Grief and Betrayal: What Happens When Black Men Betray Us?

Over the past few weeks, social media has been in a whirlwind of think pieces and “call-ins”, as we (society) have grappled with the realizations that some of our faves (actors, entertainers), may not be as perfect as *we* (society) once thought. PLEASE do not read this as being in defense of ANY of the egregious acts of Cosby, Nas, Kanye, R. Kelly, or any other Black man that has recently made pop culture news for their thoughts or actions. I have ZERO desire, whatsoever, to defend any of that. I do wonder, however, how we can make space for more than one thing to be true at a time? AND, how can we allow folks to painfully interrogate/accept these truths within our communities? Is it possible, that SOME folks, may be both grateful that we (Black women and girls) are FINALLY seeing some accountability and justice, while also experiencing grief over the loss?

Before I start, here’s a NECESSARY disclaimer: I am NOT a pop culture critic, nor do I claim to be one. However, I have read a lot of different threads of folks calling Black communities, particularly Black women, out and in for their disbelief of Cosby’s convictions, Kanye’s rants (*insert eye roll here*), the #muting of R. Kelly, and the new allegations of interpersonal partner violence made by Kelis against her ex-husband, Nas. I want to suggest to you that maybe, just maybe, the feelings of disbelief are not about these particular men, but are instead about what they (may have) represented.

Before you write this off as another, “Cosby represented Black fatherhood and we can’t just throw that away” op-ed, hear me out. When working with folks who have experienced trauma and betrayal, it is more common than not for survivors to feel torn between what they believe they should be feeling, and what they are actually experiencing towards the people/person/relationship/experience that violated and betrayed them. Part of this dissonance is related to processing and wrestling with feelings of grief, for and/or towards someone that they feel they should be happy is gone and/or for something that they feel they should be relieved has ended.

Believe it or not, some folks experience grief and are immediately angry, some are confused, some in disbelief, some relieved, some saddened, some enraged, some even grateful…and every other feeling that you could imagine. Much of this complexity is because grief doesn’t only apply to the physical loss of a person. We can grieve people, places, things, relationships, experiences, could-haves, should-haves, would-haves….the list goes on and on. Given this, is it at all possible, that SOME folks are grieving the (informal and one-sided) relationships and representations that they may have once experienced with these celebrities?

Now, WE know that when Black men mess up or are wronged in some way, it’s usually (historically) Black women that show up on the front lines for them. WE also know that, when we are hurt, mistreated, and even murdered, it’s usually other Black WOMEN that show up and mourn for us. To be clear: We DO NOT have to let these folks back in to our homes, earphones, tv screens, or hearts, simply because they once provided some form of entertainment or artistic pleasure for us. We DO NOT (and should not) have to apologize for the terrible things that they have done, for the sake of #theculture. That is a cycle of violence that has been sustained and preserved by our culture and communities for far too long.

We CAN, however, sit discomfortably in the process that it takes to accept that the person/place/thing/relationship/representation/experience that we once knew and believed in, is not *that* anymore. Feelings of betrayal aren’t assuaged away simply because, “no one should feel sorry for them”. While that may be true for many of us, it’s normal to feel betrayed by (the relationship you felt you had with) someone you once admired or respected (yes, even if that person only PLAYED a beloved character on a classic tv show).

I guess my hope in sharing this, is that we can add some nuance to the conversation about why SOME folks are struggling to come to terms with the news. After all, a consequence of becoming attached to/invested in (via time, money, viewership, etc) any (public) figure is knowing that at any moment, they could betray the trust/relationship that we once had in/with them (*knock on wood that Queen Michelle Obama won’t ever leave me hanging out here*).

If you see/hear someone saying, “I’m not sure how to feel about all of this”, consider for a moment that they may be grieving a relationship that they once held to/with that person’s art, music, entertainment, portrayal, etc.. While it should go without saying, we also know and unapologetically believe that feeling (momentarily) conflicted over consuming/eliminating one’s art does not AT ALL compare to the necessity of valuing and protecting Black girls and women.

As consumers, we are often called to separate art from reality, entertainers from their on-stage personas, characters from real people…that’s just part of the *relationship* that we can’t ignore. We also can’t ignore that these informal relationships can be complicated and messy and not necessarily black and white, particularly if *we* are grieving and/or feeling betrayed. If you have any thoughts about this process of grief and betrayal, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Here’s the Truth About Her Weight

Recently, a friend brought to my attention a blog post on the AfroPunk website because it discusses health and because it used a photo taken by the incomparable Saadi Khali as part of a discussion on the way we view bodies that are considered fat (I’m careful with my language here because I have a hard time using the word ‘fat’ to describe a person who does not describe themselves that way. Similarly, I don’t like being called ‘skinny’, though I am often described as such), especially when the body belongs to a woman. Khaali’s work aims to use photography as a means to restore Black love and Black beauty. For me, his work captures both the vulnerabilty and the power that is inherent in every human body in way that feels authentic. I have followed his work for years.
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So, I was a bit annoyed at many of the comments about the featured image used in the article. Specifically, I was annoyed because some the comments echoed similar conversations I’ve come across on the interwebs that 1) the tend to focus on a persons weight as something the each individual alone, has control over and 2) they tend to focus on a person’s weight as the sum total of their overall health (as well as the sum total of their humanity – but I hope I don’t need to talk about why that makes no sense and is simly not acceptable over here). So, for all the people out there who are living under these misguided (albeit understandable given our cultures fascination with policing other people’s bodies, especially the Black bodies and the ones we believe house uteri) beliefs, I ask that you consider the following:
Her weight isn’t just a matter of her lifestyle behaviors (eating well, working out, etc).
A person’s weight is socially determined. In short, this means that a woman’s health is determined by how factors like the city she was born in, where she works, her income, her level of education, her race/ethnicity, etc. all interact to determine the status of her health, including her weight. A woman’s health status, including the size of her waistline, is determined by much more than what she eats and how often she works out. If that were only a matter of those two things, you would not see entire segments of the population, even those who eat well and are physically active, being at what is considered to to an unhealthty weight. We only need to look to the inimitable Oprah Winfrey to know that weight, indeed almost every health status, is not that simple.
Of course self-care is important. I personally hold the belief that self-care is essential because it helps maintain harmony between the things a woman has control over and the things she does not. But, it’s important that if we are going to have a conversation about bodies, especiall the bodies of Black women, we have to be honest about the fact there are many, many factors acting upon her body, that affect her health and her weight that she does not have control over. Can we say race and racism?!  The literature on the effects of race and racism on the body is so expansive that it will suffice to say that if we are really concerned about size and weight as it relates to health, particularly for Black women, we really should have some honest and frequent conversations about race and racism. To that end, I suggest that the next time any of us decides to comment on the size of a woman’s body, particularly a Black woman’s size, for health reasons or any other reasons, ask yourself when was the last time we allied with her to mitigate or resist any form of oppression she undoubetedly experiences on a daily basis. If we can’t remember, then let’s do ourselves a favor and just keep quiet about folks’ body’s. I promise it will work out better that way.
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Her weight impacts her overall health. It is not the sum total of her health.   
We know that losing or gaining even 10% our body weight can have an impact on our health. Think about it. Have you ever tried to lose or gain 5-10 pounds? It’s not easy. You body will resist the change and even after you achieve your goal, maintaining it is a different story entirely. Every woman who has ever tried her change her weight knows this is true. That’s partly because the body is designed to maintain homeostasis. Every woman who has ever tried to change her weight will also tell you that a change in weight does not necessarily mean that she is better off any other area of her life tht impact her health. Issues like imposter syndrome at work or school, body acceptance, social stress, financial stability, family issues and other chronic illnesses may all still be present, and therbye affecting her health, regardless of her weight. You can probably name any number of women who lost weight but still struggled with mental health, emotional health, or spiritual health. So, in regards to the feature image in the Afropunk piece, I prefer to highlight the ways the woman centered in the photo showed an admirable level of courage, vulnerabilty, and power that truthfully, when I get my photos take by Saadi Khali, I doubt I’d be beave enough to show the whole entire world.
Finally, to quote @thedopeplesoul, one of the more purposeful comments on an instagram post intended to highlight the work Saadi Khali does to capture the beauty of all black bodies, especially Black folk in love, ‘Black love is so beautiful.’

Beyoncé Level Presentations

Finals are around the corner and presentations are happening right now. If you’re like me, you probably have four finals, a report due for work, five presentations, and a bunch of other deadlines that sneak up on you after Spring Break. Have no fear; there is a way to Beyoncé through your presentations. (For advice on how to attack your finals, check out the Finals Attack plan.) Here are seven tips for Sasha Fierce presentations:

1) Be Entertaining

You don’t have to put on a concert because having an entertaining and captivating presentation does not require glitz and glam. Tell a story that relates to your topic. If you do not have a story that is relevant to your presentation, use a video clip from YouTube to set the stage for your presentation. You could also use Prezi, gifs, or memes to add excitement to your presentation.

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2) Command the room

It is no secret that everybody is working on finals or something else during class. As a presenter, it is your job to hold everyone’s attention during your presentation.

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3) Select a format that works for you

We often feel pressure to make a PowerPoint or a Prezi to present information, but those platforms are not the only ways to present information. My best presentations have lacked visuals and forced the audience to pay attention to me. You should consider the information you are presenting and select the best aid that will assist your delivery.

4) Don’t Read

Your audience does not want to watch you read your presentation notes. It is your presentation. You have researched the topic, and you have to be confident that you know it well.

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5) Do not overload visuals with information

Too much information in visuals will ruin your presentation. Information overload is a real thing. If you give someone too much to take in at one time, they will not listen or take in what is most important to the presentation.

6) Get to the point

Your audience will lose focus if you go on too many tangents. Compose a list of talking points to keep you on track, both you and your audience will appreciate it. Sometimes it helps to create an outline of what you are going to talk about. It can help to break down the specific points and mention the main things you what to hit. At the end of your presentation make sure to reiterate what is most important that you want your audience to take away.

7) Leave space for questions

Do not give your audience all of the information you have on your paper or project. You want the audience to ask questions. Plus it makes you think through some parts of your paper or project that you are struggling with.

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8) Move around the room

It will help ease your nerves and assist you in commanding the room.

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9) Remember you’re a FLAWLESS, and you can do anything!

 

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10) Don’t forget to smile and breathe.

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#B29: Birthday Reflections

Yesterday I turned 29.

It is a birthday that can often be discarded. It is the last of your 20s, but it is not 30.

I, however, was not going to let this be just a blah birthday. I planned a full weekend of activities that kicked off with a cooking class with my mom, sister and a friend. Then, I had a good old fashion sleepover where I asked friends to wear all black, and I wore a pop of color. I ended the weekend with a game night at my cousin’s apartment.

I am so so so thankful for my friends and family. Birthdays are the time where I reflect on the past year, consider things that went well, make sense of the things that went all the way left, and take note of the things I accomplished and things still left to do.

As I was preparing for this birthday, I researched the significance of the number 29. What I found really stood out to me: “The number 29 is highly relationships oriented. Its very existence is intertwined with the dynamics of relationships.”

It seemed very timely for the experiences I have had in the last year. I have really tried to cultivate community in my life and work space. In practice, that has looked like more calls, more FaceTime connections, and more reaching out. It hasn’t just been me doing it either. I’ve had friends and family show reciprocity in making connections by reaching out to me as well.

I want to close this reflection by share a few reflections of what I have learned this past year, as well as my intentions for the new year of life.

  1. I have and will continue to pour into relationships with intentionality and grace.
  2. Walk away from selfish people.
  3. Be honest about your intentions.
  4. Don’t assume.
  5. It is ok to not respond to that text or email or to not answer the phone.
  6. Let your phone die.
  7. Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t do your passions.
  8. Stop making excuses for your bullshit.
  9. Look people in the eye when you take shots.
  10. Apologize when you are wrong.
  11. Read that email before you send it.
  12. Shoot your shot in his DMs.
  13. Worship can happen anywhere. Let the Spirit move how it needs to.
  14. Praying with someone is an intimacy that can’t be beat.
  15. Ask for help. Like seriously, don’t suffer in silence.
  16. Talk with God about your desires and fears.
  17. Check yourself on your problematic ways.
  18. Groupme is fascinating and ridiculous at the same time. I love how it creates such a great community, but also, folks really try and separate their real lives from it. So weird, yet again fascinating lol.
  19. Advocate for yourself in the workplace.
  20. Black women are everything and then some.
  21. #CiteaSista has taught me so much, and I am thankful for this space and the knowledge and community it offers.
  22. If you can’t tell your friend, tell your therapist.
  23. Tell him what you like in bed. Don’t assume he knows.
  24. Being a better steward of money is a forever thing. Don’t be ashamed, just keep working at it.
  25. Practice gratitude. It definitely makes a difference.
  26. Stop bullshitting about your health.
  27. Drink water.
  28. Minding your business gives you peace.
  29. Be patient with yourself. Some days you will get it right and some days you won’t. On the days you don’t get it right, put on some music, say a prayer, and go to bed. You will have tomorrow to try again.

 

No One Owes You a Flat Stomach

I was in a group on a social media site where a member posted a photo of women in a group photo. The women had clearly taken time to get dressed up for the picture and the joys of sisterhood had them glowing in the photo. A couple of Petty Betty group members wanted the rest of us to know that most of the women looked good but that the big(ger) woman in the photo  “needed a girdle” because “no one wants to see all of that”. I responded that no one owed anyone a flat stomach. My response was met with the regular schmegular “people should take pride in how they look” spill. Again, don’t nobody owe you no flat stomach *shrug*. No one owes you a girdle. No one owes you the discomfort of restrictive shape-wear that makes their body shrink. This is not a judgement of folks who partake in shape wear. This is to say that no one is owed another person’s decision to wear shape wear.

society questionWithin a society that privileges thinness (the accepted standard for body beauty of women and femme folx) and prizes proximity to thinness, talking sh*t about fat(ter) bodied people is a normalized practice.  It’s a regular habit to tell fat(ter) bodied people what they “should do” with their bodies. We, fat(ter) folks, are told to shrink ourselves and that we’re taking up too much space. Let’s not even start on weight loss/diet culture’s rampant ever presence and portrayal of fat(ter) bodies as deficient of confidence, attractiveness, joy, movement, or beauty. Health trolling is part of the culture as well. Health trolls (poorly) disguise their disgust and disapproval of fat(ter) bodies in feigned concern about fat[ter] bodied people’s health and wellness when all fat(ter) bodied folks want to do is post a selfie on the gram. For my own mental health, I don’t engage folks whose overt or covert purpose is to shame members of #TeamMcThickems. I’m Joseline Hernandez to the foolery: “I cannot.”

Fat Women- Things to doReal talk, I used to be a respectable fat. I was a fat who let everyone know that I wasn’t like the “other”, “bad” fats. I was a “good”, respectable fat who ate right, worked out, and had my fat in all the “right” places (hips, breast, thighs, butt; by shape wear and genetic body composition). I had to unlearn/am unlearning all of that mess. I had to ask myself how I won/benefited/profited from the shaming of bodies in general and fat(ter) bodies specifically. The answer was that to shame fat(ter) bodies brought shame on my own body and required me to remain bound to a set of ideas that brought no liberation. What good does shaming a body do? N-O-N-E. As I continue (present tense) to unlearn unhealthy, shame laden ideas, I now know that nutrition and fitness are for me and not currency that I leverage to shame other fats or to prove my worth in a thin-centric culture. I recognize the freedom that each person and body has to exist, be comfortable, have fun, and be free of shame.

 

zip a the lip aSeriously, no one owes you a flat stomach. No one owes you the absence of back rolls. No one owes you a long sleeved top and pants in the heat so that you don’t have to see their body. Period. Point blank. Full stop. I didn’t come to take up all yall’s good time, but yeah, don’t nobody owe you no flat stomach. The next time you fix your lips to tell a fat(ter) bodied person (or anyone, really) what to wear, remember the lesson from Wedding Crashers: “You shut your mouth when you’re talking to me.”

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If you’d like to read more critical discussions about weight/size, visit the body is not an apology website. As for me and my house, just know that yall gone catch this thigh meat and exposed back all #Summer2018

Surprising Signs That You’re Stressed Out

diana-simumpande-463372-unsplashListen. Stress is unavoidable. It’s part of daily living and it happens to all of us. In fact, stress is essential for helping us live our best lives. It protects us and alerts us to what needs our attention. The problems come in when we don’t properly use stress to our advantage…or when we don’t recognize the symptoms of stress in the first place. We’re all familiar with the stress responses of an increased heart rate and sweaty palms and armpits. Here are some of the less obvious signs that our bodies give us to let us know we’re experiencing stress.

Stomach Problems

Research suggests that high levels of daily stress is associated with gastrointestinal problems for many women. In fact, several months ago, I received a call from a friend who had a high stakes admissions interview to her dream graduate school. I was super excited to hear the good news and surprised to hear her say, “I think I’m going to vomit.” Because stomach problems can be caused by so many things, it’s often overlooked as a symptom of stress. So, after talking with my friend about the opportunity that lay before her, I reassured her that what she was experiencing was likely a normal reaction to the stress that she was enduring.

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Frequent Restroom Breaks

Remember that stress is the body’s way of defending itself against threats.  It’s an evolutionary defense mechanism that can’t distinguish between the very real threat of a lion in the wild and a perceived threat of a tight deadline or high-stakes interview. When the body is threatened, the last thing you have time for is controlling the bladder. So, when the body is experiencing stress, the bladder can become more sensitive, leading to frequent bathroom breaks, even if the bladder isn’t particularly full. Some people even experience the inability to go to the bathroom when they are stressed. Again, stress diverts energy from the less essential control of the bladder to the more important thing that is causing you stress.

Neck Pain and Headaches.

High levels of stress can literally be a pain in the neck! Many people clench their jaws or tighten the muscles in the upper body in response to stress, causing soreness and pain. Stress can also have the unsettling effect of worsening any neck and shoulder pain that you already have. Because neck pain, headaches, and tight shoulders can be caused by anything from sleeping in an odd position the night before to sitting at a desk for too long, they are often overlooked as symptoms of stress.

The next time you experience any of these signs of stress, stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If you realize that school and obligations with work, family, and friends have you experiencing more stress than usual, try these stress relieving techniques.

What are some other ways that your body lets you know that you are experiencing stress? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

On #Scandal, “The List,” & A Culture of Workplace “Sex”

I turned in a full draft of my dissertation proposal and finally got a moment to breathe. As an over-committed graduate student working to break the cycle of doing too much (in my best of Moneybagg Yo et al. voices), I decided to allow myself the space to watch four hours of TV this week.

In T.V. time, four hours is nothing. Four one hour episodes, two movies, eight episodes of a 30 min hit, etc. NOTHING. But given just how far behind I was, it was enough time to catch up on Scandal thanks to the lack of episode airings due to the Winter Olympics. I’ve never been happier to have a TV show I love disrupted by sports in my life.

At any rate, I finished my Scandal catch up with the episode “The List”. If you haven’t seen it, spoilers ahead so click off this post.

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The episode enters the Me Too discussion and follows the story of two recent graduates hoping to make it big in D.C. The pair are roommates and serve as Congressional aids/ Interns. At the start of the episode, we see a gorgeous Black woman (Alicia? Alisha? Francis played by Marquise C. Brown) who goes to buy herself a gun and then eventually find out she’s missing and given the purchase presumed dead. It is later revealed the Black woman (t.w.: suicide) killed herself as a result of being unable to gain a full-time position after the close of her internship because of a professional decision. With Olitz, because lol, on the case we find out the true cause of her demise was her unwillingness to participate in administering sexual favors for men she worked with/ for. Her roommate eventually comes forward (at the end of the episode) and it is revealed there’s a list that floats around D.C. so men know who to hire based on their willingness to perform sexual acts and attractiveness because these things are rewarded more than good work.

Whew.

I was particularly interested when Fitz asked Liv about the power dynamics that led to their relationship (but that’s another post entirely) and it brought up flashbacks for me about my own life.

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I once dated a man in my field for a few months only to find out he’d slept with a student who had an internship in his office. Though I spoke with the woman in question and she seemed to have some agency in the situation, I couldn’t stop thinking about the power dynamics associated with men in leadership sleeping with young, new, burgeoning professionals. I immediately thought about my own situation when watching this Scandal episode and wondered just how much agency does one have in a situation where we have to choose between our jobs/ livelihoods and elect to draw a line in the sand as they relate to professional ethics?

The Me Too movement and even this episode of Scandal shows just how differently workplace harassment manifests and how it can be particularly devastating for Black women. I’ll never forget the ways in which people immediately believed the tales about Harvey Weinstein until my fellow Hampshire Alumna and fave Lupita Nyong’o came forward. People couldn’t rationalize that Nyong’o would have been a victim because we position conversations about sexual assault as those where white women are victims and where Black women are willing participants. Because we rely on old stereotypes about the salaciousness of the Black female body (read: Jezebel) and when taken in tandem with white supremacist notions about beauty, we assume no one would assault a Black woman because Black women aren’t even worthy of assault. FFS.

What a ridiculous yet prevalent notion?

If you think I’m nuts, take a gander at the ways in which your favorite local Ashy men on Twitter and white supremacists talk similarly about Black women, our bodies, and our worth. It’s astounding, honestly.

I was shocked at the lack of attention given to this episode of Scandal because it tackled something that women everywhere could identify with.

Trans women (of color) experience sexual violence and harassment at alarmingly high rates.

Black women experience sexual violence and harassment at dangerously high rates

Non-Black women of color experience sexual violence at startling high rates.

White women experience sexual violence and harassment at high rates.

WOMEN. Experience. Sexual. Violence. And. Harassment. At. High. Rates.

And yet, one of the first mainstream primetime T.V. shows to talk about this subject with such nuance and proper timing and I’ve heard almost nothing in the blogosphere? Maybe I missed it because I can no longer live tweet. Maybe I haven’t done enough of my Googles. But this episode had me in my feelings as both a survivor of and champion against sexual harassment and violence. It also reminded me of the ways in which I traded on my own ethics about not speaking up regarding the man I dated and his misdeeds because I’d feel guilty about seeing a Black man fired. There goes that socialization for racial loyalty showing up despite my commitment to a Black feminist practice–I guess I have even more to unlearn.  This brought me back to Mama Pope’s monologue on the ways in which we as Black women work to save everyone even at the expense of saving ourselves.

 

Being in student affairs has made me particularly w(e)ary of conversations around workplace sexual violence and assault because a quick scan of apps and hashtags around conference season shows just how many people who are supposed to be protecting us and our students on campus are the very people committing some of the most heinous acts of violence.

Power dynamics are always at play and while I’ll never take away someone’s agency, I feel inclined to question how much agency a person has in a situation where their future depends on sexual compliance? It was about time for a mainstream television show to highlight this conversation and for us to be forced to contend with how these dynamics can have particularly catastrophic consequences for Black women–even if it is on a fictional television show.

And while I appreciate Scandal for tackling this issue at all, I was reminded by a friend in talking through this post of the ways in which Mellie and Fitz’s initial reactions to Olivia’s desire to take on the case were based in misogynoir and privilege. Fitz’s (white) male privilege had shone through as he didn’t fully grasp the big deal around this particular case and this particular girl (for a while) and Mellie was willing to listen to Jake and wait on seeking legislation around this issue until the face of the movement was Alisha’s white roommate. Yikes. It was a subtle reminder of the ways in which white women betray the sisterhood with their complicity in narratives around Black women’s experiences with sexual violence… And while this is just a show, Lupita’s experiences weren’t.

And silence.

Though Scandal has moved on to other storylines and I can’t wait to see Liv reclaim her power on the show, I am reminded of the power in each and every one of us as Black women calling out workplace harassment and sexual violence. We don’t owe racial loyalty to Black men when it comes in the name of perpetual harm (physical or otherwise) against ourselves and other (Black) women.

I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap this post with, but I hope that we’ll begin to have more real conversations about the impact of sexual violence and harassment on Black women. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my part to call out research that continues to silence Black women’s experience and whitewash dialogues around campus sexual violence. It’s the least I can do within my locus of control and a way for me to continue my commitment to uplifting and centering Black women’s experience.

Our stories and truths are ours for speaking, controlling, and deciding what to do with; We must take command of them to avoid being silenced.

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In Service to Sisterhood and Scholarship (#BlackGradWomenSC)

This past March, Dr. Marvette Lacy and I hosted this year’s Black graduate women and alumnae photo sista circle (#BlackGradWomenSC) at our alma mater, the University of Georgia- a historically, predominantly white institution. The response from sista-scholars to the 2017 Black Graduate Women’s photo experience encouraged us to (re)turn to the same space and (re)claim the joy, support, and sisterhood that we co-created the year prior with sista-scholars.

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Marvette and I conceptualized and embraced this work as a Womanist project designed to create and foster a space and experience dedicated to  fellowship, sisterhood, and community building among Black graduate women and graduate alumnae (read: Black women who had graduated from graduate and professional programs at UGA).  The goals remained the same: expand the networks within communities of Black women in graduate and professional studies at the university, remind sista-scholars that they are not alone on that campus because they are part of a larger network of sista-scholars, and (re)claim space on a campus that denied/denies us space as African ascendant people.

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The seventeen of us, as well as two baby sista-scholars (read: daughters of two sista-scholars) began the experience with a few words to set the intentions for the space and experience at the Holmes Hunter Building named for Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes, the university’s first accepted Black students. From there, we moved to several locations on North Campus, beat out the rain that tried to steal our magic (but only refreshed our coils and curls), and saw this thang through.

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As alumnae, Marvette and I were extra excited because this was a reunion with some of our sista-scholar friends still in study there, as well as a welcoming of new(er) sista-scholars who we only knew because they signed up for the event. The hugs, loving embraces, hand holding, and varied facial expressions felt so familiar, even among sista-scholars who were knew to us. We were blessed by the individual and collective presence of each sista-scholar that day.

Marvette and I want to thank each graduate and alumnae sista-scholar for sharing time and space with us. Based on verbal and written feedback from sista-scholars, the feelings of joy, wonder, familiarity, and community were mutual. In our research with Black women in higher education, sista circle methodology, and this photo experience, we are reminded that our commitment(s) to community and one another requires our attention and dedication to survive and thrive.

Thanks, Honors, and Acknowledgments

We want to thank the photographer, Tiffany R. Smith, for her creativity, craft, and fellowship.

We honor Mary Frances Early, a graduate student who made history as the first Black graduate of the University of Georgia in 1962, just a year after Hunter and Holmes’ admittance to the institution.

We honor the work(s) of Black women, past and present, who have made/are making our way possible.

We would like to acknowledge that the land we gathered on during the photo experience in Georgia is home to Native peoples, including the Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee. Sista-scholars honor and respect the rich and diverse traditions and beliefs of Indigenous peoples connected to the land that greeted us as we gathered together for this experience. (Adapted from ACPA- College Student Educators International)

Memories from the #BlackGradWomenSC

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“I love everything about Black sisterhood. For me, there is something spiritual about seeing us work, push through obstacles and win.” Participating Sista-Scholar

 

IMG_8435“Taking pictures with my peers to celebrate our beauty and strength as black women would be a positive experience.” Participating Sista-Scholar

 

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“It will be empowering to be around so many accomplished Black Women.” Participating Sista-Scholar

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

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“But it’s in the speaking that we find our voices.” Dr. Cynthia Dillard

 

 

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“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Shirley Chisholm

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“That’s the thing about knowing exactly who the fuck you are. No matter what anyone has to say, you can always draw power from that truth. You can’t be tripped up. A rose is a rose is a rose.” Munroe Bergdorf

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“I’m convinced that we Black women possess a special indestructible strength that allows us to not only get down, but to get up, to get through, and to get over.” Janet Jackson

 

 

“I say ‘magic’ because it’s something that people don’t always understand. Sometimes our accomplishments might seem to come out of thin air, because a lot of times, the only people supporting us are other black women.” CaShawn Thompson

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Departing Intentions

May we give light so that people will find the way (Ella Baker). May we give up the things that weigh us down so that we can fly. May we create the experiences and content that we wish to engage when we recognize its absence (Toni Morrison). May we be deliberate and afraid of nothing (Audre Lorde).

In service to sisterhood and scholarship,

Sista-Scholars Joan Collier, PhD and Marvette Lacy, PhD | Co-Creators and Sponsors

 

Joan Collier, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio in San Antonio, TX. 

Marvette Lacy, PhD, is the Director of the Women’s Center at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI.