Black Girl, Grad School

an amalgamation of personal politics, and my life as a Ph.D. candidate

Knock Down the House: A Review

Posted on 2019-03-15

Please note that my review may include some spoilers. In terms of my recommendations, I give this documentary a 10/10– thus a “must see.”

image source: https://www.vitalthrills.com/2019/02/07/knock-down-the-house-netflix/

On March 6th I attended a viewing of “Knock Down the House” as part of the Miami Film Festival (#MFF) at Spotlight Cinema in Downtown Miami. Knock Down the House is a documentary written and directed by Rachel Lears, which follows the 2018 primary campaigns of four working class women who present challenges to politicians benefiting from the unfair structure of money in politics within their districts/state. Those women are Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Paula Jean Swearengin, and Amy Vilela all three of whom were backed by progressive organizations like Justice Democrats.

The documentary itself feels very authentic and raw. Not only does the documentary present itself as normal recording of people’s lives and day to day in real time (e.g. not rehearsed and so actual emotions are present), but it also does so in a way that still sends a strong message across. That message is that these women, just like you and me, are tired and frustrated at a system that is failing them, us, and our society as a whole. To describe what I’m trying to say, I will note this: You cannot go in and expect to watch this documentary without deeply empathizing with all of the women featured. There were three (maybe four) points in the documentary where I actually shed tears in the theatre– particularly at how unfair life is.

Cori Bush

Cori Bush ran for Missouri’s 1st District in 2018 and sadly lost by less than 30,000 votes against a politician whose family has had a stronghold on the district since the 1990s. As a nurse and a pastor, what pushed Cori to act was the events that took place in Ferguson Missouri and the response to those events, by the politicians and police in Missouri. As a nurse, she initially showed up to the protests to offer help in any way that she can. From there, she started asking deeper questions about how her community can best be helped and served, and whether or not they were receiving the support or help that they needed. This pushed her to run. As a black woman, Cori notes in the documentary that image will be everything– in terms of how she’s perceived by others– as she goes up against a wealthy and politically influential black male. One of the biggest struggles for her, appeared to be name recognition due to the long standing power of her opponent, Lacy Clay. One male that she approaches while campaigning for herself, notes that people just tick off Clay at election time, without thinking.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran for New York’s 14th congressional district (representing some of Queens and the Bronx) and won by over 4,000 votes against a Democratic politician that was expected to be the next speaker of the house presumably. As a college graduate and waitress, Alexandria found herself having to both help her family and support herself, after her father unexpectedly passed away while she was in college. Struggling to make ends meet in New York and knowing how many other people were too, is why she decided to run. Of all of the women featured in the film– whether intentionally or not intentionally– Alexandria is documented the most. She’s shown preparing for her shifts in the documentary and campaigning for herself both after and before shifts, with the help of her partner, niece, and other family and friends. She recognizes that name recognition will be everything and she attends town halls, meetings, and speaks with those in the community that have all been neglected by Joe Crowley who has not been challenged at all in over a decade. Throughout the film, it is clear that the constituents in this district have actual grievances without any real ability to get into contact with their representative. You can see from the people that just by showing up, Alexandria is seen as trying to help them share these grievances.

Paula Jean Swearengin

Paula Jean Swearengin ran for the senate in West Virginia and devastatingly lost by over 64,000 votes against a Democratic politician whose been active in West Virginia’s politics since the 1980s and the Senator of West Virginia for almost a decade. Paula is an activist and single mother who has lost family members and community members from cancer and black lung disease due to coal mining and pollution in West Virginia. Her campaign wanted to address the failing infrastructure in her community and the politicians in West Virginia who consistently allow mining corporations to exploit workers there, and pollute West Virginia’s waters. Her campaign was essentially to address a standard of living issues, whereby West Virginians have been neglected in favor of dirty industries. She notes that people usually think of West Virginians as stereotypical hill billy’s without teeth– but what this stereotype neglects is why their state could be stereotyped in that way. Her loss to Joe Manchin, a senator that frequently votes with Republicans and is in the pockets of dirty industry, incredibly sad. Noteworthy is that Manchin called Swearengin after her loss and expressed interest in hearing out the grievances.

Amy Vilela

Amy Vilela ran for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District and sadly lost by less than 19,400 votes against a politician who previously represented the district (prior to him not representing the district at the time of the 2018 elections). Prior to her run, Amy was an accountant. What politicized her was the avoidable death of her 22 year old daughter. Amy’s daughter was experiencing symptoms of blood clotting (if I am remembering correctly) but was denied service because when she (the daughter) ran to the hospital, she could not prove that she had health insurance. She then went into a coma before being announced brain dead. Amy’s story made me cry the most. Any life lost, especially a young life lost, due to there not being service at the point of entry into a medical facility is troubling. It is also why Medicare for All is so popular in the United States, and this experience is what made Amy run unapologetically for Medicare for All– without accepting any PAC money. The latter of which the primary winner, Steven Horsford, wouldn’t even commit to during an informal discussion like setting.

All in all, I would recommend this film 10/10. It is a raw take on real, authentic people that you can empathize with, becoming political based on an issue that they can identify within their communities. The battle that they all waged was hard– and I believe could have been won, had Bush, Swearengin, and Vilela had more name recognition. Ocasio-Cortez’s win was and is marvelous– but the documentary also revealed something very important: In New York, people are outside walking, on the train, frequenting a bodega–they have access to information based on a grassroots campaign. In the case of Missouri, West Virginia, and Nevada– their campaigns depended on going to houses since community spaces (imo) seemed lacking. Public transport and people walking outside was not common. We have an infrastructure problem in many parts of this country– and neglected infrastructure in some parts– but I could not help but noticed that if some of these states were more connected (transport and social) candidates actually trying to improve their states would win.

I hope these ladies continue their fight!

