2018 Reflections

I spent 70, 979 minutes listening to Spotify this year. (They be coming through with all the stats.) This was probably because I spent a lot of 2018 commuting 3 hours a day from McDonough, Ga to Athens, Ga and back (about 1 hr and 40 minute ride [one way]–although I did get it down to 1 hr and 30). I listened to music, sermons and podcasts during my commutes. Sometimes I would drive in silence. Sometimes I would spend the commute crying, frustrated with life. I spent time in my car praying and worshipping. I spent time in my car eating all three meals of the day. Sometimes, I would have to pull over because I was exhausted: a 15 minute nap here, a 10 minute nap there. I slept for an hour in the Walmart parking lot. I knew things had to change when I dozed off and veered over into the median. God’s grace was abundant, as I just drove into grass and a few bumps, but that was enough for me. Something had to change…

Why was I commuting?

In August of 2017, I decided to not renew my lease as I was in the final round for a job in another state. When I didn’t get the job, I was sure I would find something else in a few months. Ha! Life didn’t work out that way.

So 2018 kicked off, and I was a nomad. Crashing at friends’ houses if I got too tired to drive. Always with clothes and bags in my car. I didn’t get a chance to do a 2018 vision board because I didn’t feel any clarity or goals about what I wanted out of the year… well except for one thing (I will get to that later). I, at first, did not think that I could write a reflections piece because there were many moments of confusion, but over the past few days, a few reflections did come to mind out of the cloud. So below are my top reflections. I hope they touch those who read this post. Seasons of transitions are hard, but not impossible. You have the tools you need to get through them.

“I am making room for God to manifest miracles and blessings in my life. Ase and Amen.”

Sister Scholar Joan sent me this mantra and I would recite it to myself everyday or share it on my Twitter feed. It’s funny how this mantra manifested in my life. The idea of making room at first meant having an open heart for God to bring about miracles. Nice concept, huh? In reality, I literally had to make room– throwing away bad habits, releasing bad thoughts about myself, walking away from people, leaving jobs and setting boundaries. There were things I had gotten so comfortable with that I had to throw away in order to have enough room for God to work.

Scrap Everything

Speaking of scraping everything, I started to reflect on love a bit more and what I desired in a partner. I was truly transformed this year when I read bell hooks “All About Love: New Visions” Below is a dope quote from the book:

“To practice the art of loving we have first to choose love — admit to ourselves that we want to know love and be loving even if we do no know what that means.”

I think we have to start all over when it comes to love and create our own meanings and ways of practicing it. In the book, love is defined as, ‘the will to extend one’s self for the the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.’ Love is as love does. Love is an act of will–namely, both an intention and an action.”

Intention!! I want to be in love that is intentional with intimacy, has integrity, and goes beyond my wildest dreams and aspirations about it. I am nowhere close to any romantic love, but the love I share with my friends is amazing. I am looking forward to the day when I see that and more in and with a partner.

G & C 2018

I went into 2018 with a motto of “Girth and Consistency.” Ya’ll know what I am talking about. I truly wanted to be able to explore my sexuality. What did I like? What did I need to speak up about?

I got new toys (I have suggestions if anyone is interested). I did a boudoir shoot, where I got to explore my body and my scars. G & C became more than just a motto; it was a form of sexual liberation. I talked with friends about this exploration and some of them have adopted their own version. Some of these conversations led to discussing sexual health. I walked away from a selfish partner who was just not about pleasuring me. I made the decision that my pleasure was greater than their company.

 I found a sexual partner who loved using Tumblr and we would exchange messages there. It was a beautiful thing to share what I desired via images and words. We would connect and then give feedback about what we enjoyed about the experience and what we wanted more of. Needless to say, I was distraught when the new Tumblr regulations occurred.

G & C has run its course, as I have achieved what I set out to do, and I want to focus more on intimacy in 2019. I am thankful for the exploration.

Building a Culture of Transparency

There is not a badge of honor for hurting others. You have to be accountable for the impact of your words and actions. Transparency is a bit more than honesty, to me. There is integrity in transparency.  A good friend of mine vented to me about how I hurt her feelings with actions I did. I listened and apologized not only for how I made her feel, but also for not communicating what was going on. On the opposite end of that, I experienced hurt by a friend and there has not been a “debrief” convo about my feelings and the impact their actions have had on me. I need to follow up on the debrief, but I want to do it in a way that is fruitful for moving forward. I want to give grace to this person, and today, I don’t have the words that will reflect such grace. In building this culture, I believe there is room for that. This year has taught me that I have to speak up when it is needed, learning when it is best to share, communicate frequently and just be mindful of my words and actions. Again there is no badge of honor in being an ass.

