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

The Heaviest Burden

For the nights when our love don’t love us back.

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 10.41.07 PM

The heaviest burden

The most urgent concern

Is when tears burn your face from the words of others because 

The worst sounds come from sobs in pillows smothered with covers undercover

Doused in brokenheartedness 

The hurt that our mothers vowed to protect us from

The heaviest burden

When you feel like a burden

unwanted and unappreciated 

Don’t you hate it?

When somebody rather drag you out like last night’s trash just because 

You and your crown are too heavy to lift?

But don’t you hate it even more when

You put your own self in that trash bin?

The heaviest burden

When you feel sorry for yourself and 

You start to tear yourself down just like everyone else did 

As if they really needed help with it

You take in the words and you start to believe 

The alibis and the lies 

Against your spirit 

You can see you falling out of love with yourself so loud and so clear you can hear it

A car crash, a tree fall, a falling apart

Damn, it wasn’t like that from the start

Damn, has an artist ever been more dismissive of her own work

Of her own art?

The shit is taught. And she listened.

The heaviest burden

The rising from the fire

The guilt of a liar that

Only lies to herself 

She needs some help she

Needs some medical attention 

Did I mention that wounds cut the deepest 

From self inflicted


Well tell me where to start because

The heaviest burden is me

Somebody tell me where to start because 

The burden is too heavy 

The Friend in the Family by Fantasia Alston


There was this friend in the family

Who always came around

He’d make the kids smile

Whenever they began to frown

He was so damn cool

He was so damn nice

He was so damn handsome

And oh so polite

One day this friend in the family

Gave me a wink

I was in so much shock

I could barely think

Am I going crazy?

That might be so

Fantasia, calm down

It was nothing, let it go

This friend in the family started giving me money

Buying me candy

And calling me honey

I had no guidance

So naive and lost

Wanting to make a friend

No matter the cost

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly”

That’s what everyone would say

But this friend in the family

Tried to rape me one day.

I became a recluse

Always stayed inside

Because on that very tumultuous day

A part of me died

A few cousins took notice

Asked what was wrong

But I kept saying “nothing”

While pretending to be strong

The more time passed

The weaker I became

His presence around my family

Was driving me insane

Who would be next

If he couldn’t get to me

A predator like him

Shouldn’t be free

I finally spoke up

Told my cousins about that day

They were definitely in shock

But brushed what happened away

Acted as if it never happened

So he still came around

The very few I trusted

Had certainly let me down

I guess it wasn’t a big deal

Maybe I should be more vibrant

And when he sexually assaults me again

I should just remain silent.

unnamedFantasia Alston is a guest writer for theblackertheberry.org. She is a 22 year old free spirit  and visionary who spends most of her time  writing poetry, reading (preferably mystery books), and doing whatever she can to help better the community, whether it be volunteering at the nearest homeless shelter or picking up any litter found on the solid surface of the Earth. She also enjoys painting whatever comes to mind, cooking, meditating,  and taking long walks to nowhere.  She currently resides in Columbia, SC. She is a writer for #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE, an organization that supports and empowers girls and women to stay in school. Learn more about her and her work here. Follow her on instagram here.

The Trouble with Love & Hip Hop


(photo: The Pulse Radio)

When I had time to watch television on a regular basis, I watched it faithfully. Never missed an episode. Like many other women, I liked to get a glimpse of how the other side lived, get hair and outfit inspirations from the rich and famous, and drool over the Chanel, Hermes and Balenciaga bags that I could only own in my dreams.

While many of us consciously focus on the aesthetics of the show, we unconsciously take in the garbage – the misogyny, the degradation of the female body and the trivialization of black love – that is an unfortunate by product of the reality television series. But the trouble with Love & Hip Hop isn’t what’s on the screen – it’s when the garbage behind the screen becomes reality. It’s when girls, boys, men and women reproduce it in their homes, in the streets and in the sheets.

Women are objectified constantly in this show. One example that comes to mind is the whole Peter Gunz situation. Peter Gunz, a man with a longtime girlfriend with whom he has several children, began seeing a young songstress named Amina while he was still involved with his baby momma. But it didn’t stop there – the baby momma and the new girl both knew about his disloyal ways…and about each other. So to keep his cover, Gunz lied to both women so he could still see them both. Their hearts, their minds and their bodies were discounted – all for the sake of sexual satisfaction. This teaches women and girls that loyalty shouldn’t be expected and that when it comes to men, objectification is a condition to be tolerated.

Totally undoes everything momma taught ya, huh?

It’s television. We see women half-naked parade around men in suits and coats and all kinds of layers all the time, right? Well, Mimi took it a few steps further when she willingly agreed to release a feature-length sex tape to the masses, to please her boyfriend. It wasn’t so much the tape itself than it was the decision – a decision that lacked her agency or choice – a right to make a major decision about her own body, pertaining to her most private of parts, which she completely waived to someone else. And of course, the boyfriend’s agenda in all this? Money. His want for money outweighed her right to her own skin and bones. If taking away (or openly yielding) one’s rights all for the sake of a man isn’t degrading, then I don’t know what is. Her daughter’s not going to know what it is either, if she grows up knowing the ramifications behind mommy’s tape.

Ya momma totally undid everything she was taught, huh?

Whether we like it or not, black television has the responsibility of representing us, especially in this assumption-driven, stereotype-laden, allegedly “post racial” society we live in today. Sometimes this representation seems more like a minstrel show, especially when it comes to black love. Joe Budden, a man in a long on and off relationship with his girlfriend (I guess?) Tahiri, is a royal mess. He cheats on Tahiri left and right… and left again…and right again…and she takes him back still. Every. Single. Time. At one point, he moves in a young, vulnerable homeless girl named Keylin. He dogs her out too, but he finds it to be much easier, given her socioeconomic position – barely 19, homeless, no family, etc. The love here, defined with cheating and using and abusing, doesn’t have to be the image of black love. That little boy watching the show doesn’t need to be taught that he can dog out a woman in any and all ways imaginable and still have her to himself. The little girl that tunes in every single solitary week doesn’t need to buy into the “ride or die” ideology for a dirt bag, either. Nor does she need to acquire the low self-esteem it takes to compromise her self-respect for a roof, or a meal or a bag. And none of us need more images of infidelity and hyper-sexuality to taint the beauty of black love.

I myself watch reality TV sometimes, but not this show. Not anymore. And I’m not going to start watching it again, until somebody cleans up some of the trash. What I see when I turn to Love & Hip Hop is a form of slavery – men, permanently chained to boyish ways and women, forced to sell their souls for next to nothing.

Love & Hip Hop, where insecurities look better tucked away in a Louis Vuitton duffle bag and pride is so much easier to swallow with a tall glass of Moët.

(for more pieces like this, check out the “Let’s Talk” page of the site)