Archive | The CFC RSS feed for this section

Teaching Moments: On Accountability, Love & Patience

8 Dec

I teach and do research on issues centering on identity and diversity.  As the fall semester is coming to a close, I had the benefit of watching my students, many who started the semester ambivalent about difference and the need for diversity and acceptance, come full circle.  Through presentations and last words, they expressed how life changing the opportunity and challenge to think about difference differently has been.  Their embrace of diversity and each other (across race, class, gender, sexuality, religious and ability difference) has been transformative. 

At the start of the semester I warn my students that learning about diversity and various methods and strategies for communicating about and across difference can be challenging.  I tell them that when your concrete ideologies are compared with other concrete ideologies, it is not easy.  I remind them that unlearning discrimination and prejudice will be difficult and uncomfortable.  I encourage them to be open and open-minded and to trust the process.  I tell them I am not their homegirl and therefore not invested in them “liking” me (so I will not be moved or persuaded against pushing them to fully engage the material, whether they like it/or me/or not) .  Likewise, my mother was never interested in being my friend while I was growing up because she was busy raising me, teaching me right from wrong, and tempering my bad ass attitude because I thought I knew everything I needed to know to get along in the world (SN:  Now that I am grown, my mother is my very best friend, and I am grateful that she was a parent when I was growing up, which is what I needed, not a friend).  I ask them to question what they think they know and to be honest about their prejudices.  I tell them we will have good days and bad days and that we will experience a range of feelings from ambivalence to fear  to anger to confusion to excitement to curiosity to embarrassment to rage to sadness (and back to ambivalence again).   I ask them to take what they learn and utilize it in their lives and relationships.  I challenge them to hold others accountable in the way that I (will) hold them accountable.  I beg them to not be silent in the face of discrimination of any kind (anymore). 

In the classroom, I expect silence, discontent, frustration, rolled eyes, elevated voices, misunderstandings, anger, sarcasm, disrespect, and distance as we discuss taboo topics of class(ism), racism, sexism, homophobia, sexuality, ability and the various intersections between them.

I struggle through moments of the wrong things being said (and deciphering what the right response is), defensiveness, divisiveness, strife, self-imposed segregation, and blind allegiances.  It is a practice of patience…and stamina.  But teaching is repetitious (and frustrating/exhilarating/terrifying  at times), and I am accountable to every potential representation in the room.  There are particular rules in my classroom space.  Students must filter their words.  When someone says something offensive or problematic, I interrupt them immediately to correct them and explain how and why their word choice, regardless of intent, may be harmful or hurtful.  I love on them, require their acknowledgment and accountability, and encourage them to be mindful of the impact of their words.  I require them to listen to each other and not just respond reactively, or echo like minded individuals without being thoughtful and reflective.  I put them in uncomfortable situations.  I give them readings to make them uncomfortable.  I share personal experiences to make them uncomfortable.  The discomfort pushes them to think about what they are feeling and why.  These are all teaching moments.

The first few weeks we juggle extremes and trade silences while they decide if what I am saying is bullshit or brilliant, because it challenges everything they (think they) know.  And I worry that they will be offended rather than changed and/or walk away from the experience with the same stereotypic mindsets they started from.  But then it happens.  Unexpectedly and unannounced, they get it!  I can see it in their eyes, read it in their posture, and experience it in the roundabout way that they become easy with one another and less judgmental.  Our conversations become longer.  We tell transparent tales and connect in the ways that we are alike, astonished sometimes that we are not nearly as different as we look/seem.  We look at each other instead of avoiding glances.  We listen to each other’s stories instead of passively hearing each other’s words.  And while I can never pin point when it happens, there are miraculous moments when brave students share their truths, when public stories give us the opportunity to have private conversations out in the open, and when misjudgments, stereotypes, and mischaracterizations are corrected through conversations that prove missing each other on purpose misses the point and wastes opportunities for connection.

If ignorance is bliss, it is also dangerous and we are accountable for what we know.  We are also responsible for having difficult conversations.  Because of this, we will occasionally be misunderstood or attacked for standing up and defending our passions.  And that is okay.   I feel that we are called to love people past (in)difference.  And like I said, I am not their homegirl :)

And while teaching (classes and the larger public) is not always easy, seeing the benefits of the effort (which takes time, sometimes a lifetime), reminds me that it is always worth it!

Hateration, Holleration

11 Jul

I’m not trying to be the grammar police, but I really think some words just need to be retired.  Take, for instance, “swagger,” or simply “swag.”

I mean, once a word becomes connected to a scent that your grandfather used back in the day, it might be best to let that go. (Sorry, PawPaw).

“Hater” is another word that I think should hang up its jersey in the slang hall of fame. True enough, it hasn’t become quite as corny as swag, bling, or jiggy (don’t act like y’all didn’t say that word back in the day!), but it has been used so much that it really doesn’t have much meaning.

I’ve been thinking about “haters” a lot recently. Helping to run a crunk feminist blog and being a crunk feminist teacher means that I’m frequently in the business of bringing up uncomfortable truths, considering difficult issues, and holding myself and others to pretty high standards that reject bullshit and shamtastery.

And I’m frequently called a hater.  

Now, there are lots of things that I do despise: willful ignorance, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, intolerance, muggy days, frogs (they jump at you, not away from you!), that asinine song by Rocko… I mean, the list goes on. But when I, or any other thinking individual, respectfully disagrees with someone else, calls someone on their ish, or generally acts like they’ve been cultivating their good sense, that is not hating, hateration, or holleration. It’s none of those things in this dancery!

Seriously, we all it get it wrong sometimes. And sometimes it’s painful or even embarrassing to be disabused of our cherished notions. But this inclination to dismiss any kind of critique as hateration is more than side-eye worthy. (We see you, Tyler Perry). It’s an indication that not only is your shit not tight, one, but also that you know it, and you are trying to pull the okey doke on folks. No sir, no m’am!

Respectfully holding each other accountable should be recognized as a loving act, especially in progressive communities who claim to be working for social change. Falling back on some old tired, “Stop complaining, [insert: raggedy social movement, musical artist, filmmaker] is out there doing their thing. You are just hating” is just that–tired.

I am not suggesting that we just talk to one another any old kind of way.  But I am suggesting that we remain open to hearing each other out, learning from one another, and not being mired in comfortable ideologies that simply affirm what we already think is true. 

Let’s throw “hater” a retirement party. It definitely deserves it.

On Ashley Judd and the Politics of Citation

13 Apr

Ashley Judd holding a copy of her new book

A couple of folks were asking for a crunk response to Ashley Judd’s memoir passages and the resulting controversy. Judd is being called to task for singling out rap music as the “contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.” You can read her words here.

There are lots of responses that you can check out but I want to say something about the folks who defend Judd’s words with “Well, She has a point.”

Black women have been talking about (and back to) misogyny in hip-hop since it’s inception. Y’all remember Roxanne Shanté right?

It’s frustrating when all the work that black women have done to speak back to music that has particular, real world consequences in our lives is ommitted and unacknowledged. We’ve also done this talking back with an analysis of the systemic forces that make black men/rap music the scape goats for societal oppression of women. I know it’s a personal narrative, but can some hip-hop feminist foremothers get a shout out?

If we can all turn to the Ten Crunk Commandments for Re-Invigorating Hip Hop Feminist Studies, we’ll see that the first commandment reminds us to “know and cite” authors who have shaped the field of hip-hop feminism. This commandment doesn’t just apply to Judd but also to some of her defenders. If you are going to defend her position, can you cite the black women who have actually done work on the issue in scholarship, film, and action? The “she has a point” camp feels dismissive of decades of resistance and carefully crafted projects by hip-hop feminists and activists.

Rap music’s connection to rape culture and misogyny is real explicit. Its visible and repetitve invocations of gendered violence voiced by black and brown men make it an easy target. But by only focusing our attention there, we miss the larger picture of a white supremacist capitalist (hetero)patriarchal society that supports rap’s bad rap. It’s not a coincidence that we don’t know the names of the white men who sign the checks that rappers’ cash. Four major music labels account for almost 80% of the industry and not one CEO is a person of color (…and the white man get paid off of all of that).

The gendered violence that Judd experienced in her own life was not accompanied by thumping bass or autotune. To return to the commandments, if Judd had contextualized and situated her comments within her own lived reality, would rap music makes sense as the soundtrack to the misogyny she and the women closest to her have experienced or are experiencing?

CF Esha’s last three posts provide important context for how gendered violence is a social issue that goes so much deeper than music. She points to international military attacks by the U.S., national and state legislation, along with a moral cultural war that work in concert to oppress women, and women of color most specifically.

I am a big fan of holding rappers accountable for their misogyny. Trust. But I also want to push for white folks to hold each other accountable for the ways in which they perpetuate systems of oppression in culture writ large. I’m interested to read the whole book to see how she understands white culture’s impact on the way she experienced violence. She mentions the soundtrack but what about the movie itself?

*Update*

Ashley Judd Apologizes

“We Created A Circle”: Reflections on the CFC Retreat

28 Feb

photo of eight CFC members

We began making plans for our first Crunk Feminist retreat months in advance.  The first attempt, in May, failed because of an unexpected death in Brittney’s family.  We initially planned a workshop-like gathering in Atlanta on Emory’s campus but the postponement, coupled with hectic schedules and life’s work, lasted one year.

Our second attempt, scheduled for February 2011, nearly a year from when we started, would be a weekend getaway in the mountains of north Georgia.  Eight of us confirmed our plans to attend.  Aisha Durham, Moya Bailey, Asha French (and baby Asali), Susana Morris, Brittney Cooper, Sheri Davis-Faulkner, Whitney Peoples, and me (Robin Boylorn).

In preparation for the trip we collaborated plans over email, including the selection of a logo designed by Aisha and the design of t-shirts, care of Brittney and Sheri.

On the Friday of our journey we met at Sheri’s house in Atlanta.

The agenda said that we should be there by 1:30 EST.  But then there was the getting there part.  Susana and Brittney had to “make groceries”.  Asha had to get the baby together.  We relied on our own time and took advantage of the delay to bond together.  We had traveled a long way to get t/here.

We came from all over.  Aisha the farthest—from College Station, Texas.  Robin and Brittney from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Susana from Auburn, Alabama.  The other CFs were already local.  We were traveling to Mountain Top Cabin Rentals in Blue Ridge, Georgia for a reprieve, a retreat.  We packed up a rented car with groceries and toiletries for the weekend and congregated in the driveway, dancing, talking shit, bonding over the bliss of finally, finally all being in the same place at the same time.  An hour behind schedule we got on the road.  Sheri and Moya driving.  Whitney and Brittney riding shotgun.

Separate conversations in the car quickly melded into one as we discussed teaching, research, sex, and music.  We stopped at Longhorn ½ the way there and spent time checking in with each other, vocalizing our goals for the weekend, and sharing how we were doing.  Only a few of us were meeting for the first time.  Collectively, we all felt that the weekend was timely, something we needed for reassurance and renewal.  We got back on the road with a little over an hour between us and our retreat.  An hour later we were picking up keys from the office, which was closed.  It was already dark.  Our anxious anticipation quickly turned to silent frustration as we searched for a road with no name and a cabin with no number.  The twists and turns up the mountain were calamitous, steep, long.  It would have been scary had it not been for all of us having all of us.  After passing the road and turning around, stopping at two cabins (one occupied, one unoccupied), and nearly giving up and going back, we finally found our place, “A Beary Good Life.”

Everyone praised Jesus, “grown man Jesus” as Susana said, either in their minds or out loud, when we finally made it to our cabin in the pitch black dark and in one piece.  And the stars were beautiful.

A group of women can unpack a trunk full of groceries quickly and meticulously.  After a quick tour of the premises we selected sleeping arrangements and congregated downstairs for an impromptu meeting.

In the meeting Brittney distributed agendas and we discussed our goals for the weekend and what we hope to accomplish before Sunday.  We also prophesied about Susana’s feminist bakery “Real Women Have Rolls & Buns,” and all of the various feminist-inspired eateries… I suggested Audre Lorde Have Mercy Cake, which would have some kind of chocolate in it and Brittney explained how by the time the bakery was fully functioning we all would be known by name, calling forth Moya Bailey Irish Cream.  There was also talk of selling self decadence (oils, tea baths, etc) in the Ida B Wellness Center.  Etc. etc.  We talked about plans for moving forward with the blog and sponsoring a crunk feminist dance at the NWSA.  These plans put a smile on everyone’s face.  And we dismissed ourselves to get comfortable and prepared for our night’s rest.

After eating Rotel (cheese dip with tomatoes) we congregated in separate spaces.  Asha and the baby retired to bed.  Moya and Whitney listened to music and read, respectively, in the living space, while  Aisha, Susana, Brittney and myself sat around the kitchen table.  Susana wrote a blog, I recorded the events of the day, and Sheri twisted Brittney’s hair.  We transformed the cabin into a black feminist space through transformative conversation(s), hearty laughs, and memory-making.  

***

On Saturday we took turns taking baths and gathered together for a hearty breakfast prepared by three of us and passing around our collective baby.  The day’s events both meshed together and easily transitioned from breakfast talk and reflections to vision board making and identifying problematic ads in the process.  We talked about our life’s work as ongoing, sustaining, important.  Several CFs pulled the ads and articles in order to share them in classes and use them in dissertations.  We cut out words and images of our visions and dreams, both for ourselves and each other.  We shared our vision boards over sandwiches outside with a backdrop of mountains and a soundtrack of drums (c/o Sheri).

Afternoon naps offered necessary sustenance and rejuvenation and led to our final meetings, discussions of opportunities for the CFC, and future visions.  We discussed how to sustain ourselves, each other, and our collective missions.  While homemade pizzas were being made, conversations took place about everything from academic jobs, to life maneuvering, to womanism.  We mulled over these serious topics with brief interludes of unrelated conversations about moments inspired by songs from our decade of “growing up” and being grown.  Pandora radio played songs that reminded us of particular moments in our life or childhood.  Music brings back memories.  Some good, some bad, some haunting.  We took turns taking care of each other and offering words of help from our own experience(s). 

That night we ate—pizza, salad, popcorn, strawberry cake (not in that order) and jointly made feminist anointing oil.  We also made bath teas, across the table, and talked—and laughed—and understood each other, trading kitchen table wisdom and personal struggles.  We committed to be more intentional about being there for one another. Respecting each other’s boundaries. Taking care of each other.  Taking care of ourselves.  The night ended with me holding crocheted yarn in my lap after listening to the bellyache laugher of my friends, doing dance steps, watching interesting videos on youtube, and relishing in not having to be serious.  Subconsciously aware that our time together was almost over, we avoided sleep until after two o’clock in the morning.

***

On Sunday we took the task of memorializing ourselves in a group photo (other pictures, too, captured through Moya’s vision/s throughout the weekend).  A brief meeting around the table reminded us of the short and long term goals we had made and strategies to not allow our dreams or visions, to fall by the wayside.  Then, in an eloquent and remarkable moment, we created a circle of strength and wisdom and love, reading excerpts of Octavia Butler’s words about the inevitability of change (in Parable of the Sower) and making promises to our baby, a representation of all of us.  The circle culminated in love and a reminder of what we realized in our final meeting, that the Crunk Feminist Collective is “a conduit for care.”

I realized, as we closed the baby blessing, that the weight of our emotions and cares fell on the last woman in the circle (each time we gathered accordingly), who bravely and brilliantly articulated together, the culmination of who we are (as women of color feminists), what we have been through (as black girls turned grown ass women), what we envision for ourselves, and what we want for our future and for the future.  Strong for each other, our circle complete, we extended support through open arms and woman strength.  The retreat is over.  Now it is time for change.

The day’s spent.

The time together.

The memories made.

The setting.

All beautiful.

Circle un/broken.

We gathered to leave the space (of healing & peace) and to take it with us.  All in a feminist day’s work.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers

%d bloggers like this: