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Brandeis helps Posse student land internship

By Maxwell Price

Section: Arts

September 26, 2008

Sometimes interviewing another person makes you understand yourself better.

I met Daniel Acheampong ’11 last year, because he lived on my hall (Gordon 2, nicest dorm floor at Brandeis?). He’s one of the most popular people I know yet he’s also incredibly down to earth. I used to see him around the hall periodically, and he would always greet me with, “Hey, Max. How’s it going?” We didn’t hang out much, but I always thought he was the coolest person at Brandeis. Every time I tried to have a conversation with him he’d be assaulted by dozens of adoring friends, both young men and women.

Daniel is also a young black man from Brooklyn. I ran into him at the Central Library this summer, and we told each other about our internships. He was doing research and marketing work at MTV and Comedy Central, and I was teaching theater and health to high school kids in Harlem (TRUCE/HCZ). I was incredibly impressed with his work and he seemed interested in what I was doing.

But as we chatted I was secretly worried. I was worried that he’d see my internship as the fulfillment of some liberal Jewish version of the “white man’s burden,” as though I were offering hippie artistic pearls before poor black swine. But nothing could be further than the truth. To use an old cliché, I learned far more about myself and this country from my students than they learned from me. And when they did their final showcase performances, I couldn’t believe how much creative insight and talent the world wasn’t seeing.

Yet there’s another side to the story. I knew that Daniel was a Posse student, and despite my best efforts at avoiding prejudice, I judged him based on superficial features. And I didn’t even realize it until a few hours ago this story will be submitted to print.

If or when you read my article, “Privilege, Power, and Responsibility,” (p. x) you might notice that I used Daniel as a symbol to show the great efforts that Brandeis makes in promoting diversity. What you won’t see is the original line I wrote about him, “POSSE gave Daniel Achempoang ’11 (see p. x) the opportunity to learn research and marketing skills in one of America’s largest media conglomerates despite socioeconomic advantages that might otherwise have denied him access.”

When I asked Daniel for his permission to write this line, he seemed to appreciate the intent but politely informed me that the phrase “socioeconomic disadvantages “isn’t true.” In fact, he was awarded the scholarship because of those qualities I always admired about him: his intelligence, outgoing demeanor, and leadership skills. Not because he was a black man from Brooklyn

Maxwell Price (channeling Dave Eggers): But you’re doing it again! You’re using a black man as a symbol for America’s struggles and your own neuroses just like you did with Andrew!

Maxwell Price (channeling Vladimir Nabokov): Andrew has acknowledged the safe return of the revolution I had been sent here and has asked me to mention in my Hoot article—and this I willingly do—that I alone am responsible for any mistakes in my commentary. Insert before a professional.”

Maxwell Price: Think about it.

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