Archive | December, 2011

2011: A Year in Crunkness

31 Dec

It’s that time of year again. Another year has come to a close, so it must be time for our second annual Crunk List! CFs offer up the books, blogs, films, etc. that get us crunk and keep us crunk!

CF Crunkadelic

It’s hard to narrow it down, but these books were really significant for me this year.

Hanne Blanks’ Big Big Love. (Revised, updated, and re-released this year)

 “Big Big Love is the only one-stop-shopping handbook on relationships, sexuality, and big sexy confidence for people of all genders, sizes, and sexual orientations who know that a fantastic love life doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the number on the bathroom scale. Covering everything from dating to sex toys to getting on top, this guide also features tips on navigating tricky topics like making peace with your belly, coping with weight-related prejudice, and creating a happy, satisfying sex life in a culture where no body is ever perfect enough.”

This book is funny, affirming, and overall plain awesome. Check it out.

 Barbara Neely’s Blanche White series.

This book series is not new, but it was new to me this year. Mystery lovers, check this series out. Blanche is an African American domestic, amateur sleuth, and all around crunk feminist who solves crimes in four entertaining and captivating novels.  (She could kick everyone’s ass in The Help). Get into this, people!

 Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

 At first I was not sold on this book and it languished on my nightstand for many months. When I finally picked it up I was pleasantly surprised. Some of my favorite tidbits from the book are “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” and “Be [insert your name here]” (i.e., be you, and no one else). Trite platitudes, perhaps, but stuff that’s good to be reminded of sometimes.

CF Crunkista

 1. I absolutely LOVED the film Miss Representation.

“The film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.”

I thought it was very educational and incredibly powerful. Great for full-fledged feminists, feminists in the making, and all those that still question the value of feminism. :o)

2. Sculpture – Paige Bradley’s Expansion. I just found this sculpture to be one of the most inspiring works of art I have ever seen. It’s an amazing reminder of a woman’s strength, inner peace, and balance with the universe.

3. “Miley on Marketing” – “Why does all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different color stuff?!”

This YouTube video couldn’t come at a better time and it gives me hope that there are tiny CFs everywhere and that we can teach our children to be critical about the toys they play with.

 4. NBC’s Parks and Recreation super unhidden pro-feminist agenda. In the “Smallest Park” episode of Parks and Recreation, Andy, April, and Ron visit an Intro to Women’s Studies class. They make Feminism seem like exactly what it is – AWESOME!

5. The film Pariah.

“A rousing success at its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, this deeply felt human drama is the feature debut of writer/director Dee Rees. Adepero Oduye portrays Alike (pronounced “ah-lee-kay”), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister (Sahra Mellesse) in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. A gifted student, Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the support of her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker), she is especially eager to find a girlfriend. Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity.”

 AMAZING film! Beautifully written and beautifully shot!

6. I have read hundreds of articles on positive body image but there is something extra special about how this woman talks about loving and accepting our bodies.

7. The film Gun Hill Road.

This movie was one of the best films I have ever seen. It was so beautifully written and so authentic to urban transgender youth experience.

“Gun Hill Road is the story of a family in transition. It is the story of a young man exploring his sexuality in an intolerant and judgmental world and his exploration’s impact on his relationship with his parents and himself.”

8. B. Steady :o) Talented young singer songwriter…and oh sooooo cute!

9. More Princess Boy – “Five-year-old Dyson Kilodavis is a little boy who loves sparkly things: princess gowns, hot pink socks, glittery jewelry. Deal with it.”

Dyson inspired his mom to write a book about accepting difference and inspire all of us to think about what we teach our children.

CF Crunkonia

 Black women’s responses to The Help: Although the Oscar’s and The Golden Globes may not have taken heed, black women responded to this year’s white-woman-centered portrayal of southern race relations in a major way. Even though we were often speaking to ourselves, we spoke nonetheless.

Nikky Finney’s National Book Award Speech: John Lithgow called this speech “the best speech for anything [he’s] ever heard.” In it, Finney names the spirits of her ancestors who stand at the podium with her, ancestors for whom literacy was once illegal. Head Off and Split is Nikky Finney’s fourth book of poetry and her long career is evidence of her brave engagement with the key historical events that center on black women’s bodies.

CF Crunktastic

 Websites: — Launched earlier this year, this online feminist magazine offers some of the most diverse and well-written rigorous, yet accessible, articles with perspectives on everything from politics, to pop culture, to academia.


The new “I’m Feminist Enough…” series features women of color offering fresh perspectives on what feminism frees them up to do!

Check Vol.2 here:

Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls Have More Fun” Series. 

The future of feminism is extremely bright if Poehler’s interview with 7 and 3/4 yr-old self-proclaimed feminist Ruby is any indication. See the video here—> Smart-Girls-At-The-Party-The-Feminist-88764816


Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life

This fresh feminist perspective on dating and relationships, written by the executive editor of, is a breath of fresh air, amidst the shamtastic dating and mating manuals that continue to crop up like weeds. 

Demetria Lucas’ A Belle in Brooklyn  

This Black-girl-feminist dating memoir is laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and reminds us that when it comes to love and romance for Black women, there is still hope

Gwyneth Bolton’s Ready for Love

If you still like romance novels but wonder how they comport with your feminist politics, check out the novels of Gwyneth Bolton, which always have feminist characters and/or themes. 


Marsha Ambrosius’ “Far Away” –This song and video offered a powerful message in the fight against homophobia, particularly in communities that listen to R&B and neo-soul.


The African American Film Festival Releasing Movement

Director Ava DuVernay began this groundbreaking indie film initiative to open more avenues of distribution for quality African American films. She released two films this year to critical acclaim: I Will Follow and Kinyarwanda. Check ’em out.

 CF Moya

Ditto on Pariah. Here’s a great post with deets!! 

CF RaeOne

Last year an online article asked “Are Cameras the New Guns?” because Facebook and YouTube are continually flooded with citizen-shot videos of police abuse that rarely makes it to the news (and when it does, it is edited or re-presented in a way that many have argued, unjustly re-constructs the events). My vote for video of the year, answers this question with a big, crunk YES, and creates a rally cry for citizens to arm with iPhones to film the police!

“Film the Police,” a video from rapper/activist B. Dolan of Rhode Island, was released after much of the #occupy movement evictions, where reporters cried unfair media blackouts. This remake of NWA’s famous anthem “F*ck the Police” is a digital collaboration across the states: Minneapolis/Rhode Island-based rapper Sage Francis kicks off the track as NWA’s Dr. Dre. He passes the digital mic to rapper/activists Toki Wright of Minneapolis as MC Ren, and then to Jasiri X of Pittsburgh as Eazy E, over a re-made track produced Buddy Peace, also of Rhode Island. 

The video was posted on YouTube in early December, and in three days the video reached over 70,000 views. The video brings the crunk energy of rap and hip-hop activist rally cries, packaged in a remixed music video. Original content was filmed of the rappers in home cities, keyed on to television screens, and are intercut with user-activist generated content – YouTube footage of the occupy protests across the world. In my opinion, this represents the best, most crunk use of user-generated media and social media distribution of a message, packaged in a creative (see copyright criminals) hip-hop kind of way. Just watch yo’self when you aim at the police! The constitution protects your right to film for now but it won’t protect you or your gear from the pepper spray, pellets, or rubber bullets they shoot when you film!

Watch the video here:

 CF ReninaJ

GEMS just published a book on sex trafficking of Brown girls in the US. Check it out: 

CF SheriDF

I nominate the Grassroot Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) for the 2011 crunk list in the category of movements-climate justice.  It is an alliance of grassroots organizations building a global social movement to “cool the planet.”  The alliance helped organize and coordinate the international “peoples” presence at the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November 2011 in Durban, RSA.  This alliance brings together indigenous peoples, displaced peoples, people of color, and progressive climate justice organizations and networks from around the world to fight against greedy multinational corporate agendas–colonial projects–chopping up the world’s resources for profit.


Please share your own crunk list in the comments, on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter!

Thank you all for your support and love this year! Wishing you all the joy you can stand this new year and always!

Yours for the revolution,



–Compiled by Crunkadelic

Umoja means Unity!

26 Dec

Today is the first day of Kwanzaa and I am having a few friends and family over to celebrate Umoja, which means UNITY.  I was first introduced to Kwanzaa as a child when my mother volunteered me to work the slideshow at a black arts museum in Atlanta.  I was so irritated then, but I am so thankful now.  Now that I am a full grown Black feminist I want to take the opportunity to reflect on CFC posts from 2011 that I think of as part of Nguzo Saba–Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.


Image taken from

UMOJA means Unity and it is my favorite day because it is simple.  Gather together and rejoice, remember, and recommit yourself to your ancestors, friends, family and community.  There are four posts highlighting this principle of unity on several levels from the very intimate to mass organizing.  They demonstrate the power of unity to change our world and our-selves.

Feminism 101 for Girls A Report Back

The Revolution Televised

Somewhere between Black Power and White Rage

KUJICHAGULIA means self-determine/self determination and this is my second favorite day (you will start to see a pattern) because I love saying koo-jee-jha-koo-lee-ah.  I also love it because I believe that is the greatest gift of black feminism.  Through Audre Lorde I learned the importance of naming/defining oneself and the power of determining your path for yourself.  The following are posts that I admired and taught this year precisely because I believe they express this principle.

Praise the Lorde

The Zen of Young Money

Ode to Dark Skinned Girls

UJIMA is really my favorite because I am a fan of collaboration and service in all areas of life.  It means “collective work and responsibility” and this is something we at the CFC truly believe in.  It is not enough to think about change, we must act! Whether is it recognizing the importance of care/self-care, the necessity of organizing, all of our responsibility to support mothers (parents) in childcare, or fighting to defend our right to exist—we must Act!  Troy Davis we continue to speak your name.


The Immediate Need for Emotional Justice

Musings on the day after Mother’s Day

Lynching Remixed

UJAMAA is cooperative economics and this year it wins my CFC “top choice award” because without this community supporting our vision for doing a workshop specifically to introduce feminism to girls we would not have been to do it (meaning provide resources, goodie bag, and a healthy meal) for 10 teenage black girls in Atlanta.  When there are so many people undervaluing the importance of girls, particularly black girlhood, you supported us and let us know that there are many around the globe that do value girls.  For that we sincerely thank you.  We must continue to support one another financially and emotionally in our immediate communities as well as our virtual ones.

Feminism 101 for Girls

A Love Poem for Single Mothers

Help Support “To the Other Side of Dreaming”

‘Tis the season for a different type of giving”

NIA means purpose.  My mother took this name a few years ago (favorite).  I believe that this day is about being bold, being reflective and being open to listen to voices that you may not usually hear in order to move forward with “inclusive” political purpose for advancing justice in the lives of so many people who are marginalized and exploited.

Conflict is forever

Confessions of a Backslider

From Margin to Center: Health for Brown Bois

KUUMBA is the best because it means creativity and the only way to be a united, self-determined, collective, cooperative, purposeful, person is to bring your full creative (free) self to everything you do, and I do mean EVERYTHING!


How talking to your girls can liberate your sex life

Sexy, Self-conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single

It Gets Wetter

10 Crunk things for spring

IMANI means faith.  Faith is what I wish for each of you as we journey into this brand new year.  Have faith in yourself and your abilities and your community and your spiritual source.  You have everything that you need.  Trust yourself.  I feel blessed to be part of this community and I have faith that in this community we are doing good work.

The Joys of Being a Black woman

We Created A Circle


Teaching White Boys to Dance and Other Solutions to the Black Marriage Crisis

19 Dec

This morning, while reading Kate Weigand’s 2001 book Red Feminism in preparation for a book I’m writing, I ran across a fascinating story in her chapter on Black women’s participation in the Communist Party.

In 1934, Black female communist organizers asked the Party leadership to outlaw interracial marriages in the Party ranks. Many of the Black men in the Party had married or begun dating white women, and white men were not showing comparable interest in Black women, which severely restricted Black women’s dating options.

In response, the Party asked a Black leader named Abner Berry to deal “with the problem.” Berry, himself married to a white woman, was staunchly opposed to outlawing interracial marriages on the grounds that this move would be “counterrevolutionary,” but he did institute some sessions on Black women’s triple oppression of race, class, and gender. Apparently, they also tried to teach some of the white male communists how to dance so they would be more comfortable approaching Black women at parties.  Seriously. Lol.

There are a few morals in this somewhat comic story:

  • At least the CP had enough sense to talk about the social causes of Black women’s singleness, rather than blaming the sisters for being loud, attitudinal, too independent and unattractive. (Perhaps some preachers, comedians, and alleged scholars could get a clue; and perhaps some sisters should stop blaming themselves for a problem that began before we got here and will probably outlast us all.)

  • Interracial dating has NEVER been a full-scale solution to Black women’s dating problems. So the idea that Black women just need to open themselves to the possibility as Ralph Richard Banks suggests in Is Marriage for White People?  is belied by the fact that Black women like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Claudia Jones politically supported interracial marriage in the 1890s and the 1940s respectively. But if the recent statistics on Black women’s success in online dating is any indication, white guys aren’t checking for us anymore now than they were in 1934 (at least not on legal, consensual, non-coercive terms).
  • There has never been a racial dating utopia, particularly among highly educated and/or socially progressive sisters. Just ask Anna J. Cooper, Pauli Murray, and the sisters of the CP.

  • Everyone who wants to downplay what’s happening with Black women and partnership would do well to recognize that Black women have considered these issues significant enough to talk about them (publicly) in every era since the 1890s!

  • Back in the day, at least a few brothers felt enough responsibility to address and help with the problem rather than blaming Black women for causing it. (My, how things have changed.)

For the record, I’m not anti-interracial dating. Folks should date whom they want. Like many sisters, I have a “white-boys-who-could-get-it” list.

But the notion that interracial dating happens in a social and political vacuum is naïve at best and an act of willful ignorance at worst.  The idea that love and romance are pure social categories that we inhabit without political consequences is equally naïve.

Also, I know sisters are tired of being lambasted by the media, and I agree.

But Black women’s bodies have always been tied to national narratives about the family, and as major social shifts have happened, Black women and their romantic and sexual practices are frequently blamed for our national decline.  Take two examples:

  • During slavery, we birthed slaves, and our allegedly insatiable sexual appetites caused white men to be unfaithful to their wives.
  • Today, poor Black mothers who need welfare are considered a drain on the social system, precisely because of the same practice that generated so much wealth for the nation: childbirth.

So nothing new there.

But as someone who has encountered/is encountering the very kinds of relational problems that Anna Cooper, Pauli Murray, Elise Johnson, Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara and Michelle Wallace have written about, I want to be able to have an honest discussion with my sisters (and with brothers) about what partnering might look like for Black women in this day and age. A few caveats:

  • I know marriage rates are declining for all Americans.
  • I also know that Black men’s rates of marriage are pretty low.
  • I also know that singleness is not a death sentence. I love my single life!   
  • And I know that marriage is not all its cracked up to be. Frankly, I’m ambivalent about it, steeped as it is in notions of patriarchy. 

(But I still want a partner.)

So the task for us is to separate the wheat from the chaff. That is, we must call out the opportunistic, damaging, disingenuous, sexist and racist social discourses and not lose sight of the fact that many, many sisters are struggling to find the love they want and need. That is my reality, and it is the reality of many of my friends. We need  and must begin to have conversations about how to have healthy partnerships, healthy single lives, and every iteration in between, without exalting marriage, disparaging singleness, centering heterosexuality, or demonizing Black women. It’s a tall order.

In the process, I wish for us the moxie and the courage of the sisters of the CP. They spoke up and said what they wanted. They knew #aclosedmouthdon’tgetfed. And they knew their wants and needs were legitimate.

And what did they want? Relationships to go with their revolution.

That seems perfectly reasonable to me. 

Is It Ever Okay to Tell a Sister to Go Kick Rocks?: Black Women and Friendship

15 Dec


This week I met a Black girl who doesn’t want to be my friend. Well, let me take that back. We didn’t meet this week. We met a couple of months ago, both of us newcomers to the university where I’m doing a postdoc. My custom in academic spaces is to make sure I meet and try to get to know every sister in the space, because there are so few of us. However, my interactions with this one particular sister have been inexplicably terse and strained. I had hoped we might be friends because we are both junior academics, new to this space, and we share the same alma mater, although by several years difference.

After attempting to get to know her through casual conversations that never seemed to quite work, I was hoping at a brunch over the weekend with a couple of other sister academics to make a connection with her. Instead, she continued with her terse, uneasy, awkward, social manner, all of which are forgivable offenses, particularly knowing that many academics tend to be awkward. But then, without warning, she made a rude, uncalled for, off-the-cuff remark to me, the contents of which I’ll leave unsaid.

I played it off, and changed the subject, but it was definitely off-putting. Ever the optimist especially when it comes to Black women and friendship, I still thought that perhaps what she said had come off the wrong way or that I had taken it the wrong way. So when I saw her at a holiday party this week, though I was a little wary, I made it a point to speak to her…though she had already looked at me and ignored me one time. But when she then gave me her customary half-hearted wave of acknowledgement (or dismissal depending on your vantage point), and  proceeded to have a lively conversation with the (white) colleague standing next to her, I had to accept, that for whatever reason, when it comes to me, at worst, she dislikes me or at best, is indifferent.  

Though her rejection and her rude remarks have stung, it is good to be at peace (or actively making peace) with the fact that every Black girl academic that I encounter won’t be my friend.

I’d be lying if  I didn’t wanna tell ol’ girl to #gokickrocks.  (And a few other things.)But that is generally not productive.

I think twelve year old me—the me that struggled to find Black girl friends, accused as I was of “acting white” and being a nerd (and thus uncool); the me that made the girls in the Baby-Sitters Club Series and the Sweet Valley Twins series my friends, because I identified with them, Black though they were not—would be both excited and surprised to find that 31 year old me has all the Black girlfriends I can stand (and more). Thirteen year old me would love to know that there are Black girls in the world who don’t make mistreatment the price for friendship.

 I was that girl who put up with being talked about and bullied, apologized first in fights I didn’t start, and hung around with girls who occasionally liked to make me the butt of mean jokes, just because they knew I was desperate to be liked. To be affirmed by girls who looked like me, girls who understood why I couldn’t get my perm wet in the swimming pool (and whose parents wouldn’t give my mama and me the side eye for insisting so), girls who knew what it meant to talk one way at school, and another at home; girls whose choice of adolescent crush were either the bad boys of Jodeci or the good boys of Boyz II Men.

The grown-up version of myself knows what my girl-self couldn’t know:

  • everybody won’t like you, and that ain’t your problem;
  • if you show yourself friendly, friends will come;
  • just because others have an issue with me, doesn’t mean I have an issue.

On most days, I still see Black women as part of a Divine Rah-Rah Sisterhood. I know it’s a fiction, but given the popularity of Girlfriends, Living Single, and their warped parallel universe counterparts Real Housewives of ATL and Basketball Wives, I’d say I’m not the only one invested in that fiction.

I still believe in Black women and friendship. For when we are in a healthy and loving place, it is Black women who are my air, who give me space to be, breathe life into me, when others would suffocate me into silence.

Black women have been my salvation. But we can’t save those, who don’t wanna be saved.

In relieving myself of the expectations that I befriend every Black woman, (especially ones with issues a mile wide and a soul deep) and relieving other Black women of those expectations, I create the room to receive the wonderful life sustaining friendships that I’m meant to have. And in choosing not to focus on the one sister who has treated me badly, I celebrate the wonderful sister scholars in this space who have embraced me with open arms and made my journey here a joy. I’m thankful for them.

In the face of this rejection, I don’t have to succumb the intra-misogyny that Black women inflict on each other.  Because in the face of all the Black women who have loved me, I simply know better.

So the first great commandment of my Black girl feminism remains, “Thy Shalt Love Thy Sister as Thyself,” but in being my sisters’ keepers I now take the time to know who my sisters are, and I make sure that the relationships I insist on keeping are in fact worth having. 

(Y’all know I occasionally like to leave a soundtrack, so I thought a throwback joint on friendship from some of the original Hip-Hop feminists was in order…enjoy!)


It Gets Messy in Here – A Review

12 Dec
If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. – Audre Lorde

The last couple of days have been a lesson in my own educational and societal privilege. In my day to day interactions with people on the planet, I’m generally privileged to interact with people who respect my gender and racial identity. Microaggressions happen but for the most part, I can choose to move through the world in ways that limit my contact with people who don’t support or respect my identities. That’s not the case for a lot of my queer and trans* kindred.

In the amazing documentary It Gets Messy In Here, Kai M. Green explores the day to day reality of just trying to use the bathroom for many trans* masculine people of color. In interviews with masculine of center women, non-binary folks, and trans* men, Green explores the gender policing that simply entering a bathroom can engender.

Interviewee Alice Y. Hom recounts using an airport bathroom in which she was approached by a white woman who assumed that Hom was a non-English speaking Asian man who’d ended up there by mistake. Hom makes sense of the incident by pointing out how racial and gender stereotypes colluded to create a misreading of her identity. It is not just her race, gender, or sexuality that evoke the reaction but the combination of those that produce a moment of gender distortion.

Green is adept at allowing the interviews to build echos and refrains. The different narratives speak to each other and commonalities emerge that help paint a picture of a systemic societal problem with genders that trouble a belief in a fixed biological binary. Through the stories of the folks on screen, the stories of the people they encountered become visible and tell a tale of social discomfort that is projected on the narrators. I was moved by the efforts of those targeted by this projection to ease the ill feelings of those who target them. Folks talked about seeking out private bathrooms where they wouldn’t be bothered and weighing the pros and cons of which gendered bathroom to negotiate. There was so much work involved in navigating a bodily process that a lot of people are able to take for granted. C. Riley Snorton even mentioned the desire to create a physical map for trans* and disabled folks that identified restrooms that were accessible and safe.

Participants discuss their own ever evolving understandings of their genders and how they often conflict with societal expectations. Green even turns the camera on themself, and discusses their complex and nuanced relationship to their gender and its shifts over time. The documentary explores the impact of time on perceptions of gender in another way by highlighting interviewees experiences with children. The open curiosity of kids around gender ambiguity is tempered by adult assumptions and beliefs.

It Gets Messy in Here invites viewers into the lived reality of people who have to navigate more than just a full bladder when heading to the restroom. It explores the often unspoken piss politics that create additional obstacles for folks to access a basic necessity. As Prentis Hemphill so eloquently states, “For the love of God, I just want to pee!”

To purchase a copy of the film, plan a screening or learn more about the filmmaker, contact Kai M. Green at

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!

To Clarify Re: “An Open Letter to @awkwardblkgrl”

6 Dec
Hey World-

Moya here. I, along with some other folks who watched the last episode of the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, my favorite web show, were jarred with the use of a particular slur that’s generally directed at trans women. We wrote an open letter voicing our concerns and I posted it to the CFC tumblr. Since then some folks thought, my bad, that the CFC wrote this letter together. No, just me, forever letter writer, and instigator.

You’d think that previous experience would teach me that my critiques of pop culture are often misread and that I should expect a clap back. I honestly thought this would be different because the letter writers were coming from a place of love and appreciation. We were/are fans. Since the  first episode we’ve been saying “You get me!” And I think that’s why we were hopeful that a letter like ours, with a non-demonizing tone, might be a welcome invitation to consider how folks are taking in some of the comedic material.

I totally believe in free speech in folks saying whatever they feel. Folks have the right always to create what they want to and use whatever language works for them. But doesn’t that mean I/we have the right to respond? I’m not trying to create a world where people have to speak a certain way, where language is policed. But doesn’t creative license necessarily generate feedback and reception? In the Brilliant word of CF Crunktastic, “When did love ever mean the absence of critique?”

I signed my name because I want to be accountable for the impact of my words on others. I’m only asking that others be open to hearing when that impact happens.

So much love,


P.S. For more context and discussion please check the tumblr and the CFC facebook page.

‘Tis the season for a different kind of giving…

5 Dec

I was really moved by CF Eeshap’s most recent post: Conflict is forever: Can we change attitudes about diamonds?  In the post, she explains:

I don’t write this post to make people with diamonds on their fingers feel bad. I shop for bargain goods that I know are made in sweatshops. When I purchase produce, I know that it was grown and picked by laborers whose rights are violated. I try to make ethical choices, all while knowing that I am complicit in a world economy that is rooted in human rights violations.

Her words made me reconsider my own purchasing practices. On the one hand, I know that I will never purchase or accept a diamond. I also know that if I decide to get married, I won’t be wearing a diamond ring. (If you liked it, then you should’ve put a condo down payment on it.) However, I do wear all kinds of jewelry and, therefore, actively participate in the bloody economics of the diamond/gold/silver industry. Sadly, even fake bling carries this weight.

The capitalist world economy can only maintain itself through the oppression of others. Living, working, and spending in this country means that I am an active participant. So, no matter how conscious I try to be with my purchases, in one way or another I am likely participating in someone else’s oppression. Oppression is just not feminist. So, what can I do?

The media’s coverage of the apparent foolishness that always is Black Friday and Eeshap’s post made me wonder: How can I combine my feminist beliefs with the holiday practice of gift giving? How can I stay within my budget and express my genuine gratitude to the folks I love without purchasing expensive gifts? Is credit card debt feminist?

These questions reminded me of two of the best presents I have ever received.

Number 1:

[Back story] This past Thanksgiving, I finally figured out that my mother’s numbers have always been off by a few years (a fact she now conveniently denies). [Side eye] My mom married at the tender age of 16. He was 16 years her elder. Yes, it was legal. The twice-divorced love of her 16 year-old life turned out to be everything but her Prince Charming. He was the all-too-common triple A: abusive, alcoholic, and an adulterer. A shock, I know. Right before her 20th birthday she divorced Mr. Uncharming and was left a single mom of a toddler and a newborn son. Did I mention that she grew up on a farm, had just moved to the states, did not speak any English, and that her entire family lived in the Caribbean? Yes. She hustled for many years, so much so, that I was five the first time we actually had a Christmas tree. Not only did we have our very own tree, but there was also one very large present waiting just for us. My brother and I eyed that box for days. On Christmas Eve we finally uncovered our very own child-size table with two chairs. My mom could not afford to give me a room of my own and gave me the next best thing: my own space, a little corner in the apartment that I could use to do my homework and teach my little brother all that I learned at school. On that table I was both diligent student and dedicated teacher. We also had all of our meals there because it was our table and, most importantly, our size. It was by far the very best present I remember ever receiving as a child.

Number 2:

This past birthday my mother sent me a picture book of my life story: essentially, Crunkista’s biography. It was very basic: a small booklet full of photographs and hand written chapters of what (in her eyes) have been the greatest milestones and achievements of my life. In it, she explained how I was as a child and how she saw my character evolve throughout the years. (Apparently I have always been crunk). She also shared stories I had never heard before—like the fact that I learned how to climb out of my crib and walk at seven months. At the end of the book, she left a number of blank pages so that I could write the rest of my story. I tear up just thinking about this wonderful gift.

This holiday I would like to actively engage in a more feminist practice of gift giving. I want to give presents that affect the people I love the way these presents have affected me. I don’t want to just give presents: I want to give lasting memories.  Also, the less people I oppress, the better.