Long Overdue, Grad School Update

Posted on 2019-03-14

It seems that I have been away from my blog for exactly eight months now. If you’re still following my writing even with my inconsistency, then, thank you. If you’re no longer following and just happen to be passing by and seeing this post, I also want to thank you, because you shouldn’t have to put up with something that is not consistent. Due to my inconsistency, I have merged my more personal blog with this one, so that all of my blogging is under one umbrella. Hopefully, this makes it so that blogging doesn’t seem like an overwhelming feat for me–in terms of thinking which type of post goes where, etc.– which may help me be more consistent when it comes to blogging.

To start off this post, I will say that I am officially a Ph.D. candidate after successfully defending my dissertation proposal at the end of Black History Month this year!I still technically have to submit my D-3 form hopefully by next week and definitely before the end of this month. My date was set for February 26th from 2:30pm – 4:30pm, at which I found out I had a successful defense at 4pm.

Prior to my defense, I felt nervous– not because I didn’t think that I would have a successful defense– because I could not pull myself to do any work at all. 2019 started off with me staying in New York longer than I wanted to because I had to get dental work done. When that was 2/3rds done, I got back to Miami and had an underwhelming (personal/social) January that was full of work. At the beginning of February, I also received a lot of comments from one committee member which essentially wanted me to change the direction that I was going in for my project. The change in direction being something that I did not want to do and expressed that it was not the direction I was taking my project. This also made me feel unmotivated to do any work. Everything just seemed like a lot–including the fact that as all of that was happening, I had not even started making my powerpoint for my defense. My powerpoint was put together exactly three days before I had to defend (something that I’m not proud to admit). This was possible because I have an amazing advisor who gave an insight into the five topics you need to touch during your proposal defense.

Defending your Proposal

I’m not an expert by any means when it comes to defending ones proposal. Seeing that I did not start a powerpoint right away however, and my powerpoint eded up being good, I am simply sharing what goes in the making of a PowerPoint to defend your proposal, given these 5 points that my advisor gave me:

1) The Central Research Question/Thesis.

2) The Significance of the Research Question/Thesis

3) How other theories have addressed (or failed to address) the question.

4) How you plan to investigate the question (your methodology)

5) The potential impact of your findings for future research.

My entire powerpoint for my defense was eight slides. My three additional slides were just the title slide (with my name, topic of my proposal, and acknowledgement of all committee members), a background slide (before I just blatantly and directly have the thesis slide), and a “questions, comments, constructive criticism” slide.

Comps update

Seeing as I have not updated my blog for eight months, some of you may be asking “how did she get here?” Especially because my last blog post on grad school was about failing one section of the core part of my comprehensive exams. Unsurprisingly, I retook and passed the core part of my exams early September in the Fall of 2018 with a score of 17/18. The academic hazer was not a part of the process, even though he probably would have wanted to fail me again due to his own need to haze and feel better about himself. However, the first fail did have real impacts, as the entirety of my Fall semester was spent writing my dissertation proposal to defend early in the Spring, since the first “fail” score, set me back by a few months.

In the Fall semester, I believe that I burned myself out. At Florida International University (FIU), including my department of SIPA, there’s this structure that they use which pays TA’s and Ph.D. students sub-par wages for a period shorter than the average time it takes to graduate. This forces many of us into adjuncting and receiving a decrease in our already low pay but an increase in work. My time as a Ph.D. student has been me rushing to get to the finish line to not have to adjunct. I’m already poor and can’t afford to be even more poor because of our for-profit University system that only encourages richer applicants into the Ph.D. pool in society.

Successes adding up towards my end goal

In spite of my lack of motivation when it comes to writing, I have been getting active in and about applying for different grants, contests, and fellowships as a “just in case” I don’t complete my dissertation before the Fall 2019 when I am out of funding. The scare of adjuncting honestly pushes me through some days, to send in applications– even if they are rejected– so that I gain practice in applying for various opportunities to help ensure an early and successful end towards my goal of obtaining my Ph.D.

I was runner-up contestant in the E-IR contest for my article Settler Colonialism and Financial Exclusion of Banks in the English Caribbean. I was accepted to present at this years ISA Annual Convention in Toronto at the end of this month. I was also denied funding by the Hayek Fund for scholars application to attend the ISA conference. I was also denied funding by FIU GPSC to attend the ISA conference. If you follow me on Instagram (where I am actually more consistent), I do have and post regular updates about grad school things in my stories and captions as they happen.

Socialism 2018

Posted on 2018-07-10

On Wednesday, July 4th, myself (Vice Secretary) and the Vice chair of YDSA FIU were able to attend the Socialism 2018 conference in Chicago. None of this would have been possible for us, had it not been for the South Florida International Socialist Organization (SF ISO). SF ISO informed YDSA FIU about the conference in April of the Spring 2018 semester, and then secured our flights to and from Miami and Chicago for us.

So, what is Socialism 2018?

Much as the name suggests, it’s a gathering of 2,000+ socialists who believe that human beings should come before profit. The annual Socialism Conference “has brought together revolutionaries and activists to exchange and debate ideas to advance our struggles” for more than two decades.

To actualize this, everyone at the conference is already, or is interested in, learning about getting rid of capitalism due to the harmful inequalities and violence that the capitalist system thrives on. Thus, there is a broader understanding (as the conference contains socialists of many stripes) that we are fighting for a new system where capital and the means of production are publicly and democratically controlled by the majority of people– those that are part of the working, exploited, and excluded classes.

Check out our cool earrings that we picked up at Socialism 2018 from awesome handcrafters existenceresistance (IG) and tarinandreadesigns (IG)

[Side Note: Due to the wealth of information, my blog post on the Socialism Conference will mostly highlight the panels that stood out to me for various reasons. I will then just list the other panels that I attended. I would also like to note that photos and videos inside of panels were restricted to those with media cards and access (unless you received express permission to record/photograph participants and speakers). Audio of all presentations are available at WeAreMany.org You can also visit the Socialism Conference Facebook page or @socialismconf on twitter for updates and information regarding the conference. I also appreciated that the Socialism Conference provided free childcare services, translation services, and a bookstore– while being hosted at a hotel where the workers are unionized.]

Day One

On Thursday, July 5th Socialism 2018 was underway!

I attended three panels plus the Welcome Plenary to the conference.

To get as much information as possible, whilst also sticking true to our own individual interests, myself and my colleague/comrade/friend only attended the first panel on the first day of #Socalism2018 together. That panel was:

“The Fallacies of “Scientific” Racism: From Thomas Jefferson to the Alt-Right” given by Phil Gasper.

In this panel, Gasper spoke about the resurgence of scientific racism in the era of Trump, particularly where scholarship is concerned. He highlighted recent scholars promoting racial difference (inferior vs superior) like Nicholas Wade, Richard Lynn, Charles Murray, and Thilo Sarrazin. Although one may be surprised that these authors are able to publish such horrendous material, even after race science and eugenics have been debunked as credible, they’ve been published by right-wing publishing agencies like Washington Summit Publishers (which is owned by notable racist and white supremacist, Richard Spencer).

Additionally, there’s a long history within the United States of utilizing fallacious science to explain race and racial difference. Gasper talks about how Thomas Jefferson, in the 18th century, created a hypothesis to explain the “inherent” inferiority of the enslaved in order to justify why they, unlike “all [other] men” were not “created equal,” and are thus slaves. To assert this, Jefferson wanted science to prove his hypothesis which births the anatomical science that starts measuring human brains and, through the falsification of measurements, asserts that each race is a new species.

Then, in the 19th century, Darwin releases his Origins of the Species which brings about evolutionary science in racism. During the 20th century when eugenics is accepted as factual and true within the United States, IQ testing enters the discourse with the United States. Ironically, the IQ test was created in France by Alfred Binet as something altruistic for society. The inventor of the test wanted to identify and provide remedial services to children which underperformed in their age category. His altruism came from the understanding that IQ measurements were not immutable and can be improved based on environment and learning. In the U.S. however, the IQ test as used by conservatives were to limit social programs for the poor which they stereotyped as largely being genetically inferior minorities that were unworthy.

Just like the aforementioned works written within the past 4 years, today the resurgence of scientific racism, is being used by the right to explain inequality. Why? Because if race is seen as a political category versus a disguised biological category (which race science and scientific racism aims to do), then you’d have to address the social and political inequalities based on race. This would require changing a society that depends and generates racial inequality (unsurprisingly, this would also be how we eradicate scientific racism). The other way around, the conversation becomes “why must we provide for their genetic/biological disadvantages?”

On Thursday, I also attended these panels:

“Marxism and Intersectionality,”which was given by Hailey Swenson (amazing panel)

“Loaded: AnDisarming History of the Second Amendment,”which was given by no other than Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz herself!

The Opening Plenary deserves a small space of its own. Theenergy in the roomwas amazing/exciting/thrilling/overwhelmingly good! Before the welcome could even begin, we were already chanting: Shut Down ICE and Free abortion on demand. We can do it, yes we can!

It was absolutely amazing and got me pumped for the of rest the Conference.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 

Books:

“Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century” by Dorothy Roberts

“How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective” edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“On Intersectionality: Essential Writings” by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

“Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Online Resources:

“Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw 

“Intersectionality and its discontents: Intersectionality as Traveling Theory” by Sara Salem

Day Two

On Friday, July 6th I was able to pick up 4/5 of the books that I had wanted to get at Socialism 2018. Haymarket Books hosted the book store shop, and as a “radical, independent, non-profit book publisher based in Chicago,” it should come as no surprise that they specialize in selling providing us with texts critical of the social, financial, international, and political world. A lot of the books seemed to be themed around helping us to understand histories of struggle and present day struggles (again, from a critical lens) within the U.S. and around the globe.

In no specific order, the books that I got were:

1. Decolonizing Dialectics by George Ciccariello-Maher

2. The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism: An Elaboration of Marxian Political Economy by John Bellamy Foster

3. Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump by Asad Haider

4. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields

5. Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America by Todd Gordon and Jeffrey R. Webber

I cannot wait to read all of these books. I am hoping that Decolonizing Dialectics, Blood of Extraction, and Theory of Monopoly Capitalism will help me with my dissertation research. I got Racecraft because many panelists and audience members brought up how profound it was at the conference. I picked up Mistaken Identity as a leisure book (how nerdy does that sound, haha) for me to read, in order to better understand identity politics and how analysis on identity cannot be divorced from class and other narratives of struggle as well.

[Sidebar: Have you read any of these books yet? Please comment and let me know!]

On Friday, I admittedly was only really excited about two panels, one on Israel and the other by Democracy Now!, but I ended up going to three:

“Capitalism and the Gender Binary,”which was given by Lichi D’Amelio (GREAT panel)

“Israel: Colonial Settler State,” which was given by Bill Mullen

“Democracy Now! Covering the Movements Changing America,” by the wonderful Amy Goodman

All I will say here is #FreePalestine, and that there should be a one state solution. The Zionist project started off as a racist white supremacist project to rid certain European countries of Jews, and in the WWII period the Zionist State was (1) not to protect Jews from the Holocaust, but (2) to build a Jewish State in Palestine based on the dislocation, dispossession, relocation, and oppression of Palestinians and Arabs. Israel is an apartheid state which is why BDS is so important, especially in light of decreased Arab nationalism and increased neoliberalism after what happened in Egypt with the Arab Spring. Narratives which try to downplay apartheid and colonial settlement of Israel should always be debunked.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 

Books:

“The Struggle for Palestine” by Lance Selfa

“On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice” by Jewish Voice for Peace and Judith Butler

“Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations” by Ronen Bergman

“Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East” by Adam Hanieh

“Democracy Now! Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman with David Goodman and Denis Moynihan as contributors

Online Resources:

Jewish Voice for Peace

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IAJN)

Democracy Now!

