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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.