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. 

 

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!

“I Expect You to do Well”: Diary of a High-Achieving Black Girl

After writing extensively for three weeks, waiting off and on for written results for another three weeks, and then anxiously counting down the days until the oral defense of my preliminary exams…it happened. I was FINALLY a Doctoral Candidate! It was by far the happiest moment that I have experienced since getting the call with my acceptance into my PhD program two years ago.

The process was generally nerve-wrecking and anxiety-producing, but I was determined to conquer my nerves and reach this next major milestone in my doctoral journey. I had been #ChasingCandidacy for what seemed like forever. I had set a strict schedule since January, accounting for 10 hour+ writing days, a full-time academic load, anxiety-induced heart palpitations with every submission to my committee, the mounting frustrations when I couldn’t get my words just right, and the day-to-day reminders to myself that this process wouldn’t last forever.

However, after standing in the hallway while my committee deliberated, I finally heard the words, “Congratulations, you PASSED!”. My advisor took pictures of me signing my official documentation for the graduate school, I thanked and hugged my committee, and then we took a group selfie in celebration. And I was over-the-moon. And grateful. And humbled. And relieved. And proud. Proud because I was exhausted and nervous and stressed and anxious…but I was finally a Doctoral Candidate! I persisted and endured and achieved; I could have lived in that moment forever.

Once I gathered my thoughts, I could only think of a few people whom I wanted to call and share my exciting news with, so I made my way down my contact list. I made FaceTime calls that weren’t answered, but I told myself that it was the middle of the day and adults were at work. Though disappointed, I continued calling those closest to me until I finally got an answer: “Good job! I expected you to do well”.

Just because you expect excellence from me, that doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard. I know that Queen Beyonce’ changed the game with, I woke up like this, but I worked hard for this. I am inherently brilliant, yes. I am more than capable, yes. AND I worked really, really, hard to accomplish this milestone.

As a high-achieving Black girl, I expect myself to do well. I hold myself to higher standards so that others don’t have to. And because of this, I have to work twice as hard to celebrate myself when something incredible happens. I have to intentionally and consciously remind myself that every accomplishment, whether big or small (to me), belongs to me and is worthy of celebration. The (my) truth is, when the world expects greatness from you, you have to work overtime to appreciate your struggle.

To all those who know and love #highachieving Black girls and women, be mindful of how you respond to our sharing of accomplishments with you. Stop qualifying your well-wishes with your (undue) expectations for our successes. Be proud. Be happy. Be enthusiastic. But please, don’t be dismissive. We EARNED this. Acknowledge that or don’t say anything at all.

Are you a high-achieving Black woman with a similar story? I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

I’m Childfree By Choice: So Please Stop Bingoing Me!

I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to write this for this platform. Everywhere I go I see post after post saying people without kids are “assholes”, “rude,” “mean,” “selfish,” and every other word in the book. This post originally appeared on my facebook, but I wanted to add it here and flesh out a few pieces for a greater audience because there just aren’t enough posts like these. I also feel like it can contribute to the conversation that is circling regarding Jeannie Mai and her husband’s impending divorce.  With this ridiculous disclaimer out the way….

 

In the childfree community, we call it bingoing/being bingoed when people with children or those who buy into norms of having children say certain things to us because we have made a decision to opt out of parenthood. The decision of whether or not I wanted to parent became particularly salient for me when my ex-fiance and I went back and forth in the months leading up to our planned wedding date.

 

Well as you can guess by this post– that wedding didn’t happen. *Ba dun tisk*

Go head, laugh. I can *now* laugh about it myself; but it took a few months to get here. Anyway, I have been very forthcoming with people about the end of my last relationship and that at the core of this change was my lack of willingness to have children, to give up my dreams and goals associated with travel, and to stifle my career by placing another person’s vision of happiness above my own. Some people call this selfish, I call it self-awareness.

I think it is noble and nice that folks say their kids are the best thing to happen to them, and yet I see so many parents on my social media timelines and elsewhere who are utterly miserable. People who mention their lack of sleep, continued inability to save for a rainy day, find themselves consistently canceling plans because of a sick baby or unexpectedly busy co-parent,  etc.  and it’s touted as a badge of honor. I don’t purport to understand it and I have decided it’s not for me to do so. But gosh golly people. Canceling on the same friend every month? It sucks. Walking around a shell of who you are? It’s hard to watch. Asking me for money? Well, that’s actually no longer an option for anyone because I cannot help you.

What I do know is that I did not grow up with the life I felt I deserved. My parents did everything they could and I am grateful for every sacrifice they’ve made to get me here. It is not lost on me that my parents contributed greatly to the woman I am today. My parents worked to their bones to provide for my sister and I. I have watched as they gave everything they had and poured into us with a selflessness that I honestly think should be illegal. I am hyper-aware of the fact that my parents, who are low income by every measure I’ve come to learn as a social class researcher, have worked 40+ hours per week for the entirety of my life and they do not have enough to retire on. They have not because they sacrificed for us. And in many ways I’ve already made the decision to make sure they do not have to suffer for it.

Make no mistake I am grateful. In fact, I want the best for everyone in my life, and if that means having 2972972982 kids and struggling or having no kids at all great. But I must admit openly and honestly that it is utterly exhausting being bingoed. I am tired and I am frustrated with everyone else’s preoccupation with what I do with my vagina, my wallet, and my willingness to sacrifice. People treat me as if my decision not to have kids is somehow an affront to them. As if I have somehow invalidated their choices by choosing to make my own. And the worst part of it all is how many people ignore just how many Black women, women who could be me, my sister, my cousins, etc. have died during childbirth and die at a higher rate than everyone else in this first world country we call home.  I am exhausted by hearing–

“it’s different when you have yours”

“you don’t want to give your parents grandkids”

“You didn’t really love [ex-fiance] if you wouldn’t have his kids” (I’m no longer friends with this person.)

“Children are a blessing”

“What will be your legacy”

“You’re not a real woman until you have kids”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

I must admit I’ve been particularly sensitive this month. I was supposed to get married *and* I somehow forgot to remove the calendar invites going haywire to remind me about my “honeymoon.” I still love my ex-fiance and do not pretend as if this isn’t the case.

AND… I still don’t want to have kids.

I think the most frustrating part of all of this is how people question me as if I have not thought and calculated every piece of this decision. Do people honestly think that I walked away from a relationship that would have guaranteed me fun and comfort without weighing how much having a child because he wanted one would hurt and harm me? Do people think I am unaware of the exorbitant costs associated with daycare and private schooling? Do people think I am unaware that amongst even my closest friends those married, in a partnership, a relationship without legal guarantees, and even those who are single that the women *almost always* do all of the parenting work? Even amongst my friends in queer relationships, the person who is most femme presenting *often* does all of the work (this is a whole different dialogue for another day, btw).

I have thought.

I have researched.

I have made budgets.

I have remade budgets.

I have mapped career timelines from front to back with and without kids.

I still have no desire to have kids.

I write all of this to say stop trying to make me make the choices you’ve made. Stop trying to make me be with someone who wants kids (or is fence sitting) when I know I’m setting myself up for divorce. Stop talking to me as if my life is not as important as yours because you’re a parent. Stop saying “at least you don’t have kids” when I mention my annoyance about unexpected expenses popping up. I still have bills to pay and a mouth to feed: Mine.

I am a whole person. A living breathing individual who wishes to be seen as more than an incubator for a human fetus. Who wishes to have her accomplishments judged by their merit, not by the man or kids I am or am not attached to.

And stop trying to force me to qualify “I’m not interested in having kids” by following up quickly about how much I like them. Everything I do is for the good of other people. Nearly every desire I have is for the betterment of society. Every decision I make is so that I can get to a point of being more charitable and giving than I am today– things that are for the good of a future I don’t have children coming into.

And if you can’t do any of that, just please for the sake of my heart, feelings, and emotions stop bingoing me.

P.S. My ex is a great guy. Have at him. 😉 

On Agency, #Jayz444, #443chat, & a Woman’s Burden

I’m a Jay-Z fan. I will argue anyone nine ways til’ Sunday about why the Black Album is one of the greatest albums ever made—not greatest rap, not greatest hip hop, but actual factual greatest albums ever. Before 4:44 dropped, I found myself debating the same concepts across differing communities… For some reason, marriage and loyalty were topics of discussion in two different GroupMe spaces within the same 24-hour time span: One a community for Black singles and another a community for people interested in sex positivity and minimizing sex shaming.

And somehow across groups, space, time, and now since the release of 4:44 I’m finding myself screaming the same story about the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing not coming down on the person someone cheats with as much as it does the person who’s committed. Follow me, here, please? What I’m about to say has been said before. It’s MYE (sic) opinion and mine alone (so don’t be yelling as if Cite A Sista is a monolithic subcommunity), but it follows a long history and tradition of thought logic by women before me. Black feminists have said it. My mother has said it. My friends have heard it somewhere. I’ve read it, repeated it, and here I am rehashing it again:

No one owes monogamy to a relationship but the two people in the committed monogamous relationship. Period.

Now let me be clear– I’m speaking here specifically about Black on Black relationships and cis-het companionship. Why? Because those are the relationships I know intimately and because I have no business talking about how queer folks love. That said, I’m not rationalizing cheating. This is not about “#HoesStayWinning.” And this certainly isn’t a hot take on Jay-Z and Bey or Blac Chyna and her ex, per se. But Jay does provide an interesting example of why I say and feel no one outside of your commitment owes you–

“Yeah, I’ll f*ck up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone, Becky / A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich / I’ll watch Godfather, I miss that whole sh*t” -Jay-Z, 4:44

Jay is being praised for this album. Black men everywhere are reaching out to say sorry to former lovers. People online are writing heada*s articles showing appreciation for the fact that a cis-het Black man is baring his soul nevermind the fact that queer black artists have shown how possible this is forever, admitting he’s wrong, apologizing, and committing to being a better spouse and father. And the subtext here, for me, is still: Jay-Z wants other women to let him be rather than make a conscious decision to say no.

The word for the day kids is Agency. A-G-E-N-C-Y. 

When we as Black women, and men themselves (hi, Jay), reduce Black men to beings who cannot say no–to these hypersexual individuals who need not be tempted rather than exert their right to walk away, we infantilize them and minimize their agency and decision-making ability in the process.

Jay-Z made a choice.

Men who cheat make a choice.

Deciding to step out, whether “tempted” or not is a decision.

This same reduction is done to Black women who are complicit in the affair (or in Jay-Z’s case Becky of a race unknown?) when we pretend as if people outside the structure and confines of a marriage owe monogamy, trust, and honesty to people within them. Becky doesn’t owe Bey (sorry, fight me). The other woman doesn’t owe a wife. The idea of whether it’s right or wrong to be with a person that is married or committed is a moral one and I’m not in the business of making moral judgments because I’m probably the least judgmental person half the folks in my life know… But I write all of this to say that it’s high time we start holding Black men accountable for being full-grown responsible human beings.

I’ll never forget the day one of my friends pointed out how “we love our sons and raise our daughters”. This is exactly why a man old enough to babysit Beyonce when she was a child could go on record and admit she matured faster than him.

Dear Black Women: if we love and are committed to Black men we have to hold them responsible. Let’s stop making this about being woman to woman, about she should have known better, and many other countless phrases that pop up when we learn about and discuss infidelity.

Dear Black Men: make a choice, sit with it, and be real. Your prefrontal cortex is fully developed–the idea that someone made you do it (at least in my life) ends here.


Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter using #CiteASista!

Want to submit your own #CiteASista post? Email us!

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.

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.