Day Three

Saturday, July 7th was a full day, and I attended five full panels!

“Slavery and Capitalism,”which was given by Brian Jones (GREAT panel)

“Class Struggle and the Color Line,” which was given by Paul Heideman

“Decolonizing Socialism: Getting Racially Organized so we can get Free” which was given by Demita Frazier (wonderful workshop)

“Trump’s War on Immigrants,” which was given by Lucy Herschel and Heather Ramirez

“The Importance of Being Unruly,” which was a conversation between Frances Fox Piven with Sarah Jaffe

Because all of these panels were really good, I sat here thinking for 28 minutes thinking about which one I would like to highlight the most on my blog. I decided on “The Importance of Being Unruly,” which seemed to embody the broader theme of all of the other panels on Saturday.

While some people are drinking the #MAGA and neoliberal #RESISTANCE juice, they lose their perspective on what U.S. politics means, and how it impacts the rest of the world. This is dangerous because behind the apparatus of the right-wing #MAGA folks, there is formal power that they also wield and there is also an unhinged business group (like those in the fossil fuels industry) getting what they want. There’s also financial and banking interests getting what they want right behind them. Because of the nature of the formal #RESISTANCE which is neoliberal, it is insufficient to properly counter anything that the right-wing is doing. So the real Resistance– mostly composed of women are those people taking to the streets. Are those people realizing the importance of anti-racist socialist movements.

There is, and has always been, power in the collective. Collective refusal to cooperate on behalf of the enslaved southern Blacks to participate in the plantation economy decisively won the war and defeated the confederacy. Collective refusal to cooperate on behalf of the teachers strike which arose all across the nation teaches us the importance of collective refusal today. Massive movements, unorganized by formal bodies are allowing in the present, people to seize their own power and act on it.

If anything, Socialism 2018 reinvigorated me. And for that, I am glad to have gone.

For Further Readings/ Information on the Panels that I Attended, Below are Book Recommendations and Online Resources 

Books:

“Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”” by Zora Neale Hurston

The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition” by Manisha Sinha

“Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All” by David R. Roediger

“Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution” by Laurent Dubois

“Class Struggle and the Color Line: American Socialism and the Race Question 1900-1930”by Paul Heideman

“The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800” by Robin Blackburn

“Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail” by Frances Fox Piven

“Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare” by Frances Fox Piven

“Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America” by Frances Fox Piven

“Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way” by Frances Fox Piven

“U.S. Politics in the Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality” edited by Lance Selfa

Online Resources:

African Blood Brotherhood

Negro Resolution Adopted by Indianapolis Convention, August 1901

Poor People’s Movement/Campaign

Black Lives Matter

Immigration Act of 1917, I

Immigration Act of 1924, I

Immigration and Control Act of 1986, I

Immigration Act of 1990, I, II

Clinton: Operation Gatekeeper

Questions for Organizers and Individuals Willing to/wanting to Organize

1: When was the last time you had a conversation on race, involving the political sphere?

2: Is it forbidden to have a discussion about race within your group/organization?

3: Have you had deeply dissatisfying discussions on race?

Themes that came up within the Conference Workshop in Response to the Aforementioned Questions

-Tokenization

-Racial Justice always being pushed to the end of agendas

-Contradictions within Marxist spaces as they regard race

-Microaggressions which end people of color retention within organizations

-Branches being “too white”

-Diverse branches do the “job” of race well

-Talking about race and understanding race and issues of race as two different things

Comps Results: 2/3; Why I Won’t Be The Angry Black Woman That White Supremacy Disrupts

Posted on 2018-06-29

I got my comps results on Tuesday! I passed my major and minor comps, but failed my core comps. This came as a shock to me, because whereas I anticipated failing 1 question on the core comps, I did not anticipate failing all 3 questions. I was passed by one core professor on 2/3 questions. But failed by the other professor on all 3.

I posted the above status and then waited one day before I sent out emails thanking my committee’s readers. On the day that I found out, I also went to the gym to blow off some steam (and mostly lose some weight since the gym was planned before I got my results back).

Most felt that there is no need to withdraw from the program– but if I’m being honest, the program is too expensive and the stipend rarely pays rents. Failing one section of comps– with only 1 year of funding left– decreases time dedicated to dissertation proposal and dissertation writing. People aren’t lying when they say that grad school is for the already wealthy.

Nonetheless, the professor that failed me, over the span of one day— and in the most passive aggressive way ever…bordering on (stupid and uniformed) smugness—tried to paint me as an “angry black woman.” And not just any angry black woman, but one who would— if I decided to continue on with my PhD— still be subject to his version of academic “rigor” on any possibility that I would decide to retake the exam. I put his version of rigor since his comments seemed to be upset with how I was taught theory, versus actual theory itself.

Of corse the latter clause (about me having to retake it with him) wouldn’t be true, as I found out the day before. But to him, the assertion meant that he had power– which he obviously does have, seeing as his singular assertion made me fail comps, in spite of passing the two questions to the askers standards.

As proof of his smugness, he decided to add in a director (of which, in the initial email I sent, I stated that I had already met the director) and I responded back to them both, saying that it would not be true. That is when the assertion was made. As a pro tip, I should note that if you intend to be smug against someone, and they pull your smug (the email version of this is that they keep the person CC’d) you should know: maybe they know something that you don’t 🤫.

But I won’t digress. As I thought about this assertion—and the one other time in the span of eight years in which a white male professor essentially made similar claims that:

(1) you are angry black woman

(2) whose future I could interrupt

I’ve realized that what they’re really addressing is the fact that I have the gall to voice my thoughts, emotions, and understandings of a specific situation and be confident and eloquent when I do (my transition from email petty to social media petty is unmatched, quite literally).

The first time this happened, I was an undergraduate and dared to correct the professor before our Habitat for Humanity volunteer break in one of the poorest reservations in South Dakota that: Native American people are not white and it’s incorrect for him to pretend that we’ll be meeting blonde hair and blue eyed Natives… unless the implication is that Natives have been completely genocided.

