Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Chang Creating Change

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Chang Creating Change

Article excerpt

Growing up in Honolulu, Jeff Chang, the author of Cant Stop Wont Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, loved comics. He still remembers the Dewey Decimal code for them at the library --741.5973--where he read his way through the Marvel collections, Doonesbury and Krazy Kat. Chang particularly loved Morrie Turner's Wee Pals, which showed a multicultural group of children navigating race and how the world works.

When Chang and his wife Lourdes and their children moved to their house in Berkeley, Chang discovered Turner lived on his same block. He wanted to talk to him beyond a neighborly hello. But that didn't happen for a while.

"I had interviewed some of the biggest names in hip-hop, but I was too starstruck to approach him," Chang says. "So finally right before going to Hawai'i for a visit, I wrote him a note."

Turner responded, and when Chang came back, he started spending a lot of Tuesdays with Morrie, as well as Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Chang opens his latest book, Who We Be: The Colorization of America, with a story about the then 84-year-old Turner on the night Obama was elected president. Chang thought Turner seemed like the right person to start off a book on race.

"Morrie was a huge influence on so many of us," Chang says. "His story also captured the epic breadth of the last 50 years. I was interested in him as a pioneering visionary of multiculturalism, and also as a personal role model --someone who embodied the ethos of [Martin Luther] King's dream in his life and work."

Chang got the idea for the book after being on a panel about hip-hop and hearing wildly differing views on multiculturalism. He pitched it to his editor, Monique Patterson, but her reaction wasn't what he expected.

"She's one of the few Black editors in the business, and she said, 'Nobody cares about multiculturalism,"' Chang remembers. "But then Monique's reaction changed when we both watched the backlash to Obama's candidacy cohere."

Chang says she wanted him to capture the intensity and division of the culture.

In 1985, Chang moved from Hawai'i, where generations of his family come from, to attend the University of California, Berkeley. He had assumed that Berkeley was a progressive place and was surprised to find himself dealing with what he calls "micro aggressions"--people calling him a "chink" or telling him to go back to China. …

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