Vulnerability

In 2018, I had some very low points, and most of the year, I buried them inside and kept them to myself. It wasn’t until I became vulnerable and opened up to my mom, my aunt, my friends Joan, Kristi, Casey, JoJo, Emmanuel and Brittney (and others but I don’t want this to be long lol) that things took a turn. I did not have to carry those burdens alone. These people prayed for and with me. They gave me space to mourn, celebrate and vent. They affirmed me when I was in doubt. This year showed me that it is ok to let others show up for you. I have always been the friend who people came to for advice, prayer, food etc. I felt that I had to keep that up and not show when my energy was down or when I literally couldn’t show up for myself let alone anyone else. This year, I learned that I needed to allow others to show up for me. So, thank you to my tribe. Ya’ll are everything and then some.

Oh to Dream

Creativity for me this year was up and down. There were moments where I got a burst of energy and I would be writing down poems, ideas for scripts and just projects I wanted to get involved in. Other times, I would be so overwhelmed that I didn’t pick up a pen. Over the summer, I had this idea of getting artists together to create with no boundaries. The end result would be a series of shows that would incorporate music, theatre, poetry, dance and visual elements. I named this piece “Oh to Dream.” It was inspired by a lot of things. I am still working out how it will all come to together, but, in generating this project, I am jumping out there to take the risk. My mentor, Jamil, said that I shouldn’t say no to any opportunities so I volunteered with 5 theatre productions this year. I went to concerts. I found a part time job at my dream theatre (The Alliance) and quit my job to get rid of that commute. A week after I sent in my resignation letter, I received an offer for a new job. It is a newly created position with so many opportunities for me to dream and make it my own.

One of the anchoring scriptures for this new project is Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” This year God showed me a path in a wilderness of doubt and fear and made rivers in a desert of hopelessness. On the other side I am dreaming bigger. I am excited about this new year as I will be turning 30 (ow ow). I am thankful for the journey 2018 took me on.

70, 979 minutes of music on Spotify in 2018, mostly experienced in my car. I remember how I would look at the sky and thank God for His creation. I would thank Him for the view and the beauty I was seeing before me. Even on mornings of rain and clouds, I said a prayer of thanks. The opportunity to see the view was enough. 2018 was a good view.

Gratitude

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil with good.” – Maya Angelou

It has been two months since I started my new job. I love where I am and the things I am learning. It feels good to come back to Atlanta and learn the city as an adult. LOL. Things have moved so fast and I have finally been able to sit down and reflect on gratitude.

For those who don’t know, my job search was a two year process. It pushed me emotionally and physically. It was a season full of doubts and fear. Being out on the other side of this season, I am still in awe of how everything came together. God truly worked things out for me and one thing I know for sure is that I would not be in this new job and new city without my community of friends and family.

Celebrate- appreciate love

Earlier this year I started a list of those who have been there for me. Whether it was a prayer, a word of encouragement, a place to stay, a check-in, a hug, a smile etc, I wrote your name down. So no poem from me with this post, just a shoutout to everybody who helped me in this season.

Joan| Kristi |Casey | Raven | Candace | Meka| JoJo| Phil | Nia| Ne| Keion | Chris P. | Chris B.| Will | Corey | Kelundra | Alfred | Brittney | Chandra |Wande | Meshell | Ebony | Rachel | Jessica L. | Briunna | Mommy | Tasha | Toya | Jamil | Zay | Alita | Lo | Ayanna | Courtney H. | Courtney Jones- Stevens | Bri | Regina | Angel| Angelica | Renita | Dee | Tara| Katie | Kimberly D. |Erin T. | Keith N. | Kascha | Henry | Destiny | Kristen | Robert C. | Jennifer R. | Angela G. | Makeba | Althea | Dasmyn | Miles | Emmanuel | Anthony | Chelsea | Auntee Sheryl | Daddy | Crystal M | Elmo | Janelle | Felecia | Kendra| Gibson | Mikki | Crystal R. | Baker | John W. |Ebony R. | Monet | Realenn | Ambre | TJ | Lisa C. |Zerotti |Justin A. | Chanelle |Natalie | Tamara | Ivy Park |Sachel | Carlos | Markel |Mineka | Jamaal | Aaron | Gurlie |Jordan W. | Erica J. | Deja | Ian P. | Ian T. | Cubas | Alanna | Keely | Robbie | Ryan J. | Colby G. | Marty | Kelsi | Jeffrey |Kevin | Kurtis |Auntee | Jackie | Rukiyyah |Katie J. | Travis G. | Jessica G. |  Tracey | Roshaunda |Jameeka | Tricksey |Brittany W. |Maya D. |Taylor W. | Jason W. | Zoe |Aaron R. | Dr. Cook |Shaquinta | Shelby M. | Shelby J. |Kiera N. | Elliott | Heather | Danny | DOF | Selam | Mineka | Ashley G. | Jamie | Kendra | Erin A. | Erin W. | Amber B. |Dr. Amma |Marlon | Troy | Raymond |Jocelyn | Lisa S. | Adetinpo | Marlyncia | Kiah | D’Asha | Bri. W. | Tiffany | Dominique | ATL NetTwerk | Unfit Christian | STED- Man |Bobby T. | Carlton B. | Blake S. | Kasondra | Jeremy C. |Vicky C. | Joan (Lyric) |Mylene | Seles | Mumbi

THANK YOU

“Thank you is the best prayer anyone can say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility and understanding.” – Alice Walker

 

 

On #NappilyEverAfter and embracing #NaturalHair: A Review-ish & Personal Reflection

My hometown’s public school system committed to having 3rd and 4th-grade students learn how to swim. I’m an ‘80s baby and the ‘90s raised me, so “protective styling” options and swimwear accessories during the school year were very limited. I’ve never chemically treated my hair, so water and I had a unique relationship. So unique that I never let the shower water directly touch my face. I cupped the water with my hands and washed my face to avoid the fate of possible first- and second- degree burns induced by my mom using the hot comb.

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So, when swimming lessons came in 3rd grade, I was unprepared for a few reasons. I reported to the pool with a stocking cap and shower cap and thankfully, one of the Black teachers intervened, as she knew the tragedy that was about to happen. She then braided my hair in the pool locker room. I am grateful to her.

Growing up with natural hair has come with its shares of pride and struggle, so when I saw that “Nappily Ever After” (NEP) was premiering this past Friday, I had to see what it was all about. Because, you know – representation matters. And I’m also a fan of Sanaa Lathan. I enjoyed watching the movie so I wanted to share some quick thoughts with you all. If you have not seen the movie, stop here because *spoilers ahead*.

NEP tells the story of Violet Jones, a thirty-something who has a built a reputable marketing career advertising mainstream beauty standards. Violet has been dating Clint for two years and presumes that he will be proposing to her at her birthday party. To Violet’s dismay, her elegant engagement ring is presented as a cute Chihuahua, named Lola. When Violet confronts Clint, he shares that their two years has felt like “two years of first dates” and expresses that he doesn’t know much about her, nevermind marrying her. If Clint honestly felt that way, I’d like to know how he felt confident getting her such a large commitment, like a dog, for a birthday gift, but I digress.

I appreciated that that NEP scratched the surface of the complexity of beauty being tied to hair through the lens of a brown-skinned Black woman — and one with at least 4A hair at that. Society has conditioned us to believe that natural hair is beautiful if it is long, perfectly curly when wet, and styled effortlessly. And we typically see these women presented in the media, leaving a host of other beautiful queens out of the picture. Natural hair is also kinky and coily, can betray you with shrinkage when wet, and take multiple attempts to achieve a perfect style. This shouldn’t make these types of hair desirable or publicly represented. We are overdue for more women that show the full and beautiful spectrum of natural tresses on the big screen.

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Prior to Violet shaving her hair off, she believed that hair held her attractiveness. And thankfully, she learned that her confidence made her attractiveness despite whatever style she chose to wear on her head. Violet and her mom have forged a strong relationship over hair care. Violet depended on her mother to press her hair and in turn, her mother imposed her rigid standards of beauty, which Violet later projects onto Zoe. Violet followed “all of the rules,” but was disappointed that this formula didn’t equal a marriage proposal. I found it freeing that when Violet shaved her head, she also cut her mother’s expectations. I was happy that she was able to meet Will, a Black man who validated her appearance and was able to make natural hair products that benefitted her. I appreciated the exploration of a heterosexual Black man with an “unusual” profession, such as a hairdresser. I hope that this creates more conversations about gender roles in the Black community. Often, we talk about Black women assuming the roles of “a man,” but there is little analysis of Black men assuming the roles of “a woman.” There seems to be many assumptions about Will’s class and sexuality. But, we also see a single-parent business owner who wants to make a woman happy. However, I’m still processing that sensual head massage in the park…

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I liked that the film shed light on people making career changes later on in life. Richard Jones, played by Ernie Hudson, took a chance on a dream of and pursued being a male model. I found it hilarious that he was featured in a boxer brief advertisement which generated a lot of attention. Although Richard wasn’t initially supported by his wife, we’re reminded it’s never too late to go after you want. After all, you’ll never know until you try and someone may very well be impressed by your “junk.” ; ) *bah duhn tisk*

I like the diversity in the Black male characters presented in the movie, even though I didn’t agree with some of the perspectives presented. George Wallace played a small role as a rideshare driver and meets Violet after her bloody honey fiasco with the guy she meets in the club. Violet shares that Clint hurt her feelings and Wallace essentially shared with her that she shouldn’t have an issue if she wasn’t cheated on or (physically) abused. This scene irked me but showed an existing perspective. Women are seen as sacrificial beings. Society and sometimes family will tell us we have to get a man, “keep a man,” and raise our family while our dreams, mental health, and happiness be damned. We are supposed to always put our full selves out for everyone else and be satisfied with the empty glass left behind. A woman’s role on this earth is not merely to exist and be perfect while doing so. I appreciated that Clint was able to boomerang back to Violet with a ring, only for her to realize that it was a ring from a man she didn’t want.

I believe sometimes our shoes begin to hurt to help us realize that we’re walking in the wrong direction.

Overall, I enjoyed watching the movie. I found joy in its opening and closing with a pool scene. There is a lot of contention around Black people and swimming in general, beginning with slavery, stifled with segregation, and topped with Black swimming parties not actually being “swimming” parties. I liked that it didn’t end with a marriage proposal disrupting the idea that “Happily Ever After” has to begin with a wedding. It does start, however, when you realize you are living your life and controlling your temple on your terms and yours alone. I believe that there is more to Violet’s story before or if she chooses to walk down the aisle. I wish it was the first of a miniseries because I’d like to see her journey explored further.

I also wish her mama would have celebrated Juneteenth over the 4th of July, but that’s just me.

-Tia M. Howard


What are your thoughts on Nappily Ever After? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!

#DigitalSisterhood: A Dialogue with #BlackWomenPhDs

As ½ of a digital duo that centers Black women and Black women’s work, I appreciate other Black women doing work in digital and real life spaces. With that, #CiteASista will be exploring #DigitalSisterhood with other Black women who make space for or who center Black women in digital spaces.

I came to know about #BlackWomenPhDs via their self-titled instagram page. I was a fan on my first viewing of their page. I had just finished up my PhD at the University of Georgia, and as someone whose dissertation focused on sense of belonging for Black women in doctoral programs at a historically white institution, their project was right up my alley. I loved seeing all the sista-scholars’ stories and images as they made their way through school or celebrated the work they’re doing post degree completion.

Dominiqua Griffin (left) and Latoya Haynes-Thoby (right) made time in their busy schedules to talk with me about what they do with Black Women PhDs and indulged all my curiosities about how they understand their project as it relates to Black Feminism/Womanism. The following interview is a snapshot of a longer hour long conversation between teams #CiteASista and #BlackWomenPhDs. We hope you enjoy. 

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CAS: I LOVE what you all do with and through #BlackWomenPhDs. Like, love it! Y’all have talked about how you all came up with the project in another interview, but I want to know how you all see your work with BWPhDs as Black Feminists/Womanists?

DG: We really work to center the stories of Black Women Scholars. Often times we are the only ones with a seat at the proverbial table in our given work spaces. By centering our stories and celebrating ourselves we are able to continue down this road. This space will hopefully allow future scholars to feel like they can successfully obtain the degree and navigate their field with the support and foundation of other women. The intersectionality of being Black and Woman can still fall victim to misogyny by Black Men and other non-People of Color. We then have to turn inward or reach out to other women to navigate those spaces and that’s a separate conversation but one that needs space as well. On our page, we don’t have to fight to freely exist: we just can. Essentially, we need more digital spaces to do so, to seek our highest selves and feel appreciated.      

CAS: I ask the question about Black Feminism and Womanism because, for me, one of the beauties of BF/W is the ethic that goes with the ideologies. It’s not just who we can cite, but how we develop practices around what we believe or know. The work you all do to celebrate, center, and affirm Black women scholars is a beautiful ethic I hope we can all get behind (even more than we currently do).

The responses and comments to the daily posts are one of my favorite parts of the BWPhD IG experience. The sisterhood in the comments is life giving. I’ve seen people in the comments cheering on the day’s featured sista-doc, offering up resources to help another sista-doc make it through her program, and sharing their inspiration for returning to school for a doctorate or completing the process they’re in. How has the feedback in the comments section on any or all platforms helped to (re)shape the work you all do with BWPhDs?

DG: We truly wanted to foster a community, and one that is informal and inviting. One that allows us to collaborate and feel comfortable reaching out to scholars and one that puts a face to the work. It’s funny that folks still ask if they’ll get to virtually “meet” us when we’ve been open and honest about who was behind the account from day one. Women wanted to know that we were a valid page and I remember sharing my full name and Linked In page. Seeing the degrees and a brief outline of the road these women took, from the most seasoned to the youngest scholars, just makes the PhD that much more tangible. Women have shared that they found inspiration on the page, which helped them finish their program, and mothers sharing their stories about the challenges they face, or the women that are working on their confidence in terms of presenting their work, all of these stories create the experience of Black Women with PhDs. Valid stories. Unique. Necessary narratives that need to be celebrated.

LHT: We always appreciate the daily celebration of each woman that we feature.  From sorors to sisters in shared fields, or women in different places on the journey, the cheering always motivates us.  When we receive feedback from Black women about the ways in which the support that they receive as a result of their feature, we aim to celebrate harder. Initially, we had ideas about how we wanted to be sure to center and celebrate the accomplishments of Black women along the journey toward or after the PhD, but as a result of the feedback that we received, the process by which we work to maintain this space seems to be organic. Hearing back from K-12 educators, community members, and families who describe the ways in which they have shared the features, and the impact that this has on Black girls who may have never imagined pursuing a terminal degree, encourages us to keep cheering.

CAS: “Organic” is a great descriptor of the space y’all create with BWPhDs. Nothing about it, to me, feels or comes across as pretentious or unattainable. I appreciate that about the space. I remember the love I received during my feature. I had just finished my degree and was starting my year as a visiting faculty member. My UGA sista-docs showed up on the post and other people sent congratulations. It was awesome. With that, what aspects of your own journeys have been influenced by your work with BWPhDs?

DG:  Black Women PhDs has impacted the level at which I want to infiltrate change. Across the university settings, there are a lot of first generation students of color that don’t even know we exist, nor their options post-graduation. My work in training school counselors is so crucial in making sure they understand the need for representation in their schools and partnerships they create for students and families. Even for themselves, navigating their path as counselors and being able to provide culturally responsive services, and acknowledging beauty in our differences and strengths within themselves. It’s always inspiring to see other Bronx Girls and women from NYC that have their terminal degrees. Seeing them, and Sorors, or folks that share one of my alma maters really warms my heart. It’ the same feeling when I see other educators and counselors. Seeing parts of my identity reflected in so many other women is truly a beautiful feeling. I don’t typically see that many faces, particularly Women of Color and especially Black Women getting the recognition they deserve. I wanted to make sure college students and even younger students were exposed to the options they have with earning a PhD. Growing up I only heard about medical doctors and lawyers but not the nuances of terminal degrees. We needed a light for the women that courageously contribute to their fields and add depth to research, and really center our narratives.

LHT: Similarly, Black Women PhDs has served as a reminder of the many ways that Black Women arrive at their PhDs or EdDs. The stories of women completing their degrees while parenting, while holding down full time jobs, after tremendous loss, or out of communities that society tells us won’t produce what we see every day on Black Women PhDs. I personally recall the day that we featured a Black Woman that I had been a fan of since childhood.  She was literally a neighbor down the street, and as the years had gone by, and we moved away, I had no idea that she had already completed the journey that I am now on. It was so exciting to see her continuing to inspire!

My writing and research examining trauma and resilience in the lives of Black Women is buoyed as we share the stories of Black Women who persisted in spite of, all the while laying the roadmap for others to follow.

  CAS: Brittany and I, and so many others, appreciate the work that you all do through the BWPhD platform. It is our hope that folks who might not know about your work might check it out and support it and the Black women PhDs in their network. Now, we wouldn’t be #CiteASista if we didn’t ask you to cite a sista (or two) who shape your life and work (professionally, personally, academically, etc.).

LHT: Immediately, I am extremely grateful for the work of bell hooks, June Jordan, Gloria Naylor, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker.  These women taught me to dare to dream of something bigger than my experiences might have predicted. In the classrooms, in my daily life, and in my writing, I am encouraged by their courageousness.  These are the women that I find myself needing to continue to dive deeper into as I work to fulfill my role in the universe, and as continue to cheer for my fellow sisters along the way.

DG: Personally, Dr. Julia Bryan, my advisor. I know she advocated for me in spaces that I was not even aware of and she’s a true gem in school counseling. As it relates to my understanding of self and my work in a broader sense, definitely Dr. Gloria Ladsing Billings. Latoya already mentioned the greats!! I’d like to echo bell hooks and Audre Lorde. Self care as a Black Woman is critical, especially in navigating political and personal spaces, and as we know, often the two are intertwined.

CAS: Where would we be without the sista-scholars who pave(d) the way for us. I’d be remiss not to cite sista Ananda Leeke (@anandaleeke) whose book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online, follows her experiences online beginning in the 1980’s.

Y’all are so dope. Thank you all for your time, honesty, and transparency. Truly, talking with you both and learning more about yours work  has been a pleasure. I continue to be excited about the work that you all do, the centering of Black women in your work, and your commitment to creating space for Black women to cheer each other on as we press our way toward our goals. To learn more about their work, follow them on IG @BlackWomenPhDs, Black Women PhDs on Facebook, and @BlackWomenPhDs on Twitter.

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Thanks for joining Team #CiteASista for the first of our #DigitalSisterhood posts. Be sure to join us the next #CiteASista chat with our digital sista-scholars at #BlackWomenPhDs. Be sure to follow @CiteASista on Twitter and IG for more content.

 

Serena is ALL of Us: #BlackWomenAtWork Edition

We’ve ALL been there. Unjustly taxed, silenced, and punished for speaking up. We’ve endured the frustrations, anger, and even rage that is all too common for #BlackWomenAtWork. We know what it feels like to be repeatedly tormented in a public place and to FINALLY release those frustrations…only to be told that we “aren’t a team player” or we “are making too much of things” or, my favorite of all, that we “aren’t looking at the other side”.

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Serena Williams, the GREATEST athlete of all time, is ALL of us. The BLACK WOMAN who won titles WHILE carrying her beautiful baby girl. The little Black girl from Compton who was taught to pursue her dreams, relentlessly. The same Black woman who shows up and gives her all, regardless of how people perceive her greatness. The very defitinition of, #JustDoIt.

#BlackWomenAtWork understand the risks involved when we say, “enough is enough”. We are raised from infancy to self-monitor, so that we don’t offend or threaten white folks in those spaces. Serena represents every one of our Aunties and Grannies who has ever given us these survival tips: “Go to work, get your check, and go home. That’s where you can really be yourself. These white people are NOT your friends”…

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Serena is every Black woman who has had ENOUGH of the double standard in the workplace and decides to call someone out on it. She’s every Black woman who gets TIRED of having to explain her natural hair to her bosses. She’s every Black woman who puts on a smile and a CUTE outfit, despite being policed for her attire being “too Black”. She’s every Black woman who has ever been ridiculed and mocked for expressing any emotion other than (white-approved) anger.

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She’s every Black woman who has been positioned as an “attacker” for speaking up for herself and challenging the systems that attack HER. She’s every Black woman that’s verbally questioned the equity, practices, and policies within the workplace, only to be made to feel that she isn’t displaying proper gratitude for simply being there in the first place. She’s every Black woman that’s been accused of cheating or having an unfair advanage, simply because she was better than everybody else. She’s every Black woman that’s been ostracized for being too Black, too strong, too outspoken, too committed to justice, and TOO TIRED of being mistreated. #BlackWomenAtWorkIMG_0678

Serena represents every Black woman who has ever wanted to demand an apology from a man who wronged her, but could not do it for so many different reasons. She’s every Black woman who has wanted to breakdown and cry in the boardroom, but feared the repercussions of being that vulnerable and that human in an unsafe space. #BlackWomenAtWork

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She’s every Black woman who has had to put her own frustrations aside to ensure that the Black women coming behind her don’t have to fight the same battles. Serena is every Black woman who has comforted another sista, in public and in private, after the world has beat them up for being…themselves. She’s every Black woman who has stood beside another Black woman and said, “I’m with you, sis. We can fight against this, together”, in spite of her own pain. #SerenaAndSankofa

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While she didn’t ask for this weight or representation, Serena is ALL of us. Serena is a CHAMPION and she deserves better. We all deserve better. Serena reminds us that we can demand better, every day. We love you, Queen! #SerenaWins

 

 

*Image rights belong to respective owners. 

 

3* Reasons I Decreased My Social Media Usage

I love social media. 

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Okay, maybe not love; but, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and even Facebook have been, for as long as I can remember, ways for me to keep in touch with people from various stages of my life. Or, so I thought. Yet this summer when I completed an internship with a mentor and began to think about the things I wanted to accomplish before graduate school ends in May, something changed. My friend Qua’Aisa often colloquially refers to pre-graduation accomplishments as a “graduate school bucket list” and it has stuck with me ever since. I began to realize that I was spending a lot more time sharing and scrolling through my life and the lives of others than I was living intentionally amongst people with whom I wanted to create memories.

I often joke that I go to bed so late and wake up so early that I nearly pass myself in the hallway.

And while that’s true and I’ve been very productive for the last few years, I realize that productivity came at the expense of sleep and taking care of myself because I was using bedtime for aimless scrolling. Since summer began, I’ve been sleeping more, eating better, and working out exponentially more consistently. So what does that have to do with social media? My uptick in self-care is directly tied to my downtrend in social media scrollage (I’m a Ph.D. student, I can make up words if I want). I used to wake up at 5 or 6am to theoretically be productive and center myself only to realize an hour had passed and all I’d accomplished was failing to sleep and mindless scrolling. But the change in social media algorithms has gone on to make this increasingly visible because when I was mindlessly scrolling things started to look familiar. And then I realized: I was seeing the same. five-ish. posts. all. the. time.

So I said no more. 

No more aimless scrolling.

No more spending time in spaces that drained me emotionally.

No more being entangled on websites that would often lead to drama (ask any graduate student about groupme drama and they’ll tell you stories for days).

So what did I do? And how did I do it? I took the liberty of deciding to–

  • Remove myself from every GroupMe I was a part of and deleting* my GroupMe account.
  • Remove Facebook from my phone (I only posted there sparingly, anyway, after the Russia scandal).
  • Deleted the twitter app (but scheduled posts that align with my research agenda and identities).
  • Deleted the Instagram app.
  • Deleted the Snapchat app.

Typing that out somehow feels harder than actually doing it or having done it.

Northern Lights Simple Typographic Travel Postcard

My plan isn’t to completely run away from or stop using social media altogether. But it is to be more intentional about how much time I spend aimlessly scrolling and the messages I’m digesting and internalizing as a result of my social media usage. It’s also to allow myself a bit more room to enjoy sifting through my dissertation data and write up–no matter how messy and to finally complete some manuscripts I’ve been working on for over two yearsOkay, so maybe this isn’t simply three reasons I decreased my social media usage in a neat little bow. But I share my story to say it’s okay to decompress. And when people go on social media sabbaticals or decide to engage these platforms at arms lengths, we need not continuously question them about what’s wrong or what happened. In my case? I realized I spent much more time LIVING and enjoying my internship when I wasn’t worried about documenting every piece of it or seeing what everyone else was doing.

I’ll be back online for things that matter to me like #CiteASista chats, sharing my travels, amplifying important writings and research by Black women, and even acknowledging some of my dissertation milestones. But I won’t be online to engage spaces that drain me. I won’t be online to debate or argue points with people who are not interested in the actual exchange of information. And no, I won’t be online to see what else is going on in this government of mine and discussing it in an echo chamber.

Instead, I’ll be spending that time hosting Sunday brunches with friends and making Sunday dinner with my parents and sister. I’ll be writing up the stories of women who’ve entrusted me to shed light on the sometimes volatile field I seem to have committed myself to. I’ll be watching TV shows and movies that bring me joy like Mamma Mia, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Legends of Tomorrow.  I’ll be hiking the Seven Wonders of Georgia. I’ll be moving through multiple European countries to enjoy people, sites, sights, and foods I thought I’d never experience when I was younger (I’m not that old).

Map Airplane Travel Postcard

I’ll be living my life on my own terms without the pressures I’d previously placed on myself to do social media. And I’ll do so without feeling like I am traipsing through life on an auto scroll. I write this because I find it amusing that the very things that have saved me and propelled me thus far (#CiteASista, #SisterPhD, #FirstGenDocs, etc.) are the very things I’m still engaging but have also led me to move back and take rests from for my own health and sanity. This is not a plea for people to self-reflect, a critique of others who share nearly every piece of their day online, nor is it a call to action… It’s simply a post by a woman who has helped create online communities explaining in those same places a why I decided to step back from the performativity social media requires. It’s my way of doing something not because something is wrong, but because I needed to care for me before something became wrong.

Cheers to personal growth and self-reflection after unplugging.

I like you… I think

I am embracing a culture of transparency, which, to me, is different than honesty. I will delve into this in a later post, but a part of this culture of transparency is not hiding my feelings. This is especially true when it comes to people I am interested in. Most recently in a text thread, I told someone that I liked them and I am aware that they do not have the same feelings I have.

Ahh well

Oh well

Time will pass and I will be over it lol. But until then I feel how I feel. And I am still going to be me and do things not to get any points for doing them.

This experience did get me to reflect on what I mean when I say I like this person. Like, do I even like them for real? LOL I suspect that there is more I need to learn about this person and won’t have an opportunity to learn, at least not in the way I want. But in the meantime, I like this person right?

So this poem is trying to talk through it. Enjoy.

I like you

Well, at least I think I do.

I do like you

I think

How about this

I like what I know about you thus far

From the moment I met you. There was something. A connection. A vibe. An energy. Anytime I am around you, it’s a yearning. I like how I want to be around you. Observe you. Learn you. I want to know you cuz I like you…

I think.

How about this

I like how you present yourself. From your swag in your walk, your sense of style, your talents and abilities. Your faith. Your compassion. Your drive and commitment to the things you set your mind on. It ignites a fire in me to do better, to find my passions, to explore my heart.

Cuz you are

You are who I want.

I think

How about this

I want the opportunity to explore if this desire is valid.

To see if all the things I’ve listed this far makes sense.

To strengthen what could be

To nurture what could be

To be all that you need and deserve in a partner

To see if the connection, vibe, and energy can be more than fleeting moments of time.

More than fantasies. More than wishes. More than coulds, shoulds, woulds.

I’ll be honest.. I’m not all that special. What I can offer, some other woman probably can. What I’m saying, you may have heard. I’m not oblivious to the fact that you can get these things from someone else.

But I am saying this…

At this moment in time

I want to offer these things to you.

I’m willing to be open with you

My focus is on you.

I desire you. All of you. The things I know and even the things I don’t know.

This feeling is not superficial.

I like you.

How about this… you got a poem.

If that ain’t real, then I don’t know what is.

BCB 8/5/18

 

Why I (Literally) Cite A Sista

Brittany Williams (hey boo!) and I came up with #CiteASista as a project for a course in the summer of 2016. Our professor tasked the class to create a project that challenged whiteness and white supremacy. We threw patriarchy right on under the bus for fun and crafted up a twitter chat about centering Black women’s voices in the academy and all areas of our lives. We had an affirming response from sista-scholars in the twitterverse and at our home institution. Since that first chat, #CiteASista has evolved into a Black Feminist/Womanist digital project that aspires to encourage a citational praxis that centers Black women’s knowledge, builds community across communities of Black women within and beyond the academy, and supports Black women who are developing a Black Feminist/Womanist identity, ethic, and praxis.

createherstock-big-bun-2On a more the personal is political level, I cite a sista because it is part of my ethic as a Black Feminist/Womanist because our society is shaped by both patriarchy and white supremacy.  Choosing to cite a sista is a purposeful and empowering practice that challenges us all to know more, to know more deeply, to know more complexly, and to know more intimately. Choosing to cite a sista is inherently oppositional to people and systems that do not recognize or are challenged by the wealth and richness of Black women’s individual and collective knowledge. I sincerely believe, and know for myself, that Black women have knowledge that comes from lived experiences at various intersections of identities, power, privilege, and oppression. When I was unsure of what I knew, it was Black women scholars (hooks, Crenshaw, Hill Collins, and Dillard) who (re)minded me that I know things beyond my book learning  because of who I am as a Black woman.

In the academy, C.R.E.A.M. means citations rule everything around me. Citations are the capital and currency of the academy. If I want sista-scholars to get their due, then I do my part to cite them when and where I can (manuscripts, syllabus, references to other scholars, etc.). I cite a sista because I want sista-scholars to get the reward for their labor.

london-scout-41030Before and beyond academic credentialing, research protocols, or IRB approval, Black women knew/know things *and* our knowledge is valuable, particularly when the knowledge of our position is structurally marginal (as women within patriarchy and Black within white supremacy). More plainly, my non-degree holding Black women family and friends all have knowledge that inform how I navigate and negotiate relationships, counter systems of oppression, manage the responsibilities of adulthood, and understand the ways of the world. While the citational practice might not carry as much weight in non-academic areas of my life, giving them credit for their knowledge is a culturally honest practice. Here’s what and how I cite often Black women beyond the academy.

  • “I don’t do ouuu’s and ahhh’s. Singing background is a trap.” Effie White (Dreamgirls) | I cite Effie White’s knowledge of the world in my own understanding that people will use your talents and gifts to highlight their own with little to no reciprocity.
  • “I don’t care how pretty other people are. You be beautiful because you are beautiful. Don’t ever let me hear you diminishing your beauty or light again. I won’t have it.” Pamela Anthony | I cite Pamela as a fellow #SistaBigBones whose knowledge of the world informed my own confidence, assurance of self, and the early stages of my re-evaluation and critique of “thinness as beauty” concept.
  • “Live your life the way you want to live it because folks will have something to say about it anyway and you’ll be the one living it.” Mama | I cite Mama for her knowledge that I will reap what I sow. So, make sure that I’m sowing what I want to produce, regardless of what others want harvested in my life.

final-cite-a-sista-logo-01
I say all of this to say that there is power in who we choose (not to) reference as a source of knowledge. Who we choose to include/exclude matters. Dr. Kishonna L. Gray established #CiteHerWork (2015) to encourage people to cite work that women do. Citing a sista is what we encourage at #CiteASista. Including Black women in your citational practice is not hard, but it is an intentional practice, not because Black women are quiet and keep our wisdom to ourselves, but because our knowledge is overlooked, erased, or silenced by systems of power that manifest in the delegitimization of Black women and Black women’s knowledge. The practice has transformed my work and my life in empowering, endarkening, and culturally honest and authentic ways. When you are figuring out whose knowledge to draw from or be inspired by in the future, don’t think long or hard: just #CiteASista.