Some ideas I came up with:

  • Support local craft fairs and purchase hand made items by local [women] artists
  • Print one of your favorite photographs in black & white and frame it
  • A CD of all of the top ten songs on the radio the year your loved one was born
  • Spread the feminist love by giving a young adult a book written by a woman of color feminist author
  • Make a book of coupons with redeemable actions: hugs, chores, homemade dinners, back rubs, quickies, etc.
  • Compile a cookbook of your families’ most cherished recipes and include a brief bio of every cook
  • Make a homemade calendar full of your favorite family photographs that highlights all the birthdays
  • Seeds, pots, and soil so that they can plant their favorite flowers or start their own vegetable garden
  • For the new parents: children’s books that feature people of color
  • Dance classes
  • An autographed copy of your loved ones favorite book
  • Write their autobiography 😮
  • Interview family members and ask them to share their favorite holiday memories, make a compilation and give everyone a copy
  • Make jars full of dry (organic) ingredients of their favorite cookies

Familia, with all of the winter holidays approaching–Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice and El Día de los Reyes–I think we can collectively compile a grand list of ideas. I would love to hear your thoughts on feminist/more conscious gift giving. What have been the greatest gifts you have received?

Reed-ing Gender Between the Lines

1 Dec

So if you need a break from job applications and dissertation writing try watching The Original BET series Reed Between the Lines; it has me hooked.


I particularly like the progressive gender politics and the representation of a “blended” family.  Kasi and Kenan are Carla’s teenage twins from a previous relationship and Alexis is the youngest child of Carla and Alex Reed.  As co-producers, Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner are definitely modeling alternative gender roles.  Carla is a working mother and initially Alex was a stay-at-home/working dad.  For a minute I wanted to be like “Alex you ain’t got no job” (shout out to Martin) because he was home-schooling his daughter Alexis and not working as an NYU professor.  To be clear, I know home schooling is work, but he was introduced as a professor, so I he must have been on sabbatical.  But I digress.

For the first few weeks of watching I was perplexed because I’m so used to the male being the central person in family sitcoms I was shocked that his character seemed underdeveloped.  The more I thought about it I realized I just wanted to know more about his work because I expected to see scenes of him at work.  Alex being at home and not “working” outside of the home or explicitly working from home threw me off.  In a world of formula television this depiction of black masculinity rarely never happens and it’s nice.  The fact that the writers deliberately developed Carla and the children’s lives before actually delving into Alex suggests that the show is not about Alex and “his wife and kids” (still got love for Damon Wayans).


Now I’m clear this is A (Hetero)Black Feminist F(ordin)airytale, but I can’t remember seeing a television show this deliberate about promoting progressive gender politics and good communication between partners.  Alex prepares all the meals including lunches for his wife and kids.  He helps Alexis with homework, joins Kasi in a school protest against her principal, is active with the “mocha mom” crew, and supports his son doing rhythmic gymnastics.  This is really pushing it for BET, they are really going there.  I also love that Carla and Alex present a united front with their kids, but that they also have disagreements, miscommunications, hurt each other’s feelings, hold each other accountable, and throw in a few sexual innuendos to let you know they really like each other.

It is a twist for the family sitcom to follow a professional woman to work each episode.  Carla, a psychiatrist, is the primary breadwinner in the family and usually the professional black women we see in the workplace on television do not have a supportive partner and children at home.  Speaking of the workplace, there’s Gabby the Spanish-speaking acupuncturist who can switch from sweet to looking you up and down like she switches between languages (aka badass Afro-Latina who rocked in The Best Man).  Then there is Ms. Helen, the administrative assistant who provides  “old-school” wisdom to round out the all-black female workplace.

Reed Between the Lines is definitely corny but I love it because I’m corny and I feel like I show up because I see a bit of myself in Alex, Carla, and their oldest daughter, Kasi.  It’s a refreshing break for a working feminist mommy such as myself.


Reed Between the Lines

1 Dec

Reed Between the Lines

%d bloggers like this: