Can the Valley Survive Trump? — Had a great interview with some local leaders and appreciated the moment to connect!
In episode 5 of Let’s Be Reasonable, a veteran political strategist, a black feminist archaeologist, and a rabbi discuss the implications of the Trump ascendency for Amherst and the Valley. Local issues matter. Community matters. Now more than ever. Subscribe to Let’s Be Reasonable for in-depth interviews, rigorous debates, and roundtable discussions of the issues that […]
Historians of Atlantic slavery: African Diaspora, Ph.D. is at your service. Which primary sources can you share that are helping you move through these times? What moments in history do we need to be reminded up that remind you of now? How does our subject inform our present? If you are writing essays on Facebook–may […]
When I first heard about the safety pin initiative, I was at a conference breaking bread with my favorite white woman in the world, telling her about my overall ambivalence and disillusionment with unknown white folk post-Trump election. Still in my feelings (and let’s be clear, I am and will be all up in my…
My house is a mess. There is laundry to tend to. There are things in my home space that need some organizing and physical attention. Simultaneously, there are three children to engage, feed, listen to and play with. And on a hot summer Saturday in July, I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know I could take full advantage of having an understanding and supportive partner to “escape” the rigors of this summer weekend and find that space of solitude to “get my work done.” But, lately, I have come to value aspects of my research life that I once complained about. My attitude toward the reality of my working while at home have changed forever. It’s more than just experiencing another summer of unnecessary death, the continual devaluing of Black Lives, or trying to make sense of the current political climate, instead, for the first time, I feel all of my identities (wife, mother, scholar, daughter, sister, mentor, and friend) merging together. And it looks and feels different. Despite the need to complete tasks and move my writing forward, I feel like this is the time for me to be present, to experience all of the mess that is my home. I need to be right here.
I recognize there are plenty of ways I “escape” to get work done. My summer is filled with planning, meetings, emails, prepping for my course in the Fall, or finishing up edits for that latest article – no shortage of work. The imbalance that I used to feel about my life & work is what feels a bit different. For the past few weeks I have felt like I was hitting a brick wall when I sat down to write. A hopelessness that made motivation seem like a distant relative. I did not have the energy to writing or editing or find that perfect citation. I think I desperately needed some home time, some real home time with mess and clutter and frustration and all. The moments I feel my blood boil because the people I live with never use the same cup twice; or leave their random sandals, shoes, or Lego pieces in the middle of the kitchen floor for me to trip over; or my favorite, the waking up with a sore neck because my sleeping position has been compromised by that child that slithered into my bed in the wee hours of the morning. Those moments help me to remember I am alive, that I am human, that I am real.
My work life is also feeling different. I have made some decisions as of late that make sense for my immediate future. There is a lot on my plate, but I feel like it is finally coming together (at least for now), and it seems to make sense for the preservation of my Black Academic soul. I have Dr. Du Bois to thank for some of this revelation. My work as the Director of the the W. E. B. Du Bois Center has shifted my research life. And I use that term to mean just what it sounds like – my research life – does not have to be separate, its not the same, but it is related in that fictive kin sort of way. This summer has helped to put that imbalance and that domestic mess I speak of into proper perspective. The constant struggle to feel human and the confusion about why folks have to explain why #BlackLivesMatter (to anyone) has reminded me of the words of Dr. Du Bois some 103 years ago. His words are as relevant today as they were then and damn, that is a shame.
“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half- hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.”
– Du Bois 1903
I feel that the work I do is not just within the bounds of the classroom anymore. I no longer feel that the work I publish is enough to change the world. I now understand that some of the work I do, begins at home, begins when my husband and I are there to explain and speak to our children about an uncertain world. The work I do at the Du Bois Center is directly linked to my life’s work. This synergy is not by accident. When I see the way the lessons are translated by young people in my life, by young folks I engage and mentor, I can remember how that was done for me when I was young and searching. I never immediately conveyed to my mother or my elders that I heard their lessons, but I used them on a daily basis when I was out in the world – even when I could not admit I was following their advice because I was stubborn, to put in mildly. That internal struggle that helped me (or fooled me) into pursuing a career in the academy, is the same struggle that I could not understand when I first entered the quest for the “tenure fleece.” I don’t have all of the answers, I feel like I am just at the crossroads, starting to see an alternative path, one that will not chew me up and spit me out, but listen to my own terms – now imagine that?
My house is a mess. It is a mess because people that matter live here. That disorder is a direct reflection of the internal struggles of our current moment. And that mess is okay, it is okay because it is proof that there is beautiful struggle forming in the next generation attached to Trevor and I. We are preparing them with these same life lessons that were offered to us, because through the physical, spiritual, and mental interactions we can be content (somewhat) in the belief that our children, and the young folks we kick it with on a regular basis, are going to be as prepared as we can get them to enter a world that we may never understand.
Last month the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony joined 50 Cent to launch the rapper’s fashion line at Bloomingdale’s in New York City. Observers attempting to fathom consumption are routinely befuddled by the apparently irrational expense consumers will devote to style, and 50 Cent’s endorsement will leave many of those observers once more scratching their […]
There is a collecting feeling of blah, anger, depression, and exhaustion in the air. The people I interact with on a daily basis are beyond survival mode. Each day seems to bring a new array of feelings and emotions. My children can feel the thickness in the air and we have talked to them about the climate of this place they call home, America. We have been talking about the upcoming election, the intense times upon us before the morning of July 6th, when a video out of Baton Rouge, LA showing a man named Alton Sterling under the hail of bullets from a police officer’s gun. My husband and I woke up and like most people in our demographic – you check for texts, work emails, Twitter before we pop up and get with our day. There is was. There it was again. Damn. Again. What cuts the deepest is that within my children’s short lifetimes, two things will seem quite normal – having a Black President and knowing that each summer brings death and protests and videos they cannot watch and summer is in full swing.
Every summer, this keeps happening. This keeps repeating. And yet, I am still not numb, I am not used to it. I continue to feel the impact of each blow, each bullet, each one taken from us, and each time justice becomes a fleeting fantasy. We go back to the norm, we all have to go to work and school and in this area, there are usually only a few folks that even know I might be having some emotionally trying times. The fact that it is summer and life is a step behind, means that I can avoid the intense interactions with folks that cannot see what is happening and the ones that don’t know what to say to me, but it also adds to the sedentary nature of how I am processing this pain.
In another part of my life, I just received a hefty grant to do the work that I have been dreaming to do at the W. E. B. Du Bois Center. And I am finding it difficult to celebrate. I appreciate the exciting news and realize that we all needed some light in this moment of darkness. Yet, I am finding it hard to wrap my head around the next step, the meetings I have tomorrow. As Dr. Du Bois said so long ago, it’s that two-ness that has to kick into full gear and soon.
I have a deadline coming up very soon and a lot of work to get this next article to the point of publication. And I am finding it difficult to write. I thought that maybe it is because I write about race and slavery or the larger implications of Caribbean tourism on local communities or race and gender and class and all those junctures of intersecting and overlapping, but no, its just that writing is hard. And when I frequent my regular writing spots, it is blaringly obvious that I am living in a mostly white place. No one around me seems to be phased, I don’t feel the thickness in the air of my coffeeshop, I can’t see the pain across the brows of strangers I come into contact with in the market or store. When I see other global majority folks around town, I can feel it, I can see it, because we all know its summer again and this is what happens between those summer vacations and the pressing home improvement projects.
Bullets on a summer’s night used to mean something different when I was growing up. The heat, the city, the inevitable (and occasional) clash of one kind or another could sometimes lead to moments of extreme exchanges where things got out of control, but it was different. This is different. I had to include a pic of protesters in Atlanta, the power of people is what we need.
Another summer of this means it’s time to put our pens a laptops aside for a moment and get out of our houses and our comfort zones and take a stand, lift a voice, teach each person you come into contact with that the time has come to call out bad people – in and out of uniform. Tomorrow is a new day, let’s see what the dawn brings.
“It is a remarkable picture. A single woman stands in the roadway, feet firmly planted. She poses no obvious threat. She is there to protest the excessive force which Baton Rouge police allegedly deploy against the city’s black citizens. She stands in front of police headquarters, on Saturday. And she is being hauled away by officers who look better prepared for a war than a peaceful protest…”
After Lemonade launched, Benbow issued a call for black women of all ages and disciplines to share the works of art, history, and literature that came to mind or informed their reading of the visual album. Out of the loving cipher, she compiled the #LemonadeSyllabus…