University of Virginia Graduate Coalition responds to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA. The list includes several books on histories of slavery and the South:
“The Charlottesville Syllabus is a resource created by the Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation to be used to educate readers about the long history of white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia. With resources selected and summaries written by UVa graduate students, this abridged version of the Syllabus is organized into six sections that offer contemporary and archival primary and secondary sources (articles, books, responses, a documentary, databases) and a list of important terms for discussing white supremacy. Only “additional resources” are not available online (but can be found either throughJSTOR, at the library, or for purchase).
View original post 156 more words
Black Feminist Archaeology Tour 2017 (Installment 1): the danger of forgetting your power while being Black in the academy
As I sit in my kitchen on a sunny summer afternoon, I reflect on the ups and downs of this past academic year. I have learned a lot over the past few months, but I am grateful that I am here, still standing, and settling into a renewed sense of purpose and hope. I say this, because I almost lost myself. I almost lost the very reason why I became an archaeologist – and that was scary. There are times when we get caught in the mayhem of personal politics, overt disrespect, and unnecessary battles that take your focus away from the work that gives us academics life. In these past few months, I can clearly see that it’s not me. The discovery was that my swag, my MO had not changed, it was the academic landscape that had shifted and settled so that my feet were feeling a bit unstable. Imagine my confusion as I realized that I had been quite consistent. I do not hold my tongue. I advocate for my children and family, my students, my colleagues, my peers, and my community. Then the fog began to dissipate as I realized that our campuses are direct reflections of our nation, and at the moment, we are not okay.
I also noticed in casual conversations with friends and colleagues from multiple universities and we are starting to tell the same stories. When you keep things to yourself, you believe you are alone – fighting for self-preservation. Survival mode. One cannot be productive in survival mode. I know that there are more and more faculty of color who are experiencing a level of disrespect and dismissal that is no longer veiled, no longer micro (as in the myth of micro-aggression). It is now blatant. It is now psychologically and spiritually damaging without apology or consequence. And how do you continue to be a participant in the very thing that is causing stress and anxiety. Who has the time and energy to engage in this. This cannot be my new normal, I thought to myself.
And then I kept witnessing recent events on social media unfold and become normalized in an everyday kind of way. I was disappointed in myself because, my initial reaction to some of these events were neutral, because I was not surprised. I had to check myself, because it was not okay that the treatment of Black women were often either peppered (and sometimes filled) with hate and disrespect or completely ignored and invisible, which is yet another form of disrespect. From the heated exchange between Fox anchor, Tucker Carlson and former Essex County College professor, Lisa Durden; to comments by tennis start John McEnroe about Serena Williams’ Vanity Fair cover; to the virtual silence about the police shooting of Charleena Lyles in Seattle, this is the reality of a nation I call home. Then I reflected on my recent trip to University of São Paulo, Brazil for their annual Archaeology Week and then I knew I had to sit down and share my thoughts, because my voice matters.
This trip was life changing. I felt the love, strength and hope of African women from across an ocean. The thoughts and words I shared with the audience that day was about the beauty of this thing I call Black Feminist Archaeology. The practice of Black Feminist Archaeology is to not just discuss a theory, it is also about incorporating the experiences and traumas of African descendant folk and how those experiences enhance how we ALL see our collective past. I have never experienced a lecture where I felt that level of emotion and spirit. As I spoke, the air in the space was thick with pain, I could feel the weight of my words and it initially gave me pause, but then as I continued, the feeling weightiness lifted, but it was not exactly happy, either. At three different moments, I had to hold back my tear. My words and my pain was reflecting the pain of the audience and at the same time we were all gaining strength in how the words and thoughts came together.
The question and answer period was no easier. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion as I listened to each question and thought deeply about how to answer. Partially because my lecture was in English and there was a slight delay because of the simultaneous translation, but my sentiments were never lost. And I had to think about each question with care as if each answer had to be perfect. But it did not have to be perfect, I did not have to be perfect, I just had to be the Black Feminist activist scholar that had recently almost lost her way. And that vulnerability mattered in that space at that moment. I did not have to hold my tongue, for the first time in a long while, I did not have to hold my tongue. It was about healing and the tears many of us shared that evening were of pain, trauma, and hope.
The entire trip to southern Brazil was about reflection, about healing, about seeing that Black women are powerful and it is okay for us to speak our truth and be committed to our core convictions. With my whole heart, I thank the women scholars I spent so little time with (it was hard to leave), and I thank them for their friendship and love, their honest belief in me and my work, our shared pain, struggle, and hope. Meeting these women and men, meant more to me than they will ever understand. Muito obrigada minhas irmãs e irmãos! Nunca te esquecerei (Thank you so much, my sisters and brothers! I will never forget you).
So, as I sat reflecting in the summer sun, I know that I am back. I am back and determined to find my balance. A balance that allows me to remember my power and doing the work it takes to make as many spaces safe for people that look like me in the academy. I know it will not be easy, however, the time and energy that I have used to fight the systemic marginalizing practices of the academy, can be spent to give new life to my voice and use it in the way I have for my entire career. What my reflection also revealed is that although the campus has changed, I stand transformed in how I navigate the landscape. For the very revolutionary act of being Black in the academy dictates this reality, no matter what the state of our nation. The very nation built by the hands of my ancestors right here within these borders, and across the Diaspora. For I am the present, but I recognize that the real work is for the future. Forward.
#sayhername #blacklivesmatter #blackfeministarchtour2017 #globalmajority
Happy International Women’s Day! Today, I wanted to write a really quick entry, because I had a few women on my mind heavy. Today was a day when those of us who could, were encouraged to stay home – a way to reflect on the economic and labor power of women across our planet. This day, March 8th, is also about c celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
However, today, I came to work. I checked emails. I filled out paperwork, followed up on setting meetings, prepping for class, attended meetings, and continued to make sure that nothing was “falling apart” in my absence for the past three days. Today, I engaged with my children, whom I had not seen because of my recent trip, and I showed up as a wife and partner for my husband, who was preparing for some important meetings himself. But, with all of that background noise, my mind was heavy with thoughts and memories of the women in my family. These heavy memories became louder and louder as my day unfolded, and even more louder still, as I was deep in the midst of reading and reflecting on an upcoming talk about W. E. B. Du Bois and Black Feminism. My relationship with my Nana, my Gram, and my Mami were my way of celebrating today. I was beginning to develop my very own mother story. And then I thought about two very distinct pictures that I keep around me.
The first picture is of my grandmother, H. Lawrencie Jones (Goodwyn). Born in 1920 in Ebony, Virginia. My “Nana,” one of the many women who served as those foundation stones for my life. But this picture has always been so intriguing to me. I remembered how I felt when I first saw this picture, I was amazed at her surroundings, her facial expression, and as I learned about how much work and money went into maintaining and running a corner store in the Bronx, the picture became more powerful for me. That labor, her work, her inability to “take a day off,” made me think about this particular image and I have been staring at it a lot today. My grandfather’s corner store on Tinton Avenue in the South Bronx, was where my mother was born, where countless Goodwyns leaving the South took a rest and gathered their thoughts and money to move on and find that Great Migration success. The other labor, that of raising my mother and teaching her how to navigate those disappearing boundaries as a young Black girl coming of age in New York City. I am celebrating my Nana and her labor today.
My great-grandmother, “Gram,” was my grandmother’s mother. Hattie Elizabeth Shaw (Goodwyn). She was born in 1889 in North Carolina to Ransom and Elizabeth Shaw, members of the Eastern Band Cherokee nation, those folks who stayed behind and hid in plain sight. Her history was a secret to many of us, she never talked about her family or her life as a young Native woman, but I know her labor was real. She would bear many children and loose her husband early in my grandmother’s life, but she continued to raise her children to learn, go to High School, and then head up north, where they perhaps would find a way and a better life. I remember her as gentle and stern, and appreciated all the stories from her and my grandmother about making fires and washing and raising children and tending to crops and sweeping yards. That labor, that invisible labor, helped to shape my family mother story, and made me think warmly of another one of my foundation rocks. I am celebrating the labor of my Gram today.My mother or “Mami,” Andrea Battle, is the rock that continues to help me grow and learn and understand that my power is real, my labor is a part of my own story. Labor should never define who I am, but come from a space of love and purpose, a way to change the world in a way that is real and even tangible. This is why I am an archaeologist, this is why I took a chance to find what I wanted to do and then decide how to do it according to my own terms. My family mother story is strong, not because I come from generations of StrongBlackWomen, I gave that up right around the time I read my godsis (another rock) Joan Morgan’s When the Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, none of my family mother story is about celebrating that. The story of then women in my family is about recognizing the collective power of our work, our love, and our joy. Having women like these in my life so early on, helped me to recognize and reach out to countless women who have continued to shape the love I have for my work and my teaching. Thank you, Oseye Mchawi, Isoke Nia, Gail Bell-Baptiste, Michele Wallace, Hortense Spillers, Maria Franklin, Theresa Singleton, Sheila Walker, Omi Oni Jones, Irma McClaurin, Johnetta B. Cole, Paula Giddings,
A. Lynn Bolles, Irene Diggs, Ida B. Well, Anna Julia Cooper, Maria Stewart, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Mary Mcleod Bethune, Ella Baker, Beyonce’, and Remy Ma. These along with countless women who I know I am forgetting to name, are all a part of my mother story, those sistahs who always seem to have my back, my front, and even my side.
Here’s to you…Let’s make this celebratin’ a habit #IWD2017
“I have loved my work, I have loved people and my play, but always I have been uplifted by the thought that what I have done well will live long and justify my life; that what I have done ill or never finished can now be handed on to others for endless days to be finished, perhaps better than I could have done.
And peace will be my applause.”
-W. E. B. Du Bois, written June 26, 1957 with instructions to be opened after his death, which occurred August 27, 1963.
This is Black History/Heritage Month. This is usually my busiest time of year, or that has become the recent trend. You see, I started out contemplating the ins and outs of contemporary Africa as a history major at Virginia State University, in Petersburg, Virginia. Then I decided to take my talents to the College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was there where I discovered historical archaeology. It was there where I discovered a practice that would change my direction, help me to focus on the history of African American people under captivity and would forever propel my toward a career where teaching, community-based research, and political and social activism would blend together. Very recently I have heard a few colleagues, friends, other folks I interact with, tell me about why they do not celebrate or promote the idea of a “Black History Month.” That the time has passed. No offense to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, but well, do we still need this short month to celebrate a history that should be a part of our lives 365 days a year? I have heard tales of these mythical Black scholars who do not give talks or participate in the “magical” month. And I hear them, I hear them loud and clear, but most years, my outreach falls into this month for a number of reasons. But, that is not what this post is about, this post is about how intense this year has been during the magical month of February. I have been seeing the results of young people who want to talk, elders who what to engage, and still other folks who want to listen, learn and laugh – in other words, this is what the movement for Black lives would see as Black Futures Month. This labor is real. The visits and talk are real. The requests for participation are real. Because, by the 2nd or 3rd of February, I was already spent.
The intensity used to begin on February 1st and remain a fun-filled, jam-packed three + weeks of Blackness…and then I became Director, of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center @ UMass Amherst. I say this because now, the work starts in mid-January for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The ability to avoid this month is also complicated by the reality that Dr. Du Bois’ birthday has fallen on February 23rd for the last 149 years, so Black History Month and W. E. B. go hand in hand. All of this in important context, because, although its always been relatively busy for me, this year has been different. The intensity of this moment is reflected in the invitations, the questions of young folk, elders and all in between. There is a thirst for conversation, discussion, and knowledge that has left me a bit exhausted.
When I visited my daughter’s 2nd grade class, led by Mrs. Katie Thurston, in January at Pelham Elementary School to talk to them about W. E. B. Du Bois, I was met with excitement, interesting questions, and the faces of children excited to learn about the past, but invested in learning about the life of W. E. B. Du Bois. It felt good, yet I was generally surprised. Later at the beginning of February, that same 2nd grade class celebrated a unit on Civil Rights and Social Justice and invited parents and friends to come and hear groups of students present posters of six important African Americans. I was proud to hear each of the children and the groups.
A few days later, I went to my son’s Kindergarten class for the Pelham Elementary’s Black Heritage Month Read-In. Where parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, and members of the community came in to read different books about African, Caribbean, and African American history and culture. I was able to read to my son’s class and again, surprised at the interaction and dialogue of small 5 and 6 year olds. I could see the connections that were being fostered by their teacher, Mrs. Nettie Harrington Pangallo, it was amazing. However, this was the second time I was able to visit. The first time was to share artifacts from the W. E. B. Du Bois Homesite and talk to the children about the life of Dr. Du Bois and a little bit about historical archaeology. Talking about what I do to such a young group of students interested in the very idea of an artifact, helped me to remember why Black History Month and my work are related. Yet, I also realized, quickly that I was a Black archaeologist exposing them to my craft at early enough, so maybe, just maybe, their first memories of what archaeology looks like will be W. E. B. Du Bois and me, Dr. BB, not Indiana Jones.
Next stop, my oldest son’s 5th grade class at Wildwood Elementary, for their Black History Month Read-In. My husband, Dr. Trevor Baptiste and myself where there to read the words of Dr. Du Bois to the students. Yet, what was more powerful happened in the moment when these two Black folks with PhD’s behind their names were sitting in front of the class and sharing and talking and laughing with the students – during, yes, Black History Month. My husband a PhD in Research Science/Biochemistry, me in Anthropology/Archaeology ended up staying for another 3o minutes talking to the students about archaeology and artifacts and a lot of other topics related to digging stuff out of the ground. This Black History Month thing has taken on a different meaning when it was directly related to my children and their relationship with the past through the eyes of their parents.
But, I am the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center and I am on a college campus, so I had to bring some labor to my own work home. I had been hearing about some of the discord/disconnection among students of African descent and their relationship to Black History Month. I was and was not surprised. There is a delicate balance between our expectations as professors, how we help our students to understand the historical past in general, and the way we connect on the everyday level with students that look like us. When you write your scholarship and read books and try to work through theories and concepts, you often lose site that much of your work is for folks with the same degrees and qualifications as you. Yet my students have no connection to the history of activism on their campus, the role that Black History Week played for folks living and breathing under the yoke of Jim Crow and racial and economic oppression. So, there was a need, a different sort of meaning for Black History Month at UMass Amherst in February of 2017. So, some amazing folks across campus, from CMASS, the Du Bois Center, and students activities organized a dinner or what came to be known as, “a seat at the table.” We wanted to sit students down with staff and faculty and connect as family does, in truth and with good food.
The energy in the room was electric, its the kind of energy you want from your students as you impart knowledge of all things they have never hear, but better. The conversations at each table were genuine. Each event I have participated in, I have given my all, because I wanted to. That thirst and intensity I spoke of earlier was contagious. I am grateful that I chose not to take a pessimistic view of the magical, mythical month of February, and took the time and effort to infuse my hopes and dreams into those 28 days. It was worth it. I remembered the relationship between education, Black History, and the power of being present in the moment and seeing Black love and Black people as a revolutionary act. And most of all, I valued the time away from reading book after book, checking the next citation or source, or the daily grind of research and course preparation. It was honest. It was encouraging. It was truly a labor of love.
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 […]