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…
Congo Square in Philadelphia. Dancing on the grave.
Bree Newsome (with support from local activists) scales the flag pole in front of South Carolina’s courthouse in Charleston, and takes down the Confederate flag at dawn on June 27, 2015. She is immediately arrested. For updates follow ColorOfChange.org and @fergusonaction on Twitter. (Photo also needs a photographer credit: Please tag in comments)
Bree Newsome (with support from local activists) scaled the flag pole in front of South Carolina’s courthouse in Charleston, and takes down the Confederate flag at dawn on June 27, 2015. She was immediately arrested.
[Edit: Added video created of the action, via Patrisse Cullors-Brignac]
For updates follow ColorOfChange.org and @fergusonaction on Twitter. (Photo also needs a photographer credit: Please tag in comments)
Try and tell me Black women don’t show up. Y’all all talked about it. She (with local support) did it. GLORY.
Bree Newsome also makes award-winning films:
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By the title of this, you may think that I am going to post something about how fly I am on the constant. How I wake up with nothing but scholarly swag. I produce books in my sleep, my ideas flow with the ease of a mighty river, so much so that I have time each morning to put on my face, gather together “that” outfit and deliver the children to bus and school in at least a fabulous 3 inch heel. Because, well, I am amazing.
I am amazing, but that is not my reality. Although there is an occasion or two where some of these elements come together, it is rare. And it hasn’t happened lately, because some things have changed.
I have a reputation, even as an academic writer, on real talk. Although, you could argue that my reality is still clouded with a slight academic haze, its still real-ish. So, the subject for this edition of “sharing my world” is about coming to grips with why I do not just wake up and look like I stepped out of an episode of “Scandal” or “Being Mary Jane”. For one, I know I do not have a stylist or even a wardrobe budget. But, there is more. I carry many things on many plates. I mean, I have to use the plural, because my identity & position warrant it. I can no longer say that I have a lot on my plate. I don’t get that privilege. Most of the new roles I have taken on are by my own doing, yet, they have added a level of grind that I was not accustomed to. For, I am a Black female academic with husband and relatively small children in the early to mid throws of my career. That translates to…exhaustion on FLEEK. For those of you who do not understand this very contemporary vernacular, this means that I am tired as hell, beyond exhaustion, meaning my exhaustion is kicked up a notch. This new grind brings other work with it. It has become more than writing and research and teaching, there is an added level of getting out there, getting to places where my voice is a part of a larger conversation, with real people.
When I hear the Queen Bee (Beyonce’) talking about “I woke up like this”, I translate this to mean, that I rise in the morning wanting to sleep more. I rise in the morning trying to figure out how to keep those fires from getting bigger, keep up to date with that research, keep your courses fresh and exciting, running an entity like the Du Bois Center @ UMass from the ground floor, fulfilling my service duties across campus and still arranging schedules with an equally busy husband to get children to soccer, ballet and Kung Fu. I know I go to bed way too late and wake up way too early. I am productive, but realize I could possibly spend my time with more focus and purpose. I am happy with my life, but there is always that urge to just want a tiny bit more.
By more, I mean time broken up into neat little compartments, to be opened at the appointed time and dealt with regularly. If I had my way, I would have a dictaphone, sit back at my office with a great view sipping a glass of spiced rum on ice and my legs on the desk and just talk out my thoughts for my secretary to type out in the morning (shout out to the end of Mad Men, one of my many escapes in the world of Netflix binge culture). But its just me and my thoughts, with no dictaphone and so many of them floating around in my heat that I often loose them in the midst of living life and keeping a marriage and household going.
Yet, as I stated earlier, I am happy. For, I have faith in myself and my scholarly dreams. I know that many of these thoughts will come together to form coherent sentences that will equal a huge grant and provide for me an incredible research assistant to help gather the details with me as I work that meaningful project into the book of a lifetime. Thoughts like this make me smile, because part of my reality is the power of believing in the work I do and the love I still have for the direction of my career.
So, real talk, I did wake up like this. And my style game may at times be off. But, ah the thoughts and plans in my head, in all of those note pads in my office and those vast numbers of Word documents just waiting to come together on my computer, means that my beauty, at least academically, is like a bright shining light. As I smile and walk down the street until that next break when I pull it all together and put that pretty back on FLEEK.
Grind on & Blog out…