Tradition of Excellence

I'm NOT the author of the articles. I'm chronicling the stories you may have missed.

Proof positive of flawed data

with 9 comments

ATLANTA — To the beat of African drums sounding across the Morehouse College campus, 22-year-old Quinn Rallins of Chicago took his place Sunday among 520 African-American males inducted into an elite fraternity of proud black men.

The ceremony, seeped in tradition, was more than a commencement. For 141 years, the nation’s only college dedicated to educating African-American men has graduated “Morehouse Men” representing success and pride within the black community.

Two decades ago, few people would have thought that someone from Rallins’ background would have landed here, graduating magna cum laude and joining the ranks of such Morehouse graduates as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and filmmaker Spike Lee.

Growing up on Chicago’s South Side with a mother who struggled with alcohol and crack cocaine abuse, Rallins was among a wave inner-city babies exposed to crack in their mother’s womb, children written off by much of society as a lost generation doomed to failure.

A positive statistic

“I came from a disadvantage but I learned early that if we take care of ourselves, we can do much,” said Rallins, a Rhodes Scholar finalist this year. “You can compete with anyone if you apply yourself.”

With crack-cocaine abuse peaking in the mid-1980s in cities such as Chicago, experts said, America waged a war on drugs fueled by flawed data that warned of neurologically and socially damaged children who would flood the nation’s public schools and, later, its prisons.

As it turned out, that did not happen. But the stigma surrounding “crack babies” remained.

Subsequent research has shown that exposure to cocaine during pregnancy does not predispose children to developmental disorders. Early research, experts said, failed to consider factors such as environment, poverty, lack of adequate health care and the use of cigarettes or alcohol.

A 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association warned that the children and their mothers, most often low-income blacks, were unfairly stigmatized.

“In the 1980s and early ’90s there was this unscientific panic based on minimal data that this was an intrauterine exposure that was damaging like nothing ever seen in humanity, that these kids would be unlovable, retarded criminals,” said Dr. Deborah Frank, a pediatrics professor at Boston University School of Medicine.

“This fantasy panic around crack mainly had to do with the social aspect of the drug, with the inner city, with violence,” Frank said.

There is not enough long-term research available to determine what happened to most of the drug-exposed children from the 1980s and 1990s. However, many children never escape the impact of a negative environment.

But Rallins is an example of what can happen to disadvantaged children with self-determination and proper nurturing.

He acknowledges that life was not easy for him and his younger sister. Police often were called when his mother, high on alcohol and drugs, got out of control.

“Mom would get drunk and hit me. I had to call the cops and send her to the drunk tank a couple of times,” he said. “When you’re a kid, you don’t understand what’s going on. You see mood changes and you think that’s normal. It got to where I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Finding his escape

Rallins found an escape in school. An avid reader, a positive trait from his mother, he excelled academically at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, a public school on the South Side. His father moved out when he was young, but Rallins said they remain close.

At age 14, his aunt, Yvonne Womack, a Chicago Public Schools administrator, took him in. His mother, Gail Rallins, suffered a seizure and died in 2006, during his sophomore year in college.

“My aunt’s house was a place of peace,” Rallins said. “She gave me a place that allowed me to grow. She had books everywhere, even in the bathroom.”

Following a tour of black colleges, Rallins said he immediately was drawn to Morehouse.

“The classroom is one place I always felt I had full control over my future. I grew up never having a lot of benefits. I never got a new car for making straight A’s,” said Rallins, adding that his mother instilled in him the value of education. “I did it to carry me to the future, for the sake of doing the right thing.”

As a result, scholarships poured in. He turned down the University of Chicago and Stanford University.

Now the man who never had been out of the United States before college has traveled to 36 countries. His sister, Jessica, 20, is a sophomore at Illinois State University.

He has worked with HIV and AIDS patients in the Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone and South Africa. Morehouse helped him get there.

“We see these young men show up on the first day. Many arrive with a certain self-doubt often masked by a swagger,” said Morehouse President Robert Franklin, a Chicago native.

“We say from Day One, ‘If you’re smart enough and talented enough to be admitted to Morehouse, you will succeed,’ ” he said. “We do everything we can to help. If we see them straying from the straight path, we get in their business.”

On Sunday, before 41 relatives who traveled to see him, Rallins earned a dual degree in international studies and Spanish. This summer he will spend two months teaching English in Malaysia as an Amnesty International fellow. He has applied for graduate school at Oxford University in England, where he hopes to earn a master’s degree in comparative social policy. He plans to work in the human-rights field on a global scale.

“This is a great time to be young, gifted and black,” Rallins said. “Twenty years from now, I want to say I contributed.

“I might be up for a Nobel Prize for my human-rights work in Africa.”


9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I enjoyed this. Great blog 🙂


    May 19, 2008 at 9:31 pm

  2. Thank you Anonymiss. I’m glad you like the blog. I needed some place to remind myself that even though we have some problems, there are more good stories than we know about.

    Even if Black folks don’t like to admit it. 😉


    May 20, 2008 at 6:41 am

  3. This is a great story, however the facts are incorrect. The author of the article, Dahleen Glanton, did not verify facts with his family. Quinn did not grow up in the inner city of Chicago’s South Side as suggested but in a quiet neighborhood in suburban Dolton. He was raised much of his life in a two parent home. His assertion that he “grew up never having a lot of benefits” is also false but makes for a good story. With Quinn’s accomplishments and intelligence it is unfortunate he feels as though he did everything on his own. Many friends and family have been supportive over the years and he’s too arrogant to acknowledge any of them. His mother was a hardworking woman who struggled with her own issues but always wanted the best for her children. She was proud of them. It is sad that Quinn needed to slander his deceased mother’s reputation in order to feel like a man.

    Mat's Family

    May 22, 2008 at 1:57 pm

  4. The history of African-American manhood is not only conflicted by the powers of the larger society to determine outcomes that have led to the imprisonment and death of countless black males; but the relationship to families–particularly, female members–has shown peculiar differences in the way young men and their families see things. When I look at the autobiography of Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays (1894-1984), BORN TO REBEL (1971), I wonder what his relatives and community members mighty have said about him. He said they considered him “upity”. I guess that is a word for arrogant. Had President Mays not been so, there might not have been a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Dr. David Satcher, a Louis Sullivan, or any opf the countless others who have made a difference in the world.Family may provide things and a framework for some kinds of successes. Families can be strangling influences when their sons can not feel themselves free to succeed. Hence, BORN TO REBEL, in all of its meanings. . . In my experience, I was sometimes told by my mother that I was the joy of her ife and that I was indifferent because I did not reflect her attitudes. Perhaps, if I had “rebelled” more, challenged their so-called “comfortable” environment, I might have achieved more. MAKE THE DIFFERECE

    Dr. Carey Wynn II

    June 18, 2008 at 7:28 am

  5. Had President Mays not been so, there might not have been a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a
    Dr. David Satcher, a Dr. Louis Sullivan, or any of the countless others who have made a difference in the world . . . In my experience, I was sometimes told by my mother that I was the joy of her life and also that I was indifferent because I did not reflect her attitudes. . . .

    Dr. Carey Wynn II

    June 22, 2008 at 7:47 pm

  6. As Quinn’s sister I know what he has/has not been through. Most of the information presented in this article is false. Whether it was written inaccurate or reported inaccurate, it is false. It is Quinn’s responsibility to correct information that is false, especially when it assassinates the character of a great woman like our mother. On the other hand, the information could have just been given inaccurately by Quinn himself, which most of it was. Quinn’s story is inspiring enough with Truth! There will never be justification for the way he has misrepresented our mother. There could only be Justice served to her, clarifying who she really was.

    Jessica Rallins

    October 24, 2008 at 9:57 am

  7. The truth hurts.
    I hate to say this, and may Gail rest in peace, but there is some truth about her drug habit and alcoholism. She was a very sweet woman but misguided and ill. I hope her dear Jessica doesn’t end up down the same path. She’s been running wild around with some of everyone. I’m amazed at how opposite these two children are. Congrats Quinn! Grow up Jessica! Make your mother proud! What do you have to show for yourself besides men? I’m disappointed in you and believe me your mother is rolling over in her grave.


    August 17, 2009 at 4:24 pm

  8. Happy Friday! The Search API now supports real user IDs. And tweet entities for URLs, media and hashtags. ^TS


    October 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

  9. I’d need to give blessing with you here. which isn’t something I usually do! I get pleasure from reading a post which will build people suppose. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!


    October 29, 2011 at 12:29 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: