A Little More Than …

4 Comments

Graduation

It’s my graduation week and to say I am excited is an understatement to express all I am feeling this week. I’ve had more moments than I anticipated when I am overwhelmed with joy, but just as many moments when my eyes fill with tears and I can’t quite place the emotion or sentiment. What I am reminded of is that anytime you – I – see someone walk across the graduation stage, their experience is much more than earning a degree. Albeit important, the degree may be one of many things I and others like me reflect on during times like this. When I think about most are the sacrifices related to time and resources, the late nights of reading, writing and revising, and all the hope – without any guarantee – of what I wanted to be on the other side of my degree attainment, it’s easy to place all the unexpected sentiments. These last few years have been so much more than attending class and checking off degree requirements. They represent a belief that if I made minor adjustments and sacrifices, I would be better positioned to spend the remainder of my life doing what I love professionally. This season has been filled with saying “no” to spontaneous travel, or an impromptu get together with friends, or a community service commitment all because school-related deadlines lingered. It’s been a time of uncertainty, grief, emptiness, accomplishment, triumph, and exhilaration at the same time! I am ELATED to end this season of my life and genuinely excited about all that is ahead. I am excited about the new position I will begin in the fall, as well as looking forward to having some much needed down time this summer. I am grateful for the journey. But whenever you encounter someone who has an advanced degree, please make sure to take a moment to congratulate them – know that their return to school required much more than attending class and performing well on exams. Please don’t undermine their accomplishment by asking about when they’re going to have kids, or get married, or any other obscure standard for success. Celebrate them! Love on them! Give them a hug … I am sure they need it!

Sincerely,

Dr. …

Fertile Void: Life After …

5 Comments

She Beleieved

For those of you who have followed my blog, you may recall that 2017 marks the 5th year of its existence. 5 years since my life drastically changed in more ways than I can recall. And 5 years since I recommitted to living out loud, starting with returning to school to pursue my passion of working in higher education. 5 years since I traded in the tangible rewards of a stable job with benefits for a passion pursuit with anticipated endless rewards. Throughout this time I’ve written through the ups and downs of my journey – the sacrifices and rewards, along with major shifts in every area. It’s been both the most exciting and exhausting 5 year-period of my life. And then it happened … exactly 3 weeks ago I accomplished what I know will remain one of the greatest achievements of my life – I successfully defended my dissertation and was announced as Dr. Me J! The moment I had been looking forward to, pressing towards, and focused on for much of this leg of the journey. A moment I will never forget and am working earnestly to continue to find small ways to celebrate.

Some say reaching the milestone of a successful defense is much like a wedding ceremony: months or even years for some are spent planning, organizing, saving, and deciding. But within a few hours the party has come and gone, everyone returns home, and it seems like your big event went by all too fast. For those fortunate couples, your life has changed in other ways. Maybe you are taking a fabulous honeymoon vacation, or moving into your first home, or welcoming a new addition to your family. Perhaps you are changing your name or relishing in the joy of having a forever-partner. Or maybe the thought of having new family members, opening gifts, and looking at wedding pictures serve as reminders of your new normal. I’d venture to say my defense and completion of the doctoral program parallels the experience of having a wedding in many ways. I have made small steps towards my dissertation for the last 5 years. It has been a labor of love and a body of work I am extremely proud of. I’ve spend endless hours writing, editing, researching, and refining. I’ve sacrificed attending events, celebrating major achievements, and spending money elsewhere as writing deadlines loomed or I was simply limited financially by having a part-time income.

When my big day finally arrived, a wonderful village of friends and former classmates stayed around to congratulate me after everything was official. Another close friend took an extended vacation to be with me throughout the week, forcing me to stay in the moment and not rush along to the next thing. The weeks that followed have been filled with SLEEP, catching up with friends and family, and wrapping up this semester of teaching. I feel like I have a whole new life in every way imaginable! It is wonderful to be able to sleep in without guilt of missing a writing deadline. It’s liberating to not check email obsessively as I wait for feedback from my committee. And it’s exciting to know that this is just one major milestone of many – I have so much to look forward to over the next few weeks and months.

I am so grateful for this time and after attending the Female Faculty of Color Conference last week, I am working intentionally to operate in a space of “Fertile Void.” Although I still have work to do – tasks to complete – I am focused on relaxing, resting, slowing down, and being present. One of the speakers at the conference described this as a time when we are ripe with possibility – fertile – but not filling the space with new projects. I am remaining in fertile void for as long as I can. Thanks for taking the journey with me J.

How My Friends Taught Me to Be Flaky as F*(! … and I LOVE It!

1 Comment

flaky

I opened my first email account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t start texting until nearly a decade later. I grew up in a rural town so no one used RSVPs – you just stopped by, showed up, or gave your word. I share these things because I learned much of my etiquette around corresponding via email or text messages and the value of RSVPs: 1) much later in my life; and 2) mostly in the professional arena. This timing shaped how I view email, including the form in which I send emails. It shaped what, how and with whom I send text messages. And it absolutely shaped the value I placed on giving my word, verbally or via an RSVP. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the same value I placed on these things was not shared by others. I’ve received numerous emails with no greeting or salutation at all – simply a question or statement. I’ve had colleagues who I have a strictly professional relationship with text me late at night or on the weekends. And I’ve more than my share of experience with folks saying they will attend an event and showing up significantly later than the start time or not showing up at all. Naturally, this used to upset me and sometimes it still does, especially when someone’s RSVP requires me spending money to reserve a spot for them. But this last year has taught me get comfortable with being flaky as f*(!.

My new lease on life is in no way an excuse for me to disregard others’ time or my commitment to complete a task. Instead, it has forced me to separate business commitments from personal commitments. No, I can’t wake up and just randomly decide to take a week off from work. But I can decide that a social event I previously committed to attending no longer fits my schedule and respectfully inform the host of the change. On a very minute, but important level this change also allows me to ignore the need to reply to every personal email, text message, or phone call I receive – which is not a practice I exercise as freely in the professional arena. I have friends who reply to text messages weeks later or not at all; family and friends who never check email, much more take a moment to respond to them. The ironic thing is many of these very same people will obsessively text and/or call me if I do not respond to a message from them within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe. BUT I’ve opted to stick with my new leaf and do as I need, when I need to – especially as I am working earnestly to balance all that comes with finishing graduate school. *Note to all: We are ALL busy juggling multiple things so your level of busyness is not an excuse to dismiss the commitments others have as well*

So thank you to all my flaky friends 🙂 – I’ve learned a lot from you. You’ve taught me that changing my mind, disconnecting from my phone, and engaging with the social world when desired is an act of radical self-care. Thank you!

Hello February …

2 Comments

february

I thought about writing several times in the month of January. I sat with my laptop ready to put “pen to paper.” Clearly, my efforts failed. Between working on my dissertation, putting some effort into post-graduation plans, and simply trying to keep up with current events my blog took a backseat. I can’t guarantee that February will be any different but I am here to extend thoughts of love, hope, well-being, and healing to you and the world. February, please be good to us. ❤

Saying Good-Bye to 2016

2 Comments

Image result for grateful

It’s almost time to say good-bye to 2016 so before I head out for vacation, I am posting my last blog for the year.

I started the year out in Hawaii – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited – spending time with one of my most amazing friends. This trip created the tone for the year: intentions were set, wishes were cast, and my actions were aligned with my goals for the year. Albeit rocky, 2016 was a great year! As I scrolled through photo album on my phone, I was reminded of just how blessed I was during this year. From professional conferences and publications to an abundance of quality time spent with family and friends to so many chapters of my life ending – including finishing up my doctoral coursework 🙂 – this year was a wonderful one. I retreated more than ever and am now preparing to heard to my 3rd retreat for the year :-). I traveled; I celebrated; I cried; I laughed; I loved … real hard; I danced; I rested; I renewed and re-found me. I fell in love with my life all over again, remembering that I have the power to decide at any moment that “this is not how my story is going to end”.

As the year comes to a close, I continue to take moments to give thanks for all the ways that I received love, light, and favor.  In addition to all the memories that were created, I must say that 2016 has been my launching pad for what I anticipate to be an even better year in 2017! I look forward to sharing my world with you in the New Year and I hope that somewhere along the way, I inspire you to CREATE your best life.

Happy holidays and Happy New Year! #grateful

Thank You Sweet October

2 Comments

renewal

After a whirlwind of an ending to the summer, October was incredibly good to me :-). I started off the month with a much needed retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. For three days and two nights, I had the pleasure of fellowshipping with an amazing group of women as we chatted, journaled, colored, reflected, affirmed, and were renewed. I had the most invigorating massage – my very first experience with the ABHYANGA technique. Needless to say I left Boone feeling like my mind, body and spirit had undergone an overdue and much needed tune-up.

The next week welcomed an opportunity to present at the 17th Annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium in Omaha, Nebraska. It was such an honor to receive support to attend the conference, network with prominent scholars in the field, and to learn about what others are doing around the country as it relates to community based participatory research (CBPR), engaged scholarship, and community collaborations.

The third weekend of October was one big celebration with people I have known – and loved – for nearly 20 years now! It was my undergraduate institution’s homecoming and I was very intentional about spending time with my friends and extended family as much as I could. It was food for my soul.

So here I am … saying good-bye to October, but also saying “thank you”. October brought laughter, joy, celebration … hope, inspiration, and REBIRTH. November, you have to bring your A-game :-)!

Re-blog from The Feminist Wire

Leave a comment

“It Takes A Village”: Afterword to the #LoveWITHAccountability Forum

I had big plans for writing the Afterword to the #LoveWITHAccountability forum, but the truth is I am worn out completely. In the spirit of transparency, I recently became consumed with so much internalized conflict about how my grandfather and also my father would come across in my mother’s courageous contribution to this forum that I couldn’t focus on how I would bring closure to this forum. I, the unapologetic BLACK FEMINIST, was initially unable to fully APPRECIATE that, per my 12th hour invitation to participate, my mother PUBLICLY held herself accountable in this forum. I was more worried that The Feminist Wire readers would think that my Pop-pop was a horrible person. He definitely did horrible things to me as a child but I do not believe he is a horrible person. I didn’t want readers to inquire why I didn’t invite my father to contribute to this forum. He and I are still on the journey. We are not in a place to publicly share about our process. I was still in protection mode.

As a result, I couldn’t accept the invaluable sacred gifts of my mother both privately and publicly articulating the decades long harm inflicted upon me, and deeply heartfelt apologies with meaning. As sister-survivor-comrade Luz Marquez-Benbow wrote in her article, “incest is some insidious sick shit.” The postscript that I wrote at the end of my “mother’s lament” was a brand new development in response to my deep angst. It was not a part of the original plan for this forum. As a result, I do not have the wherewithal to go any deeper right now. My gratitude for my mother pushing herself to get here on her and my journey is endless. I am personally reminded that it is never too late for accountability and healing.

My goal with the #LoveWITHAccountability forum on The Feminist Wire was to create a virtual space to both ignite and also continue dialogues about the taboo topic of child sexual abuse in diasporic Black communities in the wake of all of our heightened awareness about state sanctioned white supremacist violence committed against Black people and our communities. Twenty-nine intergenerational diasporic Black people disclosed and explored child sexual abuse, healing, justice, and love with accountability over a period of ten-days on The Feminist Wire. I’ve only been pregnant once in my life and had an abortion six-eight weeks later. Yet despite my lack of knowledge about carrying a pregnancy to term, I frequently used the analogy of being the thirty-four-week pregnant doula who actively engaged with supporting twenty-eight concurrent births. This was my journey with the #LoveWITHAccountability forum. This forum was hardcore work for many of the contributors to share their truths about what happened to them as children, and to also share their visions for a world free from sexual violence against children and adults in a public forum.

The #LoveWITHAccountability forum is a continuation of work that precedes this collaborative project, and it is also a beginning. As diverse as the forum is, I am clear that there is always room for more diversity. It is twenty-nine drops in the vast child sexual abuse ocean, which is not to take away from the individual and collective power of those profound drops. Every drop plays an important role in creating the waves of seismic change. It’s extremely important for me to acknowledge that there are additional marginalized voices from within the diasporic Black community that aren’t featured in this forum. This is a beginning.

Up until it was time to publish the articles and poems, I was a one-woman entity. This was intentional by my design and it has taken its toll. I thought I was going into the very deep end of the pool with this forum. Instead, I found myself in the middle of an ocean of trauma. Fortunately, I had many resources in the form of twenty-four years work with Dr. Clara Whaley-Perkins, a Black feminist licensed clinical psychologist and founder of the Life After Trauma Organization, a fourteen year practice of vipassana meditation, and a trusted inner circle of sister-sibling-brother friends during this process including Mia, Jennye, Heba, Nicole, Marie, Enid, Josslyn, Heidi, Tamura, Luz, Mari, Joan, Nikki, Yvonne, Kai, Sonja, Evelyne, and Jonathan. Even with all of human and spiritual resources, there were several times when my head went under the water. I didn’t drown because of the support of resources. The waters are calm for now. I hope I can mentally and emotionally rest a while before the ferocious waves return because they will return. This is the nature of personally and professionally tackling child sexual abuse as an adult survivor. There are so many layers of residual trauma.

It took a village to make this forum a reality. I want to share gratitude for many individuals who directly and indirectly made this forum a reality. The #LoveWITHAccountabilty project probably would not exist without the support of the Just Beginnings Collaborative (JBC). I do not believe I could psychologically and emotionally focus on child sexual abuse day in and day out while simultaneously doing other non-related work to financially sustain me. JBC’s founding executive director Monique Hoeflinger was an important source of unwavering support during both the incubation period and the literal launch of both the project and the forum. John L Jackson, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) enthusiastically welcomed me as a Visiting Scholar. His support of me and my work has also been unwavering.  Director Susan Sorenson invited me to be an Affiliated Scholar at the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence, which affords me the gift of an opportunity to engage with graduate and undergraduate students whose research and scholarship is focused on addressing various forms of family violence.

All of the JBC individual fellows and two organizational grantees came together in the first quarter of 2016 and formed an ad-hoc collectively defined #SurvivorUnion.  We worked together to support each other both in response to an organizational crisis and with our individual projects, which focused on addressing and ending child sexual abuse. It hasn’t always been a crystal stair amongst us, and I am profoundly grateful for the community that we, Mia Mingus (Living Bridges Project), Luz Marquez-Benbow (Love in Sister/Brotherhood), Amita Swadhin (Mirror Memoirs), sujatha baliga (Impact Justice), Tashmica Torok (Firecracker Foundation), Sonya Shah (Project Ahimsa), Ignacio G. Rivera (The Heal Project), Ahmad Greene-Hayes (Children of Combahee), and Aqeela Sherrills co-created. I can’t imagine this journey without their presence, friendship, camaraderie, and support. Each of these individuals are doing incredible ground-breaking work to pull up the roots of child sexual abuse in marginalized communities. I continue to learn so much from them and their work, which inspires my own.

During the first six months of 2016, I had the amazing opportunity to be the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. My Africana Studies colleagues Rhon Manigault-Bryant and James Manigault-Bryant invited me to Williams College and quickly became my friends and spirit family. It is because of them that I was very fortunate to work with my former student and research assistant Aunrika Tucker-Shabazz.  In addition to Rhon and James, I also created a really important close-knit community with VaNatta S. Ford, Rob White, Sophie Saint-Just and Daniel Goudrouffe, Rashida Braggs, Will Rawls, Meg Bossong, Ferentz Lafargue, Vivian Huang, Amal Eqeiq and Anicia Timberlake. I was able to share my work in process with each of them, and I also shared a lot of much-needed laughter and fun times with them in the metropolis known as Williamstown, MA.

I cannot think of any other online publication other than The Feminist Wire (TFW) where I would’ve been able to publish over twenty-five essays, reflections, poems on child sexual abuse, healing, and justice in diasporic Black communities for ten days. These pieces ranged from 700 to almost 4000 words. Since its co-founding by Tamura Lomax and Hortense Spillers in January 2010 and subsequent leadership by Tamura and her co-managing editors Monica J. Casper and Darnell L. Moore, TFW has always gone deep beneath the surface with our work, most especially our online forums.

Since 2012, TFW has conducted multiple forums, allowing our readers to delve deep with TFW collective members and other writers on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to: Palestine; Women’s Filmmakers;  Muslim Feminisms; Voting; Violence;  Black (Academic) Women’s Health; World AIDS Day; Masculinities; Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism; Assata Shakur and the Black Radical Tradition; the Aftermath of the (George Zimmerman) Trial; Feminist Theory: A College Forum,  Love As A Radical Act; Disabilities; Mass Incarceration and the Prison-Industrial Complex in honor of and featuring Mumia Abu-Jamal; Audre Lorde; Toni Cade Bambara; Climate Change and Feminist Environmentalisms; Campus Violence, Resistance, and Strategies for Survival; Shout Your Abortion; and June Jordan. The #LoveWITHAccountability forum is a part of TFW’s radical continuum.

There are very few, if any, online publications that provide the in-depth left of center, radical, multi-racial, pro-reproductive justice, pro-LGBTQ, anti-imperialist, anti-white supremacist feminist writings that The Feminist Wire has consistently provided for free. This volunteer work of curating, writing, editing, and publishing is almost always completed in our second and third shifts after working jobs, partnering, parenting, and/or, for many of us, being engaged activists for social change in our societies and in the world. I did not call upon support from my dear TFW comrades-friends until it was time to publish the forum because this was the first time that, thanks to funding received from the Just Beginnings Collaborative, I could solely focus on the forum work all day and every day. With that shared, Heather Turcotte, Tamura Lomax, Heidi R. Lewis, Heather Laine Talley, Monica J. Casper, TC Tolbert, Joe Osmundson, and TFW’s Editorial Interns Jazlynn Andrews and Angela Kong each played important roles with the publication of the forum. There’s the literal work of uploading, copy editing, resizing of photos, tagging, and hyperlinking. Then there are the personal extended texts, emails, and voicemail messages to check in and consistently send love and emotional support along the way that underscores the TFWcommunity building that many of us work hard to sustain through the cyberwaves in the midst of it all.

My sister-friend C. Nicole Mason reminded me that I do not walk on water and my well-being would be at stake if I tried to do everything including promoting the forum. She connected me with two incredible Black women who helped me with creating the visuals for my work. Kathryn Bowser created the gorgeous #LoveWITHAccountability logos. Maura Chanz and her company Glitter and Hustle handled all of #LoveWITHAccountability’s social media sites. She created the beautiful images that brought some of Aunrika’s research to visual life. Maura also lifted excerpts from each of the contributors’ words to create beautiful collages with their images. The website was designed by my dear friend Jennifer Patterson who five years ago played a pivotal role with igniting my journey to address my own child sexual abuse.

Sister Valerie Ann Johnson invited me to participate in the Africana Women’s Studies’ inaugural “Heal the Healer” week-long residency at Bennett College. The residency unexpectedly coincided with the second week of the forum, which turned out to be a gift. My time at Bennett College was a much needed respite in the company of sistren, and for that I am most appreciative.

There aren’t any words that will articulate the depth of my deep gratitude and love for each of the individual twenty-nine #LoveWITHAccountability forum contributors who trusted me enough to take this public journey with me. It wasn’t easy for most of the contributors. Everyone’s plates were already full and yet, they accepted my invitation to revisit excruciatingly painful experiences in their lives and envision what accountability for child sexual abuse can look like. Despite my huge ask without a lot of time to reflect, re-member, process, write, and publicly share, they pushed through to participate. Their commitment to this forum is powerful commentary on their unanimity that we must break the silence and address child sexual violence in our diasporic communities.

The forum contents are listed below in chronological order.  There are over twenty-five individual archived road maps from which readers can explore and decide which routes, if any, resonate with part of their journeys.

The movement to end child sexual abuse is not a one size fits all movement. #LoveWITHAccountability is a call to action that doesn’t end with this forum, as there are many more road maps in multiple communities.

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: