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Sunday, October 3, 2010

E-Mail Like a College Student – Not a BFF

Alright, I’ll keep this one short. When you’re in college, guess what, college is your job! Yes, you are an employee of (Blank) University or The College of (Blankity Blank). So, as an employee – who, yes, gets paid really bad – you should carry yourself as such. You should conduct business as such. You should communicate as such. To be more specific, your emails should reflect an interaction between yourself (the responsible employee) and your boss (the Prof). Your emails should not, cannot, and MUST not look like a text message, even if you’re sending them from your iPhone. This means:

You should have a greeting (Hello, Good morning, Greetings, Dear).

The body of your email should be below the greeting. Your “i’s" should be capitalized. You should write in COMPLETE sentences. The punctuation should be correct. And, above all, keep it brief!

In your conclusion, it should begin with a closer (Thank you, Sincerely, Best wishes, Be blessed). You should sign with your name (how else will they know it’s you?). You should also include your preferred method of contact (cell, email, Skype) – which goes below your signature/name.

Yes wonderful peeps, technology is a beautiful thing, but let’s not bastardize it by emailing Profs as if they are our friends. No text ling. Say NO to “lol,” “thanx,” “yo,” “ttyl,” etc. etc. etc.

A few more tips:

Always hit spell check before sending.

Always proofread before sending.

Never hesitate to use emails to set up meetings, ask questions, and get more details about class assignments.

If you’re emailing your Prof to BS them (my stomach hurt, my dog ate my homework, my grandpa died for the 17th time since I’ve been in collect), please don’t waste their time. Why? Because they know. It’s a sick sense that Profs get when they earn their PhD.

Go forth. Type. Proofread. Send.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Staying Fiscally Humble - Battle the "Keeping Up With the Jones' Syndrome"

If you come from humble beginnings – in other words, Diddy ain’t yo Daddy – college is not the time to stray from humble living. College students are broke! Period. It’s not a lucrative time in your life – unless you’re Reggie Bush or Maurice Clarrett, if you catch my drift. Okay, I’m done talking about folks.


Please don’t catch a case of the “Joneses’ Syndrome” (formally known as “Keeping up With the Jones”). If your friends are driving nice cars, don’t do it! If your friends are rockin’ Louies, don’t do it! If they stay in the mall, go to the library. If they have to eat out all the time, ask for specials and roll with a water and an appetizer. Why? College is not the time for you to mount up credit card debt because you just had to have that new purse, those shoes, or rims (trust me). College is not the time to take out extra loans to keep money in your pocket for the mall and fancy restaurants (trust me). College is the time that you stay humble, you eat Ramen noodles, you skip this trip to the mall, you dust off your bus pass. Why? Because 10 years from now, you will be debt free, you’ll own your vehicle, you’ll have A-1 credit, and your checking account won’t be in the red. Humility ladies, it’s the first step to financial success beyond college!

Go forth and save.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It’s Time to Get Ambitious

I get it, not everyone is outgoing, not everyone is straightforward, not everyone is direct. Well, if shy is the persona you want to own, then success isn’t for you. Yes, I said. Sound harsh? Too bad. It’s true. Why? Because, in the real world, opportunity does NOT come a’ knockin’. You have to be willing to go to Opportunity’s door and ring its doorbell. You have to be willing to knock if Opportunity doesn’t answer. If knocking doesn’t work…kick down the door! In all fairness, if you’re not confident about being able to kick down the door, sneak through the window. What’s my point? Professors won’t come up to you. Business owners won’t come to you because you’re shy. You won’t get that job, that contract, that small business loan just because. In the real world, you have to be prepared to tell a Professor that you are determined to do well in their class. When class is over, ask your Prof., how do I do well in this class? When you go to career fair, don’t just settle for the brochures. Ask the folks behind the booth what it takes to stand out as an applicant. Want to start your own business? Go into a business and ask for the owner. Ask them how they did it. Do you want to be the greatest mind of your era? Welp. I don’t have anything for that one, but you get my point! If opportunity and success are on your “to-do” list, getting ambitious better be at the top!

:::Go forth:::Be bold:::You’ve got the key:::Use it:::

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Classes Should I Take?

Right now, many of you are tweeking your schedules and making a few last minute changes. And, I know what many of you are thinking – what is the easiest route to graduation? While I have to respect that and I can admit that I was in your shoes not too long ago, I also have to be honest – you are wasting your time. You’re not in college because it’s the easy route. You’re in college to prepare yourself for the next level. Guess what, that next level isn’t easy. Now, I don’t write that to scare you. I write it to prepare you for the dog-eat-dog world we live in (darn those cliché’s, they never go away). The reality of this situation is that the people who take the easy road out are the people who hit the dead end first. They are the people who never achieve their dreams. The same person they are at 60 is the same person they were at 40, at 20, at 10 and ½. If you don’t push yourself, you WILL get left behind. That much I can promise you. So, why not let college be that time when you start to really push yourself and realize your potential? Take a tough class. You may do well. Start that intramural team. You may have fun. Apply for that scholarship. You may earn it. Run for homecoming court. You may be the first Black girl at your school to win it.

I digress.

College is that time in your life when you can push yourself in ways that you’ll never be able to push yourself again. There are so many outlets; so many opportunities. And guess what, the beauty is, you can fail and still be let off the hook. You’re still a student and the plethora of other opportunities are still there. You’re still figuring out what works, who you are, and what you can be. Moral of the story: push yourself. Where can you push yourself first? In the classroom. Take a class in philosophy. Take an upper level course. Don’t just slide by with typing, physical fitness, and some other remedial course. Why? Because you’ll never push yourself. You’ll always settle. And…that’s a bad look. If success is your goal, then you’ve got to start pushing yourself toward that goal. And guess what? The classroom is a great place to start challenging yourself.

Go forth. Schedule wisely. Keep pushin’. You WILL get there.

Suggested courses:
Scientific Inquiry
Africana studies
African American literature
Communication theory
International Studies

Friday, August 27, 2010

As a young Black female doctoral student and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in the year 2010, I identify as what some may label a “young feminist”. I recently entered a sisterhood of African American women that began at a time when we had limited voice, limited opportunities, and limited resources partnered with a rich legacy and a more than promising future. The founders of this organization – like so many others – grew up in an America wherein the “us vs. them” tension governed. Many – including myself – agree that this dichotomy continues to reign. However, as a young feminist, I identify with my founding sisters and those sisters who fought for the 19th Amendment. You see, for those who don’t know, some of those who marched down Philadelphia Ave. weren’t fighting an “us vs. them” battle. They were fighting for all women; all “feminists.” Unfortunately, some of their fellow marchers were fighting for the few. They were fighting for their mirrored reflections and denying their sisters in the other room. And more unfortunately, this system of thought/behavior continues.

90 years after the passing of the 19th Amendment and almost 100 years after the 1913 march in Washington, I deny, denounce, and deplore any assertions that I am not a feminist. I am a part of the new wave of feminism because I refuse to reaffirm age-old systems of feminist claims by which sexism is fought against and yet systems of racism, ageism, or classism are sustained. My moral integrity, my organizational affiliations, and my education simply will not allow for it. It is with tears in my eyes that I must acknowledge that there continues to be an “us vs. them” mentality amongst any oppressed social group. It pains me that some women can be as hypocritical – yes, I said hypocritical – so much as to argue that they fight for women’s rights and yet they mean white women or women of color or young women or older women or upper class women or working class women or any other compartmentalization.

If, as equalists, – which all feminists should identify themselves as – we seek solidarity, camaraderie, transparency, civic responsibility, and above all…progress, then we must replace the “or” with “and.” So for me, from the brave founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. to the actresses in Iron Jawed Angels, from bell hooks and Sojourner Truth to Susan B. Anthony and Belva Lockwood, we must move beyond drawing lines in the sand. We – yes, we – can identify as feminists in 5 inch Mahnolo Blahniks or in fabulously comfortable Aerosole flats. We can burn bras or push ‘em up. What matters is that we stand together, not divided. (Please excuse the list of clichés, but they are so apropos.) Moral of the story ::: I AM A FEMINIST ::: no further distinction necessary.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Step Out on Faith

I get it. Every day of your life is perfectly planned out days, weeks, maybe even months in advance. And I also get it that you have certain short- and long-term goals that guide those activities. For example, you go to class, get the grades, earn the internship, get into grad school, and before you know it, kick up your Louibouton’s or Ferragamo’s - respectively – on your Mahogany desk in the corner office overlooking the city. I get it. And, I respect it. Best of luck. Sincerely.

First, I want to warn everyone that the purpose of this post isn’t to suggest that you should change your goals and aspirations. Instead, this post is to bring you back to that place when you used to dream. It may have been during undergrad. Maybe high school. Maybe even before you started school. There was once a time that you wanted to be a writer. A dancer. An artist. A motivational speaker. And at some point, you were convinced that your dream wasn’t the most practical decision. Maybe you wouldn’t make a lot of cash. Maybe the chances were slim that you’d make it. In any case, you stopped dreaming and took another route.

Let me guess, that dream has never left you, has it? You still secretly wish that you could sell your art in a small boutique in SoHo. You’d love to be recognized as an author. Maybe you want to own your own dance studio. How about travel the world giving speeches about uplifting ourselves and our communities? I say, why not try? Why not send out book proposals. That doesn’t mean you have to drop out of grad school or quit your day job. If you want that dance studio, why not visit local studios to gain a better understanding of how they become successful? Get back into dancing yourself. Step out on faith. We get so caught up in the impracticality and we even let others crush our dreams.

Stop! Take just thirty minutes to an hour each day, or every other day, to step out on faith and live a little bit of that dream. Sure, your book may never get published. But, if you send out proposal after proposal, who knows what might happen? Maybe you end up with a New York Best Seller. Maybe you end up with something to stick under the dining room table. Maybe you save enough to put a down payment on a dance facility. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you surround yourself with just enough dance that you remember the days. Maybe you don’t get into law school this year, but next year, you get a full ride. Maybe. Maybe. Just maybe. I know it sounds cliché – even saying “I know it sounds cliché’” is a cliché – but, you never know what will happen. And more importantly, you don’t want that dream to turn into a “what if,” “if only,” “if, if, if, if” NIGHTMARE.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sistahs Spotlight ::: Ms. Shante Pitts

It is an honor to share the story of Ms. Shante Pitts. I presented Ms. Pitts with a set of questions to help readers get a better understanding of how (some) women manage school, work, and being a mommy and yet still find success! None of the answers have been Sherrod-ed. In other words, these are Ms. Pitts' words in her own words. No snippets. No edits. Just a real Sistahs’ story. Enjoy.

1. What area of study is your degree in? What type of degree did you earn (A.S., B.A., M.A., etc.)?
I have earned a BA in psychology with a minor certificate in African-American Studies, a MA in Educational Leadership and am in the process of earning my Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in School Counseling (Guidance Counseling).

2. Before you earned your degree and before you found out you were pregnant, what were your plans for after graduation? Did those change once you found out you were pregnant? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Honestly, before graduating, I was becoming increasingly worried about my student loans. I had made the decision to seek employment as a secretary or retail associate and work may way up the chain. I was thinking of quitting school. I honestly was not thinking this decision thoroughly. I was not having any issues with school as I was a Dean's List student, I just doubted (and still do) my ability to pay off the student loans. Once I became pregnant, this changed because I realized that I wasn't going to make it off 18K a year with a child. I planned on not utilizing government aid-not that there is anything wrong with it, so I decided to finish school for more options.

3. In which year (1st, 2nd…) of your undergraduate career did you have little Zach?
I had little Zach at the end of my sophomore year.

4. How long after you gave birth did you graduate?
I gave birth in November 2004 and graduated January 2007, so a little under three years. Giving birth really accelerated the process lol.

5. When you found out you were pregnant, were you worried that you wouldn’t finish?
If so, how did you overcome those fears? If not, why not?
No, not really. I pretty much knew that I would be okay. It wasn't until after I had the baby, up late at night doing papers and having him right next to me unplugging the computer several times, that I began to think that either I need to hurry the hell up, or forget bout it.

6. What kind of resources did the University offer that helped you during your pregnancy and after?
Tameka Odum started “UC Moms”.. it was the best support group ever! It helped me be able to vent my frustrations about co-parenting with his father being out of state and we often held events that would help out a lot, such as play dates and lunches. Also, supportive faculty like Ebony Griggs-Griffith who made sure I had snacks at work and the cafeteria staff who would make sure I ate daily and had a fresh omelet! [even without a meal plan..shhhhh!]Lol. Also, maintenance wouldn't like to see me walk and made sure I had a ride (via the golf carts) to classes everyday. It seems like the staff of UC (University of Cincinnati)were very empathetic from my RC all the way down to the parking lot attendants. I don't know what I would have done without the UC staff!

7. How were you able to manage being a new mommy, working, and finishing classes?
I don't know. I kind of put one foot in front of the other and repeated until I saw the finish line. I also had a lot of support, my best friends Markita Murray, my twin sister, Zakiya Arnold, they baby sat while I took night classes. I also scheduled work and classes from 8-5 and put my child in child care. I worked from 8-12 and had classes from 1-330 and worked out afterwords then got my son. I would schedule one night class and one online class and that's how I would easily take 5-6 classes a term. Then, my sister baby sat on the weekends so I could work weekends as well. I am not going to lie, it was tough! You have to be extremely organized and extremely willing to go the extra mile. None of my professors knew I had a child; I made NO excuses and did my work. One time, my car broke down for months and I had a 8am class in winter term, me and my baby rode the city bus for 3 MONTHS in the blistering cold at 6 AM.. I would drop him off the walk 3 miles to campus. I lost a lot of weight and was very stressed, but I NEVER missed a day of class. I kept my head up and kept on trucking. My son loved riding the bus too.

8. Now that you’ve graduated, are you currently working in your desired field?
Yes and no.

9. If so, what is your job title and what are some of the job expectations?
I am a Violence Prevention Specialist and I work in a Middle school doing anger management counseling, social skills counseling, crisis interventions, and I teach a social skills class as well as coordinate violence prevention programs and activities on campus. If not, what field are you working in? I would like to become a guidance Counselor, which is the same field but pays more money ;).

10. If you have to offer one piece of advice to someone who already has a child prior to entering college, or someone who may have a child during their educational career, what would it be?
Be/Get organized. Excel spreadsheets, goal sheets, etc! Also, have a support system in place! Utilize your resources both on campus and off campus. It's okay if you need some government aid or may need to put your child in day care. DO NOT BE afraid of childcare; after your research, it will be good to you. Also, take time for yourself to enjoy some of what college has to offer! Live on campus if you can (in graduate and family housing) and don't put anything on credit! Don't be ashamed that you are having a child! Go to financial aid, become an “independent student” and hold your head high. It WILL get tough, you just need to be more tough! Bring your baby on campus at the park, use the campus child care, do what you got to do to make it! It's about you and your baby and no one else.

What’s the moral of Shante’s story? Well, it’s quite obvious that with a lot of determination, a solid support system, and the unwillingness to lower one’s standards, you can make it! Shante, thank you for your honesty and thank you for sharing because I know your story will help our fabulous mother’s succeed in college and beyond.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Start Planning Now!

