The MID-TACS

While growing up in Cincinnati there was not a lot of interest in learning or playing tennis especially in the Black community. The local tennis courts were paved with cracked concrete where kids used the courts for baseball practice and for playing tag. Those of us that played the sport were viewed as middle class Black folk. So, there was one set of courts in the community which were not too blemished and, where many Black people did play the sport. As an aside, when we would observe White people infrequently using the court, it was painful, as if they were taking our only sole possession. Our little enclave treated the courts as if we have an exclusive tennis club. In fact, in that setting I learned to play tennis from young Black professionals, men and women, who worked at Proctor & Gamble, Ford and whom were also lawyers and local politicians. They took me under their wings and provided me a breath of fresh air, introducing me to a whole new world which allowed me to escape what was considered normal.tennis

During this phase in life, I was 15 years old. I did not have an image nor a definition of what a Black collective was at that time. However, very soon into my newly formed tennis community, it became quite obvious what the Black collective experience was all about. First, there was our local tennis community where all Black people played and seemed to have caring relationships with one another. I was awestruck by the fact that they took me into their world and helped me to achieve a scholarship to college. Today, I love the sport and have made a living by way of teaching tennis to others, Black and White, young and old.

What was so special about those journeys on the tennis court was that we had a Black experience or what I consider a Black collective. And though our collective was created through the sport of tennis, it was a safe gathering space for like-minded people to gather. Not only was there tennis to be played, we would rest while sitting in circles under a shade tree discussing the latest news and local gossip. Men and women became friends with our younger generation, mentoring us young folk on getting things done and giving us firm advice on going to college. Amongst our fellow tennis players, we had tennis mothers who made sure we were eating properly and drinking enough fluids to get us through the six hour stretch. That was roughly the amount of time one spent on the court. Fathers too became surrogate fathers to those of us that did not have a father though raised by a single mother.

And then, there were the MID-TACS. This was the largest Black organized tennis tournament in the Midwest, played by an all-Black cast of tennis enthusiasts and skilled competitors coming from the Midwest. From our small Cincinnati enclave to regional enclaves arriving from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, the MID-TACS, known as the Midwestern Tennis Association Championships was the event everybody prepared for all year long. This event produced several professional tennis players. However, my primary purpose in attending the MID-TACS was to be with a Black sports collective. The collective was strong, dedicated, and intelligent and, a breath of fresh air as it pertains to Black consciousness. It seemed that all attendees were educated and presented a strong platform for Black tennis for both adults and children. And although participants could play a tournament anywhere in their local towns, it was a given fact that one had to compete in the MID-TACS if only to have that one experience of being with one’s people.

During the four-day experience, I would stay in a hotel with friends my age while adult chaperons and our den mother were always nearby. We were introduced to other youth from multiple cities that had different ideas and values and that listened to different music and dressed in high-fashion. There were rich and poor Black youth in attendance which created an eclectic mix of conversations and attitudes. The richer folk valued their social status while the poorer valued their pride and athletic ability. The trash talking and banter about what city was leading the tournament went on for days. And from my experience, there was always the one girl that I would find to be the most beautiful girl in the world. I would see her once in the summer, then dream again and again of her until the following year.

In terms of research methodology, the amount of intersectionality, including gender, age income and social status was in full light of anybody doing research. Because the tournament was a four day event over the July 4th weekend, participants had opportunities to attend workshops covering topics on academic and sports scholarships, social services, religion, and financial literacy. In these workshops and even at social events, conversations held by males and females, youth and adults would take on current national issues to in-depth sociopolitical discourse.

As an outcome, the qualitative information collected for research would help support the need for more Black collectives, whether a sports collective, Black female collective or a Black male collective, all would make for a genuine and unique journey. The need for our people to move around the country, meeting and organizing with other Black folk serves one in terms of establishing identity and self-worth. In many circumstances, Black children are pigeon-holed to their neighborhoods without a reason or means of ever escaping their everyday traumas. By having an organized Black sports collective such as MID-TACS, whether formed by sports or another social activity, would fuel and uplift our young folks to strive for healthier minds, body’s and spirit.

To Be Posthuman Is To Be Invisible

The plight of a posthuman black and brown body nullifies possibilities of the black and brown body ever becoming respected. Today, black and brown bodies could possibly be viewed as posthuman. This is to say, that black and brown people are not respected as a human in the eyes of some folks, especially those that are supposed to uphold the law. Thus, we may have always been posthuman in an opposing sense of the word. Since slavery, black people and indigenous people have walked the fields and pavements of America as invisible or posthuman. Once a black and brown body is enslaved, beaten, raped, tortured and dehumanized, then, posthuman must be the last resort to find some peace, right? NO…a person should never give up deny themselves an identity. All one has is their history, her-story, one’s culture, one’s family.

Even today, black and brown children are invisible while they are denied their history from as early as kindergarten all the way through the academy. Decolonization should start early, though the settlers mind trap is pushing forward their decolonial refusal ways.

In recognizing Black Feminist Thought (BFT) and Black Feminist Methodology (BFM), we observe that what should be valued, conclusive and regarded as evident, remains distracted. Harnessed are the views and opinions of Black women, scholarly or not. This is especially seen in today’s corporate America, where women of color must invent, then reinvent the wheel just to get a pat on the back. Not only are our Black female scholars muffled, there are countless numbers of Black women in the fields of finance, film, writing, publishing, medicine, technology, planning & development and sales who, at a minimum, do not receive an honorable mention for their merit and achievements. By way of Black Feminist Methodology, Black women have found an outlet for voicing scholarly arguments, sentiment, joy, and anger—emotions which are tied to hundreds of years of posthumanist journeys. In fact, to paraphrase Patterson et al, “according to BFT scholars, black women’s knowledge is acquired through various experiences living, surviving, and thriving within multiple forms of oppression.” Approaches and/or methodologies developed by black women oftentimes go by the waist side, where men, black and white take their shine away. Again, one would implement the posthumanization effect, whereas black women, who have always been at the forefront of feminist thought, are forced to create a biracial stance against injustices to all women. Without doubt, one can see this occurring in today’s public opinion with regard to the Trump administration.

Trump’s pre-election approval ratings and his greenlight to the presidency were very much supported and mended by white women. These are the same white women that listened to Trump’s foul 70 year-old language involving a sexually fueled conversation about what he would do to a woman. He chuckles as he describes his predatory ways to another male. While Trump’s opposing white women march to protect THEIR rights. Black women march, too, and have been marching for THEIR rights for hundreds of years. In fact, our current #MeToo movement was started by a black woman, Tarana Burke, 10 years ago. And as Trump is watched today, stumbling through a presidency, where he is allowed to trample over black peoples causes, Obama’s quasi reparations, we forget to march for Korryn.

Korryn Gaines, a black woman, a mother, a human…killed by police who shot and killed her using automatic weapons while she remained inside her home refusing to come outside to receive a warrant. They shot through the exterior walls of her home, not only killing her, but also shooting her five year old son who did survive. Korryn was 23 years old. This is not the first black woman to die by the hands of police. Numerous black women have died from police brutality and senseless acts of what should be determined as racist decisions by OUR police force. It is a fact that more black women are killed by police than white women. Perhaps black women have reached a posthuman phase. As Andrea J. Ritchie describes in her essay, “police view African American women as masculine and animalistic.” A case and point is the conversational nastiness of some media and fans when tennis player Serena Williams enters onto the tennis court. Furthermore, Ritchie argues that “police view African American women as violent, predatory, or noncompliant regardless of their actual conduct and circumstances, no matter how old, young, disabled, small, or ill.” Ritchie’s observations conclude that gender violence against black women is real.

And therefore, black women need a gathering place to have their voices of shared experiences heard. Being coined as masculine and animalistic should bring black women together so that collectively and consciously, they openly discuss and recognize that they are not indivisible, and that it is OK to be who they are in their skin. In the Black Women’s Gathering Place, women were able to break their silence and cut down barriers with one another which allows them to breathe easier knowing that their not alone.

A Black Women’s Collective was started in our home 23 years ago. The impact that it had on all participants was amazing to watch, even as a participant on some occasions. Friends in this group came from different walks of life, some having an easier lifestyle than others. Despite their differences in education, income and lifestyle, they seem to enjoy the fact that they could rely on each other for one day of the month. The mission of the group was to initiate fun reunions for young black moms who rarely had time to leave their house due to raising children. Organized by my wife, she created a book and film club similar to the Black Women’s Gathering Place. They met every month at a different location to cultivate their friendship, to converse and discuss the latest film or book, and to breathe; all while dropping their armor so to become human once more. Their discussions also gave each of them a chance to talk about work related issues which left them vulnerable at other times. The relationships from this gathering place are still intact and still meeting regularly.

Works Cited

Douglass, Patrice D. “Black Feminist Theory for the Dead and Dying.” Theory & Event.” Hopkins University Press Vol. 21 (2018): 106-123

King, Tiffany Lethabo. “Humans Involved: Lurking in the Lines of Posthumanist Flight.”

King, Tiffany Lethabo. “Post-Identitarian and Post-Intersectional Anxiety in the            Neoliberal Corporate University.” Feminist Formations Vol. 27 (2015): 114-138. Print.

Palmer, Tyrone S. “What Feels More Than feeling?” Theorizing the Unthinkability of Black Affect.” Journal of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association Vol. 3.2 (2017): 31+

Patterson, Ashley, Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard, Ryann Randall, and Arianna Howard. “Black Feminist Thought as Methodology: Examining Intergenerational Lived          experiences of Black Women.” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research Vol. 5   (2016): 55-76

Watching You, Watching Me and Watching Me

In review of Gladson’s writing on discourses and epistemologies, I will enlist a podcast by an author from the Brookings Institute which addresses “Why Black Cities Matter?” as a correlation to the discourses and epistemologies found in Gladson’s writing.

In Perry’s podcast review of Why Black Cities Matter, he argues that Black cities are overlooked for new opportunities, just as Black people are overlooked via ploys of long ago racial epistemologies. Like Black people, Black cities experience similar injustices, impositions and inequalities which defer economic growth across their cities. The harm in not considering Black cities, spikes poverty and limits even mediocre economic gains across business sectors. He argues that majority White cities are provided financial and economic policies and opportunities which provide opportunities for increased business and financial gain. Whereas, in majority Black cities, there are little to no assets for investments, loans and future growth operations. Perry points out that an opportunity, such as having Amazon’s second headquarters moved to a majority Black city would drive considerable growth to its residents. However, Black cities are overlooked because its thought that there is no redeemable or residual value in Black cities.

Much like the Eurocentric Paradigm described in Gladson’s work, today’s economic decisions and policies are similarly structured as the racial constrictions and political construction which deny a race of people from living in an American Dream community. In addition, there are several examples of how old guard epistemologies and thought processes created economic dismay for Black people. In the following scenario, one might say that years of Eurocentric Paradigms of bad science determined the outcome of thousands of deaths and displaced Black people in the Parishes of New Orleans. One might ask why were the levees not constructed to prevent water overflow from Hurricane Katrina. And, where was an infrastructure improvement plan for the levee…so that thousands of deaths and displacement could have been avoided?

Perry’s discourse on Why Black Cities Matter? as it pertains to America’s racial matters, transcends the discourses of Gladson’s view points on consciousness and critical race theory. Paraphrasing Perry, he states that his writing on Why Black Cities Matters? stems from injustices caused by economic inequality, where more than often Black cities bear the brunt of poor city planning, “as seen in specific industries, education, environment, criminal justice and housing.” Perry talks about past policies such as race based red lining and decisions on environment planning which were thrown upon Black cities, due to the cities not being valued by society. Another example of outdated policy-making given by Perry were the loan policies created by FDR. Citizens that resided in the green lined districts received loans, whereas the residents in the red lined districts did not receive loans. In turn, the old academy used quantitative assessments to control the population and its offerings to a White America.

Gladsow’s writing also connects Perry’s podcast to her critique of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT theorists suggests that racism is normal, and in no time will it be a fleeting occurrence in our society. In addition, CRT theorists suggests that racism is embedded in our society to the point that it is deemed “both normal and natural to society.” Taking from my own experience, I would agree that Black and White societies have accepted racism, becoming comfortable to a degree, where we are or have become consciously distracted. I defend this observation by noting that in some communities, Black people have become discouraged by past racial policy making, in so much as that they have given up hope. In applying DuBois’s theory of double consciousness, it would suggest that this degree of double consciousness supports “the quitter” in our community. To add to that, in Perry’s podcast, he also discusses how White society does not provide “suitable solutions” because they do not value Black lives or Black cities. They too, have given up hope. Or, as in today’s Trump administration, they just do not care.

Critical race theory also contends that legislation which was created to protect Black people’s civil rights has mostly supported White women through the use of affirmative action pathways. In today’s work environment, one can see the increase of White women’s success in business, employment and education. Given years of affirmative action legislation, one would say that White women either took advantage of these policies, which hedged the success of Black women and Black men or that Blacks did not take advantage of those guided opportunities. Thus, it is very probable to argue that even though affirmative action was created to fuel Black economic goals, the open racism involved in the process, such as loan approvals for homes and secondary education, proved to be obstacles for Black people. In a critical race theoretical framework, Black lives must maintain a consciousness across all of its inherent powers becoming consciously observant of means to achieve common ground in America. The divided self must come together and join like forces across all communities to further the good work.

I note that in Patrisse Khan-Cullors book “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir, that Patrisse describes how she used protesting, marching and activism to raise consciousness of Black Lives Matters. However, in Gladsow’s writings, she notes that the CRT scholars were fed up with traditional civil rights strategies, such as protesting and marching. Moreover, I believe that Patrisse combined both legal and scholar activism with traditional civil rights strategies to enhance the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sociologist George Herbert Mead said that people develop their self-images through experiences interacted with other people via use of language, play and games. Likewise, it seems that W.E.B. DuBois’s epistemology on “double consciousness” lands on similar ground. Thus, the self develops from the “Me” which is comprised of socialization and interactions with other people, and the “I” is the self’s outlook, response and decision towards others. Mead and DuBois were writing during the same era. That being said, a Black person or Black community perhaps, after long term abuse, enslavement and sustained poverty would take on the traits of having two minds that confront each other. Today’s Black student, and likewise international students are of two minds.

At the end of Gladsow’s writing, she talks about all of her “selves” which in some fashion gives credibility to Mead’s definition. She identifies herself as a researcher, a parent and a community member; all in quest to educate Black children. Black lives do matter, and within their capabilities, a multiple consciousnesses exist. This consciousness should be openly discussed and used in meaningful and positive ways, and not as negative discourse which staggers any successes previously gained by all Black Lives Matters movements and initiatives. Black students should know and understand their history so that these double and multiple consciousness are shoved to the side, all the while strengthening an individual. Therefore, in knowing one’s history, the double or multiple consciousness would not be conflicting, but would be a step in developing their consciousness to one mind, one community.

The Academy Intrudes in Early Childhood Development

For me, the Academy tried to hedge my human significance in elementary school. I recall in the third grade at my school’s open house, when a teacher informed my mom that I could not be a police officer. My mother did not take kindly to the white teacher’s comment. My mom, a militant in those days, organized against the police as part of the Black Panther Party, referencing them as pigs and murderers. But, it was the fact that the teacher said that I could not become a police officer, which meant in my mom’s mind, that I was not good enough to become anything at all. So, here I would use the No Humans Involved (N.H.I) term coined years after this story. The teacher did not believe that my mind, body and soul were good enough to become successful, just another N.H.I.

This grade school occurrence took place during the show and tell segment of my open house, where my pieces of art pictured cops and robbers. I added in Kato from the Green Hornet, a character performed by the famous Bruce Lee. Because I was very much into action figures and heroes, what else was I aspiring to be as a grown man, a hero. Back then, all my heroes were coming from a television screen, and were primarily white. Our Black heroes, or so I was led to believe were the characters on screen, such as Shaft and Cleopatra Jones, from all of the exploitation films and sitcoms of that era. Consciously distracted.

The article Black Study, Black Struggles by Robin D. G. Kelly allowed me to reflect on my undergrad collegiate experience. I attended four colleges over the course of umpteen years to complete my degree. Upon entering college, I had no real dreams and aspirations for being no more than a great athlete. I played tennis all through high school on our school’s team and, was aspiring to compete professionally. Pipe dreams. I was good for a Black person who came from no economic stature growing up in the Midwest with a single mother. That being said, I wish at that time in my life that I had the mental capacity to be like the grad students which Kelly speaks of, who (I paraphrase) “are in the university but not of the university.” There were no collective student thinkers of Black consciousness at Prairie View A & M University (PVAMU), just athletes and wanna-bees. That’s a heavy statement which may not be all that true…I did not know everybody on campus. And though PVAMU was a historically Black college, there was not a college book in my inventory that had authors names, such as Fanon, Engels, Firestone and Angela Davis. Despite my mom’s push for me to be a strong Black man, she was not the mom to push us to read books that served as an education of Black consciousness. Of course, she taught me about Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and Angela Davis. However, during those times, it seemed to be her education.

At PVAMU, the only protest held was a protest that I organized with a few other freshman students. We, I guess were a collective student body, but our fight or activism against the colleges administration was because we had learned that there was a bowling alley in one of our campus buildings. Our campus had no amenities so having access to the bowling alley would have been great for students. Like today’s student activism, we organized and held speeches, even slept out on the front steps of the building where the bowling alley was said to be. Another protest by our student body was to get the administration to change their policies on how monies were allocated across various expenditures. Our argument was that the administration was filling their pockets with money, while students were given substandard means of residential halls and food selections. As with many protest encounters, our PVAMU Black administrators met with us and passed the blame to our affiliate school Texas A & M. And, as a nice gesture, they held a breakfast for us to hear our concerns. None of our protest requests were ever met, but we stood our ground for a moment. Knowing what I know now, I would have pushed for a healthier, breathier and lively education about what it means to be Black in America. Consciously distracted, again.

Survival. Reading The Shape of My Impact by Alexis Pauline Gumbs sent me into a sadness which I have not experienced until now. Reading about the plights of Audre Lorde and June Jordan grab at my heart. Then, I found a poem, nightsong, by May Ayim. I read the poem several times reflecting on its meaning. Afterwards, I searched for her other works online to find out that she committed suicide at 36 years old. For that moment, I was broken. I read the poem again, mixing in her life story, though I could only find a subtle sadness. My heart immediately went out to her, Audre and June.

How the Academy treated them in their dire moments, after years of tenure, and scholarly accomplishments is unforgiving. I recently experienced a situation where two of my favorite college professors were terminated or as the administration put it, given severance packages after many years of successfully graduating mostly Black students. The two professors, in most student’s opinion, gave their heart and soul to their job. From what I hear there is now a huge law suit coming from their dismissal. From a personal viewpoint, the two professors taught with the Black student at the top of their mind. Their classes were designed to teach us about Black consciousness, Black writers and Black everything. Weeks later after their departure, I had a discussion with their immediate supervisor. In that conversation, I was able to understand why those two particular professors were let go. It definitely had something to do with their style of getting through to the Black student. The two professors were forced out of an Academy to seek survival within another Academy. The glass ceiling continues.

Today’s activism within the Academy has taken on a new face. This new face is broad, fueled and driven. This face comes with a wealth of information to combat injustices. This face new face seems to fight for all. It is comprised of many individuals from many walks of life. The shape of their impact will in time carve new opportunities for future Academy providers and students.

Being Culturally Responsive to Black and Latino Queer Youth

Having a lens and identifying queer African American youth in the 1970’s was not difficult. Not to say that my ethnographic lens was so keen, and nor was there a ratchetness to highlight queer youth at that time. Instead, those that were queer though did not respond as queer for fear of being ostracized, shared subtle ways of displaying their uniqueness. It was either by associations in sub-groups of like-minded students, be it theatre, cheerleading or visual arts, or that individual would stay to themselves in quiet spaces, often times claiming shyness to be their identifier. In my class, queer high school students both black and white had an outlet to mix with other students who were queer. That said, these students would not openly claim themselves to be part of an LBGT+Q community. Whereas today, Bettina L. Love’s ratchet methods of queer black youth exploration and discovery, given its messiness, would be key in developing a community for which African American queer students would be accustomed to sharing their identities by way of provocative introductions.

When looking back to the 1970’s and comparing black queer youth to today’s black queer youth, its obvious that the door is held open much wider than in the 70’s. Although students in my day were not very vocal against a person’s sexual orientation, they did have moments of quiet disrespect for those students who had no choice in themselves being different from the norm. Society today, teaches us to be culturally responsive and open to all queer youth. In media, especially television and film, young writers, producers and directors have made a definitive point in bringing the lifestyles of queer youth to the forefront. So, becoming queerly responsive is not only on trend, but its accepted across many educational and artistic platforms.

For one, the hip hop industry has begun to play with the notion of black queer youth and adults finding a home within the phallocentric community. However, the industry is still dominated by men who seem to refuse to close its gap of having little to no women interfere with their hip hop success. That said, it is even tougher for the urban black queer youth to take a stand. Again, as in my high school daze, we find the black queer youth segmenting themselves over to the side in sub-groups, where on display is a resistance many times portrayed as ratchetness.

In closing, becoming culturally responsive on every level is vital to our growth as human beings. As discussed by Ed Brockenbrough in the article ‘Becoming Queerly Responsive,’ todays pedagogy must be inclusive of queer youth starting in elementary schools and moving through grade 12. The implications of not attending to this matter leads to consequences that are violent physically and emotionally, hurting not one person, but a whole community of children, youth and adults who carry the emotional weight for those that carry the burden of not being able to live openly.

 

Works Cited

Love, Bettina L., “A Ratchet Lens: Black Queer Youth, Agency, Hip Hop, and the Black Ratchet Imagination.” Educational Researcher 46(9) (2017): 539-547

Brockenbrough, Ed.,   “Becoming Queerly Responsive: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Black and Latino Urban Queer Youth.” The Author(s), 51 (2), (2016); 170-196

Testimonios

Scholars using testimonios as a research method provide a qualitative in-depth reflection that reaches the core of one’s story. In the narrative form, the personal experience is an approach to telling all stories, those of others and the story of the individual scholar. Collectively, these stories become bibliographic contributions. In today’s world, Latin American women are using their testimonios as a means to take a position against injustice and inequitable situations. In Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and America, Latina and Chicana scholars and feminist have and still fight using oral traditions to be heard and to make their point. Testimonios are also used as methodological and pedagogical tools to reinforce the narrative. In methodological formats, the interlocutor is supporting those who are or were once silent and/or afraid to confront the status quo. And as a pedagogical tool, this approach brings the mind, body and spirit into play.

Per this reading, we learn of several Latin American females who are in the news, not all good news, though news that informs us that Latin American women from across the globe are making headlines in fight of liberation and protest. On a sorrowful note, we will miss Marielle Franco, a Brazilian politician and feminist who was murdered for her stance on protecting the human rights of black and brown skinned Brazilians living in the favela’s. Two more Latina’s made the news last week when they took part in the March 4 Our Lives protest in Washington, DC. The students Edna Chavez and Emma Gonzalez stood front and center amongst a sea of people, adults and students, when giving their testimonios like many other narratives told that week. The two students were subject to gun violence in their schools.

Works Cited

Reyes, Kathryn Blackmer, and Julia E. Curry Rodriguez. “Testimonio: Origins, Terms, and  Resources.” Equity & Excellence in Education 45(3) (2012): 525-538

Martinez, Melissa A., Danielle J. Alsander, Laura J. Cortez, Anjale D. Welton, Aurora Chang. “We are stronger together: reflective testimonies of female scholars of color in a research and writing collective” Reflective Practice, 16:1, 85-95, DOI:                 10.1080/14623943.2014.969698

Delgado Bernal, Dolores, Rebeca Burciaga, Judith Flores Carmona. “Chicana/Latina         Testimonios: Mapping the Methodological, Pedagogical, and Political.” Equity &         Excellence in Education, 45(3), 2012, 363-372