HOMETOWN: Montville, NJ
Once upon a Thanksgiving Day, Morton Curtis Van Allen and his loving wife Sarah Cecilia conceived a baby boy composing an ethnic composition of: 52% African (26% Benin/Togo & 15% Mali w/ 11% Trace Regions) 40% European (25% Great Britain & 7% Europe West 7% w/ 8% Trace Regions), 3% Native American, 3% Asian, and 2% Pacific Islander (Ancestry.com, 2016). On Sunday, August 3, 1953 at 1:43 a.m., Michael Anthony van Allen was born on a small, exotic island where he became a competitive swimmer. The island’s dimensions are less than 14 miles by 2.5 miles, or smaller than the NJ township of Mahwah. Manhattan, the island of his birth is where his maternal grandfather was a teacher and Jazz musician. This child, of the civil rights era, lived in the Abraham Lincoln high rise, public housing projects in the heart of Harlem (1980 Park Avenue on West 135th Street Apt # 5F between Amsterdam and Lenox Avenues) where his very pretty, loving and protective mother was the recipient of the "1953 Lincoln Houses Mother of the Year award."
His mother Sarah- the eldest of eight sisters and four brothers – addressed the social and economic inequities plaguing the United States when she served her community as a parent coordinator for the federally funded, anti-poverty Head Start Program. She later worked for the federal government's welfare program where she assisted the poor and underemployed. Assistance extended through a variety of government welfare programs that include Medicaid, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). She was a welfare caseworker and provided food stamps for low-income families.
Van, Michael's freckled-faced father, was a proud man of immense character and intellect. He was a trailblazer for leaders like former Secretary of State General Colin Powell - who is from the same Bronx neighborhood. Morton lived in the Bronx during the Great Depression that began with the Wall Street Crash of October, 1929 and rapidly spread worldwide. After graduating as the Salutatorian from Morris High School in the South Bronx neighborhood, Van voluntarily joined the United States Army at seventeen years of age, followed by the Four-Star General Colin Powell who was in the military from age seventeen as an ROTC cadet, and graduated from the same High School. Michael’s dad served honorably in combat as a sergeant in World War II, within a racially segregated United States Army. Ironically, he returned home to fight for democracy and his own human freedoms in the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s.
Black folk fought in WWII with the expectation that the country was going to change its policy towards the civil rights of its black American citizens. When they returned home, they found out that the country had no intentions on changing its policy - and went out of its way in many ways to let them know that- that was not going to happen. There were certain cases where veterans were in serious trouble. A young man Isaac Woodard, down in Carolina had his eyes gouged out while he was still in uniform on a bus. Two veterans were shot and killed by the KKK, a domestic Christian terrorist group in Monroe, Georgia, while walking with their wives along a road while in uniform. The young man, Mapes, was killed trying to vote in Georgia. Rosalee Ingram whose sons had killed a white man because the white man had molested her, and various other causes lead to somebody being put on the chain gang, or somebody being lynched,
Consequences of McCarthyism devastated many in the struggle for justice, equality and freedom. McCarthyism sparked the genesis of many activist such as; Ossie and Ruby Dee Davis, Paul Robeson, the Rosenbergs and scores of others, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Michael’s dad participated in the "March to Washington" where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the historic "I Have a Dream" speech to a nation captivated by his message. 1953 was an incredibly productive year!
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953
1953 was an intriguing year that produced great things. The Korean War settled, and the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case against racially segregated schools in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. The double helical structure of DNA was discovered. The transistor was invented, and the polio vaccination was produced. The first successful open-heart surgery was performed, and the top of Mt. Everest was conquered. James Baldwin published “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “The Old Man and the Sea.” The first McDonald's restaurant opened; the first edition of Playboy magazine hit the newsstands with a nude Marilyn Monroe gracing the cover, and Rock & Roll first topped the musical charts.
Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Michael’s family moved from the New York, the Empire State, and into the neighboring Garden State of New Jersey. Michael severed his relationship with his Boys’ Cubs Pack – just one year shy of becoming a Boy Scout in Harlem Troop #540. In fifth grade and ten-years of age, he continued reading Boy’s Life magazine while he developed a novel relationship with a cute girl named Betty Waters. Betty was in Michael’s class and conveniently lived right next door. They would play outside until they got tired. Michael would then, phone her from his house, and ask her, “Would you go with me?” She would always say, “OK” and they would both immediately say “good-bye” and hang up the phone. That was the full extent of the conversation as well as the cordial relationship. They would play outside again on following Saturday afternoons, at some point, for whatever reason, she would decide to exercise one of her feminine prerogatives, and she would say, “I quit you!” Then, that would be the conclusion of the cordial relationship, until Michael called again. Until this day, there was never a kiss, never a hug, never even a handshake, just merely a question from him, followed by two statements from her.
THE BALLOT OR THE BULLET
You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
On April 3, 1964, Malcolm X, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, a Pan-African, anti-white supremacist offered America the option of the “Ballot or the Bullet.” Mainstream public propaganda had deliberately mischaracterized Malcolm as a man of violence, in spite of the fact that he never committed any violent acts and he was actually the victim of violence himself. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) murdered his father by having a speeding train run over him while tied to the railroad tracks, Malcolm's house was firebombed while his young daughters were home, and he and Dr. King were both violently assassinated by gunfire. Malcolm merely stood up and demanded life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by “any means necessary." The KKK is a White Supremacist, American Christian terrorist group founded in 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln legally freed the enslaved Black people from bondage. America was force to make a decision regarding the descendants of Africa- that she stole, raped, terrorized, murdered, lynched, tortured and enslaved for centuries. Her choice was to either continue the illegal, immoral and savage treatment that began about 1619 or begin to recognize these native-born inhabitants with their constitutional citizenry and international human rights. America had the benefit of a strategic alternative between a Mahatma Gandhi passive-style of peace led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or bloodshed via an African-American revolution.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963
On March 26, 1964, Dr. King and Malcolm X met on Capitol Hill. [A picture of this once in a lifetime meeting remains hung in Michael’s home office - today.] Malcolm began securing support from African leaders, the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Freedom Fighters, Fidel Castro from Cuba and Maoist China. In response, America realized that she must either support the creed of her own constitution or continue to practice genocide and bring terrorism and racism with attack dogs, State police, and the National Guards to otherwise peaceful American demonstrators. The concept of violent consequences from other countries in the fight for African-American liberation, coupled with the worldwide television exposure of its hypocrisy was too much for the superpower to bear. America had a clear choice of the “Ballot or the Bullet” and in 1965, she finally passed the Voting Rights Act under U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Kennedy was perceived as a ‘civil rights’ President when In fact, Kennedy never signed any civil rights legislation. In fact, as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, he voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Act proposed by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Newark, New Jersey
Mike Van Allen attended Broadway Elementary School in the predominately blue-collar, Italian residential section of Newark’s North Ward. Michael was ecstatic for being enthusiastically recruited, and immediately drafted, onto the Newark Boy's Club Swim Team. He earned many certificates, awards and trophies for his performance in competitive swimming meets while he advanced academically to Broadway Junior High School. He lived at 14 Chester Avenue and felt protected within his insulated environment. However, political and social unrest stood not very far away.
According to US Attorney Herbert J. Stern, Newark was ‘controlled by the Mafia,’- a group responsible for bringing heroin into the black community. The civil rights movement brought unrest to many Americans – both black and white. Anthony Imperiale was a race-baiting civic leader and politician from Newark who became a national symbol of the backlash against urban unrest by wielding a baseball bat to defend his "white" neighborhood. Imperiale first surfaced in Newark politics in the early 1960's as an opponent of busing to achieve school desegregation. Imperiale began preaching armed white self-defense. He formed the North Ward First Aid Squad, ostensibly to escort residents of the predominantly Italian North Ward through racially troubled areas. However, the group's nighttime street patrols drew charges of vigilantism. Imperiale's defiance, even demagoguery, only made things worse. He warned, ‘‘When the Black Panther comes, the white hunter will be waiting.''
The Newark Rebellion of 1967, sparked by the arrest of a cab driver named John Smith, who allegedly drove around a double-parked police car at the corner of 7th St. and 15th Avenue. Black men were terrorized for driving around a White man- even if the White man was driving slowly. Mr. Smith was subsequently stopped, interrogated, arrested and transported to the fourth precinct headquarters, during which time the arresting officers beat him severely. As news of the arrest spread, a crowd began to assemble in front of the precinct house, located directly across from a high-rise public housing project. When the police allowed a small group of civil rights leaders to visit the "prisoner", the latter demanded that Mr. Smith be taken to a hospital. Emerging from the building, these civil rights leaders begged the crowd to stay calm, but they were shouted down. Rumor spread that John Smith had died in police custody, despite the fact he had been taken out the back entrance and transported to a local hospital. Soon a volley of bricks and bottles was launched at the precinct house, and police stormed out to confront the assembly. As the crowd dispersed, some took advantage of the chaos and broke into stores on the nearby commercial thoroughfares. Eventually violence spread from the predominantly black neighborhoods of Newark's Central Ward to Downtown Newark, and the New Jersey State Police were mobilized. Within 48 hours, National Guard troops entered the city. With the arrival of these troops, the level of violence intensified. At the conclusion of six days of rebellion, between July 12 and July 17, 1967, dozens lay dead, 725 people were injured, and close to 1,500 Black American insurgents had been arrested.
