An Open Letter about Representation in Academia from a Black Professor
Because there’s still more room at my table
I want you to know why I am here. I want you to know why I choose to be in a profession where I am most certainly a minority, where across the board, people who look like me are far and few in-between. Did you know that only about 3% of full-time faculty are Black women (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016)?
I am not here by mistake. This is not random. This is just as intentional as it is strategic.
“I teach because I need you to see a visual representation of what you can be…and what you can be better than.” — Yinde Newby, author and educator
Allow me to break this down a little bit.
“…what you can be…and what you can be better than.”
Please don’t for a second think I’m only here teaching you so you can see that you can be like me. Why would I place such limits on you and your beautiful mind? Why would I shame our ancestors, bound by the burdens of slavery and institutional racism, by curbing the leaps and bounds they’ve made for you…the hopes and dreams you were made for? I want you to see you in me and I want you to do bigger and better. I want you to surpass, to transcend, to outshine anything I’ve ever done or ever could do. Don’t see me as the goal or the limit, but rather, see me as the standard. The stepping stone. I want to give you a leg up, but only if you let me.
You may not be familiar with the leaps and bounds I’ve had to make to get this seat at the table, but trust me, I didn’t sit here intending to be the only one. I sat here because I was passed the torch and I plan to pass the torch off to whoever is up to taking the seat.
“…I teach because I need you”
The journey has been far from easy, and it’s far from over. You think you need me, but truth is, I need you. I need you to let me know it was all worth it, that I’m supposed to be here. I need you to justify what I’ve been through.
the dream killers
the “you’re not supposed to be here” stares and micro aggressions
the long nights, the sacrifice
giving college the last 10 plus years of my life
the failures, the questioning of what I’m doing and
who I am
And making God laugh with my own so-called “plans”
tests on material I don’t even remember to get to places I’ll never forget
climbing mountains to help people climb I don’t even know yet
Let me know.
This one is for the scholars, the ancestors and their successors.
Happy New Year! So many people I know are talking about what they are going to do this year. Some people plan to work out more, others want to save money and so on. We always talk about New Years resolutions and the new beginnings we hope they bring, but why don’t we spend as much time addressing things we want to leave in 2017?
After a lot of reflecting these last few days, I’ve come up with 5 things I refuse to take into this new year to live my best life.
I refuse to…
Worry incessantly: I have spent a great deal of my time worrying. Will this be okay? Will that happen when I want it to? What if the worst case scenario is my reality? I’d be lying to myself if I said I’ll never worry again, but this year, I won’t let it consume me. I have a lot of irons in the fire this year, and the more goals you have, the more room there is for error, and I have to accept that possibility. I’m also a spiritual person who knows the power of prayer. Doing my best and staying prayed up is my mantra this year.
Believe everyone is happy for me: As much I have worried over the years, I’ve been blessed just as much or even more. Some of these blessings I’ve shared and others I’ve kept quiet. In the process, I’ve seen who’s rooting for me and who isn’t and even some of the ones “rooting for me” ain’t really rooting for me, if you know what I mean. Nothing to harp on, but definitely something to take note of. In the words of my momma, “everybody ain’t ya friend.” Put the fake cheerleaders on the bench; sometimes you have to be your own biggest fan.
Skimp on self-care: For the most part, I keep my hair done and nails done (unless you catch me on a hot mess day, which is more probable than not these days), but self-care is beyond surface level aesthetics. I typically don’t get enough rest, on busy days I don’t eat like I should, and on some gym days, stretching and adequate water intake fall by the wayside. Sometimes, I let the little stuff knock me down and forget who the bleep I am in the process. Addressing THESE things and more are also part of self-care. This year, I vow to step my game up.
Stretch the circle: We learned how to color in the lines in kindergarten, and to say the least, some struggled more than others. In hindsight, maybe I was one of those kids. Although I’m not necessarily referring to coloring circles with markers and crayons, the message is relatively the same: stay in the circle. I have a circle of family and a few select friends that I trust through and through, but at times, I’ve looked at other people who could possibly join this elite team that aren’t qualified for the job. Not a good look. Don’t get me wrong, making new friends and spending time with others isn’t a bad thing, but I won’t go as far as stretching my circle into an oval.
Seek validation outside of myself: I have come far on this one, but I still have work to do. When I was younger, schoolyard trials and tribulations had the power to influence how I felt about myself. As I grow more into adulthood, the ups and downs of relationships, my career, life changes and other things have played a major role in my self-concept. I feel that this is healthy and natural, but only to a certain extent. I have to make sure people and things don’t define who I am. If someone feels some kind of way about me, I can not internalize the negativity. If I don’t achieve the goals I intended to slay, I can not own failure. Why go broke on the account of people and things when you can stay rich off of self love, the gift that keeps on giving? I simply can’t afford to keep going broke.
I plan to stick to NOT doing these things and for real for real, I hope you will too.