How to Heal #HairHate and learn to love black women's natural hair

On Healing #HairHate: How I Learned to Love My Natural Hair

I looked in the mirror and tried to figure out where to part my hair so the chemical burn on my scalp wouldn’t show. My hair looked perfect. It’s rich black tone and dense flowing layers were exactly what I hoped for when I left the salon the day before. I had also hoped to avoid a chemical burn this time. But as my stylist reminded me, you must pat your itching scalp, not scratch. But it seemed that my scalp was perpetually itchy. Constantly applying thick moisturizing products to counteract the dryness caused by a relaxer often has that effect. Scalp irritation and chemical burns seemed to be far bigger problems than I had bargained for, now that I had the financial means to actually get a relaxer every 8 weeks, before the new growth made my hair stand away from my head like a helmet. As I stood there trying to figure out how to part my hair, I wondered if there was another way to feel beautiful without so much discomfort. I was just about over the old adage, ‘beauty is pain’. I parted my hair on the left to hide the burn and headed to catch the train to my afternoon class.

The Decision

As I was going into the train station a beautiful woman caught my eye.  Because I was living in Atlanta at the time, it was not unusual to see a beautiful woman who made me do a double-take and want to sing praises to the Gods of all things beautiful Black womanhood. But this woman was tall, thin, with a dark complexion, almond eyes and a beautiful smile. We heavily resembled each other, aside from the fact that she had a TWA and I had a part on the left side to hide a chemical burn. Our eyes met. As our paths crossed, we smiled in acknowledgment, the way Black women do when we recognize the beauty in each other. On my 10-minute train ride, I couldn’t help but notice all the black women on the train who had permed hair. I wondered how often they had to deal with chemical burns or what they did to avoid scratching their scalp when they were a day or two past wash day. I wondered if they struggled to make it through an April in Atlanta when avoiding the rain is nearly impossible. I wondered if they struggled with not wanting to swim or work out for fear or their edges reverting.

By the time I got off the train, I was exhausted by my own thoughts. I didn’t hate my hair in the literal sense. But the discomfort and inconvenience it took to achieve and maintain it was making my hair very difficult to love. It was time for a change. I decided that my hair should be something I loved, and nurtured, not just dealt with or felt disdain toward. And I really want to love my hair, exactly as it grew out of my scalp. So, I decided that I would cut off my perm before I graduated, which gave me almost 3 years. As it turned out, I needed all 3 of those years to deal with naysayers and interrogate my own ideas of beauty that seemed based in everything except how my hair was actually designed.

The Big Chop

I nearly cried as I heard the scissors cut through my hair and felt the coolness of

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Immediately after I had my perm cut off…still in the hair salon.

absolutely nothing touching my neck.  After about 9 months of intentional growth, two previous attempts to cut out the perm in the years before, and frantically asking a friend to meet me at the hair salon immediately, before I changed my mind, I had done it. I know had hair that was about 3 inches long, felt like cotton to the touch, and was completely foreign to me. I could not have been more excited. And more terrified.

Finding My Tribe

As the universe would have it, I started to really notice the hair textures and styles of women with natural hair that I’d known for years. I saw their beauty in a different way. I fell into a community of people who were pan-Africanist, womanist, and naturalists who loved natural hair for political reasons, for health reasons, for historical reasons. But most importantly, they were on a journey to loving themselves and their blackness more deeply, which also meant loving natural black hair precisely because it was black hair. Watching them catapulted me on a journey to love my own hair the way they love theirs.

Styling with No Lye

I vividly remember sitting next to my friend as we watched television and I ‘twisted’ my hair. He asked. “What are you doing”? His tone let me know that he’d watched women twist their natural hair and what I was doing was definitely NOT twisting in anyway he’d ever seen. I now know that I was actually spiraling my 4b hair around my fingers using raw shea butter and not a drop of moisturizer to achieve something that sort of looked like a twist out. Sort of. I had no idea how to care for my natural hair. How could I? I had no road map.

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A few years into my natural hair journey and in love with my hair!

Aside from watching little girls get their hair braided before their first perm, I had never seen natural hair being styled before. I spent several months scrolling through YouTube videos, whipping up concoctions in the kitchen, and trying every product for natural hair I could find (and back then there weren’t very many options).  After some frustration and some trial and error, I eventually figured out which ingredients worked best for my hair and scalp. I was able to nurture my hair in way the left my hair healthy and beautiful without altering the thickness and texture I inherited from my grandmothers. Before I knew it, I had finally learned to love my natural hair!

Healing #HairHate

I’d venture to say that many black women have stories similar to mine. We wear natural hair because it gets to be mentally exhausting (and sometimes physically painful) to try to live up to a standard of beauty that is diametrically opposed to biology.  We want a deeper knowledge of self and a greater self-love that often flies in the face of what society says is worth loving.  If the backlash Shea Moisture is experiencing right now can teach us anything, it’s that Black women are fiercely invested in our hair and many of us see the beauty of leaving straight hair to the women who are biologically designed to grow it. I’m not suggesting that every woman with a perm or a lace fr

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Experimenting with the versatility of my natural texture and still loving my hair 10 years later!

ont suffers from #hairhate or should go natural. Of course not. The reasons for our personal choices are as varied as our hair textures. I’m simply saying that sometimes culture is so ingrained in our psyche that we spend a lot of time and energy trying to fundamentally and irreversible change what’s beautiful about our hair in order to be seen as worthy or beautiful. And often, we do this without even realizing it. If we’re going to interrogate the ways racism show up in politics, workplaces, and beauty ads, I encourage us to simultaneously interrogate they ways it show up in our beauty regimens.  If we do that interrogation and decide that a lace front is indeed the best decision for us, then cool. We have to respect anyone who is willing to do the work. But if we find that interrogation requires a deeper self-love and intimate familiarity with all parts of ourselves including our hair, then let’s have a chat about natural hair products and beauty companies that see the value, financial and otherwise, in love our hair as much as we do.


Did you like this piece? Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and let us know how you feel. Have a piece you want to share of your own? Submit to CiteASista@gmail.com with a bio, headshot, and your text/ photos.

All of this winning…*Beyonce’ Voice*

Greetings all,

Today’s friendship post comes just after the 1-year anniversary of the release of Beyoncé’s iconic #Lemonade. While an exhaustive review of this body of work is beyond the scope of this post, I wanted to use Beyoncé and Serena’s friendship as a metaphor for other Black women’s friendships.

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Now, we do not know if Bey and Serena are besties in real life, but we can all hope and assume (I mean, the world’s greatest athlete AND Queen Bey? It just makes sense at this point).

Nevertheless, both women rocked the internet this year by announcing the impending arrivals of their baby bundles. Because #misogynoir is REAL, we have witnessed folks tear them both apart for bearing their growing bellies and being unapologetic Black women in public (i.e., #WhiteWomenRespond).

However, I think Bey and Serena (can) represent what happens when Black women win together in friendship, regardless of what winning may mean to you.

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Which brings me to the question for today’s post: How do you celebrate the wins of your Black girlfriends/sista-friends?

Society is here to remind us that Black women will be taunted, bullied and outright disrespected for sharing and celebrating our successes and wins. A necessary component of #BlackGirlFriendship is being able to root your girl on (think #CiteASista), especially while patriarchy and White supremacy are trying to tear her down.

So, I say to you all today and always, congratulations on all that you have achieved! Be it getting out of bed, telling someone NO, or defending your bomb dissertations (shoutout to DRS. Collier, Lacy and Anderson!!!!), I celebrate you and hope that your #SistaCircles are celebrating you, too.

Don’t (let anyone) try to…slow you…down!

Bey cheering

In #BlackGirlFriendship,

Raven

P.S. Please leave me comments with things you would like to see from this column! Also, feel free to tweet me your thoughts @brilliantblkgrl.


Did you like this piece? Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and let us know how you feel. Have a piece you want to share of your own? Submit to CiteASista@gmail.com with a bio, headshot, and your text/ photos.

Moving Beyond Theory-To-Practice: Towards an Understanding of Self Through Black Womens Ways of Knowing

As I think about the work of Cite A Sista, I’ve wondered how much of our conversations and focus needs to shift more internally. While white people in the academy need to absolutely literally cite Black women scholars and certainly employers and families across the world need realize what they gain from Black women, I’ve started to think about ways we may un(in)tentionally cause harm to one another.

