I want to scream:
The past few weeks have been exhausting. As we continue to add names to the long list of hashtags, the names bring us to a point of pain and torture, and then hopelessness and a reminder that even though the hashtag frequency decreases over time, there are more and more families that live with tragedy of these “names.” These hashtags are men and women and children. The hole they leave behind increases with each time another falls to fear and hatred. For when I heard the names of Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, and Tyre King (a boy), my spirit was sent into another spiral. I wanted to scream, loudly. But then I had to go to work and function and be “normal” in a sea of people who just kept on with life, I could see no spirals around me.
When I first learned about Colin Kaepernick take a knee at the national anthem, I was immediately reminded of the first home game I went to as an undergraduate at Virginia State University. It was a basketball game and the national anthem came on — no not the Black National Anthem, but the one for the United States, the general one — and I did not stand. I had not stood for the national anthem since like 6th or 7th grade, I didn’t really know that Black folks still stood for the anthem. Well, I got a rude awakening. Folks (all Black) started to look at me sitting down and looking around and I was met with side eyes, rolling eyes, and everything in between. Yet, I stayed in my uncomfortable wooden seat and refused. I remember being so disappointed. I thought, wow, I thought this was the reason I came to a Historically Black College – to get away from that…but, I guess not. At least not that day. *sidenote: I was not the only one sitting down, there were a few of us and we saw each other and gave that Black Nationalist nod, that “yeah, we woke” type of solidarity. Back to Kaepernick. He straight up said:
“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”
Bringing me back into practice:
For me, just one of a few Black, female associate professors at a medium sized state school, I usually continue to go about my day, show up to teach class (this semester I am teaching about slavery — rough time to be engaging in that without going off from time to time), to the next faculty meeting, to read and report on the next tenure case, or answer countless emails and the other daily grind acts that make up my everyday. Yet, I am in a constant state of uncertainty, that need to scream, to let out the anger, anxiety, fear, and frustration I carry with me as a Black female with a Black male husband and two growing Black sons was getting to me. So, I thought hard about how to begin the process of my own personal protest.
As I was thinking, I started to also realize that I not only work in a White environment, I also live in a predominately White environment. The university where I spend my days, the school my children attend (with the exception of a very few) is all White. The grocery store where I buy my food, the coffee house I frequent when I get a writing jones, the stores, and almost all the other places we frequent have that fact in common. I wanted to scream and scream a big old loud Black female scream!
So, my personal protest became something different. It became my difference put on fleek. I wore one of my many wigs. And I wore it hard. I wore it long and blondish and unapologetic in a way that was straight up #blackgirlmagic #professionalblackgirl #bronxgirlforlife all rolled up into one.
I know that this may seem like a small action, like it may not mean a great deal in the ideal of social change or social justice, but for the first time, in a long time, I am beginning to find my inner self. The self that I have thought necessary to hide, to subvert in an effort to be taken seriously as a scholar, an academic. It took a lot for me to put on my “other” self and not see it as a persona, but as a part of me that I almost let slip away.
In a time when we as academics see the value of creating scholarship that speaks directly to the challenges of the trauma and pain around us, I know that my simple act is my own variation of a #Lemonade syllabus, a #Ferguson syllabus, my own #flygirlaesthetic syllabus that takes into consideration my own subversive attempt at reclaiming my inner voice, my ability to scream in the face of complacency and injustice. Here’s to those times when the sound of my voice is displayed for all to see, even in all White spaces. #BlackLivesMatter because we will no longer be silent and we can reclaim our fear of judgement and misunderstanding.
This one is for all those #professionalblackgirls who have considered silence in a world that is constantly questioning our value. Yes, all that in a wig atop my head, for the world to see, because my Bronx girl sway is one remedy for a time of pain and sorrow.