It’s never too early – or too late – to start planning. Yes, I know that God laughs at our plans sometimes because he controls our destiny, so that’s why you have a plan B. *SMILES* So, pipe down and listen up because this post is for any reader who’s in middle school, high school, college, or anywhere in between. Okay, pull out your pen and paper because you’ll literally need to write this down. First, at the top of the page, write down where you want to be when the show’s over, when the curtains fall, when everything is over and done with. Oh, and BE SPECIFIC! Don’t write I want to be happy OR I want to be prosperous. Now don’t get me wrong, being happy should be a goal; however, that’s way too broad for this assignment. So, write down your master plan. What is the finale? Who do you want to become? Next, draw a line straight down the middle of your paper and then another one across the middle. In the top left box, write RIGHT NOW. In the top right, 5 years from now. Bottom left, 10 years from now. Bottom right, 20 years from now. Now, fill in the boxes. Yes, it’s that simple. Write down where you want to be, as a person, given those time frames. Then, flip over the paper and write down what you’re doing to get there. You want to box off the page just as you did before, but now it’s time for you to start planning ways of getting there. That simple. So, as a finale to this post, I’ll answer the “What’s the moral to this post” question.

It’s time to stop blowing hot air around when talking about your future. It’s time to take control and take some initiative. It’s time to get moving. What’s the best way to get motivated? Well, by taking a good hard look at what you want out of life. And guess what? You can do that now by flipping over that sheet of paper and literally taking a look at what you want out of life. #thatisallfolks.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

You may be a bit overwhelmed and a little nervous after getting this far through the book. Take a break and woo-sah for just a moment. College will be just as overwhelming, but sometimes, you need to take 10 minutes, an hour, or a half-day to have a woo-sah moment before your head explodes or you go postal on your roommate. Just relax, mama’s here. The key to college – and probably the rest of your life – is not to bite off more than you can chew. Sure, many of us want to save the world – naïve, yes I AM! No, but seriously, many of us want to be ideal children of God, standouts in the classroom, upstanding pillars of the community, burgeoning businesswomen, all the while remaining the twinkle of your familes’ and friends’ eyes. Well, let me be frank, Francine, and honest….there are NOT enough hours in the day, days in the week, or months in the year to do everything and be everything to everyone.

Yes, I advocate applying yourself in all aspects of life – first in the church, but specifically in college, right now – but, but, BUT, you have to know your limits. A week that consists of 18+ credit hours, 10 – 15 hours of work as a server, 3 hours of volunteering at the local Ronald McDonald House, 3 meetings with different organizations, all while being on line for a sorority and applying for summer internships…my sistah…you’re doing too much!

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing more powerful than a young Black woman who can juggle her many responsibilities, stay on top of her game, all the while remaining absolutely fab-u-lous! But, when you have to start scheduling times to take showers or limiting your calls home because your Grandfather is long-winded, you are doing too much! This is a very bad habit that will not end when you graduate. It will only get worse once you become a wife, mother, and business exec. You will slowly but surely begin to lose sight of your own health and happiness and replace it with plaques, degrees, and accolades. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying quit your job, drop out of school, and live off your credit cards until you become some rapper or athlete’s baby momma (barf!). What I am saying – screaming, actually – is: “you have to manage your time wisely.” Don’t function on autopilot and forget to enjoy your life. Undoubtedly, success is a part of enjoying your life, but not at the expense of your health.

So, cut back on that course load by one class each quarter and budget appropriately so that you can take one or two classes in the summer to stay sharp and end the year on track. Step down from of your post as secretary of this or treasurer of that for a quarter. You can still be involved with that organization by acting as a liaison and attending meetings regularly. Ask your boss if you can cut your schedule by 3-5hrs. Sure, you’re losing out on a few bucks; but, if you budget properly, you can still manage to break even. Say no, once a week when friends are going out or go to library when friends head to the mall. Also, evaluate how you’re spending extra time. If you’re spending hours a day on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Ebay or any other social network, blog, or chat room, you are wasting your life. I’m not saying you cannot frequent these sites – heck, I do! What I am saying is that you’re wasting valuable time that could be used working out, reading the Bible, studying, cleaning up, or even NAPPING! (my personal fav). Any who, stop wasting precious moments checking folks’ statuses. After all, like my girl Ms. Cole once Facebooked, “just a hint, don’t spend too much time on this website, it doesn’t make you money or make you smarter.” Preach.

The moral of this longwinded story is, treat your time like you treat your wallet. Budget, budget, budget. You don’t want to look up and see that your bank account is empty or overdrawn, do you? Think of your time the same way. In the end, you can get more money. You can’t get more time!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Don't Forget to Pack Your Brain with Your Swimsuit

Enjoy your break? Wonderful, because – believe it or not – everyone deserves a break. Hey, maybe that break finally allowed you to read that book that everyone’s been talking about. Maybe, you went to Miami with your best friends to relax in the Sun and forget about the nonsense going on back home. How you make the best of your break is completely up to you, but here at Sistahs U, we don’t break for too long. Repeat and rephrased: we never break for too long! Unfortunately, many of our school systems are set up for students to use the summer as leisure time. Yes, as a child, this was wonderful! It surely accounts for why we love summer more than any other season. However, this break does so little for our minds. We lose our academic edge during the summer by filling our brains with nonsense TV, movies, people, etc. (feel free to add to the list). We even lose some of our hunger for success. The students here at Sistahs U are challenged to spend their summers capitalizing on the opportunities that our more….lazy….competitors pass over. My charge to you is to spend your summer in an internship on Capitol Hill, shadowing a seamstress in New York City, studying international relations in Mexico, or reading up on the overlooked rhetoric of past Presidents. Whatever your cup of tea, don’t forget to pack your brain along with your bathing suit. Don’t take the summer off. Keep pushing. Success doesn’t take the summer off. Neither should you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don’t Fall Victim to the “Groupie Trap"

WARNING: In honor of Kat Stacks and the millions of other groupies out there, I had to move this posting up on my list a bit. This post is not meant to offend well-meaning collegiate mothers. This post is geared to the GROUPIES. Again, this post is for all the GROUPIES trapping on our college campuses. This one's for you. (In my R.Kelly voice).

The truth of the matter is, the larger the school, the more future pro-bowlers, all-stars, and Greeks live on that campus. And, let’s keep it real, there are going to be a few who are fine. They have that two-a-days body, stroll line swag, and the sex appeal that comes with being ‘the man.’ Girl stop! Think about it! First of all, he knows he is fine and he knows that last season’s accolades-First team All Conference-or last week’s probate show have upped his property value. More importantly, he has every intention of using this to his advantage.

Next, every other woman on campus is thinking the same thing as you, and he knows that too. He knows that after any game or any party, he will have a few women-black, white, purple or green-willing to get down with the get down. He knows this and he has every intention of making it happen., sealing the deal, smashing, crashing, and tearing something up. He’s not going home by himself on a Friday after hitting the winning shot, scoring the winning touchdown, or setting the NCAA indoor record for the 100. His hormones are rising-literally-and the girl with the biggest butt, shortest dress and nicest legs will get the pleasure of his pleasures. And if she isn’t down for the cause, he will go on to the next best thing (read: the girl with low-self esteem and “Dingbat” for a middle name).

I shouldn’t have to tell you the next point, but I gotta go there. You don’t want to be that girl who is dumb enough to get knocked up by “that guy.” Why? Because every other person on campus is laughing at you! Your parents should be ashamed and your child is here for all the wrong reasons. As for the other groupies on campus, they really are at your throat. Why? Because, they have probably hit that before, currently are hitting that, or plan on hitting it. So, when you-his baby momma-slashes his tires, calls her phone looking for him, or sits proudly in the stands with his face ironed on a t-shirt, you become the running joke of campus. Is that the legacy you want to leave behind? Is that what you came to school for? Newsflash, you are a baby mama and there is no, nor ever will be, a positive image or definition of this “title.” I hate to bring it to your attention, but he will never take you home for Christmas, nor will he ever tell anyone about you. You will just be, his “crazy baby mama.” Did you waste somebody’s money to go to college to be “that girl who was silly enough to have homie’s baby.”

You also don’t want to be that girl who bounces from frat to ball team. Don’t be that girl who does some self-reflection during your senior year, and you realize that you’ve screwed a few bruhs from this fraternity, a few more from another, rolled around with some football players, and played one-on-one with the starting five. That’s a groupie, and you don’t want to be that girl! That ain’t cute! Don’t let any reality tv show or tell-all book make you think otherwise.

Finally, it’s not cool! Not what’s up! It’s not alright to have sex with a guy because of his “status.” That is not a habit that you EVER want to get into. I’m not saying that you can never be with a man in a fraternity or date a star athlete. You can dibble and dabble, but you need to be careful. First and foremost, protect yourself. Not just physically, by wearing a condom; but also emotionally, be careful not to fall victim to the game. Don’t fool yourself or try to fool him by saying that you can have sex and not fall for him. 'No strings attached’ is a binding contract, because the subtitle reads 'after we have sex, I will stare at my phone until you text or call.' It’s a fact of life. And please, please, please, don’t think you can change him! You can cook all of the breakfasts and bake all of the cupcakes, pay all of the Sprint bills and do all of the homework you want, but, you’re not going to change him! He won’t commit if he‘s not ready. Going back to what I said earlier, he knows what he’s got! He knows that damn near every woman on campus is willing to do whatever he says and give him whatever he wants. So ladies, proceed with caution!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sistahs U Approved: scripting the black masculine body: identity, discourse, and racial politics in popular media

And I Quote…

…many contemporary rappers who identify with the thug profile somehow have convinced themselves they have taken agency in lifting up their communities by claiming their origins in the ghettoes, which supposedly ensures that they have not forgotten their Black heritage. To prove this, they make gallant attempts to define their realities and rescript their Black bodies; instead, however, they have only complied with the stereotypical illusions about Black male bodies as violent, irresponsible, and lewd. Even though the mostly oversized prison-inspired apparel, Timberland boots, and regionally defined accessories (i.e., bandanas, gold teeth, cornrows, etc.) accompany the thug image for some and immediately conjure negative images, they are merely the epicenter of a more arcane inscription-the essentialism of the Black male image and presentation of it in a consonance with the archetypal minstrel brute belonging exclusively to the underclass…

…End Quote

Yes, he referred to gold teeth rockin’, Tims sportin’ thugs as minstrel brutes who present the archetypal minstrel. Agree with him or not, Dr. Jackson leaves us with food for thought.

Read and learn scholars.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sistahs U Approved: The Business of Being Born

Image courtesy of
Healthcare reform is the latest buzz. Duh! I know. I'd like to be the first one to say that healthcare is pointless if we don't educate ourselves. (Yep, I said it). While this post may not help you in the classroom, it is important that we are critical in and out of University setting.

Future mothers, or current mothers hoping to add to their family, check out the documentary by Ricki Lake - The Business of Being Born! This film will help you question the system (and the puppets within it). It will empower you to take back control of your body. Please make sure that YOU are making the right decision for YOU. Get informed. Ignorance is not bliss.

I'll admit, I've never given birth, but, I am informed. So, if you're even remotely curious about additional options for child birth, check out this film. You don't have to agree with it, but you'll be less likely to be another puppet/victim of the system.
:::Fight the Power:::

MORAL OF THE STORY: Educate yourself sistahs, you need to know your options!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don’t be a Hater!

Now, I know the title may catch a few folks off guard (secretly, that’s kind of the point). Read on. As you climb the ladder to success, you will come across some sistahs who are not as motivated as you are. You’ll want to understand why they refuse to get it together and you may even pray for them. And then, you will come across some sistahs who are equally, or even more motivated than you. They’ll graduate summa cum laude. They’ll win awards for their community service. They’ll earn internships in the most competitive companies. They’ll be just as successful as you. And, as much as you want to be happy for them and although you may have even told them how happy you are for them, a little bit of your inner hater will boil up. You won’t understand why, but that inner hater will consistently pop up as you see young Black women, like yourself, changing their Facebook statuses to say that they’ve been accepted to Law school at our HBCU’s, or statuses that they’ve earned a position at Fortune 100 companies, or statuses even say that they’re engaged; maybe the statuses say that they’re moving to the big city to follow their dreams. In the end, as happy as you are for them, there is a part of you that is hatin’ – maybe even jealous (I won’t leak that secret though).
Why is this? Because we see few of us making it to the top. Now, don’t get me wrong, more and more of us are making it to the top these days, but there are still very few (when we think of proportions). So, you assume that “making it” is a competition. After all, isn’t that the American way? So, when you see another one of “us” getting into Law school, going to Med school, starting a business, just friggin’ being happy; we, subconsciously, feel as if they took the last spot; a spot that was supposed to be reserved for us.


I’d argue that this is the demise of sisterhood. When did we stop looking out for one another? When did we stop working our way up the ladder, and looking back to pull someone else up with us? When did we turn against our sister instead of turning to her? When did success become something we wanted to celebrate alone? I won’t reply. I’ll just leave you with these questions. So, the next time your inner hater starts to boil up, ask yourselves these questions.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Should I do in a Boring Class?

First, pay attention. There is ALWAYS something to learn. If you leave the classroom without a better understanding of some concept or newfound knowledge about a given topic, then you are cheating yourself, not the Prof. Yeah, I said it! No, each and every class will not be a life altering experience. However, there is always something to learn, if you open your mind up to it.

So, what can you do? Ask analytical or critical questions. (Great conversation starter) Some of my most interesting classes and discussions were those in which someone asked the tough question, or asked if we could take a look at the concept from a different vantage point. You can call these individuals “the devil’s advocate.”

If you’re not the individual who asks the tough questions, at least get involved in the conversation. Offer your two cents. Allow your views to be challenged and develop. Let yourself evolve as a student, as a scholar. It’s okay. Really, being involved in your education is okay.

PS: When you participate in conversations in class, the class actually goes by quicker. Real life. I don’t make this stuff up, I just write it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Educate Yourself About Black History EVERY Month

Stop! Don’t skip this post just yet. You may be thinking, oh, I know my history. Slavery ended with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 (which, some may argue, didn’t actually free slaves in the Northern states). Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while standing on the balcony of his Lorraine Hotel room balcony in Memphis, TN. Oprah Winfrey is the first Black female billionaire after building the production empire better known as Harpo, Inc. The 9 to 0 decision of the Supreme Court in 1954 in favor of the collective represented in Brown v. Board of Education was the damning blow to the Goliath better known as Jim Crow (at least, that’s what they tell us).

Okay, touché and a two pats on the back for you. You’ve clearly stayed awake through more than one Black History Month program. Without a doubt, the heroes and sheroes listed above played a huge role in the opportunities we have today, but they have almost become pop icons because their names have been thrown around so much and with less and less impact. These names merely scratch the surface of who we are, where we come from, and the ancestors who fought, cried, and died for us to have the opportunities we have.

First, if you don’t take anything else away from this post, take this: YOUR HISTORY, YOUR LEGACY, YOUR HERITAGE DID NOT – LET ME REPEAT, DID NOT – BEGIN WITH SLAVERY! Sorry for getting worked up, but that needed to be said. Your people (assuming you’re African American) were Kings, Queens, and Pharaohs far before the first trip through the Middle Passage. So, please don’t buy into the thought that your history begins there. Once you recognize that wealth, culture, pride, and a slue of other positive attributes stem from your heritage, it gives you a different sense of pride in your being an African-American. Shouldn’t it? Be honest with me, didn’t your chest puff up a little bit? Mine did when I typed it.

Obviously, it was easiest for me to begin with “race.” (Race is in quotes because there is nothing in our DNA that tells the world to mark us as Black, African American, etc. Instead, our Four Fathers and their Four Fathers needed a way to “keep us inline” (read: inferior) so, they began this whole categorizing process – i.e. white, black, Asian, other – that we now call “race”). Don’t get me started; I could go on to write an entire book on the “race” conspiracy.
Any who, knowing your history as an African American is only the first step. After all, aren’t you a woman also? Well then, there is another body of history out there that you should be abreast of (ha, a breast of…women…sorry…I couldn’t help myself…keep reading). Less than a century ago, women in America didn’t have the right to vote. To this day, women are still paid cents to the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Images and stereotypes of woman continue to be overly sexual, emotional, and nurturing creatures hang over our heads. Do you know who Mary Church Terrell is? What about Belva Lockwood? First woman CEO? What women fought for what you seek today; an opportunity to attend higher education institutions in classes with men and move ahead of men corporate organizations?

In order to pay homage to these heroes and sheroes, learn about them. I’m asking you to dig deeper than the history books offered during your typical “Black History Month” tributes, because we have to remember that these were often written by white Americans for white Americans. You can take that to mean whatever you like, but that isn’t the history I’m asking you to brush up on. Instead, I am charging you with the task of reading from some of our greatest Black authors. Read the Talented Tenth and dissect the strengths and weaknesses of W.E.B. DuBois’ central arguments. Read the collections of letters of slaves. Watch Ironjawed Angels, the reenactment of the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. Discuss them with friends. Most importantly, remember that without their sacrifice, you would not have the opportunities that you have today.

Now, I know I may lose some of you in this last section, but I’m willing to do so. Some of you may have been told this in the spirit of patriotism, but if you don’t love America, go to another country ((read: go back where you came from.)) This, I believe. Have you been to a second or third world country? What is the extent of poverty you’ve seen? Have you seen oppression beyond that which you live? I haven’t, honestly, but I know that the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy in America are unmatched in many countries and cultures around the world. So, you owe to yourself and to your country to know your history as an American citizen. What’s your State’s capital? Who is your Senator? What does s/he stand for? Which President established Thanksgiving as a national holiday? Who coined the term “affirmative action?” Which women are argued to have received the first electoral votes for presidency? Yes, regardless of your party affiliation, your values, your this, your that, you need to know your history as an American. Why? Because you are an American and you have no problem practicing your freedom of speech, wearing the clothes you chose, and jaywalking in front of the police. In other countries, you would be hung for these same activities. For that, you must recognize yourself as American….for you are, an American.

I can’t tell you which part of your identity – female, Black, American – will take center stage at any time throughout your collegiate career, or any time beyond that. What I will tell you is that you NEED to know how to manage them. I can’t tell you how to or which one is most important to your success. You owe it to yourself to learn how to balance these competing identities. After all, all three parts make you who you are. Moreover, the struggles you’ll face – both blatant, and subliminal – are similar to those that similar young, Black females have faced. Knowing that history will help you understand and cope with an identity that is, well, scarce in most colleges/universities.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Money Saving Tip #1

Hair. Hair. Hair. I guess you can say Chris Rock brought more attention to Black women’s hair than Madam CJ Walker. I’m not about to join the debate surrounding good and bad hair. Can I put in a quick plug though? (Me joining the debate…I can’t help myself!) There’s no such thing as “good hair.” The hair on your head is better than having no hair at all. So, it’s good hair!

Any who, saving money in college is probably one of the hardest things to do – especially if your parents don’t have very much. So, how can you help them, and yourself? Try learning how to do your own hair! It’s just silly to spend hundreds of dollars on a weave or sit up under a dryer for 4 hours each week. There are cases of females not buying books, skipping class, and wearing scarves to class, all in the name of hair! Nonsense. Nonsense. Nonsense. Getting your hair done is a luxury. Yes, a luxury! And, it’s flat out silly. Let me see, you bought a sew-in instead of books? You skipped class to get a roller wrap? You wore a scarf to class to hide it because you’re worried how it looks, but you don’t worry about how it looks when you wear a scarf? Hmm. Where are your priorities? Period. There’s just no argument that can be posed against it. You call yourself an independent woman? Try washing your hair on your own once. Now, I’m not saying jump into putting in a relaxer and all, but washing your hair on your own can save hundreds. You’d be amazed how easy it really is (depending by length and thickness.)

The moral of this story is, put off the luxuries you think you deserve now, so that you can put yourself in a place to have them in the future. When you put school first and manage your finances, you set yourself up for long-term success and stability. Go forth, taking control of your mane, playing India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair.” Hums along....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is "Sounding White" A Bad Thing?

Trust me, at some point of your collegiate career someone is going to tell you that you “sound white.” When – not if – but, when someone tells you that you sound white, it may very well be a compliment that means, “You’re a very bright, intelligent person;” OR, it may be a shot at you that means “You’re a sell out, and you’ve forgotten where you came from.” Either way, both meanings, along with the notion that one can “sound white,” comes from a place of ignorance and your response should be… “Since when has speaking properly been the sole responsibility and privilege of white people? Intelligence has no color and thus, I’m exercising my right to express my own intelligence.” Point. Blank. PERIOD. Regardless if someone says you sound white out of love or hate(r), laugh at them…then pray for them, because for some reason, they’ve been convinced that having a bit of brainpower, coupled with an appreciation for making some friggin’ sense when you speak and an affinity for not sounding like a fool adds up to “sounding white.” Whew, I could go on for days, but I’ll move on for your sake and mine.

At the end of the day, there are individuals who seek to “sound white” in order to get a pass because they believe that is the only way you can “make it” in this world. Pray for them as well and move on. Hopefully, one day they’ll learn. One day, they’ll have that rude awakening and they’ll look back to realize that they lost themselves somewhere along the way. You don’t have to be that person though. No, there aren’t as many people of color in powerful positions for us to look up to with regard to how we communicate. There are enough, though, and they certainly aren’t trying to pass. You can stay in your comfort zone, be true to yourself, and find success without “sounding white.” All I can ask you to do is please speak with some sense. Now, you don’t have to put on your best Becky voice to sound like you have sense or in order to be taken seriously, but there are a few things that are absolutely necessary. Please don’t replace “th” with “f.” It’s not “wif,” it’s “with.” It’s not “nuffin,’” it’s “nothing.” Don’t add extra “eds” at the end of words that already them. “Neededed” should be “needed.” Also, some words simply don’t exist. “Conversate” does not exist in any language; it’s “converse.” “Irregardless” is a double negative. It’s not “irregardless what you think, I’s smart.” It’s “regardless what you think, I’m smart.” Other than that, stay in your comfort zone. You don’t have to use twelve letter words to make your point. Trust me. A Professor once told me “KISS” – “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Yes, I was offended, but his words stick with me. You don’t have to say “a two-legged, feathered egg creating animal made a conscious, cognitive decision to alter its current physical location in order to relocate to an ideal, more suitable locality.” Just say, “the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side.” Point taken. Simple. There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks they’re sounding intelligent and yet, their showing their ignorance. So, the moral of this story: Keep It Simple Stupid. Know what you’re talking about and stay true to yourself. You are intelligent and you don't have to try to prove that to others by "sounding white.” Go forth and speak with confidence, assurance, and in your own voice. Peace.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Outsider Within (Cue dramatic music)

The first few posts have been, well, watered down – to say the least. The plan was to ease you in to college life by giving you the basics. Now that you’re prepped and ready, it’s time to get real. Really, really, real!

Being a woman of color at a PWI (predominately white institution) is like…well, it’s like being an outsider within. It’s like being the elephant in the room. It’s like being the red-headed step child. I remember my first day of undergrad. Here I was, away from home, excited about learning, and most of all, ready to meet new people. So, after I unpacked, I thought I’d venture off, out into this new world and do just that – meet some new people. Once I got outside, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore Toto. No one looked like me. When I say no one, I mean NO ONE. Here were all of these new people whom I wanted to meet, but I couldn’t. They were being dropped off in BMWs, Mercedes, and minivans. They were being dropped off by mom and dad and they were nothing like me. I thought to myself, “How are we supposed to relate?” “How could I spark up a convo?” BLANK STARE. Then, I decided to just wait on my roommate, because we’d have to talk. Well, when she finally moved in, she went on an on about how here mom was pissed because she maxed out her credit card for the month. After all, is $2,500 that big of a deal? Come on! THOUGHT BUBBLE: Give me a break, you spoiled rich brat! It didn’t stop there though. On the first day of classes, I remember getting to class super early. I was ‘xcited! Here I was, sitting in a classroom that could hold 500 people. What will happen? Who will I meet? What will I learn? I can’t wait! Then…as my fellow classmates began to file in, I realized that the two seats on either side of me were empty. There were literally people sitting on the stairs, but there were free seats sitting next to me. When I scanned the room, I saw similar things happening with other students of color. WTF? This is when I had my “ah ha” moment. Over the next four years of undergrad and two years of grad school, I noticed time and time again, people wouldn’t sit next to me. They’d lap up before taking a seat next to me. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure did seem like they’d rather hang from the ceilings than sit next to me). When I’d answer questions, instructors would act like my answer was wrong or incomplete. Then, another – lighter – student would say something that made no sense on any planet, and that answer would be…yep, you guessed it – correct. WTF? Then, once the instructor realized I knew what the heck I was talking about, he or she would just stop calling on me.

This longwinded story isn’t meant to scare you off. My goal is to prepare you for some alienation, some loneliness, and some flat out bull. Let’s be completely Frank, Francine, and honest with each other. We are an anomaly. We are not supposed to make it to college. However, in some people’s minds, because of Affirmative Action, a few of us are allowed to slip in to fill a certain, small quota (I’m throwing up in my mouth as I type this – but it is our reality). However, even if you are allowed in to a college classroom, you are expected to be seen and not heard. You sure as heck are not supposed to come in, participate, smile, nod, take notes, stay attentive, and above all else, KNOW WHAT THE HECK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! When you do these things, they don’t know what to do with themselves. All that they’ve heard, watched, read, believed, learned, and created in their minds about students of color is thrown out the window when you answer a question correctly, when you challenge the bologna that comes out of the ethnocentric instructor’s mouth, when you prove that you deserve to be there (probably more than the very people who give you dirty looks). HA! When people look at you crazy because you’re on top of your game, well, smile, nod and keep doing what you’re doing, because regardless how out of place you may look (and sometimes feel) you deserve to be there, you deserve to learn, and you deserve to succeed!

Oh, and one last thing…that feeling of being an outsider on the inside, yeah, that won’t stop once you graduate. Unless you go into business for yourself, you will probably be one of the only, if not THE only, person of color in your respective organization as you climb the proverbial ladder to success. Yeah, so, you’ll be proving yourself for a very long time. People will continue to be surprised that you “speak properly,” that “you’re so bright,” and that you “have a degree from (insert college or graduate program here).” Hey, I don’t write the rules, I just share ‘em with you. Peace.