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About Thomas L Blair


Thomas L Blair, an urban sociologist and policy analyst, gained notice later in his career for his cyber-action to help the information-poor across the Digital Divide.

BACKGROUND

Born of West Indian parents in New York, his belief in raising up the voices of the unheard developed as a teenager in the low income, multiethnic neighbourhoods of East Harlem. He backed up his early concerns with his personal experiences and academic insights.

Researching societies, social problems and solutions

In university, he studied a trio of human sciences – sociology, anthropology and psychology – to gain his baccalaureate, while starring on the basketball team and editing the college newspaper. His research in youth clubs, sports centres, hospitals and asylums helped him gain a masters degree in mass communications and public opinion studies.

He honed his teaching and researching skills in rural Texas Black communities. He created new courses in Sociology, African and International Studies while at the State University of New York, New Paltz, and researched the life and labour of Black migrant farm workers in the Hudson River valley.

International Studies, Research Projects and Consultancies

For his doctoral studies in Latin American Studies, he toured the dusty back roads and sugar plantations of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil. Later, he lived among the Hausa-Fulani in the ancient city of Kano in northern Nigeria; this led to his report on the impact of urban growth on traditional societies.

Early interests in the politics of liberation surfaced again in the revolutionary era of anti-colonial movements. He was in Algeria when workers took control of lands and factories abandoned by fleeing French colonists. The result, many believe, was a manifesto on African liberation and post-colonial development, called The Land to Those Who Work it: Algeria's experiment in workers' management. Doubleday Anchor Books, New York 1970.

City planning and urban renewal

Spreading his international concerns, Prof Blair came to England in the 1960s. During almost two decades at the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), he trained a cohort of younger British and international scholars skilled in social and environmental planning and the critical analysis of urban affairs.

His writings and reviews in architecture and planning journals attracted comment from urban designers, housing and built environment professionals, planning officers and consultants. Policy research and publications allied to social action were his métier.

He is best known for his Urban Innovation Abroad series for Plenum Press, New York. His Inner City Studies included The Poverty of Planning: Crisis in the urban environment. MacDonald, London 1973 and The International Urban Crisis. Paladin, London 1974.

His Polytechnic Urban Habitat course programme and debating Habitat Forum exchanged knowledge and skills with 100s of planners from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia. Later, he sharpened his investigative and analytical skills whilst taking a M.A. degree in Sociology and Urban Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Contributions to Education, Sociology and Community

In the early 1990s, Prof Blair helped plan and advise talented young Black and Asian scholars on the further development of their Oxford Access Scheme based in St Hugh’s College, Oxford University. OXAS aimed to recruit and support young achievers of inner city and ethnic minority backgrounds wishing to enter the privileged halls of academia. He also assisted a similar programme of the Black Caucus at Trinity College, Cambridge University

African American and Présence Africaine Studies

Thereafter, Blair embarked on the traditional route of Black scholars studying African American communities. He focused on the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, and the contrasting leadership styles of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Huey Newton, in Retreat to the Ghetto: The end of a dream? Hill and Wang, New York 1977, and Wildwood House, London.

Notably, his featured articles appeared in the foremost international Black cultural review, Présence Africaine

Internet policy analysis and research

By the end  of the1990s, the entrenchment of conservative views in the media and public affairs across Britain pushed Blair to a parallel career in online policy research, and journalism.

Prof Blair’s Chronicleworld site is Britain's first Internet magazine monitoring African Caribbean British and Afro-European communities http://www.chronicleworld.org Founded in November 1997, it delivers authoritative information, book reviews and ideas to students, professionals, and corporate, educational and community leaders. Many think of it as a cyber-store of the skills and ideas peoples of African descent in Britain and Europe need for success at work, study, leisure, and community advancement.

His websites and blog include Chronicleworld at http://www.chronicleworld.org, Thom Blair at http://www.thomblair.org.uk and Chronicleworld weblog at http://chronicleworld.wordpress.com

Cyber-Honours

Notably, his 21st century interest in cyberjournalism attracted the attention of academics, researchers and students. In early 2000, he was a featured speaker at the historic Oxford University Students Union, England.

His work is honoured in the British Library's web-archive of “social, historic and culturally significant web-based material from the UK domain”

See his web sites Cyberaction for Social Change , Chronicleworld.org and Changing Black Britain          

Thomas L Blair’s "Chronicleworld.org is one of best Web resources for education and research," say subject specialists in UK universities consortium at Intute.

See http://www.intute.ac.uk/cgi-bin/fullrecord.pl?handle=20091024-18575961
and especially Shaping of Black London