Unfortunately for him, upon arrival, it was clear that the Native peoples were not white or blue eyed and blonde haired. For some reason, he was mad that people saw what I said was right. On the reservation, he further became enraged after I stood up for a Native woman, over a fellow undergraduate student also on the trip, that was being offensive to someone Native. Apparently, Natives dislike claims from white people that their “4 generations back grandma was Native and “danced with wolves in the cemetery.” Because I called the white girl out on why it was offending the native people, since for some reason she appeared to be fine deaf, this to him warranted giving me an ‘F’ on his alternative break course. He was brought in to take the white girl away, by someone Native, but I’m black— so naturally he came in blazing at me and my intellect. (Everyone was like 😳 TF, wrong person)

Be it God or some other force, I wasn’t actually enrolled in the course, so he couldn’t give me a grade. Unfortunately in this case, no matter how many students came forward to back what happened, he was tenured and the University could do nothing. Unsurprisingly, multiple students— past and present had warranted claims against this professor, but tenure-ship was something too slippery for the university to deal with.

Fast forward to now— it’s always the white male professors with no real prodigies who tend to be doing the most when it comes to students and students of color. In grad school, this continues to be the case. Maybe it’s their personalities or maybe it’s because they’re wishy-washy and vindictive since they view their own intelligence as astronomical. And thus, if you’ve ever corrected them before, you must be perfect in everything that you do– they end up disenchanting others, I don’t really know.

But I’ve learned to stay away from these types a long awhile ago. Funnily enough, he was the last person I actually wanted on a committee since I peepped him to be one of these types after taking a course with him. But sometimes, life works out funny to reaffirm lessons that you’ve long learned in the past.

You don’t get away from white male professors, or authority figures, in grad school. You also don’t get rid of racism and sexism in grad school.

I think that what this has taught me, is that it’s okay to be an angry black woman. Prior to starting grad school, I intentionally— and even on this blog— have talked about how I’ve tried to avoid that label. But maybe it’s not that I’ve had or even needed to avoid it. But rather, I should embrace it.

I am an angry black woman, with every right to be.

I’m also #HereToStay. Nothing motivates me more than knowing I have haters that want to see me fail. Unknowingly, the angry black woman assertion COUPLED with the “your future is in my hands” bullshit, makes me want to go all the way awf!

You’re welcome.

Safeguarding the Fragile Male Ego in Academia

Posted on 2018-06-11

IMG_9225

A comment made to me last semester, Spring 2018

‘Hey, I think you should do it this way…not because what you have is wrong, but maybe it’d read easier like this.’ 

I found myself saying this to a male colleague last semester, instead of outrightly saying: ‘what you wrote makes no sense to me, no matter how much I re-read it.’ I said the former because I knew that if I said what the exact problem was he (1) would not believe me and (2) tell people just how much of a bitch Tamanisha always is. 

IMG_9232

My response to the comment made to me in Spring 2018

Unsurprisingly, he had other males read what he wrote too, and I do believe that they told him the exact problem without any fluff.  These men would never be subjected to number 2—however, as a trusted female colleague who is frequently introduced to others as “she’s smart,” he felt that with me telling him the same thing (of course) in a “nicer” way, his ego would not be harmed. Thus, I ended up freely helping him solely to keep his ego in tact, because, why not?

Far from people’s beliefs, I do not consider myself a “feminist” in the same way that some women who might study feminism may. I hardly ever read feminist texts— although I do tend to always be subjected to white feminism in grad school.  

But something that has been irking me as of late, is the easy way in which men in the academy—at the professor and student/colleague level—dismiss women’s knowledge if it does not serve their ego. What this looks like, for me as a black woman, is a continued conversation of always showing that I too am an intellectual. I too am capable of critically thinking and that in spite of your emotional backlash when your male ego is harmed:

I DESERVE TO BE HERE.

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Safeguarding the male ego in academia happens when you must tip-toe around the truth, so as to not upset a male colleagues ego. You must dumb yourself down—in case he has not read— to not threaten his ego. You must pretend to be able to see his side— no matter how wrong or not effectively argued it is, to not threaten his ego. Otherwise you go from “smart” and “respected” to now your academic intellect is being called into question. This happens quite frequently to me because although I do not mind the occasional ‘dumbing oneself down,’ I refuse to let someone that is blatantly wrong, pretend to be right— solely for the sake of his ego. 

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The safeguarding of the male ego in academia is atrocious, when one considers that sometimes we negate information, to not harm the male ego. Sometimes we pretend to not have knowledge to keep that ego in tact. 

What is being witnessed via this safeguard goes beyond simply accepting instances of mansplaining. It is like we are accepting “fake news” helping fake news spread itself, for the sake of something toxic.

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Some of the men in academia need to set aside their emotional, condescending remarks to women when their fragile male egos are hurt, and instead use that opportunity to really learn.

That education should also be done by themselves and without the expectation that their hand will be held through that learning process since they are the ones that must undergo it. Women should not be tasked with explaining academic and political intricacies to them, because their egos make it incapable for them to learn or understand what is being said contrary to their own beliefs, simply because it is coming from a woman.

This behavior is insulting.

Havana, Cuba

Posted on 2018-06-11

If you’d like to know more about my day to day life, now would be the time to follow me on instagram.

I will not really write about Cuba in this post since I am tired of it. Cuba is a beautiful country, not unlike other Caribbean countries; however, right-wing Cubans in Miami mad at the fact that I simply visited Cuba has made talking about Cuba almost exhausting. If you would like to see these discussions, follow me on instagram and view the comments under my photos. I’ve returned from Cuba on Thursday (07/06/18). Cuba was a really interesting country in terms of what I was able to see, who I was able to talk and engage with and it shocked me, since it did not appear quite like what Miami indoctrination about the country would have you to believe. To get to Cuba is hard and I was only able to, thanks to a professional meeting. However, if able to, I recommend that all visit the country and see what it is like. From there, you can make an informed, educated, and nuanced opinion– without mere talking points from politics and an old exile community afforded lavish privileges in the US.

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p.s. for more photos, you can shoot me an instagram DM.

Sincerely,

Tawm

Late Post 3: Miami Food Finds

Posted on 2018-06-11

“Bubble Tea Miami”

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Vanilla honeydew, with mango bubbles

On Saturday, arch 31st I woke up craving a bubble tea. Instead of going to my favorite weekend spot for bubble tea– SpecialTEA Lounge, I decided to try someplace new instead. That is how I found out about Bubble Tea Miami…and I also saw them on instagram maybe a week prior to visiting. Unlike conventional bubble tea shops, they had differing flavours and they make their tea differently. Bubble Tea Miami is family owned and out from the West Coast– which I did appreciate, but their lack of conventional flavors did present me with a problem. I had to try something not only new, but also very fruity in flavour. Let’s just say that I have not gone back there. The bubble tea that they make just does not sit well with my taste buds. If you like healthier and fruitier bubble tea options, I 100% recommend this place for you!

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The place is nice to come in, sit down and have a drink with friends. When I visited, I wanted to taste their breakfast waffle, however, they were “out.” I’m sure that the food in this place will be bomb– being from the West Coast and all– even if the bubble tea wasn’t the best for me.

“The Salty Donut”

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So, I’m probably a bit biased since I LOVE donuts, but all the hype surrounding The Salty Donut exists for a reason. The selection of donuts as well as the taste of the donuts are UH-MAZING! These donuts are super delicious. I also visited The Salty Donut on a Saturday morning and there was a line. The line moved pretty quickly and the donuts were well worth the wait! I got the Banana Hazelnut donut and a regular glazed one. Both tasted like perfection. If you get here earlier than I did (maybe around 10AM) you can bring your family, friends, or partner, sit down and enjoy your donuts. If you’re a foodie who loves dessert, when you visit Miami you must also visit The Salty Donut.

The selection of donuts are also pretty extensive and if you follow me on instagram and saw my posts/stories, you’d know just how wide the selection is. For now, a sneak peek on the blog will have to suffice.

“107 Coffee & Dessert” (now, “107 Taste”)

ACS_0004I keep telling people that this is my favorite food spot, although i essentially get the same 2-3 items every time I visit: a milk bubble tea, Thai fried rice/scallion pancake, and I did try the 107 waffle once. This place has been a hidden gem that I only discovered in May! Not only do they serve bubble tea and Asian food (Thai, Korean, etc.), but they also serve amazing desserts! The original name was a bit misleading. They do sell coffee and dessert, but they also sell a substantial amount of food and will be adding a beer list soon. I just realized that they changed their name yesterday to 107 taste and it is probably because the original name would not draw people in for a lunch or dessert. If you’re ever in the Tamiami, SW 8 st area, I 100% recommend you go to 107. The inside also gives off city (NYC/Chicago) vibes.

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The 107 waffle. I was only able to finish 1/2, the serving sizes are really filling/big

“Kush by LoKal”

IMG_9218.jpgI finally feel like a true person living in the South, since I’ve eaten chicken and waffles! The food and the locally brewed beer here is good. It is definitely more of a hipster spot, not too far from Wynwood and in a neighborhood being gentrified, but I stumbled upon this gem via a recommendation after protesting in solidarity with those going #RedForEd. On the chicken, the siracha syrup was excellent with a tinge of spices, but for the waffles, regular syrup was necessary. Contrary to my waitresses recommendation, I knew that with my taste buds, siracha on a waffle was a ‘no’ for me. Nonetheless, I did give it a try just in case.

Sincerely,

Tawm

Late Post 2: Montego Bay, Jamaica

Posted on 2018-06-11

IMG_4977Since this is a late post, I should say that I went to Montego Bay Jamaica on April 24th and returned back to Miami on the 29th. So, I was in Jamaica for 5 days and 4 nights and my visit to the country was limited to Montego Bay. Unlike Barbados, you cannot drive the entire island of Jamaica in a Day– and because my stay was not as long as it was in Trinidad and Tobago, I did not do much sight seeing outside of Montego Bay.

That being said, I really enjoyed Montego Bay, although I would not necessarily travel there without company. The streets are not that well lit at night, we did not stay at a resort (I would not travel there with company) and street harassment was rampant (even from boys as young as 10). Montego stood out drastically to me than other Caribbean countries for the aforementioned issues. However, you just have to be smart of course and pay attention to your surroundings and you will be alright! If I had a friend to go with, I would definitely want to go back to MoBay…I should also note that generally, I have yet to solo travel.

The first thing we (and myself who were in JA for the SALISES conference) did upon landing in Jamaica, was checking into our Airbnb accommodation and then went grocery shopping straight after. Whenever I travel, grocery shopping is always a must, especially if you have a kitchen, since it saves money from having to go and eat out. Our bnb accommodation was gorgeous! The colonial legacies of the Caribbean sometimes shows through the architecture and our accommodation was no exception.

Due to the layout of our accommodation, I am 90% sure that it was once a plantation. The “main” building is under construction, and that one is more evidentially so the former “house” of the slave master/ white settler. I did appreciate the architecture nonetheless, and like that for the most part, it is upkept since it serves as a reminder that we’re still here in spite of the atrocities we’ve faced.

IMG_9217Just to end on a lighter and quicker note, since these late posts serve as quick updates into some of my thoughts that have passed: I finally ate at a KFC in the Caribbean! Fried chicken is still not my fave, even though the KFC in the Caribbean does taste fresher than the ones in the US. Whilst in Jamaica, getting around further proved difficult, since we did not rent a car– when you go, RENT A CAR! We rode inside of quick dollar taxis which many people utilized as a hustle and I am so happy that it got us from point A to point B with a low charge.

Whilst in Jamaica, I heavily supported their Red Stripe beer, because the company is doing best practices— in terms of sustainability, employment, and teaching Jamaicans how to brew. I liked that they also give farmers long-term contracts to harvest cassava which will be the new starch in their national alcohol. Red Stripe is now owned by Heineken however which somewhat strips the brand of being truly nationally owned– but as long as they upkeep the good practices, I’m a supporter.

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Sincerely, Tawm

“Freedom Is Still More Expansive Than Civil Rights”

Posted on 2018-04-30

This past week, I was given the opportunity to present at the 19th Annual SALISES conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The theme of the conference was “Sustainable Futures for the Caribbean: Critical Interventions and the 2030 Agenda.” I learned a great deal from that conference and was able to see a lot of great presentations and take-in a lot of knowledge from those presentations…

However, that is not what this blog post is about.

That information simply sets the stage for my leisure reading that I was able to do on my way to Jamaica and whilst in Jamaica. I decided to take the book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angel Y. Davis with a foreword by Cornel West with me and it was a really good addition to my trip.

The book spoke to the violence of austerity, prison as part of an industrial complex rooted in slavery and capitalism, anti colonial struggles which are happening in various parts of the world, and transnational solidarity along with the importance of making the links/connections of our local struggles with global ones. In all the book made a statement about the power in protest and in collectivising— in a world where neoliberal ideology teaches us to value individualism— which still matters for systemic change.

The book also raises an important set of questions. Namely, “[h]ow do we respond collectively to the militarization of our societies? What role can Black feminism play in this process? What does being a prison abolitionist means in concrete terms today?” (sic) (xiii).

In the opening interview by Frank Barat, the dangers of individualism are spelled out—not only as promoting capitalism, but also as minimising history and the work of ALL of our ancestors to historic individual stories. It is noted that “it is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognise their potential agency as part of an ever-expanding community of struggle” (2).

I think that this is important to remember as someone continues on to read the book,so that they can make the broader connections of the themes. There are a few themes in the book which stood out to me, that I would like to potentially engage with others on. This can be done in the comments or in person. To save time on this post however, I will share some general thoughts and ideas that I had whilst reading the book—which should collectively be on all of our 2030 agendas.

1: We need to, in these United States of America, recognize that our tax dollars fund imperialism, thus genocide, abroad. We need to not only acknowledge this, but take responsibility for this—in terms of who we elect and whether or not they will continue to fuel a military industrial complex which are hurting those in the Arab world in the Middle East and in Africa.

SETTLER COLONIALISM AND APARTHEID IS HAPPENING IN PALESTINE BECAUSE THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED KINGDOM FUNDS IT THROUGH ISRAEL.

2: Academic institutions within the United States of America, MUST do more for advocating issues regarding social justice—in the US and abroad. They advocated against an apartheid South Africa and they must do so again for Palestinian, Black, and Indigenous struggles.

3: Thanks to the Occupy Movement, we can now openly critique capitalism. We must not think of the Occupy Movement as done, just because people aren’t visible with tents.

4: What does the world’s largest private corporations say about us? (Walmart, Foxconn, and G4S)

5: We need more action— not conversations on race— however, we also need to learn how to talk about race, in order to have meaningful action.

6: We can learn from feminism— in terms of methodologies. We can learn from trans-feminism’s which would allow us to be flexible precisely because “we have to learn how to think and act and struggle against that which is ideologically constituted as “normal”” (100).

I think that we have gotten this wrong many times, which is why we are still in struggles which have started long ago.Trans-feminism teaches us that “the process of trying to assimilate into an existing category in many ways runs counter to efforts to produce radical or revolutionary results” (101).

7: In regards to feminism which shows that the “personal is political,” we must acknowledge and recognize that “[t]he imprisoned population could not have grown to almost 2.5 million people in this country [USA] without our implicit assent” (106). If we protested under the Reagan-Bush era and the Clinton era— we would not be dealing with a prison crisis.

8: We all— not just white people— have to unlearn racism. People of colour unlearn that racism is an individual act that can be dealt with via sensitivity training (cough, Starbucks 2018). “No amount of psychology therapy or group training can effectively address racism in this country, unless we also begin to dismantle the structures of racism” (107).

9: Protest matters.

10: Do not let narrow individualism overwhelm you because ‘when x happens you’ll be dead’ — if our ancestors gave up, where would we be? This is why i also think these points matter for a 2030 agenda. The future generations should always start at a different (more progressive) point in the struggle (freedom is a constant struggle).

11: Freedom is more expansive than civil rights (Black Panther Ten Point Programme highlights what freedom would look like. If Civil Rights guaranteed freedom, we would still not be engaged in the same struggles)

12: Education has been so commodified, that “the very process of acquiring knowledge…is subordinated to the future capacity to make money” (120).

13: We must expand the sole emphasis on the working class to also focus on the poor— as distinct— in our critiques of capitalism.

14: We must incorporate, into our stories of Black struggle, LGBTQ struggles, Islamophobia, Immigrant Rights, and Transformative Action—because they are all related and interconnected.

“Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (127).

15: Genocide, as per the Genocide convention at the U.N. still happens within the U.S. against Indigenous (Native) and Black communities.

16: Why is a foreign government (Israel) aiding in the training of policing U.S. citizens? Is the Israeli police mandate to “protect and serve?” If not, is their training of our police warranted? Especially when that training has helped the militarization of U.S. police forces.

17: How is it, that we have allowed corporations to make connections between education, health care, security and prisons to increase their profits— before we have made these connections within our own struggles? (e.g. G4S has a hand in all of this)

The last sentence within the book reads: “We cannot be moderate. We will have to be willing to stand up and say no with our combined spirits, our collective intellects, and our many bodies” (145).