Because this project is not only about literal citing but also how those we work with, engage, learn, and grow from pour into us, I couldn’t submit an in-school self-reflection project without putting it out here for all of you to see. As more and more Black creatives, particularly Black women, engage online, I’ve come to realize just how many not only white people co-opt their (our?) work, but how many of US do it to one another. And, the buck stops here.

In this lengthy post (I know, #sowwy), I outline ways in which who I am as a scholar, researcher, aspiring higher education leader, and Black woman in general benefit from the work of Black women beyond formal who decided what counts as founnamed.jpgrmal anyway? academic settings…  Beyond this, I highlight ways social and digital media, online blogs, and digital communities that are beyond the scope of Cite A Sista change how I think and grow equally as often as my graduate education.

I understand that many of our cite a sista readers are not within higher education. This is okay, and we’re happy to have you. But I ask that you sift through this post and understand this if you gather nothing else: Black women are changing the way we know and understanding by not only contributing to a culture of knowledge but also how we collectively experience Black womanhood within and outside of work, school, and relationships.

I hope you’ll stick with me!


Earlier this semester, one of my faculty assigned us an ongoing self-directed project to explore who we are as student affairs educators and activists. As I thought about the work that I’ve done thus far from critical scholarship to helping develop the Cite A Sista platform, I knew I wanted to critically engage language, intra and cross-communal cultural nuances, and reflect on ways I can center Black women and girls in my work in ways that allows other historically marginalized identities to move towards the center.

From the outset of this project, I envisioned myself as a student affairs educator committed to unpacking anti-Blackness, and more specifically misogynoir, from which I assume I will be able to unpack other isms and social justice issues thereby contributing to a more equitable and inclusive culture of higher education. To say it plainly: I sought to better understand who I am and how I show up by looking not to the works within the academy that I grapple with, instead to those Black creatives, activists, liberators, protectors, and other individuals who contribute to my understanding of self and nuanced view of activism beyond the constraints of the academy.

I took to work and research outside of higher education to learn first hand and on the ground from folks doing liberatory work outside the confines of the academy.  I spent a great deal of time engaging the work(s) and posts of The Kinfolk Kollective, Feminista Jones, Bougie Black Girl, Black Girl Dangerous, Aurielle Lucier, and occasionally The Trudz to name a few. Many of these creatives and/or digital communities were included in the one-page write-up I submitted to my professor in January while others organically became sites for unpacking who I am and where I fit within a larger culture of resistance.

C8g_023XsAI3sPw-1.pngWhile working through when and where I enter, I found out halfway through my self-directed study that ACPA College Student Educators International was taking a similar approach to social justice and defining what the association endeavors to stand for with their development of a strategic imperative for racial justice (Shoutout to my Black ACPA Current, Past, and President-Elects).

As Dr. DL once explained to me, and I’m paraphrasing here: The brilliance of Blackness is the ability for multiple Black folks to do similar work towards a similar goal without ever consulting one another or crossing paths.

As ACPA announced their goals, Dr. DL (funny how so much of my life revolves around Zim), too, opined an article on language shifts in higher education.

This strategic imperative for racial justice and work on nuanced language around diversity in higher education were the sole works from within the academy that I went on to consider in working toward my self-definition and understanding. In addition to these works, linked below is a piece from each of the aforementioned creatives that I sat with in thinking about what I wish to bring to academia:

Their words contributed to a shift in even how I thought about this project and led me to six ways in which I understand who I am and how I show up with the very core of my work being the essence of me and what I’ve created (from a long tradition of Black women’s community building and coalescence– particularly in digital spaces).
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In developing an image and perception of self, I worked from Cite A Sista as a concept, project, and state of being as my core and moved clockwise from 12. This led me to six frames of self-perception, resistance, and activism that define who I am as a Student Affairs Educator and that uses a whole bunch of words that “aren’t” words but I’m making them real for the purposes of this post:

First: An Unapologetic Centerer of Race

  • Race is not a dirty word. Period. The concept of not seeing one’s race has been debunked many of times. So I feel no need to discuss that here. I have learned from the Kinfolk Kollective cultivated community that an online platform that makes every post, concept, and frame about race and has shifted the ways in which I’ve thought about creating educational environments that shift who’s of focus and why.

