record of transactions. The innovation with a blockchain is that it guarantees the fidelity and security of a record of data and generates trust without the need for a trusted third party.

Cryptocurrency ~ a tradable digital asset or digital form of money, built on blockchain technology that only exists online. … Bitcoin, first released as open-source software in 2009, is the first decentralized cryptocurrency. Since the release of bitcoin, many other cryptocurrencies have been created.

More Questions for 2022

1. What’s one thing that’s happened to you that has made you a stronger person?

2. What’s one thing that’s happened to you in your life that made you feel weak?

3. Where is one place you feel most like yourself?

4. Where is your favorite place to escape to?

5. Who do you think has had the largest influence on the person you are today?

6. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

7. If you had one day left to live, what would you do first?

8. What decade do you feel you most belong in?

9. Who are you closest to in your family? Why?

10. Who is the one person in this world that knows you best?

11. What is your favorite quality about your best friend?

12. When you were younger what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

13. If you could identify with one fictional character (from a book, show, or movie) who would it be?

14. Do you easily accept compliments? Or do you hate compliments?

15. Is your favorite attribute about yourself physical or non-physical?

16. What is your favorite physical attribute about yourself?

17. What is your favorite non-physical attribute about yourself?

18. Do you believe in love at first sight?

19. Do you believe in soul mates?

20. How seriously do you take horoscopes?

21. Have you ever been in love? How many times?

22. What makes you fall in love with someone?

23. What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?

24. What’s one thing you’re scared to ask a man, but really want to?

25. If you were a man for a day, what would be the first thing you do?

26. What do you find most attractive about each sex?

27. What’s one thing you’d love to learn more about?

28. What is something you’ve never done that you’ve always wanted to do?

29. Why haven’t you done it yet?

30. If money didn’t matter, what would your dream job be?

31. If you had off from work today, what would you do?

32. What was the last thing that made you cry?

33. What was the last thing that made you laugh?

34. What is your favorite memory?

35. What’s the last thing that REALLY embarrassed you?

36. What is your biggest fear?

37. Do you have any regrets? What’s your biggest one?

38. Have you ever broken a law? If you haven’t what is one law you’d love to break?

39. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

40. Would you have a conversation with a stranger?

41. Would you tell a stranger they have toilet paper hanging from their shoe? Or their dress tucked into their underwear? (Or anything else that is embarrassing to be seen in public)?

42. What’s your favorite joke?

43. Are you a dog person or a cat person?

44. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?

45. What’s one show, movie, or book, you’re embarrassed to admit you enjoy?

46. How do you think your parents would describe you as a child?

47. If you could go back to any age or time of your life, what age or time would it be?

48. What’s something you believe in that not everyone else does?

49. What’s one thing you would say that makes you unique from other people?

50. What is one thing you feel your life is missing?


Patti LaBelle preformed on April 17, 1987 during Julius Erving retirement ceremony in Philadelphia at a Sixers basketball game prior to the start of Dr. J’s final regular season game at the Spectrum. LaBelle, who is also a Philadelphia native, sang a ballad dedicated to Erving.

Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie
Photo by Robin Sallie

Let America Be America Again By Langston Hughes – (1901-1967)

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

June Notes

There are only 168 hours in a week.

“Paradise is one’s own place, One’s own people, One’s own world, Knowing and known, Perhaps even loving and loved.”

– Octavia E. Butler

Freddish” ~ Fred Rogers way of talking to children on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Children tend to hear things literally. Fundamentally, Freddish anticipated the ways its listeners might misinterpret what was being said.

Cal·iph·ate – the rule or reign of a caliph or chief Muslim ruler. the area ruled by a caliph.

Splodge – a large blob or smear of something; a splotch mark with a large blob or smear of something.

Digital open-source intelligence investigator – finds fragments of information online: a social media post, or video or picture. Then he combines all the data to pinpoint a specific location. find any data points, or like any building that is unique, and then compare that to the satellite imagery and narrow it down further to one building.

“Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create…No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke (December 4, 1875–December 29, 1926)

“You gotta be willing to fail… if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far,” Steve Jobs and NeXT

Failure means a stripping away of the inessential.

In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back. This is the era of Friends in Low Places. The ones you meet now, who will notice you, challenge you, work with you, and watch your back. Maybe they will be your strength. ~ Robert Louis Krulwich

This is your time, and it feels normal to you. But, really, there is no ‘normal.’ There’s only change, and resistance to it, and then more change.” ~ Meryl Streep

“Who decides limits? And based on what? You said you worked hard? Well, maybe you need to work a little harder. Is that really the limit of your strength? Could the you of tomorrow beat you today? Instead of giving in, move forward.” — Saitama (One Punch Man)

”You’ll laugh at your fears when you find out who you are.” — Piccolo (Dragon Ball Z)

“Style has a profound meaning to Black Americans. If we can’t drive, we will invent walks and the world will envy the dexterity of our feet. If we can’t have ham, we will boil chitterlings; if we are given rotten peaches, we will make cobblers; if given scraps, we will make quilts; take away our drums, and we will clap our hands. We prove the human spirit will prevail. We will take what we have to make what we need. We need confidence in our knowledge of who we are.” ~ Nikki Giovanni

Impetus ~ the force or energy with which a body moves. the force that makes something happen or happen more quickly.

Securitization~the process in which certain types of assets are pooled sothat they can be repackaged into interest-bearing securities. The interest and principal payments from the assets are passed through to the purchasers of the securities.

To save money one has to cook and pack 90 percent of one’s meals, snacks and coffee.

Leadership includes the triad of mindset, mentors, and culture.

Biotransformation ~ The changes (both chemical and physical) that occur to a substance (especially a drug) by the actions of enzymes within an organism.

Symbolic Systems – the meaningful symbols that represent the world about us. Or the study of “the science of the mind.” Blending computer science, psychology, linguistics and philosophy, it examines the relationship between humans and computers.

Do things with love for yourself.

What’s an NFT? NFTs allow you to buy and sell ownership of unique digital items and keep track of who owns them using the blockchain. NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” and it can technically contain anything digital, including drawings, animated GIFs, songs, or items in video games. NFTs are operated using the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrencies and have seen their popularity rise in the last couple of years.

OpenSea is NFT Marketplace.

Always write down a quote from teaching every day. Kids are so funny.

Day in the History of Racial Injustice

Vincent Jen Chin

June 23, 1982Vincent Jen Chin (May 18, 1955 – June 23, 1982) was a Chinese American draftsman who was beaten to death in a racially motivated hate crime by two white men, Chrysler plant supervisor Ronald Ebens and his stepson, laid-off autoworker Michael Nitz.

They assailed Chin following a brawl that took place at a strip club in Highland Park, Michigan, where Chin had been celebrating his bachelor party with friends in advance of his upcoming wedding. They assumed Chin was of Japanese descent and witnesses described them using racial slurs as they attacked him.

Nitz held Chin while Ebens repeatedly bludgeoned Chin with a baseball bat until Chin’s head cracked open. A policeman who witnessed the beating said that Ebens was swinging the bat like he was swinging “for a home run.”

Ebens and Nitz blamed him for the success of Japan’s auto industry. Both were charged with second-degree murder, but bargained the charges down to manslaughter and pleaded guilty in 1983. They were ordered to pay $3,000 and serve three years’ probation, with no jail time.

Chin’s case has been cited by some Asian Americans in support of the idea that they are considered “perpetual foreigners” in contrast to “real” Americans who are considered full citizens.

May Notes

Transnational networks ~ contacts, coalitions, and interactions across national boundaries that are not controlled by the central foreign policy organs of governments.

hegemonic ~ ruling or dominant in a political or social context.


Explore the edges of the sandbox.

Color outside the lines.
Spill some milk.

There are many ways to play, coach and live, and you must walk the path that fits you best.

Be creative. Be unique. Be YOU.

~ Mano Watsa

Give constructive feedback by respectfully critiquing the work while backing you views with examples plus evidence and providing possible solutions.

State what was meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, and/or striking in the work just witnessed. Ask neutral questions about the work, and the artist responds. Questions are neutral when they do not have an opinion couched in them. State opinions, after you are given permission from the artist; the artist has the option to say no.

All art is political.

Write an essay about the future that you envision for yourself. Create a plan to achieve it.

zaftig ~ having a full, rounded figure; plump (typically used of a woman). It comes from Yiddish zaftik, which means “juicy” or “succulent” and itself derives from zaft, meaning “juice” or “sap.”

Janky is a slang term for something run down, of poor quality, or unreliable. It can also be used for someone considered undesirable in some way. Janky first emerged in the 1990s, featured in rap songs as early as Ice Cube’s 1993 “Really Doe”: “Hard to swallow, janky as Rollo / Count to ten, and don’t try to follow.” Rollo is reference to Rollo Lawson, a recurring character on the 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son, who had a seedy reputation on on the show.

Continue the good. Cultivate kindness.

Everyone is a dumpster fire every now and then. Drawing by Robin Sallie

international vs transnational ~ As adjectives the difference between international and transnational. is that international is of or having to do with more than one nation while transnational is between or beyond national boundaries .

Three levels of oppression—interpersonal, institutional, and internalized—are linked with each other and all three feed off of and reinforce each other. In other words, all three levels of oppression work together to maintain a state of oppression.

The coronavirus is a microscopic ball studded with specially shaped spikes that it uses to recognize and infect our cells. Antibodies can thwart such infections by glomming onto the spikes, like gum messing up a key.

“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.”

– Janelle Monáe

long COVID – people struggle with debilitating symptoms for months (or even years), while struggling to get care or disability benefits.

Endemicity ~ 1: belonging or native to a particular people or country. b : characteristic of or prevalent in a particular field, area, or environment problems endemic to translation the self-indulgence endemic in the film industry. 2 : restricted or peculiar to a locality or region

agita ~ anxiety, stress, or aggravation.

reification ~ the act of treating something abstract, such as an idea, relation, system, quality, etc., as if it were a concrete object

pantheist ~ the doctrine that the universe conceived of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe.

I had lost track of the narrative in my own story.

Third culture kids (TCK) or third culture individuals (TCI) are people who were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality, and also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years.

written journal: a mix of what happened, a mix of what you are thinking, and a mix of drafts.

A meta-analysis looks comprehensively at published evidence on a topic and figures out which way that evidence collectively points. A small study here and there might not give us findings we can count on alone, but put a bunch more studies together and you’re likelier to get a reliable picture.