Friday, July 10, 2009

Rest in Peace: Frank N. Mickens, Legendary Brooklyn High School Principal

The Daily Challenge, NYC's only Black Daily, in today's edition reports the passing of Frank N. Mickens, long time Principal of Boys and Girls High School, the Pride of Bed Stuy, author, activist and fighter for equal opportunity in education. Mr. Mickens reportedly passed away in his sleep Thursday morning. Mr. Mickens began teaching in 1968, becoming principal of Boys and Girls HS in 1985. He retired from the NYC Department of Education in 2004.

Mr. Mickens was known as a no-nonsense disciplinarian, as witnessed in the photo above as he patrolled the halls, here with a walkie talkie, often with a bullhorn. He showed that by getting kids to respect him, themselves, and each other, it was possible to turn a problem-plagued school around. He fought for school improvement and school funds, and many scholarships and incentives were made available to his students. Under Mr. Micken's tenure, the school had 85%+ college bound graduates.

Brooklyn Beat had the privilege of walking the halls with Mr. Mickens during a couple of visits to Boys and Girls, and it was clear, that as much as he accomplished school improvement by being a strong administrator, he loved his students and they loved him. Nothing escaped Frank's attention, in the halls, in the classrooms, or outside of the building.

At times controversial as he tangled for funds for his school and community with the NYC Board of Ed, I found him a funny, sometimes jovial and blusterous, but at the same time thoughtful, charismatic, and dedicated professional. Frank was one of a kind.

Mr. Mickens wrote "It Doesn't Have To Be This Way: How To Create A Positive
Environment In Our Schools." In it he discusses "No matter who you are, you want the same things for your kid. Whether you're in Buffalo or Brooklyn, you want a good academic and a safe environment for your kid."

More details here:


  1. I will miss Mickens immensely. He's the one that got me to return back to the school to teach and inspired me to hang in there. That's why we have such a large alumni return rate. Love you soooo much!

  2. Thanks for your remembrance of Mr Mickens

  3. Mr. Mickens you are a true father-figure, leader, mentor and friend! You genuinely cared about your students and molded us into the mature adults we are today! Thank God for dress for success. Thank God for 15-3's! Thank God for your presence in our lives Mr. Mickens. Love, Class of 98!!!!!!

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  5. Mr. Mickens you were the best.. you believed in everyone even when nobody else did. I could remember standing on stage June 28, 2005 when you presented me and a classmate with your scholarship!! The Dream will Live on. We fall down but we get up..... the words that rang through the halls of the high all day everyday. The oreos, the water..I remember it all. I Lobe you and will miss you

  6. I am so prayerful to have had a wonderful role model, instructional leader and a strong male role model in my life. In learning of his passing this morning, I am reflecting on my career as an educator and my obligation to the students that are in my care. He has mentored me through teenage pregnancy and dropping out of HS in my 11th grade year. He made it possible for me to march with my graduating class. God only knows what my life would have been without his guding words. Rest in Peace.... Class of '89.

  7. Thank you for your heartfelt remembrances.. I was out of town this week, but if anyone who attended the services could share a few words about the day I would like to post here. Again, thanks.

  8. We didn't have Mr. Mickins for long at Martin L. King H.S. but the time we had with him was great. Mr. Mickins didn't play around when it came to Education and Behavior. He meant business. We need more role models EXACTLY like him to have a better NYC school system. He was ALWAYS encouraging even when you didn't think you could do it. HE MADE A DIFFERENCE!!!!

  9. SO SAD FOR NEW YORK CITY KIDS! Dr. Frank N. Mickens had the formula a blue print for helping the NYC failing schools. He was ahead of his time. The D.O.E. was not ready for his genius plan and vision.
    Just imagine having Dr. Frank Mickens as the CHANCELLOR of NYC schools! Every school he was the principal of he was able to turn it around. SORRY the powers to be tried to hold a good man down! If you were inspired by this warrior for education and his dedication to our students read his books share the knowledge!

  10. He was my principal over 10 years ago and though I didn't realize it at the time, he made a tremendous difference in my life. I wasn't one of those students who had a direct relationship with "Mr. Mick", but I certainly benefited from his techniques. Through Mr. Mick, I learned that "Failure is not an option". I learned that "My Aim Is Excellence, Nothing Less." I learned that I was the "Pride and Joy of Bedstuy." I learned the value of pursuing my goals without allowing my social life to dominate my existence because of phrases like "If You Have One Good Friend, You're Lucky, If You Have Two, You Have Many, But Three are Impossible"....that was just Mr. Mick's way of saying "watch who you hang out with." Slogans like those were plastered all across the building while I was a student at Boys and Girls High. Although I didn't know it yet, the words settled into my subconscious and helped to push me through life. The discipline, consistency and strong expectations that Mr. Mick wove into the fabric of the school will continue to shape me forever. I hold a Masters Degree thanks in part to his efforts.

  11. thank you for every thing that you have done for me... you showed me the way and i will always respect you for all that you have done... i will never for get you and thanks to you know i pass your believes to my son, who is now 6... in your very own words " failure is not and option and there is no negotiation with failure"..without an education we would live to that stereo type that says "Spanish and Blacks are all uneducated minorities and you showed me that the best way to fight is through and education.. this to you was the only way our opinions would count.. fro this i am eternal grateful..thank you so much... you truly were an believed in each and everyone of the student at boys and girls high school...i miss you and i wish that i would of gotten a chance to say such a strong, focus ambitious and courageous man... you are one above the rest truly one in a million.


Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo