Summahsummahsummahtime! YAAS! Officially, unforgivingly, without-a-doubt summertime. In my mind, it’s been summer since May 19, 2013 and the past month has flown by. Summer is the perfect time to take stock of goals and ambitions, and it feels MUCH less committal and judgmental than January 1st/ New Year’s Resolutions. As part of my “Personal and Professional Development” (it’s a thing), I’m setting goals for myself, with a mindset rooted in progress and faith. Easier said than done, but it must be said in order to be done. I’m speaking it into existence! Summer’s the best time I’m revisiting the S.M.A.R.T. model of setting goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep in line.
Read. Read lots more. So far this resolution is taking off pretty well, in the middle of “Bitch Is The New Black“, working on “Wolf Hall” and “Black Skin, White Masks” now. In particular I want to read up on Tudor history, Black Feminist theory, progressive black media, Moroccan architecture (I’m hooked…riad life), tech-social startups and the changing nature of diversity, financial literacy, and the Twitter timelines of a few good women.
Get on my grind hustle when it comes to career and ambition. What’s my end goal? Expectations? Mallika Chopra writes about intent, and how intent is more telling than goals. I loved: “Understand how much you can accomplish in one day, and “Set up your support network.” I have a habit of front-loading my mornings, and when things go awry before 10:00, it colors the rest of my afternoon. ,As far as support systems go, It’s simple–a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. I have a great support system and network, but what good is fertile soil if you don’t utilize it? This gardening metaphor will make sense soon.
Invest in myself–that means my ambitions, career, my friendships,my relationship with God, my relationship with myself (it’s complicated between me and me), invest in my community. Not money–it’s about throwing my time and energy behind myself. It means kicking my own ass about getting to the gym, about cutting out negativity, about forgiving myself.
Exercise, stick to cross-training cardio-heavy routine for summer and fall, see nutritionist. Cultivate an attitude and spirit of healthy living. That means gym, *not* eating the German rock sugar from Teavanna, and nutrition overhaul. Lots of the hair and skin problems (not to mention the mild anemia and iron deficiency) I have can be traced back to nutrition and diet. SSK’s and peeling nails be damned.
Freelance work, and keep myself accountable to my career goals.
Prep (thoroughly!) for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) 2013 Convention in ORLAAANDO! This means business cards, wardrobe planning, getting my act together, clips, gel manicure, hair plans, THE WORKS. My FIRST major convention/ conference! No pressure, it’s just all of my current career and life goals manifested over the course of 4 days. Nope, no pressure at all.
Re-center God. This means get to volunteering, working with folks outside of my immediate community, and re-centering the fact that before I was born, God already knew what would become of me, and He wouldn’t give me more than I can handle. With my faith, whenever there’s a minor crack to be exploited (fear, uncertainty, insecurity, pissed offedness, etc.) I can’t see beyond it, and the rest of my life suffers in turn. Basically, REMEMBER THIS:
Grow something. Whether it’s a flower market potted plant or strawberries or flowers, I really want to be responsible for a living (green) thing!
Do volunteerwork with GroundWorks Somerville, and read to babies in libraries. I love reading to babies.
Be easy with myself and commit to quiet time and relaxation. Get out of “student” mode, have confidence in my abilities (I have them!), and keep it moving.
I have lots more goals, but these are just enough to get me going and keep me sustained! Tweet me your #summerresolutions @brionnajay
This conference snuck up on me, I am still bummed I couldn’t make it! Read on about the Blogging While Brown 2013 conference, a necessary and inspirational event that highlighted, focused on, AND SHOWERED LOVE ON brown bloggers, media folk, journalists, advocates, and the like.
Yes! It’s officially a wrap, I’m a college graduate. Tufts definitely felt like four years of my life, and I’m so much stronger for it. Not even being insincere. But I didn’t feel any of that “ohnooo, college is overrrr, it’s sooo saaaad” mess. More than anything I’ll miss my absolute best friends and support system and those rare reading lists/syllabi where EVERY SINGLE ASSIGNMENT seemed interesting and valuable, but I’m not feeling all “what will I do without a meal plan?” about the situation.
I don’t exactly read magazines, I devour them, classy glossy perfume inserts and all. How-to guides, exercise cards and recipe tear-outs abound on my refrigerator and walls, and spill over into manilla folders that date back to 2008 (yes I’ve been hoarding content since I was 17).
I’m not shy about my love for ESSENCE magazine. It’s easily in my top 5 favorite women’s titles. ESSENCE introduced me to the goodness that is Morris Chestnut, the concept of mixing high-end and affordable fashion, and that mental wellness and spiritual happiness aren’t luxury items–they’re necessary for survival.
ESSENCE convinced my 14 year-old self to open a bank account and about the woes of credit card debt. I applied for college scholarships listed in its pages, and became a more assertive young woman through its commitment to building personal goal-setting. The title has pioneered some of the most inspirational and explosive editorial frontiers, from exploring black women on reality TV to creating points of synergy by uniting the literary trifecta–Maya Aneglou, Nikki Giovanni, and Toni Morrison--in a disscourse on sisterhood and the black woman. So, yes, overall the mag is pretty great. But like any business, it’s not without its shortcomings. I should note that I remember distinct stages in ESSENCE’s progression over the last 10 years (when the publication was black-owned, before being purchased and absorbed by Time Inc.
Growing up, I always looked for Susan L. Taylor’s braided hair and toothy grin peering over a demure shoulder on the “Letter from the Editor” page. Post-Time Inc., the “consumer” element within the complex black woman’s identity came to the forefront, and her buying power was her voting power, so ESSENCE endeavored to help her make conscious decisions, sometimes, in my opinion, aligning itself too perfectly with the media industry in the way of advertorials and entertainment-driven features. Still, I waited anxiously each month for the latest copy, and read the site like it was my job.
A bit of history:
In 2007, after working her way up the editorial ladder since the mag’s 1970 debut, the formidable journalist Susan L. Taylor stepped down from her post as eic to focus on creating and sustaining a mentoring network between black women and at-risk youth, National Cares Mentoring Movement.
Constance took on the role as eic in 2007 and in January 2013, White announced her planned departure from the Time, Inc.- controlled title
In February 2013 Clutch magazine reported that White had been fired from Essence, after clashing with Time Inc.’s top management over editorial and oversight/ vision differences. Sounds to me like Constance was working hard behind the scnees, with little internal support. editors Corynne Corbett and Greg Monfries also reported parting with the monthly.
“I went in there with passion and excitement and high expectations,” White told Journal-isms, referring to her 2011 hiring. “It wasn’t what I expected at all. “What needs to happen is the reader is getting lost and the reader has to be at the center. To make their world smaller is unacceptable,” White said by telephone. “A lot of the readers have sensed” what is happening, she said. Essence, the nation’s leading magazine for black women, was originally black-owned but has not fared well under Time Inc. ownership, White maintained. Nelson vetoed such pieces as a look at African American art and culture, and “I was not able to make the creative hires that needed to be made,” White said. She elaborated by email, “When was the last time you saw Essence in the community advocating for or talking with Black women? “How is it that from 2000, when Susan [L. Taylor, longtime editor] left— she was pushed out — we have had about five editors, including two acting editors, yet Essence continues to decline? So where’s the problem? And the editors are the black women. ‘They are disposable. Let’s keep changing them.’ “The point is, it didn’t start with me,” White said of the conflicts between top Essence editors and Time Inc. management. “If I can make a difference, I’d like to. If no one speaks up, it’s possible it won’t end with me.”
I’ve had the opportunity to get the best of ESSENCE in the 21st century, to be nurtured and challenged in its pages, as the ultimate reminder that every editorial decision is accompanied by several value judgments. As a beginning journalist myself, ESSENCE in its current state reminds me with each page the personal is inherently political that what is crafted for me is not always done by someone who can relate to me or someone with my best interests at heart, but instead with the best bottom-line in mind. From my perspective as an avid reader and observer I earnestly believe that Ms. White did the best she cold to nurture a fantastic team and lead the brand in an atmosphere that perhaps sought to overrun her at every turn, and if the ESSENCE of today is the result of a strangled communication line and uneven flow of influence, I hope I’ll soon know what the full-fledged realization of the magazine and brand could be.
The magazine has been a surrogate sister and fashion-forward cousin who always has the latest looks but manages to be timeless. If this post reads as a beacon of praise, it’s because I believe the ESSENCE team on the whole should be celebrated for the work the publication does, and for its Instagram team and the magic they make,so I want to share what I loved about the April and May issues, because it’s necessary for writers/ editors to hear, “hey, like what you did here” every once in a while when you mean it.
So, the ESSENCE Festival is coming up! I haven’t been (yet!), but in my head it plays out like a grown n’ sexy picnic with shades, maxi-dresses, cute short haircuts, and some frothy iced alcoholic drink mixed with Alize (color: blue). I don’t know how they manage to pack everyone you could love into a 4-day festival of all things great in life/ on the radio at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (I’m sorry–Ms. Jill Scott AND Solange AND Maxwell AND Beyoncé AND [insert undeniable hit artist here]. It’s like they peered into my neo-soul iPod and said, “Yeah, we’ll take care of it.”
Coco & Breezy spread: Black and White
I was so happy to see a full photo spread featuring Coco & Breezy in signature black and white get-ups. The fashion editorial kept with April’s “twinning” theme–entertainment mogul pair Tia n’ and Tamera Mowry graced April’s cover. My go-to colors have been officially “in” for months (but seriously, when are they ever OUT?), now if I could just master mixing patterns, I’d be set. Until then, I’ll just fawn over Coco & Breezy eyewear and Coco & Breezy style and CocoBreezyCocoBreezyCocoBreezy.
Review: Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
April’s recap and review of Dr. Angelou’s latest book “Mom & Me & Mom” reminded me why I’m such a fan and student of her work–Maya always manages to bring it back to home, full-circle in such a dynamic way that you end up wondering, “how, after shedding so much, could she still have more to say?” That’s because she’s Dr. Angelou. That’s how. She lives her inspiration, and in “Mom & Me & Mom” she looks back at her relationship with her birth mother, the complex Vivian Baxter Johnson. I’m downloading this book as I speak (type…?), and can’t wait to find myself and my own mother (as I always do in Maya’s work) in the pages. It feels selfish sometimes, to absorb an author’s work and expect to find glimpses of yourself, but that’s the hallmark of Maya–she’s learned from and been nurtured by the generations that came before and after her, that it’s impossible not to feel inherently tethered to her. The prologue reads:
“Frequently, I have been asked how I got to be this way. How did I, born black in a white country, poor in a society where wealth is adored and sought after at all costs, female in an environment where only large ships and some engines are described favorably by using the female pronoun–how did I get to be Maya Angelou? Many times I have wanted to quote Topsy, the young black girl in Uncle Tom’s Cabin I have been tempted to say, “I dunno. I just growed.” I never used that response, for a number of reasons. First, because I read the book in m y early teens and the ignorant black girl embarrassed me. Second, I knew that I had become the woman I am because of the grandmother I loved and the mother I came to adore. Their love informed, educated, and liberated me.”
Now, go ahead and click “Add to Cart” or “Download”.
Work & Wealth: How to Build a Financial Legacy by Deborah Owens
The April”The Career Success Guide” was just what I needed during the last weeks of school, to kickstart myself and power through to the end. I kind of have a thing or career guides/ tips/ self-help anything. Call it my unsettled inner control freak or my career-curious 22-year-old self who hangs out in my university’s Career Center for fun. When I read these articles and the like I make sure to absorb them cautiously, not a s a road map for all success, but fragments of a road map that led to someone’s success.
I especially loved the “How to Build a Financial Legacy” feature. My main takeaway:
“Poverty-minded women think day-to-day, middle-class women think month-to-month, rich women think year-to-year, truly wealthy women think generation-to-generation.”
Wow. Just re-read that. I’ll wait.
I almost always come at generation-to-generation issues with a day-to-day mentality. That quote spoke truth to so many of the financial issues I see in myself and reflected in my upbringing and family. When I come from a mental space of ‘don’t-have-never-will-have-don’t-expect’ , I shouldn’t be surprised when my practices remain rooted in this impoverished mindset. This entire issue warrants a series of blog posts but suffice it to say that building wealth begins in the mind–believing that you are worthy of gaining financial stability. Again, caution is absolutely necessary here. Being financially entitled and financially deserving are completely different in my opinion. The same way it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a well-trained army to save and know the value of a dollar, without being owned by financial and capitalist gain. It seems that seeking aspiration-based living without taking the steps to critically examine and analyze the aspirations, their foundations, and their effects leads to much of the unstable financial footing I’m familiar with. Time to re-count the pennies and use money as a tool, not an end-goal.
MAY: The Month of Monae. ‘Nuf said.
Ok. #1: Janelle Monae on the cover was the highlight of the issue before I even opened the cover. WHAT?? Ms. Monae is my stature sister (5’0″ stand UP!). Monae’s profile discussed her unique take on “traditional” fashion– she opts for an on-stage style of primarily black and white, to symbolize and remember her family’s working-class and uniform-clad background (I’m sure she checked out the Coco & Breezy story for inspiration), and her own standards on beauty, body image and sex appeal. She lets her art do the sensual work, not her body outright: “I want to redefine what it means to be sexy ad what it means to be a woman. Showing my skin is not what makes me sexy. I like skirts and dresses just like everyone else, but I had a message I needed to put out there. It was up to me to show people and young girls there was another way.”
As I read the Q and A from parents and experts in ESSENCE’s Mother’s Day package, I expected to hear the gone-but-not-forgotten shrewd (and unproductive) rationale of my grandmother’s generation: “Because I said so, dammit.” When a mother spewed about her daughter wanting to go on the Pill, the response read, “Encourage your daughter to tell you what’s on her mind.” Whoa. The notion of a mother genuinely inquiring about her daughter’s thoughts, let alone listening to them is still too foreign a concept. Cue the “no pill because I said so, dammit.” That attitude can lead to a child feeling judged, and out of fear of judgement the daughter (or son, really. They need BC, too) can become much more secretive and distant, which can get young folks into 7 pound, 10 oz mistakes.
But my not-so-inner “Oreo” was BEAMING over this Q and A: A mum raised concerns about her son hanging out with white kids. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The response was genius:
1. Don’t judge. Just don’t’. It’s not the same as disapproval. Disapproval is, “I don’t think you’re making the correct or best choice, so I don’t agree.” Judging is, “You’re not capable of making the right choice, it’s a reflection of your character and your decision-making is terrible.” Note the difference.
2. As the respondent says, our children must navigate in “increasingly multicultural circles”. Consider the fact that racial development and awareness aren’t stagnant, and continue to form during our most formative years. What the child thinks of herself or himself, and what she believes she can bring to a friendship matter more than the optics of it. ❤
If you liked this random bout of mag lovin’, let me know and I’ll turn it into a regular feature! Just wanted to spread a bit of sunshine…without all that awkward “step mom plotting to kill husband” foolishness. That reminds me. See Pippin. Support Patina Miller.
I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to upload this, but TA-DA! Check it out–my freelance book reviews for Scooter magazine’s spring 2013 issue. I swear, reading Scooter makes me long for the privileged and plush lifestyle of the city’s finest kids…that I never had. It’s a Missouri thing. So when Editor-in-Chief Peter Feld asked me to re-join the Scooter team again (cue journalista montage) as a book reviewer, I couldn’t say no. Well, I could have, but why would I turn down an excuse opportunity to indulge my inner only child again and pour over children’s books for a few weeks?? Exactly.
Working with Scooter is always great fun, and has been from the beginning when I met Peter in the Observer’s office as he furiously checked emails and made plans. The photo shoot for the inaugural issue was AMAZING (my first and most expensive Starbucks run is still one of my favorite summer ’11 memories), and writing about kid’s books this semester really helped me put my college self into perspective–at the end of the day, it’s all just about making arts and crafts while dealing with life’s little manifestations of hell (ohai, racism and bullying!). Click the photo or click here to read on!
The Museum: (Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds, Abrams Books, March 2013)
Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises To Hide in Plain Sight (Marthe Jocelyn, Candlewick Press, March 2013)
Mellie is threatening to expose Fitz and Olivia on live TV unless he lives Olivia. Spoiler alert: Cyrus is probably the mole. Huck is feeling a bit better, thank God, and I noticed Ms. Quinn has discovered eyeliner and lip tint. Jake is following Olivia around as per Fitz’s request, but he wants in on her life. Cyrus is living in the wee hours doing damage control between Mellie and Fitz. Here we go!
10:05: Abby, you’re officially unhepful and useless.
10:07: Mellie lost that baby weight, triple chin, and got some new clothes!
10:12: Charlie is all about pastries and sweets…a man after my own heart.
10:22: “If you want me, EARN ME!”
10:26: “The last woman to sleep with the President ended up dead in the Patomac. I want you alive.” -Huck is about his business.
10:27: GUYS. Guys. Lest we forget, wisdom from Olivia circa 2×15 (Boom Goes The Dynamite): “Let Mellie be.” #Scandal
10:30:…I officially cannot.
10:45: Fitz loves being President more than he loves Olivia. Stepping down, time to watch like a normal person.
Great way to start the week, a tease from the Scandal team about the season 2 finale in three weeks! Also, does anyone else love the look of Kerry’s lips when she says “Fitz”?
RELEASE: OLIVIA AND HER TEAM FIND THEMSELVES IN DANGER, ON THE SEASON FINALE OF ABC’S “SCANDAL”
“White Hat’s Back On” – With the identity of the mole now closer than ever, Olivia and her team are in very real danger. Meanwhile, the latest White House scandal pushes Cyrus to his limits, on the Season Finale of “Scandal,” THURSDAY, MAY 16 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
“Scandal” stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Columbus Short as Harrison Wright, Guillermo Diaz as Huck, Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins, Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant, Jeff Perry as Cyrus Beene, Bellamy Young as Mellie Grant and Joshua Malina as David Rosen.Guest cast TBA. “White Hat’s Back On” was written by Shonda Rhimes and directed by Tom Verica.
My free 2 cents and conspiracy theories:
Huck is the mole. Guys. Think about it. The CIA ringleader black guy (remember from the park bench with Jack, the same guy who was told that Huck was terminated?) has it out for Huck again since he knows that Huck never actually left. Huck has been giving out information for some reason (you KNOW he runs out of things to do in that tech-y office of his!), and Jack is supposed to use Olivia as bait to get to Huck. Because Huck hasn’t had enough of a hard fucking life yet. Just not enough.
David and Abby will fade into an awkward-passive-AGGRESSIVE sex loop, and spiral into ABC nothingness. Poor David.
Huckleberry Quinn. That’s all.
Whoa! Could Eddison have hired Jake to spy on Olivia? Mr. Speaker of the House has been too silent.
Harrison’s ex-boss is somehow tied to whatever Fitz did/ whatever happened in Iran. Cyrus mentioned knowing about some supersecret mission where Fit was almost endangered, but came out squeeky clean. He’s good at that.
Also guest-starring in season finale: Brown Liquor, in the role of Brown Liquor Sr. That’s right. The casual co-star of episodes past is finally moving into a titled role! It’s the juice! The liquor is the mole! <<note: called it, Apr. 29, 1:00 pm>>
Guys, so many feelings about all this, and updates on my role at the Daily. Know that even in this column, I was censored and threatened that my words wouldn’t see the light of…print…? For now just read and tell me what you think.
Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders It’s… complicated. But not really.
By Brionna Jimerson
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Question: How do you exist in this system without allowing it to consume you? How have I existed for four years at Tufts and in the Tufts Daily, and how will I exit both, not necessarily at peace but intact? By “complicating” — that is, questioning and assessing — them both, and always with a spoonful of salt.
This is my last column before the Commencement issue, and I want it known and marked that with this column, there is power in “the record,” in claiming space for language and experimentation, and I think I am outgrowing these three inches. But there is success — if this space for critique and voice was not open before, it’s open now. Please, fill this echoing void with consciousness, purpose and fun. A little fun.
You have probably never been to the Daily office. It is below Curtis Hall — down the driveway, next to the UGL office. Pop in sometime — the office is small and the walls are painted teal. This is where the editorials are discussed and written and the phone calls for additional sources go unanswered. This is where the writers and editors — all students, and none of them paid for their time and energy — work for upwards of 40 hours a week on end to inform a campus dialogue. The Daily has an institutional history, and it has been largely absent of brown folks, not for a lack of trying or interest. I was the first black managing editor of the Daily, and though I’ve been loved and cared for I feel I have been severely disrespected. I have watched and helped the Daily operate for four years, and I’ve worked alongside some of the strongest women I know. They came, saw and left. Why did they leave? Why did I stay?
I stayed because you deserve better. You deserve to read great articles about complex “issues” that don’t speak about you as a subject or topic in a policy report. I stayed because we require a prominent place at the table, not for representation but for respect and autonomy, because I have known too many women of color to take “medical leave,” their lives compromised after spending four years on this campus. How did we let that happen?
I stayed because some of the most opinionated people on this campus with the most to say literally cannot afford to pay the fee (time) because they are — you guessed it — already overbooked, overlooked or overwhelmed. I have lived in two worlds at once, and right-minded editors of semesters past — Alexa Sasanow, Gabrielle Hernandez, Bianca Blakesley, Amsie Hecht, Laina Piera, Annie Sloan and myself — have tried to make the Daily into a respectable house, though it is built on privilege and systematic supremacy of the “Tufts in general,” not “Tufts in ‘particular.’” Yes, my language is coded. No, “safe spaces” do not exist. Yes, you can break the code. Just try.
If you notice the impact my body has made in the Daily, know that our impact is there. I saw them trying to erase me, you and us and decided it was time to let them know. In the words of Kenya Moore, the queen of fan-induced shade-throwing showdowns, “Do not come for me unless I send for you.”
If you are brown and are interested in working at the Daily or, better yet, maintaining a literary and historical space of your own, tweet me so we can figure it out.
Now this is the hard part, letting go of the frustration and imagining and building a future beyond the scope and traumas that Tufts students, administrators and bystanders have enacted on its own community. We are moving from property and into personhood. Your silence will not protect you, but maybe we can find your voice. Yes, I just said that.
Dedicated to N., V. and K., and the great John Kelly, who, reminded me that we can be Christians and “radicals” at the same time.
My Tufts Daily column, about Black people at Tufts, the white gaze, and the erasure in “incidents”, complete with honesty (how refreshing!) Check back tonight about the process of writing this column, and more candid musings on the difficult miracle of, well, being.
Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders
A truly purpose-driven love letter
Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013
I have been truthful from the beginning about my not quite knowing what I am doing with this column, but I have not been completely honest with you for a while. I think with the first column I had an intent to be the “true Brionna,” but I wanted to welcome you (but not all of you, not every voyeuristic eye that’s consuming me as a Tufts black woman for my “story”) on the journey as I explored myself and this (ex?) plantation we call the Medford/Somerville campus (look up that Tufts history, the Royall House and Ten Hills Farm, and sit with it).
In the beginning, I wanted to feature and connect with the often institutionally neglected black population here, because I wanted to speak to you publically, in one place at one time and on the record. I wanted this column to be far-reaching, but it can’t be at once universal in its message and critical. Every week when I started to write with intent and purpose — to talk to you about greatest triumphs and the disturbing underbelly of the college experience and the difficult miracle of existing at Tufts — I could feel the sincerity draining from my words.
I became preoccupied with how I’d be perceived by the white oppositional gaze of Tufts and the high schoolers visiting the school, clutching the Daily and their visitor brochures as they shuffle around campus while someone walks backwards and spouts about pre-major advising and meal plans. I am having that “Simba, you have forgotten me” moment, and now I am in the middle of the part where Simba has all kinds of epiphanies.
Even though I do a lot with this oppressive language (English), I fear I haven’t been doing enough, because I haven’t been honest, and even now I can’t be, but I need this on the record.
I love you, black people at Tufts, even (especially!) strangers, and I smile and say “hi” because I know that some days we feel like we are disposable at Tufts, like we are numbers, counting and learning tools on which our administrators and classmates work out their personal and academic development. So I smile at you, so you know I see you, and the least I can do is acknowledge your presence, because being present here isn’t always easy or healthy.
I do not think that survival can be understated in this moment, on this Thursday, when I still live in Sunday night, when my friends and I were dispersed around campus and, collectively, our worlds stopped with an email that announced the white supremacist “graffiti” on campus in Bello Field. The email read as coolly as an announcement about parking closures due to snow. What followed — a plea that members of “our” community “reach out to friends and colleagues in the Tufts community as sources of support and comfort” — said to me, “If your feelings are hurt, if you’re not safe leaving your house, if you’re having violent, real flashbacks and recalls of what this is, try to feel better even though there’s no black counselor at the Counseling and Mental Health Services to turn to, even if you needed to.” The “graffiti” on Tufts’ property is not an “incident.” An incident exists as a singular moment. This is just the most recent (or publicized) manifestation of a symptom of the disease of what exists.
With these 600 words, I wanted to make this space in this Daily, so you could see and know that you are here, lovingly made and remembered by me, on the “record.” But I have acted, at times, under a constant optic of whiteness and fear, and my friends and fellow survivors deserve better. So over the next couple of weeks, I am giving you — not all of you — my best, as much as I can.
For the first time since Real World Las Vegas (mygodwhoAMI??), I find myself tuning in at a regularly scheduled time to watch a show on TV. That show is Scandal. It owns me. This is “The Scandal Effect”
Last week I didn’t see the whole “Jake removes and resets the camera in Olivia’s house while Huck and Quinn search it for bugs”, and I was out for the rest of the episode.
When I was applying to colleges, none of my potentially first−generation college−bound friends had the nerve to entertain the thought of a gap year. I never thought critically about the prospect of volunteering on a political campaign or working full−time at an internship before delving into the overpriced pressure cooker that is higher education. “College is not an option; you will go to college,” my grandmother would say at the outset of any conversation we had about higher education.
A lifetime of being looked over and professionally punished for not having completed a college program had taught her that, while academic pursuits and interests were just dandy, college degrees breed opportunity, for better or for worse.
In my high school, the graduating seniors wrote their university acceptances on paper stars outside the college counselor’s office. I watched for weeks as stars were decked out with bubble letters of household name institutions and filled up like laundry lists of acceptances. I asked a student why he had not written anything down (as if he had to explain his decision−making), he said, “College isn’t for me.” I realized that I, like most of our peers, had assumed that the college would bring with it the promises of its magical symbolism. We had not taken into consideration the fact that so many of us truly are not “cut out” for endless lectures, rote memorization or academia.
But what about our peers, the foot soldiers who maintain that college isn’t the right option, and the strength it takes to actively reject the social flogging that comes along with actively deciding against college?
A great friend of mine inspired this column about the foot soldiers who opt out of college in pursuit of work, stability, discovery, duty or an unknown number of other quests and decisions and how they are judged without any regard to the internal work required to make such a decision. It is as monumental a choice to choose, at 18, an institution where you will live, study and be molded as it is to choose to be shaped in the “real world.”
Not until relatively recently in Western educational history did lawyers, doctors, journalists and architects pursue higher education to learn their trade instead of the usual route of apprenticeship. An added emphasis on “formal” education instead of vocational skill makes it easy to judge the individuals who choose not to go to college because they know that it’s not the only option.
The concept of a college education is extremely complex, way too intense for 600 words, and every day, it’s being further complicated, glorified and debunked by those inside and outside of the “ivory towers.” College degrees try to connote that a person has chosen one life path over another, aligned herself with another set of goals and expectations over another, and the parallel is to be drawn stiffly between those with degrees and those without who instead attend the school of life.
We are going to call these degrees of separation. Let us consider the self−knowledge (or −awareness, or a lack thereof) that it takes to do that and the people who are not in college because it was not for them, because it was not made for them. These spaces weren’t made with everyone in mind — we can be honest about that. From what is taught to which programs are funded and underfunded to how dissent is “managed,” it is clear. So when someone can break from that and know it’s not for them, that is why they are they judged, put down as “go−nowhere” people. They are seen this way because they refused to enter into situations that could do more harm than good, because they don’t subject themselves to these environments.
10:01: …aaaaaand we’re back! After almost a month, Scadal is back, and so is my black Twitter! For about an hour a week (yeah, it’s sad but I relish in it), my Twitterverse (read: the folks who MATTER and aren’t Hootsuite-ing and TweetDeck-ing corps) is alive and well, and everyone has #Scandal on their fingertips.
10:01: “She’s sending someone in named Olivia Pope” is code for “YOU ARE WELCOME”.
10:03: Olivia stays in black and white, with a perfect lip. Can I have her closet? Hell, can I have her Goodwill donation bags?
10:09: Ok, this opening isn’t the strongest. Keeps you roped in, but the little one screaming in the beginning threw me (and my Twitter game) off.
10:13: Oh, Mellie, please take a nap. Take that child with you.
10:17: Teehee! Whenever they cue up the oldies, it means something deliciously problematic is brewing!
10:23: So kids grow about 5 months in 3 weeks? Duly noted.
10:25: Mellie deflates the mood. All day. Every day. The President is waiting…”for me”.
10:29: Columbus Short is leaping on this diving board he’s created for himself! He’s been on Black America’s radar for YEARS (along with Ms. Kerry Washington), but those primetime eyes “create” stardom.
10:33: Huck and Quinn flirting over spy work!
10:35: Fitz and his brown liquor, Harrison twirling his cell incessantly…brilliant character branding.
10:40 The Root @TheRoot247 : Notice how this couple is fighting in the background over honesty while Fitz and Olivia try to hash out their … issues #scandal
10:41: Ohhhyeah, Scandal in the dark. No. Really. In the dark. I can’t see Scandal. The TV went out, only audio. This is thoroughly unfulfilling.
10:43: Storyline aside (really? Not the best…), I hate how Olivia never really eats. We see her taking wine to the face and with a bowl of popcorn in arm’s reach, and we watch as others eat *around* her, but she never eats. This just perpetuates her as the self-deprecating “superwoman”, busy tending to everyone else. What’s Olivia like on her own?
10:57: Great writing. Always. Great writing. From “stolen moments” to this episode, Olivia is always speaking her own life when talking with clients. This is her therapy.
10:58: Dear Jake,
Pick a side, and play it right.
10:59: Reason #4962 why I do my own laundry. Quinn is such a noob, but Huck isn’t gonna let her out of his sight.
Alright, we’re done, I’m still breathing and Puerto Rico is still gorgeous (oh, yeah I took an hour off of vacation to watch Scandal. Worth it. This show does so much to me, as a black woman, a pre-professional and socially mobile woman, and a TV fan, I can’t even. But I must. I will. In time.
I refuse to believe I am alone in this, so, question: Do you spend more time making to-do lists than doing?
I will be very blunt right now: The absurdly vague task “figure it out” has shifted from one of my “to-do” lists to another for the last few weeks, but it has gone virtually untouched. I rewrite a new list every day. As part of my daily “to-do,” I carve out 10 minutes to write a round-up “to-do” list, then parcel that list out into manageable (read: could possibly happen today) tasks and “long-term” (read: this should happen — “should”) tasks.
But I have not “figured it out” because, honestly, I have been too lazy and depressed at times to muster up the energy to think critically about anything, let alone myself. This is where self-care circa column two comes in. The menial tasks of the “to-do” continue to pile up, and they’re small enough to power through, but what about that glaring “read all the bookmarked articles” and “figure out life” tasks I write on each list?
A smart person I dated once told me, “Brionna, it’s like you’re the toast, and your to-do is the butter on the toast. If the toast is cold, it will not melt the butter, and it will not be yummy. You have to warm up the toast by getting things done and feeling good about yourself so that the butter melts easily” — meaning the tasks come naturally and you’re not as overwhelmed. This person and I communicate mostly through metaphors and carbohydrates and occasionally through combinations of the two. Soul mates.
See, it all ties back into the idea from two weeks ago, when we played the “should” game (we all lost, by the way), and the thought that we “should” be able to do more, when the reality is that we cannot. Fact: Doing great things takes time. Finding yourself takes time, and the atmosphere at Tufts does not make it an easy — hell, even an enjoyable — task most of the time. It feels like we have to break down to absolutely nothing (involuntarily) to even see a glimpse of who we are or who we could be.
The friend I mentioned in last week’s column, we’ll call him “11:30 in the J Field,” stopped me outside of Dowling Hall last week, and we stood around talking. Within seconds we were talking about how all he wants is to decompress and find out who he is outside of Tufts, outside the context of school and from underneath the oppositional gaze. His face lit up when he spoke on thinking of his future, but then I could see reality settle in again: Taking “time off” after graduation will not be restful for him at the start — it would not be financially feasible. For him, a job is not an option, it is a necessity and self-discovery/self-realization, and the slow process toward getting to a place of content will not come for a while.
This is real, and it is everywhere.
So, here’s your only spring break assignment: Chill. Do, and chill. Get around to it. Not all of it, just some of it, whatever “it” is, and when you do, stare at it from all angles, then breathe and move on. I will be out of the country, so tweet me if you need any help or less vague guidance. We will see what we can d
One of my best friends’ Twitter byline reads, “May 19, 2013, 11:30 a.m. in the J Field,” the time and place of his graduation ceremony. I think he is over the 76 Days celebration.
Anyway, last Sunday we celebrated the 76 Days Celebration after Blizzard Nemo pushed back the 100 Days Celebration to last Sunday’s less symbolically trendy date, and members of the class of 2013 (and some subversive and hungry 2014 kids) filled the Alumnae Lounge, dressed in the most semi of semi−formal and ready to mingle awkwardly with classmates. It felt like pre−frosh orientation all over again, except this time there were free Jumbo magnets, sunglasses, portfolios and muffulettas.
I did a couple of laps, talked to some acquaintances, gave awkward hugs to folks I haven’t interacted with since freshman year, stood around a table with my friends, made firm plans to get lunches and dinners (finally! No more “should!”) and watched the slideshow of photos that all looked the same. It took a while for the gravity of the moment to sink in — that in 76 days I would be referring to Tufts in the past tense, and my friend’s Twitter bio would come to fruition. While we are angst−ing it out over the next few stress−filled weeks, my friend is planning — at the ready and excited — to put Tufts in his rearview. But how did we get here?
The 76 Days Celebration probably had good intentions — an excuse to enact “tradition” and get us all feeling warm and cozy about our Tufts career, just in time for alumni giving, before we forget some of the emotional and physical trauma that accompanies growing as people in a foreign environment on our own. We were nostalgic for 2009 in that lounge, but tradition and the whole thing is making me feel claustrophobic, like there’s something expected of me, and unless I agree with all of the fluff I’m unworthy, when in reality I’ve worked my ass off, and it’s a celebratory time. I’m alive. We’re alive. Where is the dance floor?
I expect that I will feel more anxiety in the coming weeks than I felt in the whole of 2012. The countdown was initiated on the day I boarded the plane for pre−orientation in August 2009, and now I am coming out on the other side (yes, I have been in a portal−bubble for four years). The event may have been good in its intentions, but in my experience initiating countdowns brings with it the “should,” and we know how useful that is. But I don’t feel tethered to the Hill, the dining halls, the traditions; I’m ready to practice what I’ve been learning and to see what sticks. I’m ready to live on my own terms, sans a block schedule. Cue the claustrophobia.
When it’s “tradition” time, we don the brown and blue in the name of “community.” I think of my friends at Tufts, many of whom I’ve seen fall apart and shed themselves, only to come out stronger — and traumatized, to be honest — on the other side, ready to pack Tufts up and run for greener (and hopefully less steep) hills.
Between the celebrations, senior nights, senior dinners and other forced and inauthentic bonding moments, I’ve realized that so much time has lapsed between mindlessly wandering to the dining halls three or four times a day (remember when that was an option?) and now, fretting over projects, research, financial security and the simple things, like where the heck do we go from here? I motion for a collective nap and reassessment of life. Who’s with me?
Should.” The hell. Seriously, why do we still employ this word when talking about ourselves? I should have written this column five days ago, but here I am, after deadline, piecing my thoughts together in some 600-word cohesive something. Sorry to shatter the illusion (was there ever an illusion?), but I am 100 percent a procrastinator and the s-word revolution starts … tomorrow.
Yes, the s-word. One of the most crippling and ineffective words in our lexicon when referring to ourselves and our shortcomings.
Maybe it’s the senior-year nostalgia kicking in, combined with my longing to go back and rethink my college decisions, but I’m finding that everywhere I turn, either I or someone else is lamenting on personal failures — “I should update my LinkedIn page,” or “I should’ve majored in American Studies” (save yourself the trouble — reference the turmoil I mentioned a couple of columns ago and explore that major now) — and it’s kind of seductive, in a creepy, wallowing way. “Yes! Reminding myself of what I’m not doing is a surefire way to kick myself into gear!” said nobody ever.
So much of what we “should” do is driven not by personal fulfillment but by projecting onto ourselves what we see and admire in others, without taking into account the process folks go through to become who they are. We see it, we covet it, we want it and when our “shoulds” just aren’t enough we fall to pieces, and then blame ourselves because we “should” be stronger? See? See how gross and creepy this is? We should start a “should” support group. But actually.
Honestly, I think “should” is great for impeding progress, the sentiment being that whatever you are doing now or whoever you are now is inherently wrong, and there’s something better for you waiting if only you’d be better.
“Should” never leads to actual change, or a hint of it. It simply leads to more uncertainty and perpetual frustration. “Should” doesn’t take into account that we’re human beings who are capable of change in our own time. “Should” reigns at Tufts. Should is the reason why so many people graduate and continue on with jobs that pay the rent but neglect the self. If we are going to play this game then we “should” not have come to college, because we “should” have already acquired the skills, research abilities, knowledge and wisdom to transcend the need for higher education institutions. You see there? “Should” denies reality and discounts us as individuals.
As someone who lives in a perpetual state of “shouldacouldawoulda,” I can tell you in earnest that “shoulding” on yourself does more harm than good.
Telling yourself that you “should” study more effectively will not help you study more effectively. Telling yourself that you should spend more time alone getting to know yourself won’t lead to actual self-awareness, it’ll lead to self-shaming once you fail to carry through with what you “should” be doing, and it leads to judging yourself. And when this happens, all roads lead to Häagen Dazs and Netflix.
So, it is time to try something different. To change, we have to acknowledge how we’re feeling and thinking and make an honest assessment. “Should” makes us aware of what is wrong, without giving us the tools to fix it. Are your actual values in line with this desire? If you want to change, avoid “should” and work on doing. When you learn how to do this, let me know.
Welcome to spring symposium season at Tufts. In the coming weeks, you will be flooded with scholars, panels, invites, experts and roving students in search of their next free lunch in the Cabot Auditorium lobby or catered reception in Alumnae Lounge. No judgment here: I will most likely be beside you, eating my fill of cheese squares and pita pieces.
But where is the symposium that teaches us how to navigate our family lives and emotionally one-sided relationships while keeping independence and self-esteem intact? I’m starting to feel like I need a conference on what I call “family diplomacy.”
To me, family diplomacy is the careful and strategic implementation of obligatory phone calls and feigned interest for the sake of some semblance of peace. I have studied alongside the best (equally despondent friends) and I have practiced in the field (Tufts — keep up!), but I still feel like a novice when I make small talk with my Midwest relations.
I treat home like I treat the annual Emerging Black Leaders (EBL) Symposium or Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) Symposium: I go, sit, absorb, listen, smile politely, ask a question and then off to the airport again. I’m a few hundred dollars lighter and a couple of weeks older, emotionally and fiscally spent, wondering if the consequences of enduring a less-than-thrilling jaunt to the Midwest are worse than the judging that accompanies choosing not to go home.
It is a constant side-eyed cease-fire. The battle lines are drawn via Skype, passive-aggressive Facebook comments or tense texts. Or, if you are like me, you do not draw lines at all and hope that that brilliant explosion on the horizon distracts everyone … but it doesn’t.
A recent conversation I had with an amazing friend reaffirmed to me the significance and complexities of kinship and how family does not always connote positivity. We mused on our mutual sacrifice of our sanity for the “greater good of home.” The alternative of asserting yourself can be worse and potentially more dangerous, especially if you depend on family for social or financial support.
“I’m tired of being hopeful and being hurt in the process,” he said. When he left, I cried and then watched “Scandal” because that’s kind of where my life is right now.
So, what do you do when your warped sense of familial respect and duty is one-sided and all-encompassing, with no room for growth or adaptation? What do you do when being “respectful” to your blood is being repressive towards yourself?
Answer: You take care of yourself. You love yourself so hard and so deeply that you can’t even stand it. As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I have found, in my misadventures of only-childhood, that when there is an artificial sense of obligation to family, it’s hard to separate my own thoughts from those projected onto me. I try to remember that I have to live with myself for the rest of my life and that I make any of my peripheral relationships on my own terms. That is why I am in the middle of breaking up with key members of my immediate family. It is not me, it is them.
It’s toxic and dangerous and we need to talk about it, because it’s so multifaceted and because I have no answers. But I have a feeling that we are all walking around with these questions. Now, fill out an R25 for The Danish Pastry House and email me, and we will find the answers together over carbohydrates and tea.
To date, I’ve named and claimed over 15 majors over the last four years. Now take a breath, and smile−−you are officially more decisive than I am. For about a week, I was a biology major, and then political science for upwards of a month. Somewhere between being a child development major and an International Literary and Visual Studies student, I was in engineering psychology, but I’d rather not talk about that part of my past. We will call those the “bad weeks.”
I went from one major to another for about three semesters−−but in secret, I had declared a psychology major in my freshman fall semester as a placeholder. During my sophomore spring, after earning decidedly average grades in every psychology class and realizing that I wasn’t as passionate about the field as I thought, I went to an associate dean, sobbing and riddled with uncertainty. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Not unlike most freshmen and sophomores (and juniors−−you know who you are), I was undefined, undeclared and insecure with my scholarly self.
After more trial and error than I care to admit to, I declared a major in American Studies, and I finally felt like I’d found my academic home. I nested in the basement of Eaton Hall and followed professors like Christina Sharpe, Sarah Sobieraj, and Jean Wu around campus like a lost academic puppy.
Considering Winter Storm Nemo: You’re walking knee−deep in snow (probably waist−deep for me!), with hundreds of companions on your left and right. Stay with me here, I’m a sucker for weather metaphors. The only road behind you is the one you’ve trudged−−and ahead of you untouched (academic and social) snow. Some folks have their next steps planned out, with freshly shoveled and salted gravel beneath their feet. And there I am−−without salt, shovel, sand or as much as a “Hey, kid! Go that way! There’s less ice that way!” So each maneuver is a virtual first, and that makes it all the more important and shaky as hell. Each step is the first one ventured, and I am being monitored from afar and compared to the steps of others. Cue the insecurity.
Still, most phone calls with my mother are reduced to a despondent pause, followed by a sigh of uncertainty on her end. Then it comes: “Brionna…what is your major again?” My mother knows this. She’s known for two years now, but each time she asks I can’t help but feel like she wishes I’d spontaneously change my academic direction toward something a bit more “marketable,” as she says. “I’m an American studies major, mum, with a focus on institutions and power in the US,” I tell her from rote. Another sigh. “What are you going to do with that?” Then there’s my answer, and her perplexed “Oh…what’s that mean?” I explain. Next, the contented “huh” before she politely moves on to the next topic of listless conversation. The silence between first generation students and their parents can be deafening.
I’m at the point where I want to say, “I’m going to do whatever I darn well please with my degree, thankyouverymuch.” While you don’t have to welcome the probing, I encourage you to find sound footing in your (un)chosen major. It’s just life, it’s only undergrad, it’s about realizing that you don’t have to sacrifice anything, you just can’t do everything at once. Worst−case scenario: you stalk professors via Twitter, and blindly enroll in each of their courses each semester. And that’s the worst that can happen.
This semester should officially be known as my “Daily” semester: I’m working as Managing Editor, I’m writing for Arts/News (when I damn well feel like it, or when there’s an exceptionally amazing episode of Real Housewives on), and I’m a Features columnist! Cue the daily Daily overload. My weekly Features column is called “Respect Your Elders” (because I’m all of 22 years old. I’m elder.), and chronicles my Tufts experience thus far with unsolicited advice, and delves into the significance of being a first generation college student. At the outset I was worried that writing such a personal and widely applicable column would be appropriating my life/story, but I’m confident that my target audience (read: Tufts students who rarely if ever see themselves, their experiences, concerns, or thoughts reflected in the Daily) will appreciate my efforts. My column comes out e very Thursday, check it out *here* and here)
Brionna Jimerson | Respect Your Elders
Notes from a senior (active) citizen
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Hi! I am Brionna, a senior at Tufts, and you are about to go on a semester−long adventure with me. I hope you brought your quest cap, and buckle up. It will be bumpy, it will be uncomfortable, but stay tuned in and keep reading — it will befan−freaking−tastic.
For starters, let’s discuss the purpose of this column. This column every Thursday will serve as a cautionary tale for some, a beacon of hope for others and a makeshift space for me (this is where it gets bumpy), but it’ll highlight and capture some of my musings on Tufts as a second−semester senior preparing to leave the Hill for greener, but perhaps equally steep, hills in the “real world.”
My time at Tufts has been peppered with bouts of activism, reflection, long nights at Tisch poring over something−or−other and midday naps that somehow turned into up−at−3−a.m.−rants, but it hasn’t been short of insight. So, let’s begin somewhere near the beginning.
I am a first−generation college student. What that means, for me, is that I am the first person in my family to attend college and I’m the closest to graduating of anyone in my family. As a result, much of my Tufts experience has been a very fly−by−the−seat−of−your−pants sort of adventure, with no road map, color−by−numbers or eight easy steps. Yes, I bought all of the “secret to surviving college” books pre−matriculation, and yes, I read them cover−to−cover. I have yet to encounter a (inexplicably) naked roommate, and being a “collegiette” for me doesn’t involve sorority life. I will be discussing and reviewing aspects and stories from my Tufts experience through the rearview mirror of my college career. We will go over how showers kept me going during sophomore year, the “major” question you field from your family (and other inane questions, like the equally maddening follow up, “What are you going to do with that degree?” We’ll discuss the degrees that nobody talks about — the MRS. and MR. degrees — and look into what it means to be an active citizen at Tufts, fighting a good fight even if it’s unpopular or misunderstood.
But let’s be clear. In May I am graduating with a B.A. in American studies, not a Ph.D. in the psychology of higher education (that is a thing), but my experiences and thoughts are still here, so that is that.
Over the years I’ve undulated between social groups, levels of activism and levels of academic engagement, but everything always comes back to that insipid Stephen Schwartz lyric from the musical “Wicked:” “There are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crossed until you crossed.” Therefore, that’s part of what this column is. It’s me looking at the bridges I’ve crossed in retrospect, bridges you’re probably coming up to on your walk through Tufts, and ones you’re dancing (or being dragged) across now. We’ll look at overcommitting, dreams deferred, G1 student life, liberal arts anxiety (I’m suffering from it now!), finding your genuine interests, activism, impact, the types of people you meet at Tufts and exactly what to do when nobody is answering your calls on a Thursday night. Because, let us face it, we have all been there. Right? Oh? Just me? Ok. I have invested myself, my heart, my joy and energy into this university, and now that I have a moment to reflect on it I want to share my musings with any lovely reader with five to 10 minutes to spare looking for a quick and interesting read. If at any point you have qualms, you know what to do — send an email or find me on campus. I’m five feet tall, so finding me shouldn’t be too hard. Challenge accepted? Ok, let’s go.