…But, if you want to be basic, be basic.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist who by birth is apart of the sisterhood.

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. . . But, if you want to be basic, be basic. A Response to, “Why I Can’t Be Basic.”

There are so many outlets telling us what to do, how to look, what to say, how to feel, when to breathe. . . that sometimes it’s hard to tell if what we’re doing is what we really want to do or if we’re falling for the either implicit or explicit trends that we see everywhere, everyday.

I think what you’re arguing, Julia,  is that a black woman cannot and should not be called basic because she is the epitome of everything . . . and what I’m arguing is that regardless of what a black woman is being called – she may act in any so way that she pleases and you can call it what you want.

I feel compelled to argue that if a black woman wants to be basic, then let her be basic.

By definition, a basic b**** is someone that follows the latest trends (be they good or bad) and is just one in a sea of many.

The idea of a black woman being whatever she wants to be is so important to me because I recently saw a meme that made me think twice about this ideal.

It was something along the lines of black women not needing to believe in (black) feminism because we believe in sisterhood.

I was so annoyed because no one ever said that (black) feminism and sisterhood had to be mutually exclusive. Why can’t we have both? Are they not one in the same?

Black feminism is sisterhood and sisterhood is black feminism.

Black feminism is the intersectionality of sex, class, gender and race.   

If  I had to theorize the idea of sisterhood, I think I’d copy and paste the definition of black feminism.

The idea that we can have one and not the other in and of itself is why we need them both in the first place. It’s another example of oppression – limiting what we can and cannot have.

When I’m asked to identify who I am, hands down, top 5 identifies always include black feminist. I am a black woman – never black and happening to be a woman or a woman who happens to be black. And, I am a black feminist.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist.

I am a black woman and I am a black feminist who by birth is apart of the sisterhood.

Point. Blank. Period.

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. We keep saying it and then we walk around perpetuating stereotypes that deem it true.

#staywoke

And for the record – let’s stop stereotyping women all together.

I don’t believe even halfheartedly in the idea of a basic b****.

Not one woman should be called a basic b**** in the first place.  

Men shouldn’t be walking around calling women anything (feminism in its truest form).

And those of us in the sisterhood definitely shouldn’t be walking around bashing our gendered kinfolk (also feminism in its truest form).

Black woman, be whatever you want to be and get your life with this spoken word.

– Shamira

Lest we forget

For a few days I could feel the fear and the sadness. The need for “revolution” was palpable. Solidarity in the movement could not be mistaken. And, allyship may have been as strong as ever.

 

But, I don’t feel that way today.

Today, there is a still quiet in the air. An undertone of buzz.

Yesterday, too.  

It is not silent – as there are protests, and vigils (and funerals), and town halls still taking place all over the country. But, it is contextually fairly quiet.

People are breathing a little easier.

Shoulders are are little less tense.

Conversations have shifted back to normal everydays.

And it makes me wonder. . . have we forgotten, already?

The hurt, pain, chaos, anger. The solidarity, unity, community.

The traditional news outlets sure have, so maybe we have to.

We’ve retreated back to our normal. Mind you, the one that has been forced on us for so many years. But, a normal nonetheless. Our normal. And, maybe, just maybe we’ve gotten too comfortable there.

Why are we comfortable? At the bottom. Because we’ve been given no place else to be?

Lest we forget, the bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama lasted 381 days.  

Lest we forget, a huge chunk of sit-ins also lasted more than a year – and yielded some 70,000 participants and 3000 arrests.  

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Lest we forget, the Civil Rights Movement itself lasted an entire decade; from 1955-1965.

 

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I don’t have the answers. But, I’m hoping someone does. What is our next move? What’s the next play? What do we have to put into motion that will guarantee some 20 years from now, someone will be able to say, “Lest we forget. . .” about our time?

– Shamira

 

 

Almost ready 

 

Months ago I said that something was about to go down, and when it did I wanted to be Ready.

Well, it is here.

The moment is here. It has come full force. It is both figuratively and literally hitting us in the face.

 

And, I’m not ready.

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m sad.

I’m nervous.

I’m amped and hypervigilant.

And, still, not ready.

 

Everybody has an opinion – as we’re entitled to. And, as we join ranks, I want to be sure that we remember that as black people and that all that we’ve gone through together, amongst each other – we don’t all learn, and live, and grieve and fight the same way.

 

I want us to remember solace as we stand together, organize, and fight.

 

Let’s not condemn one another for not standing at the front of the lines in protest all across the country.

Let’s not push or force each other to watch #another live, on camera, cold-blooded murder.

Let’s not turn on one another because our solemn expressions aren’t “enough.”

 

Let us unite, in many different forms, but as one.

 

Some of us will write. Some of us will paint. Some of us will express our grief through a song or a dance.

Some of us will pray.

And, some of us will organize, some of us will march and some of us will fight.

Not matter what our roles are – – – no matter what YOUR role is – – – let us remember to stand together.

– Shamira

 

 

 

 

 

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Code switching

Code switching, the practice of alternating between a variety of languages and/or dialects,  is a skill that has proven to be necessary in this ever changing and evolving world.

Code switching is so beautiful.

Code switching is so complicated.

Code switching, in and of itself, is the way Obama greets people at the White House as demonstrated by this Key & Peele skit.

It’s the way the internet went crazy when Obama greeted the 2012 Olympic Basketball Team as they headed to London. 

Code switching is being able to speak three “kinds” of English, as detailed by Jamila Lyiscott’s 2014 TED Talk, and not blink an eye.

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I call code switching complicated because if it wasn’t “a thing,” there wouldn’t be a sketch about the many handshakes of Barack Obama.

Moreover, I call it complicated because I actually find it intricate at times.

Being an educator and code switching in and out of the classroom can get messy.

I began to actively practice code switching when I began to “lose my blackness” as a teacher.

I began to actively think about the ratio of academic versus non-academic language that I use on a daily basis in order to hang on to some of the connections I make with students during down time.

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What I mean by lose my blackness is – students began to view me as just a teacher, instead of a black teacher. Instead of their black teacher. Instead of their black teacher teaching a classroom of 99% black students.

I think this happened due to lack of academic versus non-academic language balance…lack of code switching.

With 85% of the teaching force being white, middle class, women,  I wanted the fact that I am an educator who shares some of the same demographics of my students to mean something.

And, it does.

But, I want it to mean something to those whom it will impact the most. I want it to mean something to the students.

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To me it’s very important to engage in academic dialogue with students. This is especially true when talking specifically about academics – like English and Math. And, for me, is most important when actively teaching – whether a one on one tutoring situation, leading a small group or introducing a new topic to a class of 30 students.

The mess comes when the teaching role and identity take precedent over cultural identities.

To me this sounds like a student saying, “How do you know what _________ means?!”

Well all innuendos are easy to figure out — and my friends and I say (or used to say) the same or similar things.

“You listen to this music?”

Well of course. We probably listen to the same radio station. I like hip hop, too.

“You saw that movie? I didn’t know you watched ‘stuff like that’”

Yes. Yes, I did. I watched it, and I enjoyed it. 

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I find that when students forget that we likely share the same taste in music, food, entertainment and/or word choice (among so many other cultural characteristics) – they may have unknowingly prioritized one identity over the other.

Not too long ago a student was hanging around as I answered a phone call from my sister. When I hung up she said, “I didn’t know you talked hood.”

First of all – – – there is no such thing as talking hood. Second of all – – – what do you say to a child that just accused their teacher of “talking hood?”

I was stumbling to explain how and why a belief in the idea of “hood talk” was a form of self defamation and suppression. In that moment, that teaching moment, I was attempting to properly convey all of the intricacies of code switching. 

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Reflecting on experiences like these make me think, maybe I’m not code switching enough. That academic versus non-academic language balance, may not be as balanced as I think it is. And, though I think of code switching as something that happens naturally,  it’s times like this that influence my intentional use of code switching.

I don’t want to be the exception to the rule. I don’t want students to look at me as the one who “made it.” The lucky one. 

I want students to look at me and see themselves. I want them to see their future. I want them to see opportunity. 

I recently heard someone on a panel say, “If you don’t expect your students to say they want to be teachers – I want to be just like you – then you’re doing something wrong.”

Those are big shoes to fill. But, if intentional code switching will help me do so, then so be it. 

by: Shamira

 

The Answer

Bobby Seale talked extensively about the power of the black vote, last weekend at the Black History and Culture Showcase

He said, “institutionalized racism, backed by law, is only undone by voting.”

Thinking about the idea that a man in a uniform can evoke harm until death on camera and face no punishment – I know that we are more than aware that institutionalized racism is rapid and rampant throughout these United States.

I was awed by the eloquence with which Seale spoke.

I was awed by his ability to recite, with enthusiasm and passion, poems and works from decades ago.

I was awed by the conviction in his voice.  

And, most importantly, I was inspired.  

It is often easiest to find ourselves overwhelmed by all of the wrongdoings that we hear/see/live daily – but, I couldn’t help but feel, last weekend, that Seale has had the answer all along.

The power of the vote.

Infiltrating the system by populating the offices of those that make the decisions that govern the country is the answer. And, it’s the method by which the BPP worked years ago. 

Definitely easier said than done; but, an answer, no less.

I find nothing radical about this notion; for, common sense should tell us that it is inherently right that a group of people should be governed by a group of his and her peers. And, even still, this is a notion that occupies, though in variation, many of the laws that govern the land.

So, it hurts my feelings when people that look like me say that they refuse to vote because none of the candidates are representative of them or their values.

And, it scares me senseless, worrying about the worst case scenario reining true and leading the country.

It feels like we’re starting from the ground. Fortunately, the idiom tells us that, the only way to go is up.

Perhaps it’s time to return to those foundations and principles that struck a chord with us so many years ago.  

If we can organize and educate, we can run for and win elections in order to make better lives for ourselves.

by: Shamira

*Check out Julia’s reaction to the Black History and Culture Showcase.

 

Ready.

No doubt, something big is brewing.

Drumpf is crazy, and apparently so are many other people that live in America. It’s hard for me to tell if we’re just a few days/weeks/months away from something for the books or if this is just the beginning.

I’m in my feelings about what feels like the modern civil rights era for two reasons. The first reason is that I’m still figuring out what my role is through it all. The second reason is, if there IS more to come, who and where are the Martins and Malcolms of our time?

Thinking about the many protests, “riots,” gatherings, etc. that continue to happen across the nation, when push comes to shove, I wonder where I stand. Looking at Chicago, I feel the power, I feel the movement, I feel the justice.

I also feel the plight of uncomfortability, fragility and apprehension.

I’m scared.

I’m nervous.

God knows, I’m not a fighter.

But, that’s what we’re doing now. We’re fighting. Because we have to. Because people are saying, “Make America white again.” Because our bodies are being dragged through the mud, and our babies are being killed on camera and nobody cares.

Nobody cares.

So, now I’m thinking about Harriet Tubman. The ultimate MVP. She helped change the course of life for so many of us and I cannot begin to fathom what she felt. When she knew something had to be done and she did it. She did it well, and she did it over and over again because she had to.

I don’t know if I can be like Brother Malcolm, or Amelia Boynton Robinson or John Lewis or Fannie Lou Hamer.

I don’t know if I can channel the courage of Ella Baker, or Dorothy Height. But, I want to.

Let’s talk about this new renaissance (as my sister calls it).

Media outlets like Blavity, speaking and preaching about all things black.

Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and yes Beyonce, holding it down in the music industry.

Black people are in love with their hair, their skin and their bodies again  #yas

My personal favorites – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, Clint Smith and Ernestine Johnson – leading the literary way.

And, DeRay McKesson is definitely holding it down and holding his own in the world of politics.  

A lot of good stuff in a lot of different places.

We’re unapologetically black.

We’re woke.

The new wave of “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” is now.

And, we’re laying the foundation for the new black messiah.   

Are ya’ll ready?

 

by: Shamira