RECOMMENDED BOOKS IN THE BOOK:

W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America

Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It

Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, but Some of us are Brave

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

Beth Richie, Arrested Justice: Black Woman, Violence and America’s Prison Nation

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Eric Stanley and Nat Smith, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock, and Joey Mogul, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States

Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of the Law

Tennessee Fails to Condemn Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right…because to do so would be “Divisive”

Posted on 2018-03-16

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but presently, we live in a world where morality and ethics are increasingly seen as solely relative. This has allowed pleas for morality when it comes to our interactions with each other to simply be ‘liberal buzzwords’ and ‘emotional pleas,’ from those who fight for human rights and legislative decency and/or justice. No longer is this a debate amongst philosophers, but apparently, the debate has ended.

This is troubling.

I cannot think of any instance, where the persecution of someone based on race, for instance, is morally ‘relative’ versus ‘universal.’ Can you?

In this climate, to question the morality of a white supremacist is considered ‘bashing.’ Therefore, it is implied that we must take a neutral stance when interacting with their beliefs, because condemning it is simply a ‘disagreement,’ which implies that there is something to their beliefs which is valid or not wrong (because nothing can be ‘wrong’).

This neutral tendency for white supremacist beliefs also plagues the “ivory tower.” Not just amongst students and administrators who hold these beliefs, but also by  professors aiming to ‘not offend’ in their classes. This undoubtedly helps with the legitimization of these despicable views—which are inherently immoral, abhorrent, and disgraceful—as simply ‘self-expression(s).’

On February 28th, as I sat in my grad course, my professor aimed to defend the indefensible—not because he “agrees with it,” but to not just “throw [an author’s] argument away.” The conversation went like this, verbatim:

Prof: it doesn’t take into account whether the alt-right is wrong or not—

Me: that’s not even a question of whether I think it’s wrong or not, it’s literally a “self-expression” which has structural and institutional implications as to whether or not some people should live or be discarded from societies

And if you’re wondering, then yes: class discussions in grad school are actually like this.


So, why  did I just give you this long tangent before I getting into the topic of discussion for this blog post?

Simple. First, I want you to know my stance on the issue up-front; and Second, because those in the house who commented after not putting the notion up to vote, tried to make a ‘relative’ argument.

Here’s what happened:

On Wednesday March 14, 2018 Tennessee legislators declined to vote on a resolution (House Joint Resolution 583) that would denounce White Nationalism, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right within their state. Because they declined to vote on the resolution, it did not even need to be discussed on the floor of the House Subcommittee.

The resolution was proposed by Representative Jon Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) last year in August 2017 after the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville, VA (Unite the Right), which killed one anti-racist protestor and injured several others (after a white supremacist drove his car into the anti-racist protestors). Shelbyville,TN was also the October 2017 site of the second largest “White Lives Matter” rally. During this time, Rep Bill Haslman (R-Knoxville) denounced the rally , stating that those who participated were “not welcome in Tennessee” and he denounced the White Supremacist Movement.

 

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[Image: https://medium.com/@NagasakiOsada/347-white-lives-matter-rally-in-shelbyville-tennessee-should-i-attend-3286ee23e7cb]

Clemmons proposal aimed to recognize, via the courts and police, White Supremacist groups as domestic terrorists. Stating that these ideologies “remain very real threats to social and racial progress.” Ideally, he wanted his state to market clear that they were anti the actions of White Supremacists.

Why This Matters

The bill could not have presented itself at such an opportune time. On Sunday, March 12, 2018, Identity Evropa (IE), a Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist organization, held its first national conference—“Leading Our People Forward 2018”—in Nashville, TN. During the conference, they displayed a large banner which read “European Roots, American Greatness” in front of the Parthenon in Nashville. This symbolism is not to be mistaken.

[Image: https://twitter.com/IdentityEvropa/status/972897038483492864]

The goal of the conference was in line with its ideology that “advocates for the preservation of Western (read: white) culture.” Part of this pursuit is to help get themselves closer to “a white ethnostate [that] opposes multiculturalism.” IE is inspired by the European identitarian movement. Its speakers included older members of the alt-right “American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor and former Ku Klux Klan lawyer Sam Dickson, both of whom are members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the white nationalist hate group that inspired Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Taylor praised IE members for as being “smart, committed, sensible, and impressive in every way.””

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[Image: https://twitter.com/IdentityEvropa/status/974042862890471425]

The question remains: given Tennessee’s current—and past—situation with these abhorrent groups, why did this bill not get passed or even make it to discussion?

The Blame Game— cue, Relativism

House Joint Resolution 583 which condemned white-hate groups was rejected without any explanation because, according to some Tennessee Republicans, “the resolution was a trap, written to embarrass them.”

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^That was my face too when this reasoning came out. How is a resolution that condemns White-Supremacy, ‘embarrassing’?? Apparently, one lawmaker thought that using the term ‘terrorist’ for White-Supremacist organizations and group identities was “vague and designed to be divisive.”

The Resolution in Full Context

In its full context, the resolution stated that it wanted to:

urge law enforcement to recognize these white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organizations and to pursue the criminal elements of these domestic terrorist organizations in the same manner and with the same fervor used to protect the United States from other manifestations of terrorism.

The reasoning behind the language, according to the resolution, was because present-day manifestations of the alt-right conjure painful memories of our nation’s past.” This painful past, according to the resolution saw White Nationalism and Neo-Nazism as menaces to societal order that seek to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide the nation, and foment hatred, classism, anti-Semitism, and ethnic eradication.” 

Does the Language in the Resolution go too Far?

The answer is no.

The resolution is very straight forward and factual. In literally uses the past history of the U.S. as the impetus for legislative improvement in Tennessee. We are not that removed from knowing that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), was a domestic race-based terrorist organization.

Due to the massive amount of attention that the rejected resolution received, Tennessee Lawmakers—that are overwhelmingly Republican—now want it to be filed for a second motion. Because ‘of course’ they agree that White Supremacism is ‘bad.’

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I don’t know what if I believe that, but I am interested in seeing what happens next.