Tag Archives: higher education

Hello Scholar

An Open Letter about Representation in Academia from a Black Professor

Because there’s still more room at my table

Hello Scholar,

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.”

Me teaching, winter 2018

Me teaching, winter 2018

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.

With Warm Regards,

Your Black Professor

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Help a Sista Help a Sista

“Unfortunately, history has shown us that [sisterhood] must be learned, when it should be natural.” — Josephine Baker

JJ Jendayi Johnson 2

Jendayi Johnson

 

Today, my mom and I ran into a man at the mall. In conversation, he brought  up his daughter. His face lit up when he spoke of her.

My face lit up when his face lit up. I was loving this father’s love.

“She just finished up at University of Virginia and now she’s headed to New York for graduate school.” Jendayi Johnson, his daughter, is headed to Columbia in the fall to study speech-language pathology. Her studies have been inspired by her grandmother, who suffered a stroke and lost most of her speaking ability.

While the doctor was claiming defeat, alleging that Jendayi’s grandmother may never speak again, the speech pathologist was working to prove otherwise. After months of working with the speech pathologist, Jendayi’s grandmother was speaking whole sentences.

How sweet a feeling it is when we prove doubt and defeat wrong.

Unfortunately, Jendayi herself has dealt with a great deal of doubt from others and even from herself. “When I was accepted into college, I was told that I only got in because I was Black,” she explained on her Just Jobs scholarship page. She went on to talk about overheard conversations demeaning Black students and minimizing the validity of their accomplishments. After internalizing all of this, she, like many students, developed Impostor Syndrome, or an inability to accept personal success and achievement. People who experience Impostor Syndrome often fear that they should not be where they are in life and aren’t as capable as their peers.

It’s easy to feel like an impostor as a black woman in higher education. In many spaces of higher education, we are limited or even non-existent. Nonetheless, our presence in these spaces is needed and well overdue. Many black women miss opportunities for higher education, not because we are incapable, but rather, because we are unsupported.

Sisterhood.

Its when I reached out to a UVA student via Facebook when I first got accepted into my master’s program and she took time out her busy schedule to talk to me before I even got there, came over and gave me a 3 hour pep talk the night I moved to Charlottesville and afterwards, became a lifelong friend and role model.

Its when a dean at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Richmond, supported me when I was threatened and had property vandalized for the words I wrote in the school newspaper, from the moment it happened to the police hearing, which she attended with me. She continued to support me well after it was all said and done.

Its when a retired philanthropist decided to sow seeds through me and pay for me to travel in order to work with marginalized girls throughout Virginia and beyond before ever meeting me in person.

There were way more than three black women who helped pave the way for me. Now, its Jendayi’s turn. She needs way more than that to help support her vision as well.

“Receiving my degree will allow me to prove everyone that thought that I didn’t have the ability to succeed wrong. More importantly, it would be the first step of many towards achieving my goal of fortifying my clients’ abilities to communicate their thoughts, opinions, and desires and continuing on the trajectory that other Black scholars that came before me created,” Jendayi asserted.

Black people are crabs in a barrel.

Black women never support each other.

Our community is tainted by these false stereotypes.

Jendayi wants to prove the naysayers wrong by helping others do the same.

My momma and I told her daddy that he ran into the right people today. Help me follow through.

Help a sista help a sista and vote for this young queen to win a scholarship so she can go on to Columbia and really show out and show and prove.

Because sisterhood should be natural.

(Its extremely easy to vote. From what I was told, clicking the heart above the comments section counts as a vote. Also, leaving comments on the page and sharing her page on Facebook also helps to convince the judges. You have until Friday, 7/ 15/2016 to vote.)