A flagrantly corrupt and racist Italian-American political machine controlled Newark City Hall and the school district for many of years. The mayor, Hugh Addonizio, previously a U.S. congressional representative, said, when he returned, “There’s no money in Washington, but you can make a million bucks as the mayor of Newark.” In 1970, he was convicted, with four others, of having extorted $1.4 million from city contractors.
In 1967, Governor Richard Hughes appointed a committee to investigate the causes of the violent uprising. The report concluded with: “In the scramble for money, the poor, who were to be the chief beneficiaries of the urban renewal programs, tended to be overlooked.” And, because of “ghetto schools,” mostly poor and black children “have no hope in the present situation. A few may succeed in spite of the barriers. The majority will not. Society cannot afford to have such human potential go to waste.”
The new urban renewal in public education is racially segregated charter schools in 2014.
THE PHANTOM PUNCH
“I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, that’s why they call me Muhammad Ali.”
During the continuing social and political unrest, Michael sheltered himself with the entertainment of sports. His athletic hero was Cassius Clay. The Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston fight (February 25, 1964) for the boxing world heavyweight championship was among the most anticipated watched and controversial fights in sport’s history. Cassius Clay was a glib, fast-talking 22-year-old challenger who enjoyed the spotlight. He had won the light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and had great hand and feet speed—not to mention a limitless supply of braggadocio and confidence. Racist could not control what came out of his mouth, so any opponent of his was called, “The Great White Hope.”
The blow that ended the match became known as "the phantom punch," so named because most people at ringside did not see it. Even Cassius was unsure as to whether or not the punch connected, as footage from the event shows Clay asking his entourage "Did I hit him?" after the match. Slow motion replays show Cassius connecting with a quick, chopping right to Liston's head (known as the "Anchor Punch" according to Clay) as Liston was moving toward him, and show that Liston was unsteady when he finally got to his feet. Clay appeared to connect with four additional unanswered punches before Walcott belatedly declared the knockout, ending the contest. Clay sprang to the center of the ring, did a victory jig repeatedly yelled "I'm the greatest!" and "I shook up the world!" and then finally announced that his name was Muhammad Ali. Still today, in his home gym, Michael maintains the world-renowned picture of Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston.
THE MOTOWN SOUND
“Say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud!” James Brown
Prior to the 1967 Newark rebellion, Michael’s father had moved his family from Newark to 330 North Maple Avenue, in the 3.9-square mile, tree-lined bordering town named East Orange, which had a safer but equally racially intolerant political environment. Michael wanted to emulate his grandfather and attempted to insulate himself in music. He began playing the clarinet for his Columbian Grammar School band located on the corner of Springdale Avenue and Grove Street in East Orange. He entertained himself playing 45s and LP 33s polyvinyl albums on his record player happily listening to the Great Motown sounds of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Lionel Richie, The Jackson Five, and many others.
Michael and his dad shared quality time together when they sat at the dining table and listened to musical artists such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole. They would both listen to 710 AM talk radio personalities such as Long John Nebel, and Rambling with (John) Gambling on WWOR before retiring for the evening.
The larger high school that Michael attended during the fall of 1967 began to have an influx of black students. Before Michael's matriculation, a Black student name Robert L. Carter protested the racial discriminatory policies concerning use of the swimming pool. East Orange High had a successful all-white swim team. Black students were allowed in the pool only after school on Fridays, alternating by gender. Afterward, the pool was drained and cleaned before the white students used it again. In response to Robert Carter's protest, the all white school board of education and Mayor Kelly (who was no stranger to the Main street liquor store) agreed to address the situation by replacing the chlorinated H20 with Silicon crystals. They poured cement into the Olympic size swimming pool, and replaced the pool area with state-of-the-art marching band facilities to support the East Orange High School’s football team. Weighing 150 lbs and standing only five and a half feet tall, this natural swimmer did not qualify to make the basketball team, and failed the third and final cut for the football team under math teacher and Coach Tom Dean. Michael was a swimmer, and was not competitive in the non-aquatic sports offered to the typical black male. He also failed to make the Marching Band under Band Director Mr. Hanson. This autumn of failure to participate in extracurricular activities was a major disappointment. Moreover, Michael lost his very best friends as they went onto the smaller and predominately white Scott High School - or to private high schools such as Seton Hall College Preparatory. His best friends were Mark Lago, Robert Flaherty, and David Schwartz. His two black friends - Garfield G. Mingo and J. Harvey White, Jr. - went onto EOHS.
Laverne A. McCloud
“No, this trick won't work. How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? ” ― Albert Einstein
When Michael was a teenager, he took his first employment as a pharmacy clerk at Kaye's Drug Store on the corner of Lincoln and Main Streets in East Orange. One day, a very pretty girl patronized the store. Michael immediately recognized Laverne from school. They exchanged glances, smiles and friendly words as he bagged her prescription. Michael waved “adios” to Laverne and reassured her that he would see her in class, on the following day. Al- the pharmacist - brought to Michael's attention that he had failed to ring-up her purchase on the register. Having witnessed the juvenile flirtatious behavior, Michael's boss realized that this was an oversight and did not make him pay out-of-pocket. Michael was relieved because he was only earning the then minimum wage of $1.40 per hour. The next day, Laverne approached Michael with the money and apologized for not having paid at the store. Michael refused the money but accepted her apology and explained that he needed her telephone number in case he had to 'follow-up'. Laverne knew where Michael was going with his alternative motive, but she gave him the number anyway. They both laughed aloud and staggered disorderly into their Spanish class, tardy, yet still laughing disturbingly loudly, while being admonished by the teacher Ms. Margaret Yobbi.
Michael studied mixed martial arts including Korean style Taekwondo, Aikido, Karate, Shito-Ryu and Jujutsu under sensei’s Bernard Trusdale and George Pryor at the East Orange School of Martial Arts on Main/Clinton Street.
He took the arts seriously from an athletic as well as a way of life - standpoint. He advanced through the various intermediate grades (white, yellow, green, purple) before qualifying to defend for the brown belt classification. To do this, he had to fight a martial artist with a black belt status. The opponent assigned, happened to be a high school friend. Michael fought Buddy and scored adequate qualifying points in his performance against Buddy with a risky, unexpected but well executed Taekwondo spinning back kick. Avoiding the brunt of Michael’s kick, and either sincerely caught by surprise, or deciding not to block and counter - something that he had done many times before - Buddy fell back into the hanging beads at the end of the dojo, looking like a defenseless victim, while securing Michael’s newly acquired advanced status.
To this day, Buddy stubbornly says that he was caught by surprise, and denies taking the proverbial ‘dive’. Michael questions, but still credits Buddy for being complaisant and allowing him to advance, thus placing Michael in contention for his brown belt. Buddy - better known today as the Dr. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. – a former college president - is a Princeton University educated PhD scholar, minister, well-known author, and distinguished Ivy League professor at Columbia University. Michael remembers how well Buddy played the guitar and how often they found themselves competing for the same girls’ affection. Today they occasionally share commentary via Facebook. As to whether Michael actually delivered the swift spinning back roundhouse kick – with no friendly assistance - remains inconclusive.
After high school graduation, at 17 years of age and with the Vietnam War underway, Michael flew to Greensboro, North Carolina and enlisted in the North Carolina A & T State University Air Force Recruiting Officers Training Corps where he studied military science. Exhausted of tuition money, he returned to East Orange.
Although born in the Big Apple, Michael made history in the Oranges. He was a commuting student in his hometown college where he drove his British MGB convertible sports car to school. He was the first non-white student awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Uppsala College. He also rode his French Motorbecane bicycle back and forth the Rutgers Newark medical school where he matriculated in the students for medicine program. His hometown’s health department hired Michael. He conducted microbiological test for the detection of bacteria in public food, water and milk, employing various bacteriological techniques. He screened children for contaminated blood levels of lead and he prepared, organized and secured Pap smear slides used for the detection of cervical cancer. Michael enjoyed doing the Wednesday bacteria testing. On these mornings, inspectors would go to various local delicatessens and take samples of shrimp and tuna salads in plastic bags for lab testing. If the samples were within specifications, Michael’s lunch was determined for the day. If he had not ridden his bicycle to work daily, he would have undoubtedly gained a couple of pounds that summer. In any event, all restaurants were in code.
Michael moved from his parents' home and rented a bachelor’s crib at the Andrea Towers Condominium studio apartment #608 at 70 South Munn Avenue, East Orange. After awarded a chemistry certificate by Fairleigh Dickinson University, he resigned from his hometown's health department to work as a Biochemist at Merck & Co., a world-renown pharmaceutical giant. He performed qualitative and quantitative analysis, using instrumental and wet chemical procedures. His talents and skills were quickly recognized. He was promoted from analytical chemistry to research & development to support the Microbial Chemotherapeutic, Pharmacometric and Antibiotic programs. Still in his 20's, he earned enough money to buy a luxury one-bedroom Apt#705 condominium apartment at Andrea Towers, fully pay off his college debt, and purchase a brand new Sapphire Blue 325i BMW automobile.