Second: Doer of real work to recognize the emotional, academic, and personal labor Black women on twitter and other online platforms expend for greater learning 

  • I’ve learned a lot in graduate school, but I’ve learned even more outside of the classroom and social media has been a large part of this. I’ve learned that who I am is inextricably tied to how I learn from, develop, and grow outside of my campus environment. Given the folks I follow, named here and otherwise, my social media platforms often feel like an ongoing social justice course. I’m learning daily how to be a better ally to LGBTQ folks, how anti-blackness intersects communities of color, how misogynoir contributes to the ways I’m perceived in person and otherwise. Making space to reflect on and think about this within my work and personal lives are paramount to being sure I’m leading and teaching effectively.

Third: Rethinkier of the socialization of Black girls 

  • When I think of my role in higher education, I’m usually engaging young professionals and adults and a large majority of whom are graduate students. By this time, we’re either unpacking the horrible things we came to learn and experience or we’re trying to find ways to avoid passing them on. I view my interactions and role as an educator as directly tied to how my students and peers experience parenting and life as we rarely take any of our identities off of us when we enter different spaces.

Fourth: Serious engager with a multitude of images and perceptions of Black women and Black Culture 

  • In a higher education context, this means unpacking workplace dynamics and asking: Who are we hiring — what is considered hard work? How do we define it?
  • In daily life, it means unpacking the over simplification of Black identity in an anti-Black white supremacist culture where the very languages of people of color instead of saying Black or saying what we mean can contribute to perceptions that we’ve recreated hierarchy. I’ve recently come to realize why I’m against the use of people of color when we don’t mean a shared experience of resisting oppression for the very reasons outlined in the Black Girl Dangerous piece.

Fifth: Centralizer of Black joy as part of rather than antithetical to educational spaces

  • If there’s one thing I gained from Trudy, it is greater insight into how there’s an expectation of Black women to work for free. For many of us, there is joy is contributing to and being part of something great, but the darker flip side to this is exploitation and expectation that we do it on other peoples terms. Trudy has helped provide me language that explores the ways in which we expect women but Black women in particular to labor for free for the good of others with minimal return on their investment. Part of creating joyous educational spaces is making sure the onus of hard work is not on those we’ve created unrealistic and uncompensated expectations of.  This contributes to who I am and how I function as an educator because I’ll be sure to work to avoid classroom spaces that reify these issues.

Sixth: Serious questioner of if and how Black women are valued 

  • Aurielle’s ongoing thread about who values Black women and in what ways raise questions not only in who am I as a Black woman but how I show up and how this looks for my relationships. The idea of value impacts me and my work because they show up in how I’m perceived as much as how I contribute. Thinking of and holding near and dear my own perceptions of self and holding them in high having value is something that I’m reminded I need not only show, but impart upon other Black women in my educational endeavors. This shows up for me in mentorship, research, and centering Black women.

As I think about these six concepts embodying who I am as a student affairs educator with Cite A Sista at the core of my being as an ever present seventh, I imagine ways I can contribute to higher education and the world higher education functions within by:

  • Decreasing drop out rates by ensuring people most pushed out are able to persist;
  • Creating classroom environments where people of minoritized descent can speak up early and often;
  • Intentionally designing my course syllabi to feature the works of Black women and women & trans folks more broadly;
  • Allowing joy as part of the educational experience rather than functioning under the assumption that solely the Socratic method facilitates critical thinking;
  • Contributing to the diversification of images of Black women

As I reflect on this soul searching, I realize to borrow from Dr. Dre Dominue (2017) that

I am the benefactor of a historical legacy of black women’s labor being 1) expected, 2) exploited, 3) invisible and 4) critiqued…. [When] even in the most inclusive spaces our work will always be used but seldom rewarded or celebrated…

I am all of these things, and I am an agitator, feminist, community constructor, meeter of students where they… I am Cite A Sista in the flesh, I am Brittany Williams, and I’m a critical student affairs educator committed to continuous improvement. 🙂


*The term threaducation was introduced to me from the brilliance of Karyn Dyer.

So You’re Interviewing for a Job?: Think About It

Heyyyyy Sistas! Happy It’s almost May which means summer is around the corner! As many college students prepare to graduate and enter the workplace and many other professionals scout out their next big move, I couldn’t help but reflect on some HORRIFYING interviews I’ve seen and experienced as both a candidate and interviewer for this month’s post.

The number of dumpster fire for an interview I have seen cannot be stressed enough in this post. Seriously. Because of this, I have chosen 5 areas of focus to prevent all of you from the same CRASH and BURN fate of those I’ve crossed paths with.

In my experience, people always say prepare for a job interview but never tell you how.  These 5 easy to remember concepts will prepare you to excel thus making you stand out against candidates displaying a lack of awareness in their job search process.

Five Strategies For #Winning In Your Next Interview

  1. Do your research

image1 (1).GIFMany candidates enter into interviews having done minimal research on the company they are interested in. Doing your research can allow for you as a candidate to learn more than what’s on the surface and to show this off in the interview. Not only are YOU being interviewed but you are interviewing the company. The more you know, the more you’re prepared to ask the right questions and to make sure you will be comfortable in your environment should you take on the position. Not only should you look on their website for information but look and see if they are in the news for any stories (good and bad), check their social media to see what they have going on and what the perception others have as it relates to the company’s image. Let’s face it, TRUST that these companies have done their research on you, it doesn’t hurt for you to return the favor.

  1. ALWAYS have insightful questions to have at the end of an interview

I said it above and I’ll say it again: remember you are interviewing the company as well. When conducting your research, write questions that will allow recruiters or company representatives to clarify for you. This is also a chance to dig deeper into areas you would like to receive more information on. Try to stay away from the typical cliché questions such as “Why do you like working here?” This is also a time where you want to make sure you do not ask questions that could have been answered if you simply did your homework and researched the company. Check out these strategies for asking solid interview questions.

Make a Statement+ Ask a Question

Make a StatementBring up something from your research about the company

E.g. “I saw in a press release that you all have launched a new initiative about____”

Pose a Question

E.g. “Could you provide me with more information about how this is being implemented, and if given the job what my direct role would be in the process?”

When it comes time for you to ask a question, use this formula to creatively ask insightful questions by placing the statement and question(s) together. This is a subtle way to show you have done your research but it also shows that you are interested in the things they currently have going on and want to know how you will fit into the plan.

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  1. Be okay with silence

Wimage3.GIFhen asked a question, do not always feel like you have to answer RIGHT AWAY. As someone who has interviewed many of people, I can always tell when someone is bulls**

Lemme write this one more time for the people in the back:

You. Do. Not. Have. To. Open. Your. Mouth. Immediately. 

As someone who has interviewed many a people, I can always tell when someone is bulls**tting me. The worse is when you know the candidate is qualified because you’ve looked at their résumé and social media stalked them, but when they get to the interview, the answers to the questions are rushed and not well thought out. Taking a pause is okay.  When you take your time, you show that you’re willing to think before you speak (this makes you less of a liability at any company/ organization) and that you can prepare to answer the question in its entirety.

  1. Make sure to send a follow-up handwritten thank you card or email.

After the interview, always send a follow-up thank you note to the interviewers. It’s okay to make it personal by bringing up things you discussed during small-talk or by including something that particular interviewer shared during your interview. What image4.GIFI like to do is ask the interviewers during my time for questions “If you could describe your experience in three words, what would they be?” I use those words in the thank you card and underline them for “special” attention. Sending a thank you card is an unspoken etiquette rule during interviews. Not sending one could, unfortunately, cost you the job if other candidates are interviewing for the same job, decide to do a follow-up. As unfair as it may seem, always remember there is a human on the other side of the table.

P.S. Don’t send one email to multiple people. Take time to personalize them enough in case those interviewing you trade notes!

5.It’s Ok To Be Your Most Authentic Professional Self

When people ask me what is one thing that you like about your job, I always explain to them that I can be myself. I say what I feel and mean EXACTLY what I say. During my job search, I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable enough to be ME in my work environment. Sometimes we feel like we have to put on white-skin and dabble in whiteness as property in order to appeal to an interviewer. I can say I was guilty of that until I realized that no matter what, I was still a Black woman in their eyes, no matter how much I enunciated my words. Honestly, I was tired of frontin’. Either you will accept these degreed thoughts ( and hands, cause I’m about that life) or I can take my talents elsewhere.I am BLACK. I am a WOMAN. I am LOUD. I am everything your people wish to be.  I don’t know how to be anything other than me and trying to be anything else is doing myself an injustice.

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As you prepare for your next interview, keep these things in mind. I’ll be back next month with advice on how NOT to play yourself in an interview. Think, Interviewing: Don’t Play Yourself.  I have stories for days, let’s make sure you’re not the next one.


Did you like this piece? Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and let us know how you feel. Have a piece you want to share of your own? Submit to CiteASista@gmail.com with a bio, headshot, and your text/ photos.

An Open Letter to Joy Lane

Our Dearest Sista Joy,

Repeat after us:

I deserve love.

I deserveD better.

This is NOT and was NOT my fault.

Say these words. Write them. Post them. Text them. Tweet them. Remember them.

We know that nothing we’re about to say will bring you immediate resolution. For that, we offer our apologies… But some of us felt compelled to ask that you remember these three sentences in the coming days, weeks, and months as you work through the series of emotions you’ve no doubt been left with. To remind you that no matter how many horrible social media messages, texts, phone calls, etc. you receive(d) saying otherwise, that you deserve(d) better and if you have no one else, you have us.

To be quite honest, as a community and a society, we have failed you…

Toxic masculinity is and remains one of the greatest threats to Black love, Black relationships, and Black joy, PERIOD.

As a collective of Black women, we know that the work of unpacking toxic masculinity in our communities are the responsibility of those who enact it. We do, however, feel that it is our responsibility as sistas to be here for you at what may pan out to be one of your darkest hours due to no fault of your own. As the rest of the U.S. populace rushes to place the blame of yesterday’s horrible crimes on someone (statistically, this person will be you) we want to remind you that you don’t owe a man you left, decided not to call, whatever–anything.

It is not your responsibility to coddle a grown man because he was emotionally and/or psychosocially unable to process that things can not and will not always go his way. It is also not your responsibility to stay in an abusive situation for the good of anyone else. If the situation was unhealthy for you, it was unhealthy for all of us.

We know there are people on a social media witch hunt to find you. We also know these people hate women. That many of them will spend half their time minimizing the impact of this man’s actions as being your fault and/or make tasteless jokes about what you gave and had to offer. Guess what? Fuck them. Period.  There’s nothing you could have done to prevent what happened.

There’s nothing you could have done to prevent what happened!!!

The incessant need to blame a crisis on someone is a coping mechanism by and from people who cannot rationalize that bad things happen to good people and that people who enact them can be callous, cold, and calculated. He was certainly the latter and all of you who’ve been victimized by him the former. For this day, for the moments that led up until this day, for the long days you’ll have beginning today, we apologize.

Our communal and national failure to address violence against women makes all of us as culpable for today’s travesty as the person who enacted them.

Remember this when you struggle to do things that once felt normal. When you rightfully question how and why this happened, remember the 650 or so words in this letter.

Remember he and only he alone is responsible for this travesty.

We know this isn’t a super “deep letter.” For one, this isn’t about that and second, we honestly don’t care about philosophizing your pain. We write this to say directly to you and to every other Joy Lane out there, that while we’ve never met you, we see you, we love you, and we support you.

You deserve love.

You deserveD better.

This is NOT and was NOT your fault.

Sincerely,

Team Cite A Sista

*** Editor’s Note ***

This letter was written exclusively by Brittany on behalf of Team Cite A Sista and Black women everywhere who bare the brunt of feeling responsible for someone else’s actions. There may be members of the team (and elsewhere) whose views do not align with those expressed here, but we doubt it.

A Finals Plan of Attack

It’s FML FINALS season.  How do I know? Glad you asked! The temperatures are rising. Flowers are in bloom. The sun is out longer. Spring is here… All signs that it’s… You guessed it, FINALS season. For most graduate students, Spring Break ended two or three weeks ago and the semester kicked into hyper drive. If you’re like me then you probably already started stressing out. So do as I say and not as I do: Don’t stress or panic. There is hope.  Hopefully, my FINALS plan will help you knock out your finals and leave time for fun.

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In all seriousness, I strongly believe there is hope.  Below you’ll find a step by step guide to my finals plan. I hope these actions will help you knock out your finals and leave time for fun (in the sun).

Prioritize your finals by deadline

This will help you complete finals in order of due date. Last semester, my finals were due the same week, but different days. This semester my final deadlines are spread out

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Pictured: My Finals Schedule

throughout April, with finals due each week. As a personal aid, I made this calendar my desktop background so I will always know what I need to work on. You could do this or print it and post it on your desktop. You could also set reminders in your calendar app.

Research each final

Designate a day to research each final before you start working on it. I start my research process by looking for relevant readings in the course syllabus. Then I search in my university’s research database, Google Scholar, and the research librarian’s research guide page.  Your university’s research database will provide you with access to academic journals, items in the university’s library—such as books, movies, documentaries, historical documents, etc.—and items that you can access through interlibrary loan (ILLaid). People use ILLaid when they have begun the research process well in advance. I don’t usually start my research that early. Google Scholar is a good place to start if you want to see more recent articles on some topics. In my experience, I have found Google Scholar to be a hit or miss depending on the topic of my paper or project. Last, the research librarian is heaven sent. This person will be your best friend during finals. Research Librarians know all the tricks to finding what you are looking for. Typically, they have web pages that can guide you through the online research resources your university has to offer. Sometimes, they have specific topics for your concentration.

Outline your final(s)

Once you know what you want to write about. You should outline your paper.  Some professors havMake-an-Outline.jpge the Final Outline listed as an assignment in the course syllabus. If your professor did that. Thank them and take it seriously. Completing the outline signifies your half way done with the paper.  Additionally, if you have to present your final use your outline. During the Q&A part of your presentation, ask colleagues for their advice and incorporate their suggestions into your paper where you deem necessary.

 Meet with the course TA or Professor with questions

If you have any questions about your paper or need direction, I strongly suggestion meeting with your TA or Professor. After all, they are there to help. Plus, it is always good to bounce ideas off other people.

Designate days to focus on finals (highest priority 1st).

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My Finals Study/ Writing Schedule

Working on finals is time-consuming. I suggest dedicating all your free time in the week to completing finals. For me, that means all my free time Monday through Saturday will be used to complete finals. I don’t use time limits when working on finals. However, some of you may want to allot certain time periods to work on finals. If it works for you, I say go for it. This week my homework schedule looks like…

Edit/Revise & Submit

Take time to edit your finals. It is hard for me to edit my own work. Primarily because I have looked at it nonstop. Share your work with fresh eyes, by exchanging papers with colleagues. Or you could take some time away from your paper by working on something else. Once you are happy with your final, Submit!

Good luck, sisters! The end is almost near.

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Be sure to sound off in the comments so we can learn what works for you!

Bae is Great, But I’m Tired!

Greetings Cite a Sista Family,

As I am writing this, we are on the eve of what could potentially be a very difficult night for many of us.  This month’s Cite a Sista chat focuses on us as Black women being too educated to be loved. What a concept? I want to acknowledge that I recognize the timing of this post is somewhat in contradiction of tonight’s chat, but my hope is that it offers hope to add to the conversation.

That said, this post is, too, inspired by where I am in my personal journey leaving me compelled some thoughts that I want to share with my #Sistascholars.

As a couples’ therapist, one of the most common questions that people ask in strained relationships is “How did we get here?”  And the most common answer is “I don’t know.”  Many people believe that relationships end because of some grand transgression, e.g. infidelity, but the reality is that many relationships end because of small things that build over time.

For those of us traversing the terrain of the graduate school journey and the early academic career, relationships can be a struggle. When we enter a relationship, or if we’ve already been in one for a while, we must ask the tough question: what are some of the challenges we face that are unique to partnerships amidst the graduate school environment? How do we continue to love on and support one another when who we are at the core is shaken with every continued educational experience?

In my own life, I’m newly partnered and we found ourselves having a conversation the other day about the dissertation process.  I found myself trying to explain to him how difficult life is going to be for me in the next few months.  As we continued to chat, he made a statement to the effect of, “your work is going to change lives… I won’t stand in the way of that.”  He went on to say how he wants to support me in any way he can.  And while this conversation made my heart smile, it also created a little worry because I have seen my friends going through the dissertation and heard the horror stories about the strain on their relationship.  I started to think about why that happens, even when one’s partner has been prepared (as much as possible) about what dissertation or a tenure track position, for instance, is going to be.  For partners who’ve never done it, I mean. The therapist in me kicked into overdrive.  The first thing I realized: it’s the small things that build over time.

But there’s also another layer to this for us as Black women.  Yes, many of us take on the work that is meant to help our own whether it be Black people, Black women, Queer men and women, people with disabilities, and other minoritized groups.  Our work is often undervalued, underappreciated, and underfunded.  So what does it mean to have a partner that is supportive of us throughout this process.  I would say that a major part of that is having a partner who validates that struggle whether they understand it or not.  Support also looks different for each of us.  For some, it is relaxing some of the expectations of duties within the home.  Some days I may not feel like cooking or washing dishes, so I may need my partner to step in.  I may be sad, angry, frustrated and not know why and I may need my partner to allow me to just be quiet and hold off any heavy decisions.  I may need to spend an entire week away just to get some writing done.

So how do we, as Black women, maintain a relationship once we have found that one that makes our heart smile?  In a healthy, loving, non-abusive relationship, how do we continue to work through our goals while also giving our relationship the same amount of effort?  I found myself recalling conversations where people say things like “If he loves me, he’ll support me no matter what,” and while this is true, nobody wants to give-give-give without getting anything in return.  What about your love for them? The question that kept rumbling in my head, “how do we still keep our partner happy when we barely have enough energy to care for ourselves?”  Because the truth is, if the degree or career is all that matters, why be in the relationship in the first place?  You can’t just put the relationship on hold!

The answer is, there’s no real formula.  There’s no real way to prepare a person for what is to come.  But the age old “communication” is a very good starting point.  Open, clear communication that involves more listening for understanding.  In addition to this cliché phrase, there are a few other things:

  1. Flexibility-Both partners must be flexible. Flexible with housework, flexible with scheduling big events, flexible with emotions.  Some days, you just don’t have it in you to put forth the emotional energy and having a flexible partner is necessary.  If there is something bothering either of you, some days just aren’t good to get into a deep emotional conversation.  Maybe there’s a defense of some sort the next day.  That is not a good time to start a difficult conversation.
  2. Consistency-In the same breath, there are times when you need to stick to your word. Always letting your partner down in the name of graduate school is going to wear on the relationship over time.  Remember, small things.  If there is something big happening and you say you’re going to be there, be there.  If your partner is struggling, be there for them and support them the way they do for you.  It can’t always be a one-way street.  Some conversations can’t wait.  Avoiding big decisions and things that are weighing on your partner will only widen the gap between you.
  3. Dedicated Quality Time-We don’t get a lot of free time as graduate students, but the time that we do have needs to be intentional. The same is true for new professionals. If your partner has a break from their commitments and you can get a break, take that time and make it meaningful.  Create memories.  Recharge the relationship.  When there is not a lot of extended time, take advantage of small pockets.  Eat breakfast together without your phones.  Wash dishes together (two birds with one stone).  Have your partner drop you off at work and converse in the car.  Read some articles while you cuddle on the couch. There are endless possibilities.
  4. Gratitude- Sometimes a simple thank you is all a person needs. Having a supportive partner is great, but they are not obligated to do anything.  Every decision is a choice that they make for the betterment of you and the relationship.  Simply acknowledging that can go a long way.
  5. It’s Not All About You- Yes, you’re getting an advance degree and the work you are doing will change lives, but everyone needs to feel like they are also getting something out of the relationship. Even the most amazing man or woman gets tired of always being the one to make all the effort, but their love tank needs to be filled too.  Find small ways to say “thank you” “I love you” “I appreciate you.”  Find ways to incorporate their goals in the mix.
  6. Know Your Partner-Pay attention to changes in behavior and affect. If you notice something is off, take the time to check on them.  Let them know that they are a priority.
  7. Assertiveness- This is the most important! Speak up for yourself!  Sometimes, our partners just don’t understand. And #misogynoir is real! We’re not supposed to be too smart or too confident.  Even the greatest of partners will allow some of that to creep it.  Don’t be afraid to let them know when they have you f*cked up in the most loving, caring way.  We work hard, we love hard, and this accomplishment is only going to better us as a unit. Don’t silence yourself for the sake of their ego.  Being free to be all that you are is going to make a stronger, more honest relationship for the two of you.  You’re brilliant, be brilliant!

Being in a relationship in graduate school or when starting a new career is difficult, but absolutely possible.  The goal is to finish the program or move to the next promotion with your partner by your side.  Neither has to fall at the expense of the other.  (Now lots of other things can happen in between, but that’s not the focus here).  Make decisions in love, be flexible, be gracious, and be your brilliant self!