Introducing: The Black Women’s Studies (BWST) Booklist by Dr. Stephanie Evans

Dr. Stephanie Evans (you may know her from her hit book Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History– among others), of Clark Atlanta University’s Department of African American Studies, Africana Women’s Studies, and History undertook a herculean effort: to compile a list of books by, for, and about Black women that are based within women’s studies and/or those that fall within the women’s studies knowledge tree.

The culmination of her efforts has resulted in a 1400+ list of books by, for, and about Black women from theories and identities to activism and social location. The book list is broken down into themes/ disciplines as pictured in her image below, and the website also boasts an alpha order version of the project.

(Evans, 2019, https://bwstbooklist.net/)

We appreciate Dr. Evans for situating the work of #CiteASista as part of a long tradition of Black women’s studies (pp. 9-10) and for chronicling the inspirations and commitments we offer to academe and beyond (pp. 3-5) through the #CiteASista project which was the first of its kind in 2016 when we bagan.

Visit the Black Women’s Studies Booklist online *Here*!

New Year, New Me: Reflections on My Resolutions

2019 is well underway!  If you’re like me, you look forward to the new year.  After the rest and relaxation that comes with the holidays, the new year provides the opportunity for renewal.  With that comes the time to make resolutions.  You either want to begin a new habit, set a new goal or finally release whatever has been weighing you down.  I’m no stranger to setting resolutions in January and realizing in December I’ve made little to no progress.

The past couple of years have been a rollercoaster for me mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I gave birth to my son, experienced unemployment due to a layoff, and underemployment.  I was so focused on my family and put myself and everything I needed second.  As 2018 came to an end, I realized I lost my sense of self and wanted to become reacquainted with parts of me I lost.  I declared 2019 would be the year I focused on self-care in several facets of my life.  As Audre Lorde stated, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  (Lorde, 1988).  I’ve accepted that self-care is not selfish, but necessary to sustain myself in all facets of my life.

The first thing I did was write down the areas of my life that I wanted to focus on in 2019.  The areas that could use the most attention for self-care: family and health.  I then thought of words and phrases that would guide me through the year.  Several came to mind, however two resonated with me: consistency and courage.  I want to be a different person on December 31st than I was on January 1st.  The only way for this to happen is through consistent action and the courage to do what is necessary to achieve my goals.    

I have two goals for 2019 that are centered on my family: finding friends who are mothers and monthly date night with my husband.  As I navigate motherhood, I realize how important it is to have friends who are mothers, especially mothers who have children the same age as my son.  I absolutely cherish the friendships I have with the woman in my life.  However, there is something to be said about having a supportive group of mothers who can reaffirm me, as motherhood is a role I have to learn as I go.  There is no handbook to raising children.  I have joined a virtual mom’s group where I can ask questions, find resources, and receive support from other mothers.  Like myself, my husband has an unpredictable schedule.  As an entrepreneur, he makes himself available seven days a week and countless hours during the day.  It’s very seldom we have time to spend with one another.  Because of this, we have to be intentional about scheduling time to reconnect as husband and wife.  While we haven’t had our date night for January, we have remained committed to one of our favorite past times- watching all of the Oscar nominated movies, including Black Panther for the umpteenth time #wakandaforevereva.    

Another resolution for 2019 is to focus on my health.  Like most people, I want to lose weight by working out and healthy eating.  My health has been an afterthought the past couple of years.  Going through the fast food drive thru was more convenient than grocery shopping.  Working out before the break of dawn or after I put in a full day’s work was not an option.  Prior to having my son, I was a runner.  In fact, I was 10 weeks pregnant when I ran my first (and last) marathon.  Since then, I have had a hard time fitting running back into my lifestyle.  Training for a race is like a part-time job.  There is a training schedule you must maintain to complete a race successfully and injury free. 

So, far this year, I have managed to workout 3-4 times a week and I have scheduled time with a personal trainer twice a week.  I have to wake up at 4:30am to do it, but it’s a sacrifice I can manage in order to reach my goal.  I have also managed to meal prep a few meals each week.  Right now, I prepare 2-3 meals for dinner for my family.  My husband and I have unpredictable schedules.  Sometimes we’re not home until 7:00pm.  Having dinner already prepared allows more time to spend with our son and have a healthy dinner. As for running, my feet have yet to hit the pavement. I’m still included in my running groups Group Chat. My running group’s leader texts me to check on me, understanding the challenges I’m having working running into my schedule.

I personally believe 2019 is off to a great start.  I’ve identified the goals I want to reach and what I need to do to achieve them.  I’ve also learned to allow myself grace when I’d rather sleep in than go work out or eat a chicken biscuit instead of the green smoothie my husband made for me. By consistently making changes and having the courage to get up when I miss a target, I know that I’ll accomplish the difference I set for myself by December 2019.  

Michelle Obama's Becoming Book

Protecting Our Boundaries: Thoughts from Becoming

“Fences needed to go up; boundaries required protecting. Bin Laden was not invited to dinner, nor was the humanitarian crisis in Libya, nor were the Tea Party Republicans…Our family time was when big worries and urgent concerns got abruptly and mercilessly shrunk to nothing so that the small could rightly take over.”

– Excerpt from Becoming by Michelle Obama

Credit: Michelle Obama via AP Images

The end of 2018 gave us a gift, the release of Michelle Obama’s Becoming. She has been touring and filling arenas based on this book. People have been flocking from all over to get a copy and to hear her speak, and rightfully so! My book club even decided to stop our current read and shift gears to gain a glimpse into the life and times of our Forever First Lady. (FYI: I do not intend to spoil the book for you if you have not read it yet. However, if you have not already done so, you need to find the nearest version and jump into this book!)

While Becoming was filled with many gems, notes of honesty, and wisdom, the above quote stood out to me as profound among the rest. Here was the first Black woman to occupy the White House as a tenant rather than a servant, who dealt with various world leaders, daily criticism, her own platforms of health initiatives, kids, the weight of being married to the President, finding time to remember herself and who knows what else, saying that she had boundaries. Saying that each thing had a stopping point for her to be able to maintain a semblance of herself and to keep perspective on the little parts of her day that made her feel whole, which at the time was her family and 2 little girls. This statement seemed so self-empowering and assuring. 

Michelle Obama for Elle

I don’t know about you, but the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 have been low key kicking my butt. Between crazy work hours, a long commute, organizational commitments, trying to be present for the people in my life, showing up for myself, fitting in some time to eat and sleep, and starting my own blog, some days I barely find myself functioning by the end. If not these things for you, I am sure that you know what it feels like to try to maintain balance in your own seeming chaos. I felt all of my lines starting to blur together as I started to push everything into overdrive to make the most of the end of last year and capitalize on the start of this new one, staying late at work, staying up later to write, trying to wake up to do it all again. 

I feel like Black women are always expected to be 100% with all things at all times, which was the model to which I was trying to ascribe. Yet, here was Michelle saying 100% in one thing at one time is okay. Everything has its place. It was like a breath of fresh air. Permission to take a step back and to build the boundaries for myself to maintain the things that bring me joy. If Michelle Obama can listen to what her daughter did in kindergarten instead of worrying about a humanitarian crisis, I can take advantage of the time when I get home from work to finish reading that book that I have been enjoying instead of worrying about and responding to that work email. It’ll still be there once I have given myself the time that I need for whatever I need.

Michelle Obama's Becoming Book

Michelle Obama’s Becoming

With Michelle’s words in my mind, I am moving forward into this year resetting and protecting some boundaries for myself. If you find yourself also in a boat with the gears shifted into overdrive, I hope that you’ll join me in doing so as well. In seeking to do so, I find myself thinking on a new set of questions:

What are the moments in your life that you need to place a fence around for yourself?

What are the areas taking up more space than necessary?

How can you protect the boundaries you want to establish?  

As you think on your own boundaries, share your thoughts below!

Pictures belong to their respective photographers/ printers*

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.

I Get Tired Too, Sis.

So, here’s the thing…I mean well. We all do (well, most of us). And I still mess up. Despite being a perfectionist in just about every area of my life, I am a flawed friend. And I am painfully aware of that.  Through unrelenting processes of critical self-awareness, I have learned to admit my flaws in friendship; however, I still struggle to let folks know when I have been affected by theirs.

Most of this struggle comes from my upbringing in a very Southern, Black, Christian family. “Be polite and only show kindness to others. That’s what Jesus would do”.

And for most of my life, I have done just that. I never talked back or became unruly or let anyone (particularly folks that I considered to be my friends) know that my feelings were hurt. However, this self-silencing has never actually stopped anyone from hurting my feelings, whether they intended to do so or not. And until only recently, I have just taken it. Be it misplaced anger, undue frustrations, or just the residual “I don’t care” attitude jabs, I have taken it all in friendship.

However, I have grown sick and tired of being the take it all friend. Yes, I am a counselor by education and training. Yes, my very nature is empathic and I feel everything. Yes, I want to be more like Jesus and understanding of your journey.

But I get tired too, sis.

And I get annoyed. And irritated. And at my wit’s end with all sorts of chaos. Just. Like. You. Life is hard and unfair (especially for Black women who are rarely given their just due), but I am out here trying to make it, just like you. And in my journey towards making it, I am also a firm believer that, in spite of our very human flaws, we CAN be there in sister-ship for each other, without either of us feeling like our presence or gifts or talents are being taken for granted.

I am grateful that I have a spirit that draws folks to me for support in one way or another. I believe that this drawing power (as my granny would call it) is one of the many reasons that God created me. With this awareness, I support you in your frustrations and want to help you heal. I do not, however, want to be your verbal punching bag or your emotional target practice. I will take accountability for my actions and my actions only. I will admit when I am wrong and when I could have done better.

I will not, however, allow folks to treat me any kind of way because I have just taken it in the past. I’m not taking that anymore and neither should you, sis. Tell your folks when enough is enough before it goes too far. You deserve a break, too.

“You Are Built For This”: Countering Imposter Syndrome

Getting into a doctoral program was the most exciting part of my educational journey because there was a time when I felt that it was an unobtainable goal. After all, I was kicked out of school due to poor grades, and the president of the institution told me I wasn’t “college material” and that I should pick up a trade.Although potentially quite lucrative, picking up a trade would not have worked for me because nothing in trade school reflected my passion. I wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference in the lives of our youth with a specific focus on African American students who looked like me. I wanted to work with the ones that people passed off because they were “rough” and “not scholars”. I had a particular passion for the ones who came from neighborhoods like mine where the odds were against them before they were even given a chance to show what they’re made of. It’s my mission to change the narrative.

For as long as I could remember, I have always wanted to work in a field where I could make a difference in the lives of our youth–a goal that has a specific focus on African American students who looked like me. I wanted to work with the students that people passed off because they were “rough” or not seen as “scholars”. I have a particular passion, you see, for the students who come from neighborhoods like mine where the odds are stacked against them well before they were even given a chance to show the world what they’re made of. It’s my mission to change the narrative. 

I consider it my mission to change the narrative around these students because I am one.  

Wasalu Jaco and I attended the same high school:  Thornton Township High School in Harvey, IL. One of my favorite quotes he ever spoke was, “This ain’t a pen, it’s paintbrush and I intend to rearrange how they paint us”.  Perhaps you know Wasalu Jaco better by his stage name “Lupe Fiacso”, but when he penned those very lyrics, they resonated with me and have since become my mantra. 

So, I started my first week of school. I remember being so happy and excited to be on the road to Dr. Randolph, but as the weeks rolled by, I began to question if I was supposed to be there. I didn’t understand some of the words my classmates spoke, and I would, at times, ask for words to be repeated so I could write them down and look them up. The papers and writing expectations have grown longer, and there have been many times I have run out of words before reaching the page minimum.  As I have moved closer to doctoral completion, I have found myself questioning if I was built for this and began feeling like an imposter. Never mind the application process, interviews, writing sample and everything it took to get to this point; I felt I wasn’t worthy. 

So, how am I overcoming these feelings?  How can you if/when you find yourself faced with feelings like mine?

  1. Remind yourself that you are built for this. You’ve played a role in your success and there’s no way you could’ve made it this far by being an imposter.
  2. Lean on your friends, family, students, etc. There’s something energizing about how proud loved ones are of you.  My grandfather (called Hot Poppie, not Grandfather), to this day, answers the phone saying “Dr. Randolph!” whenever I talk to him, and it gives me a surge of excitement to hear how proud he is. He tells people “We have a Dr. in the family.” Loved ones (by blood or bond) will be your cheerleaders, accountability partners, and at times, will know when you need to just talk.
  3. Ask yourself what is making you feel like an imposter and write it down. There are always things we could work on to be better. For me, I noticed that I felt like an imposter because I wasn’t completing my assignments early and I had struggles. I faced it and asked members in my cohort for help and tips. Sometimes simply writing things out and taking action, if needed, can make self doubt disappear.
  4. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again, your journey is YOURS and YOURS alone! It’s so easy to be in class and start comparing yourself to the person who knocked out that 30 page paper with ease and, in turn, it makes you feel you should be done too.  Focus on you, and stay on the path to your own journey to Dr.(insert name).

Overcoming imposter syndrome is a lifelong journey–in those moments where you feel alone, remember you have me and the rest of the Cite A Sista family in your corner. Happy fall 2017 graduate students, this year is yours for the taking!