It is one of those stories that you wish you had not chanced across. Actually, an event of morally staggering and bewildering proportions that you wish hadn’t happened or ever come to past, Biblically speaking. It had to do with an adjunct or part-time Professor of Art at one of the most respected Senior Colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY), that is, after my own alma mater and the seminal core or matrix of CUNY, to wit, The City College of the City University of New York (CCNY of CUNY). One of the 22, or so, colleges that constitute the City- and State-run largest metropolitan tertiary academy here in the United States of America. And, by the way, I was also thinking of highlighting the fact that Ghana’s Prof. Kwame Karikari, the retired Founding Executive-Director of the regionally influential Media Foundation for West Africa, is also a Media Communications Alumnus of City College like yours truly, of whom City College is really proud and honored to have had pass through its portals and Neo-Gothic corridors. Not very long ago, for instance, I chanced across a brief report in one of the special editions of City College’s alumni newsletter touting Prof. Karikari as one of the distinguished products of “The Beaver,” City College’s mascot or totemic symbol.
Anyway, the CUNY College that we are talking about is Hunter College, which was highly recognized for its Communications, Film and Television Program while yours truly was a City University undergraduate from 1986 to 1990 and a fledgling Ford Foundation Fellow or Scholar at “City,” as City College is also popularly and affectionately known. Anyway, the story or incident being narrated and discussed here regards one Ms. Shellyne Rodriguez, 45 years old, and visibly Afro-Latina or of Afro-Hispanic descent and heritage. Not much background detail is provided the reader regarding precisely how matters got to this extremely dangerous level and culminated in the prompt and summary dismissal of Prof. Shellyne Rodrigues, except the glancingly brief announcement that the newsmaker and subject of this column had recently been accused of damaging or completely destroying the antiabortion artwork display by, presumably, one of her own students or at least an art student of the Mid-Town Manhattan Campus of this CUNY College.
There are, however, a few suggestions here that the untutored reader of anything concerning New York City Culture, or what passes for the same, needs to be made familiar with, otherwise Prof. Rodriguez may erroneously come off as just another one of those legions of highbrow nut cases of frustrated overworked and woefully underpaid middleclass professionals scattered all over the city, that is, the New York Metropolitan Community in this postindustrial mega-country with the unmistakable hallmarks of Western-European colonial imperialism.
First and foremost is the fact that the news reporter that Ms. Rodriguez is alleged to have threatened to “chop up,” head first, with a machete, works for the ultraconservative, and some critics would even say, the rabidly racist and White-Supremacist-hewing New York Post daily. We also learn that at the time of the transpiration of the incident as a result of which she was promptly fired by Hunter College Administrators, Prof. Rodriguez was in the process of suing the New York Police Department (NYPD) for what was described as a nerve damage that she claimed to have suffered in June 2020, when she was arrested, together with several others, for participating in a vehement street protest demonstration against the globally televised criminal asphyxiation or the Minnesota police-choking death of an African American middle-age man by the name of George Floyd.
So, Ms. Rodriguez is obviously a member of the widely recognized vocal group of women’s rights advocates and activists called “Pro-Choicers.” Consequently, her apparently adamant decision to destroy a student’s antiabortion artwork display, very likely well aware of the fact that she was being filmed in the very act, ought to come as a matter of course to readers familiar with her ideological persuasion and/or political leanings. Which, in effect, also means that this piece of information is very significant because it points to the near-certain possibility that at the time that Mr. Reuven Fenton, the New York Post’s reporter whom Prof. Rodriguez is accused of threatening to physically dismember, knocked on her apartment’s door to reportedly ask her to comment on her alleged destruction of the artwork of one of her students, our protagonist must have already been serving a Hunter College-imposed academic or professional suspension.
Her downright wacky and morally untenable decision to take a machete to the neck of Mr. Fenton, as shown in the photograph accompanying the afore-referenced news story, could only be intellectually, albeit logically ineffectually, rationalized more squarely within the context of the well-known and well-established ideological leanings or biases of the Editorial Staff of the New York Post, rather than having anything whatsoever personal to do with Reporter Fenton. Now, what this means is that Prof. Rodriguez likely saw a repulsive picture of the rabidly racist professional and ideological pursuit and agenda of the New York Post odiously personified in the form of the humanoid/humanized physical image that abruptly popped up right before her, when Prof. Rodriguez opened the door of her apartment upon hearing what turned out to be Mr. Fenton’s knock on the same.
You see, here in the New York Metropolitan Area, if you are an ethnic or racial minority, most especially an African American, an African Caribbean or an Afro-Latina or Latino and, to be certain, of Hispanic descent in general, the last person that you wish to be brought face-to-face into contact with, besides a blue-uniformed New York City Police Officer of any shade or racial identity, to be certain, is a media or news reporter holding a business or a calling card with the legend or the logo of the New York Post or the FOX Television Network depicted boldly on the face of it. It is tantamount to absolutely nothing short of plain madness. Most likely, it was this repulsive picture that she saw that provoked Prof. Rodriguez into wanting to mercilessly “chop up” the corpulent white physique of Mr. Fenton. Nothing really personal, except the viscerally execrable ideology represented by the reporter.
At any rate, while it may still not serve any extenuating purpose, nevertheless, the deadly instrument or weapon with which Prof. Rodriguez threatened to reduce the body of Mr. Fenton into pork chops, literally, looked to this writer to be more like a large kitchen knife than the alleged machete. But, of course, here in New York City, even a pocketknife carried by a member of any of the ethnic and racial minority groups in our salad-like cosmopolitan community, as one middle-aged African American lady told this writer about two or three decades ago, can be readily and credibly converted or deliberately mischaracterized as an Uzi Machine Gun. Yes, unfortunately, Dear Reader, that is the way it is with this weird world in which we presently live. Sorry to say, but this is the way it really is.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
May 25, 2023
E-mail: [email protected]