Friday, March 27, 2009

OSF: "Had A Long Day At Work?"

The theme this week is ... well read the title! Basically, what songs do you listen to when you've worked all day, the house is a mess, you need to cook but really don't feel like it, and you just wanna relax? Even though I wasn't old enough to work when this song came out (1993), I really think it's a good anthem to play when you dog tired! LOL! I chose "Just Kickin It" by Xcape. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Struggle with (Afra)Feminism

Several of you have asked about the status of my dissertation (since you've asked, the dissertation process is going well. I've drafted three chapters, and plan to draft much more. These chapters are still rough, but nonetheless, they are drafted). Originally, I created this blog to reflect on that process; however, the blog developed more as a reflection on life (the academy, teaching, food, family, friends, etc. etc.) more broadly. This happened for several reasons.

First, the dissertation process is so grueling and tiring that I haven't really had much energy to reflect on what I've written; the only energy I've had quite frankly is to write the darn thing! I may plan to reflect a bit more on this progress once it's over, but not as much now.

Second, the scope of the dissertation has changed, not dramatically, but significantly. I am no longer devoting a chapter to the study of Black women's linguistic and rhetorical practices, and thus, am not really focusing on Afrafeminism anymore. The reason for this is not because I no longer see myself as an Afrafeminist scholar (I *think I still am), but because doing a teacher-research dissertation on Black women's practices, Black students' practices, and all students' writing practices in an Afracentric designed curriculum is way too much.

Further, I haven't developed a valid or sufficient response for focusing exclusively on Black women and not Black men. (Afra)feminist ideologies seem to suggest that devoting women their own space is ethical, and perhaps, it's sexist to be forced to justify and explain the exclusion of men. That may in part be true. But, when doing research using social science methods, as a researcher, I have to admit that I have a sampling problem (even with qualitative methods). The study would be valid if I ONLY focused on black women. But the study doesn't do that: If I'm focusing on different samples of one population of students in one classroom, as a researcher, I need to account for each of those samples in some meaningful way.

Focusing on Black women, Blacks in general, and all students also creates a sampling problem because when focusing on Black women, how do I compare their practices if I don't focus on Black men? If one of my original research questions concerned what common linguistic and rhetorical practices that Black women share, I can't answer that question (at least sufficiently and in the way I want to) without comparing them to the practices of Black men in some way. In other words, how do I know that Black women's practices are/aren't reflected by a racialized or gendered discourse? I don't without addressing the brothas somehow.

Some might still argue that I don't really need African American women to make an Afrafeminist argument, since I can still draw on Afrafeminist methods (including devotion to careful analysis, commitment to ethical obligations, inclusion/collaboration/participation from participants, etc.; also see Jacqueline Jones Royster's Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women for a complete list of these methods). But even when using these methods, combined with Afracentric pedagogies and methodologies, I believe the focus is still too large. At this point in the game, I'm less interested in complexity and making some groundbreaking contribution to rhetoric and composition. In a dissertation space, that just ain't gon' happen! I'm more interested in a neat and tidy study on one classroom, using one curriculum, using a few methods, etc. That way, at least the study will make sense.

I'm okay with leaving behind Afrafeminism for now. After all, I have the rest of my career to devote to it if I'm still passionate about this area of scholarship. And, later on this year, I'll have an article published in Composition Forum that discusses using an Afrafeminist lens as a pedagogy in graduate level rhetoric and compositon special topics courses. So, it's still a part of my disciplinary identity.

I'm also still grappling with my understanding of its application in my life beyond the academy. See, I just read Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (I loved it BTW!!), and have realized that as independent Black women (and Afrafeminists) we have to be careful alienating men. Now, if as an independent Black woman, you're fine being without a heterosexual partner, then this obviously doesn't apply to you, and I applaud your indendependence. But, if you're not, then as Steve Harvey writes, men will feel that if you've got everything covered, there's no need for them, and you'll therefore find yourself independent and alone. As an Afrafeminist, surprisingly, I wasn't offended by this comment. I really don't find anything wrong with recognizing the need for your partner/spouse, a need that should also be reciprocated by your partner/spouse, certainly. Afterall, while us Afrafeminsts may do all of these wonderful, exceptionally smart, and independent things, can't we also acknowledge the support that our spouses give as we continue to do such work? At this point in my life, I don't mind admitting that I need my husband's support (especially as I dissertate! LOL!), and that he needs me too. Isn't that what a strong relationship is supposed to be about?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

'Mommy, Is that cake organic?': Children Leading by Example

All week Mr. C and I have been traveling back and forth to Detroit to see relatives in town for my father in-law's homegoing celebration. I was particularly fascinated and impressed with the eating habits of my nieces and nephews, many of which, I just met for the first time last week. It was so interested to observe how they'd crawl in me and Mr. C's laps and grip us tight with hugs and kisses, even though we'd just met them; somehow, when we arrived, they just knew we were family! Such adorable little ones. I could've taken them all back home with me and they just might have came.

Anyway, back to their food habits. Last Monday, when we had dinner with them at Olive Garden, it was interesting to see how they were more interested in their salad than the dessert I shared with them. And that dessert was the bomb too! They have this new Zeppoli, which are doughnut-like bites but much lighter and crispier. They kinda remind you of elephant ears! The bites come with a chocolate dipping sauce that's to die for! But the kids took a couple bites and sat it down. They liked the salad more.

When it came time to leave the restaurant the waitresses passed out those mint chocolate candies which are also my favorite. Kam, the four year old, took one bite and exclaimed that she didn't like the candy. Her mother (my sister in-law) said she doesn't eat too much candy. As we were leaving the restaurant, my sister in-law told Kam that next time we visited, Auntie S (me) would teach her how to bake. I then told her that we could bake all kinds of cookies together. Her response: "I don't like cookies." My reply: "Good for you!"

At the repass after the homegoing service I also noticed how much all my nieces and nephews love their veggies! J (the six year old) ate his large salad, plus the chicken, plus the mixed veggies on his plate! What kid likes mixed veggies? Sam (the three year old) put good dents in both of her veggies as well. That girl can clean a chicken bone like nobody's business too! Both finished the veggies before eating the butter cake. They kinda put me to shame, considering that I couldn't finish all my veggies (I didn't finish all my starch or meat either though). I do have to be careful with veggies because a couple years ago I overdosed on green veggies after eating 6 or 7 servings of them in one day! My limbs formed gas pockets so severe I could barely stand or walk. My skin turned green too!

Back to the repass. At dessert time, Kam (the spokesperson of the group) leaned over to ask her mother, "Mommy, is this cake organic?" That tripped me out. I laughed so hard! I couldn't believe a four year old would be so health conscious and into organic food.

This all goes to show you how kids can set examples for us stubborn adults. It's not that I don't eat healthy; I always make a green veggie after every meal, don't fry, and eat fresh fruits, lean proteins (no beef or pork), have dessert in moderation, etc. But, my nieces and nephews taught me that I can always do better with our choices.

Friday, March 20, 2009

OSF: Songs with Baby in the Title

Anyone remember "Baby I'm Yours" by Shai? That was a cool joint back in the day!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Reflections on the Annual CCCC Convention

For those of you disciplinary folk who read my blog, y'all know it's that time of year when rhetoric and composition (and a few education, linguistics, and communication) folk flock to the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication Convention (our field's premier conference) to give academic talks, act like academic/intellectuals, hear ourselves gab just for the heck of it, perpetrate like we gots credentials and a desk job, and stuff. This year the convention was in San Francisco and the weather, while sunny, was a bit chilly. The convention ends tomorrow (I do plan on attending a few final sessions), but I would like to reflect on the highs, lows, and iffys from this years conference:

The Highs:
The food! We had some pretty good Thai food, excellent ice cream from Gelatos, croissant french toast from the Mason Cafe, and the food court in the mall is serious! They even sell wine in the food court (no, I didn't have any!) and really good guacamole and chips. It's not your typical food court with a Subway, Taco Bell and some random pizza place.

The mall! Less than a 5 minute walk from our hotel was a Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and a host of other fabulous stores. Too bad I didn't have much cash, but I did manage to buy a couple of things from Macys and H&M, which I could afford! *smile

An excellent panel! I was the respondent on a Student's Right to Their Own Language (SRTOL) panel with several first-time presenters. Their work was exceptional and each added complexity to the yes/no debate for using home language varieties in classroom spaces. Kudos to Bonnie, Latoya, and Crystal!

The Lows:
The lack of collegiality during our panel. While I understand that critique is a part of academe, some folk overdo it just to hear themselves talk, even when they have nothing meaningful to say. Others do it as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement. I found both to be the case at our panel. Let me remind you that we had first-time presenters, and one particular scholar (a Black one at that!) corrected one of our panelists for conflating some terminology (in his opinion, I'm not quite sure that this was in fact the case). Not that he didn't have the right to make this criticism; however, this issue did not need to be addressed publicly. And, he misinterpreted something I said in my response, thus, prompting me to reread verbatim what I actually said to put him in check. I find especially problematic when men (including men of color) go after women of color (which all of us on the panel were), and especially graduate students. So much for community solidarity.

The Iffys:
I went to the annual CCCC Scholars for the Dream Award Reception (an award I won last year--hee hee) to support new award recipients. For those less familiar, this award recognizes a first time presenter of an historically underrepresented group whose research the committee believes will make significant contributions to the field. At the reception, they did things a bit differently. This year, they had each award winner display a poster of their scholarship in a poster session. I guess the idea behind this, was to get people to walk around like a science fair and engage their work. I see the value of encouraging folk to actually engage recipients' research. After all, not a single person asked me last year when I won about my research and scholarship at the reception. But I'm not sure about using the poster session to engage the dream scholars' work. First of all, the recipients had to stay with their posters and couldn't really mingle themselves. Second, this forced dream recipients to prepare two presentations for one paper: a poster and the conference paper they still had to give; isn't that quite a bit of work? Finally, the idea of putting folk of color on display for public viewing just don't sit right with me. I have mixed feelings about this addition.

There you have it. That's CCCC 2009.

Friday, March 6, 2009

OSF: Songs with"Heart" in the Title

I'm trying to pick a familiar song but one that people won't necessarily think of posting. Anyone remember "If Your Heart Isn't in It" by Atlantic Starr? Me and a buddy were just talking about this group yesterday and how corny they were, but how we still liked their music. Enjoy!