Michael fell in love with his high school sweetheart, whom he had taken to the senior prom held at the West Orange Manor. Laverne graduated from Brown University before going onto law school. Michael lived with her in Providence for a short time. Succinctly put, Laverne had a miscarriage and later died of cancer. These were the saddest times of Michael's life. This heartbreaking period prompted him to take a life audit and re-prioritize his life's values. At first, he threw himself into his work. He accepted a medical research position at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark and worked at the Blood Institute in the Hematology/Oncology department. He coordinated medical research projects for the separation and purification of plasma proteins from AIDS patients using Isoelectric Focusing, High-Pressured Liquid Chromatography, SDS Three-Dimensional Gel Electrophoresis and several hematological methods. At the same time, he transformed from the life and physical sciences to the social and political sciences. He was appointed chairperson of a chapter of the Organization of African Unity and a supportive member of the "People’s Organization of Progress” (POP) chaired by Lawrence Hamm. He was elected block association president, appointed municipal fourth ward Treasurer, and Essex County Committee executive board district leader. He was the host for the cable television show, "The first Step." He was appointed by the Mayor (unanimously confirmed by the City Council) to serve as the Commissioner for the City of East Orange. After several campaigns and re-elections, dissatisfied with the failure of politics in serving the best interest of the masses, Commissioner MAVA decided to return to the pure sciences via academia. After he was awarded a Master's degree, he returned to his roots becoming the first and only Black instructor in the chemistry/physics department at his undergraduate college. He taught Inorganic, Organic, and Biochemistry. Listed in Who's Who in American Education, he served as a debate coach and senior class advisor at Newark Central High School. He continued his formal education and returned to the island of his birth. He did his graduate studies in Biochemistry at Columbia University in Harlem, New York City. Michael accepted a chemistry teaching appointment at the Fine and Performing Arts High School in Newark where his sister graduated as a violinist. (Many talented people graduated from Arts High School including the legendary songstress Sarah Vaughn, Melba Moore, Beverly Marcell, Woody Shaw, Connie Francis, Jazz artist Wayne Shorter, actor Tiesha Campbell-Martin, and Savon Glover). He served as the advisor for the Allied Health Careers' and the National Honor Society. Michael returned to Rutgers medical school to do Pharmacokinetical research, and co-authored publications in medical journals including Clinical Research.
In 1997, Van Allen was appointed a teaching position where he taught biochemistry in the pre-medical program at Rutgers Medical College. Contemporaneously, he was promoted to position of science department chair by the Newark Public Schools. Education runs in his family; his sister Barbara teaches college mathematics and her son David attended Dartmouth University. Michael received his pinnacle of recognition- after twenty years of service as a high school science educational leader- when appointed in 2007, by the New Jersey Department of Education to establish the benchmarks to the NJ Board of Education for the Science High School Proficiency Assessment. HSPA is a NJ exit exam that 80,000 science students throughout the State must pass in order to graduate from High School from (1989 to 2014).
“I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong.”
Derek Jeter, NY Yankee Captain and Short Stop
Unfortunately, Michael A. Van Allen still does not qualify to be part of any respectable marching bands, although he still practices on the baby grand piano in his living room. However, he loves the challenges of his administrative responsibilities, the positive differences he makes in students’ lives, and the personal satisfaction he receives when he gives to his favorite charity- "The Boys' and Girls' Club of America.”
He is engaged in the happiest times of his entire life as he lives in the moment- the here and now. He has a passion for his profession, social life, hobbies and personal interests. He treasures living, learning, loving, laughing, helicopter flying down the Grand Canyon, touring through Europe, camel riding across Africa, climbing the Great Wall of China, cruising the Caribbean islands, scuba diving in the Pacific Islands, day-break jogging with his dog, early morning lap swimming followed by MSNBC- TV, coffee and the New York Times. He enjoys movies, music and playing on his hometown softball league. Mike drives the BMW 5-series.
For 15 years, (from 1990 to 2005), this bachelor lived the international playboy’s lifestyle in his single-family colonial home in the West Orange Township at 3 Watchung Avenue, right up the road from where the famous scientist Tom Edison once lived and developed his inventions. Michael lived a cosmopolitan lifestyle, made friends with books, drank fine wines, and in addition to Latina and African women, dined and dated countless pretty, petite Asian and European women as well.
He moved with Mia - the daughter he never had - his very pretty, smart and loyal black female Labrador retriever to the suburban township of Randolph in Morris County, New Jersey- a paradise on Mount Freedom. When he was not running for a Randolph town council seat or studying legislation at the Rutgers Eagleton Institute in New Brunswick, New Jersey he listened to FM radio stations such as: WBGO 88.3, WNYC 93.9, and WBAI 99.5. He is proud of the nomination he received from the political machine and of the support of thousands of his neighbors who came out in the pouring rain to vote for him in the November General Election. He served as the Morris County Committee District Leader and Treasurer of the Randolph Democratic Committee. He plays second base and catcher on his softball team. His teammates and opposing team players called him [Derrick] “Jeter” not because he played so well, but there were several Mikes on in the league and Michael frequently wore a Jeter Jersey, making him an easy mark for the alternative name that he wore in honor. His Dutch Colonial 'castle' with private well water, is located on a couple of acres of a bucolic evergreen, private setting, surrounded by forest, mountainous lakes and parks. Their Lake Valhalla home often visited by schools of fishes from the fresh water brook in the wooded area of the property, herds of deer, flocks of birds, a really smart fox, and an occasional uninvited but well respected huge, black bear affectionately named Yogi – is located in Montville, New Jersey. He was re-elected by his colleagues to represent them as their labor leader on the City Association of Supervisors and Administrators union's executive board (CASA, local #20), under the American Federation of School Administrators (AFL-CIO). He is a member of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), and the New Jersey Science Education Leadership Association.
He serves as the Affirmative Action Officer for Malcolm X Shabazz High School -formerly known as South Side High School when former NYC Mayor Ed Koch graduated in 1941. Interestingly, comedian Jerry Lewis graduated from South Side High School two years later, only after being kick-out of the nearby Weequahic High School for roller-skating through the hallways. Michael met President Bill Clinton and on another occasion - the daughters of Malcolm X at his work site of Shabazz High School. (Martin Luther King delivered his last public speech, in the auditorium of South Side High School, before his assassination.) Michael earned recognition in the field of education again when he received a gubernatorial appointment to serve as a Trustee for the County College of Morris located in his hometown of Randolph Township, and appointed to the position of Vice Principal at Malcolm X Shabazz High School.
“A bachelor is a man who comes to work each morning from a different direction”
Michael’s insatiable thirst for Pinot Noir, compounded with his libidinous appetite for women of all nationalities, has meant partying and laughing loudly among his baseball teammates about his world travels. He roared, “I take ‘em from 18 to 81, blind, dumb and crazy, if they can’t walk, I’ll drag ‘em!” On his recent return from Denmark, followed by the “Virgin” Islands, he boasted with laughter from the batter’s circle shouting to his team in the dugout, “Oh, they just call them the ‘Islands’ now!”
THE GENESIS OF A PUBLIC POLICY ANALYST AND ADVOCATE
"If you've got 'em by the balls, their heart and mind will follow."
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson
The most intriguing and interesting course Michael took during his recent Seton Hall University’s Education Leadership, Management and Policy doctoral program was "Higher Education Public Policy Analysis", under Professor Rong Chen. Incongruously, it was during this seminar that Michael broke his perfect attendance record by “cutting” his policy class to cast his vote on a highly controversial higher education public policy issue. The board of trustees at County College of Morris (CCM) conducted this important meeting in the college gymnasium, which was full of students, protestors, supporters, community leaders, politicians, advocacy groups, Tea Party activists, stakeholders, and television/newspaper media. Michael flew into the Newark International Airport from an educational conference held in Vancouver, Canada and got to CCM just in time to cast a vote allowing undocumented immigrants to matriculate there as long as they met the federal DREAM act requirements. This was the most important policy change at the college in a decade. In 2001, the CCM Board of Trustees made a policy blocking “illegal aliens” from attendance at the school since a series of four - completely unrelated - coordinated suicide attacks conducted by al-Qaeda upon the United States on 9/11 took place.
In 2011, Michael – an advanced doctoral student of education policy - had just become chair of the Minority Enrollment Committee and this was the first motion coming out of his committee. It was this process of policy change when Michael recognized the full appreciation of being a policymaker. On his return, he explained the 'behind the scenes' policymaking process to his colleagues, and what had taken place besides the information they received via the media. Michael’s goal continues to intersect the worlds of theory, research, law, policy and practice to create educational success for underserved populations.
Michael believes that socialism never took root in America because the 47% see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as the temporarily embarrassed two percent. He continues to advocate for racial justice. Important issues that must be addressed include: Racism, White privilege, the racial academic achievement gap, the racial health and wellness gap, racial segregation in housing, employment and schools, mass incarceration, the war on drugs, the "Schools-to-Prisons" pipeline, income disparity, felony disenfranchisement, voters' suppression, unemployment, police brutality, and the police "Blue Code of Silence". We must look into the criminal justice system, sentencing reform, raising the minimum wage to living wages, increased voters' participation, global justice, and democracy.
If there were Gods, they will have to beg my forgiveness. But, I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer gods than you. When you understand why you dismiss all the other 4,176 false gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. If God is willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then it is not omnipotent. If it is able, but not willing? Then it is malevolent. If it is both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? If it is neither able nor willing? Then why call it God? If every trace of every religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true, and mankind would figure it all out again. I don't believe in life after death, but I do believe in life before death. I don’t believe in any gods/devils, religions/cults, angels/demons, heaven/hell or afterlife, blessings/curses, any powers in prayers, voodoo, spells, jinxes, wishes, miracles, superstitions, karma, witches, magic, ghosts, goblins, Santa Claus, Easter bunnies, zombies, vampires, fairy tales, myths, astrology, fortune telling, Ouija boards, prophecy, clairvoyance, fate, luck, witchcraft, crystals, the supernatural, unicorns, destiny, or the concept that everything happens for a reason. However, my life is not void of beliefs. I believe in logic and reason. I also believe that most people like myself are curious and have a sincere interest in wanting to know their life's purpose, the origins of the universe, and the identity of a moral compass, or any sort of "rule book" to live by - if any of these things should exist. I believe that people enjoy stories, entertain theories and tend to hold onto the ones that work for them. But, I also believe people tell stories that are not true and these untrue stories are passed down and believed for generations. I do have beliefs. I believe that people have a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect their mood, thinking and behavior such as depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors and any of these mental health conditions can lead to interesting stories to be believed by generations to come. I believe that people lie, misrepresent and honestly misinterpret things. I believe that people have fantasies, dreams, hallucinations, see mirages and have huge egos that can sometimes take on a life of their own. I do believe - that before video recordings and other technologies - people thought they observed events that never happened, which partially explains why we stopped getting new miracles. I also believe in the power of peer-pressure, group thinking, home training, the strong emotional desire of wanting to belong, religious training, miseducation, brainwashing, propaganda, socialization, tribalism and the shear wish that something was true. People have various cognitive biases such as "confirmation bias" and "conservatism bias," or the "commitment effect" - just to name three or twenty kinds of common biases. Most people inherit their beliefs from their less informed parents. It's not a coincidence that your gods have the same name as your maternal grandma's gods, or that Jehovah's Witnesses (such as my maternal grandmother) don't sprout out of Muslim countries. I do find it particularly strange that as science and technology advances, science is never informed by religion, but religion continues to be unsubstantiated by science. NEWS FLASH: The earth is older than 9 thousand years, actually it closer to 4.5 billion years old. The bible hasn't told us anything that has later been confirmed by science. We never got a cure for disease from the bible. We have found dinosaur's fossils going back 240 million years but not a single plank from Noah’s Ark, or evidence confirming any of the other holy stories. We were told God created the heavens and earth, but it didn't say that the earth was the third planet from the sun, or we had other galaxies besides the Milky way. I believe that people will accept a fictional explanation as an answer to significant questions of life's purpose and its beginnings, as opposed to accepting that we simply don't know. I do believe most people are gullible, and the human psyche is limited and predictable. I believe ignorance, jealously, hate, fear and tribalism are pervasive. Thus, hope for mankind is not love, but knowledge. Holy books were literally handed to future believers, and many believers never even read their own holy book completely nor the opposing holy books to compare and contrast. Even if there were gods, until they made themselves known to me, it wouldn't be consequential for me. There is an inverse relationship between peoples' reading materials and the strength of their religious convictions. The lower the reading levels and the less diverse the reading materials are, the stronger and narrower their religious conviction tend to be. I find it telling that the most religious countries in the world are in Africa. A land of rich resources and precious minerals yet populated by poor and scientific illiterate people. Conversely, the least religious country in the world is China, which is booming in growth. (I am half African, so this is where my ego, biases and tribalism come in to somehow justify the foolish ideology of the voodoo rain dancers dying in the desert.) Sorry, but I rely on logic, facts and reason, not emotional wishful thinking. Besides, I’ve been to both Asia and Africa. I’ve sat in class rooms in the People’s Republic of China and I had the pleasure of speaking with the students directly. I’ve tried to personally address this inequality. I have taught science to people of African descent for many years. (If you don’t have the time, resources or inclination to visit, may I suggest you read -translated- books written by the great African and Asian authors. You also do not want to be a reader of limited scope.) But, I digress. So, I'm an atheist! It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled, and I accept science, and mathematics as fact and it informs my lifestyle and decisions that I make such as dieting and exercise as just two examples. I accept conclusions that are peer-reviewed, science-based, evidence-based and reached through deductive and inductive reasoning. I accept the general theory of relativity. I accept that the universe can endlessly expand and contract, I also accept evolution, and natural selection but, I am willing to denounce each of my beliefs as soon as I have contradictory evidence, and I will not be ashamed of myself for having had those past beliefs, making my discarding them all the easier. Some questions theist must answer. 1. Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense? 2. Why do bad things happen to good people? 3. Why is faith required? 4. Why is God hidden? 5. Why are there natural disasters? and 6. Why are there so many starving people in our world? Only in an alternative reality can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-guns, pro-torture, anti-healthcare and anti-food stamps and still think of yourself as moral and Pro-life. Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what denomination, or kind of Christianity you profess; there are still only two types: one is the member of a Christian religion, and the other is someone who is actively living like Jesus. Which one are you? Me? I just do to others what I would have others do to me. I work to live a long healthy and happy life while continuing to make the world a more habitable place for all. I preach the gospel but I only use words when absolutely necessary.
"You don't marry someone you can live with- you marry the woman you cannot live without."
The love of Michael's life has a unique and outstanding family background. All of the men in Debbie's family are medical doctors. She is the granddaughter, daughter, niece and sister of two brothers -all of whom were/are physicians. Her grandfather was a general practitioner, her dad was a gynecologist/obstetrician, her uncle is a psychiatrist, and her younger brother Robert is an oncologist living in Australia, and her older brother Jon is a surgeon living in Conn. Interestingly, Debbie's sister-in-law Sherry, is a pro bono immigration attorney, and attended Harvard Law School with First Lady- Michelle Obama. Her mother Toby- graduated from Bronx Science High School at the young age of 16, and then furthered her science education in college, graduating from NYU with a chemistry degree at the early age of 19. She went on to become an Organic chemist.
Debbie’s family has some interesting parallels with Michael and his family. Debbie and Michael’s sister Barbara both graduated from Douglass College (the women’s College of Rutgers University). Debra's father, Irving attended the same Bronx high school as Michael's father, both served in World War II. Both born in the Bronx and made their wife’s widows at the age of 72.
Michael’s father did not have the same availability to GI Grants to attend college as his Caucasian comrades. Irving went onto Medical School to deliver babies as a Gyn/Ob and Van went onto the NY Times Square United States Post Office to deliver mail as a letter carrier. At that time - the postal services were one of the better paying jobs available to African Americans.
Michael and his best friend Debbie taught chemistry for many years, and both supervised high school math teachers and ran science departments later in their careers. Michael and Debbie, both native New Yorkers, live together in their lake Valhalla home in Montville, NJ. They frequently share belly laughs together. One of the reoccurring stories is the contrast of their childhood experiences. As a child, Debbie remembers running through her private water sprinklers, on their green lawn, under the summer sun while hearing melodious chimes from the approaching ice cream truck in White Meadow Lake, NJ. Conversely, Michael frolicked in jet streams of water from the public fire hydrants, on hot black tarred streets, under the blazing summer sun, while hearing piercing siren sounds of speeding police cars in Harlem. In actuality - except for challenging one another in tennis and ping-pong games, they are always on the same team!
In addition to reducing his completion time on the annual Randolph Lake Triathlon and the Rutgers University Half-Marathon, Trustee Van Allen's ambitions includes earning his PhD degree in Public Policy and successfully serving as a distinguished policy maker in education. His focus address factors that have proven to affect student achievement such as: Head Start programs; K-12 funding inequities; racially segregated schools; the “Schools-to-Prisons” pipeline; non-payment for NCAA players; and soaring college cost- all serving as structural and institutional barriers for students of color that have been relegated to the caste system of slave labor (also called the minimum wage). The status quo dictates that these students and their families for generations to come will denied the American dream.
In his twilight years, he intends to continue with his healthy Mediterranean, largely plant-based diet, yoga, mindfulness secular meditation compounded with this circadian rhythm of early to bed and early to rise. He wakes to his green tea and New York Times newspaper. He maintains a daily rigorous, cross-training exercise regimen of swimming, running, biking, weight training, yoga, and mindfulness secular meditation. DrMAVA stays cognitively engaged in extensive reading, writing, practicing the clarinet, and delivering speeches at the Toastmasters club. Debbie speaks Spanish fluently, and Miquel now intends to be a student of the Spanish language, as Debbie and Miquel Salsa and Maringa, throughout the South American continent. Michael intends to dance and laugh into the sunset with his amicable, amorous, blue-green eyed, naturally blonde, slender wife, and
live happily ever after!