Summer Plans, Or Nah?

Summer is upon us, and while some of us are off to do fieldwork, working on articles for publication, visiting family, or whiling the days away on nothing at all, I’ve decided to devote this summer to completing and starting a couple of new projects, as well as having a bit of fun.

  • First on the list is wrapping up this dissertation. I am so over grad school and its attending melodrama, and I’m just ready to move on with my life.  I’ve mostly enjoyed my experiences there, and I am grateful for the friendships I’ve forged and the lessons I’ve learned in graduate school. But it’s time, y’all. It’s time.
  • Related to the grad school shenanigans is the cancellation of my summer course due to low enrollment. I was pretty hyped about teaching this course on LGBTQ identities and popular culture, but I do believe that this is a blessing in disguise. My diss completion timeline just got a boost,  and I’ll have time to work on some other writing projects I’ve started. More on this later.
  • The JOB SEARCH.  I’ll go on the academic job market this year, but I’m also looking for alt-ac and post ac jobs. A girl’s gotta have options, ya’ know?
  • I don’t want to reveal too much about all the pots I’ve got on the stove right now, but I can share one thing:   I’m thinking about starting a podcast on Black lesbian literature and writers, past and present. What do y’all think? Would any of you listen? Be a guest on the show? I’d love to hear your suggestions. I’m in the planning stages, so email me if you want to talk about it.
  • Me and the Mrs. are heading to Florida next week to celebrate her birthday and one year of relationship bliss. We are looking forward to the R&R!
  • I’ve just come back from a couple of weeks with the fam, which is always a blast. I didn’t get to see many of my friends, but not for want of trying.

This is about the extent of my plans for the next couple of months. What are YOU doing this summer?

I’m Baaaaack!

Y’all. It’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog; life has taken a couple of unexpected turns and I’ve had to get my priorities in order. Let me tell you what’s been going on:

To start, my love is now working on a project in the motherland, that’s right, Africa! Over my spring break I helped her move out of her place up north and get ready to move across the world. Before she left, we got to spend some time with her family and then spent some time here at my house before she left. Well, now it’s our house, since technically, we live here together even though she’s working overseas.  It’s kind of exciting and awesome and we are just as happy as we can be. 🙂  The good thing about where she works is that we are able to talk on the phone several times a day at no cost to either of us, and she gets to rotate back home every two months.  Ain’t life grand?

The dissertation writing has been going extremely well. So well that I’ll be defending in September! That’s the other reason I’ve been away from the blog; I really had to get my mind right so that I can finish this thing. I have enjoyed my time in graduate school, but it is time to get on with the rest of my life. I had a bit of a writing lull last year, and I just couldn’t get over the hump. Now, the words are flowing like water, and even though there may still be challenges ahead, I know that I can face them and move on with my work.

My two proposals to NWSA were accepted, so I’ll be in sunny Puerto Rico this fall. I also received word that my two articles for the Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality are going to be published next year (finally), so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m trying not to submit to anything else until the diss is completely drafted (July), but then I’ll need to get one of these chapters revised for an article submission. I need to have that line on my CV as well.  It never ends, does it?

I’ve also realized that I just need to stay off of the internets.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drama that we read, see, or experience on the web, and I just can’t worry about that right now. It also seems like every academic I know is writing “think pieces” (when did that become a thing?), and lordt knows I want to get in on some of these conversations. However, I just can’t right now. Really, I can’t. I’ve got my own work to do, and no one is paying me to write for this or that blog or news source right now. And no one ever will if I don’t finish this thing I started. I don’t even have time to READ them right now, much less respond to them or write my own.  I can do that later. My only focus is getting what I came here for, and that is this Ph.D.  I’m so close I can taste it, and everything I’m doing right now is making sure I meet my deadlines, so I can walk across that stage in December.

So, this is about it for me right now. How’s it been going with you?

All in a Day’s Work

And I am queen of the world today! I cranked out 1471 words on the diss, finished up discussions on one online class and got to a good stopping point on the other, attended a boring online faculty development training, started a faculty certification module, (side gig stuff, don’t trip, we all got ’em), made an appointment with one of my chairs to discuss job apps, engaged in meaningful chats with the girlfriend AND the kid, washed my hair and dried it, and now I’m about to break for an early dinner. Later I am grading the LGBT class papers, folding up clothes, having ice cream and cookies with a friend, (I baked them yesterday, from scratch of course!), and reading for an hour.

Oh, and updated this blog.

So while none of this is actually blogworthy, I’m feeling a little full of myself today since I was out for the count with a nasty virus for most of late last week and the weekend. I feel like I’m finally back to myself, and my productivity level is up again. It also helps that I like to get up really early in the morning.

Also, a bit of motivation from the cranky co-chair as well as the cheerleader co-chair helped me to come up a good deadline for this chapter. Oh wait, I haven’t told them that yet, it’ll be a surprise. 🙂 October 15th it is people; imma need y’all to keep me accountable.

Back to the grind.

S.O.

Birthday Music, Part III–The End of an Era

With this last installment of the birthday music series, I travel back in time to my pre-teen and teen years.  I have to admit that I had a really hard time choosing songs for this post; every time I thought about an artist I wanted to write about, five more popped in my head. I honestly believe I could write a book about the music of my life. For example, I wasn’t able to include the Tom-Tom Club, Salt and Pepa, New Edition, The Art of Noise, Roger and Zapp, Rob Base, Public Enemy, Biz Markie, Kurtis Blow, Erik B and Rakim, or LL Cool J. Or even some of the rock groups I listened to like Queen, Journey, The Talking Heads, and R.E.M. And don’t get me started on the “Quiet Storm” artists, like Peabo Bryson, Freddie Jackson, Anita Baker, Sade, Frankie Beverly and Maze, and Smokey Robinson. Regardless, this post might get long, because I LOVE ALL THE SONGS.

I’ll start with my eight-grade prom. Seems like as good a place as any, and that was also around the time that Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall came out.  I went to the prom with a guy whose nickname was Pee Wee. I still don’t know why we called him that, but he was a family friend and cute enough.  He wasn’t my boyfriend or anything, but I needed a date at the last minute, and he was it.  I borrowed a dress from my older cousin, since I really didn’t have anything formal to wear. My parents had said “NO,” the first time I asked about going, so we had not shopped for a dress. At the last minute they decided to let me go, and kindly escorted me and Pee Wee to the prom. And yes, they stayed with us until it was time to go.  The only songs I remember from that night  are “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” and “Human Nature” by MJ, although surely they played other music. 🙂

The other love of my life during this time was you guessed it, His Royal Badness. By the time I started 9th grade, we had moved from our all-Black neighborhood to a mixed one across town. Cable television had become a serious thing and we had ALL the channels, including MTV and BET. The first video I actually remember watching is Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” but I’m sure you know that Prince doesn’t do Youtube, so I can’t post it for you here.  However, I can’t talk about Prince without mentioning The Time. I loved them just as much as Prince, (well, maybe not JUST as much), and I loved their antics on stage as well as in the movies. My all time favorite is “The Walk,” but since it’s not on Youtube anymore, I’ll post one of my other favorites:

This was also during the time when Donnie Simpson was hosting Video Soul and we would rush off the bus to make sure that we didn’t miss a minute of his show.  Here a few favorites I remember from that time period:

I loved Latifah when she was rapping back in the day!  And those dancers? In those shorts? Yeah, baaabbby!

What y’all know ’bout this?

Or this?

And this?

These three videos were “Skate Center” music. The Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam song was one of the songs they played for backwards skating because it had a slower tempo. We LIVED for the skate center when I was in high school. It was the one place where all the “cool kids” hung out on Sunday and Wednesday nights during the summer, and we’d behave all week just to get a chance to go. My sister and I knew if we got into trouble and were put on “restriction” for anything during the week, the skate center was a no-go.

Y’all know I love my ballads, and before I get to Luther, I have to pay tribute to a few other artists that captured my love and affection as a kid.

I know you remember James Ingram. He had a couple of duets with Patty Austin and our high school graduation song, “Somewhere Out There,” was based off of a duet with Linda Ronstandt. Yeah, they picked that.

My oldest friend (we are six months apart in age), obviously went to the cooler school, because their graduation song was this:

One of my other favorites is Alexander O’Neal. Alex has been going through some thangs the past few years, but he was an amazing singer in his prime:

I loved myself some Phyllis Hyman. She was beautiful with a voice to match. It broke my heart when I heard that she had committed suicide:

Before I wrap this thang up, I’ve got to include a little more of the funk that defined R&B in the 1980s.

From Atlanta, GA:

And I KNOW y’all remember this group! How could you forget a Black man on tv in a codpiece??

I kinda listened to this one on the down low ’cause it was nasty. LOL!  I was too young to know what most of it meant, but I knew I’d get in trouble for listening. The strings, y’all, the strings. They don’t make songs like this anymore.

I’ll end this blog with my all-time favorite ballad by Luther Vandross.  I loved this song so much when I was a kid, and I would listen to this song over and over until I had all the words down pat. I also hated it when they played the shorter version on the radio, because I wanted to hear it ALL.

Imma go ahead and say this, regardless of the backlash I may get: They don’t make them like this anymore. No doubt there is “good” music coming out now, but I don’t think we have as many singers as we used to. We have “entertainers.” They look good, they can dance (or not), and they have lots of technology and special effects to cover up their weak vocals. And I can’t remember the last time I heard a full orchestra on a new record. Oh wait, yes I can. D’Angelo’s “Cruisin” had a beautiful string arrangement. And before you tell me that people can’t afford it these days, ask yourselves how many of these new artists have an entourage of 20 or more people on their payroll and ain’t doing nothing but hanging around?  Right. I know a big part of it is the music industry and its impetus to crank out a hit every other day.  Still, I miss the music of my childhood because it was GOOD music.  I know you miss it too.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my musical retrospective. Like I said earlier, I could do this for days, but I’ll stop here. This post is a little longer than the other ones, but hey, give me a break, it’s my birthday. 🙂

Birthday Music, Part II

Today’s trip down memory lane is comprised of music from the 1960s. I was born in 1969, but I’ve always felt connected to the music of my parents’ young adult life, as well as that of the post-Civil Rights era.  My maternal grandmother LOVED herself some Sam Cooke. Now, let me say this, I loved my grandmother, but when we were kids, she wasn’t sweetest old lady on the block.  In her later years when she was nicer to us, my dad used to joke that now she was an old person trying to get into heaven.  Don’t judge us too harshly, we were little, and she was kinda mean, and we loved the way our other grandparents doted on us and indulged our every whim. Grandma A. didn’t spoil us much, and she was a force to be reckoned with. She worked in a funeral home, and had raised seven children pretty much on her own after she and my grandfather divorced.  She took good care of us when we visited, but we weren’t allowed to do much, not even swing in the swing set on the porch! This why we were so surprised the rainy summer afternoon she blew off the dusty Sam Cooke records on her hi-fi, (again, look it up if you don’t know what that is!), put on “Everybody Likes to Cha-Cha-Cha,” by Sam Cooke, and proceeded to show us how to do it.

Me and my sister ’bout fell out! Make no mistake, my grandmother was a fox: she was always dressed to the nines when she went out and she ALWAYS smelled like talcum powder and Esteé Lauder Youth Dew.  I never saw the woman break a sweat, and I know she worked hard. But dancing? Our eight and nine and a half year old selves just couldn’t believe my Grandma A. was doing the Cha-Cha-Cha to Sam Cooke! She was in her powder blue slides and flower print shift, (don’t act like you don’t know what a “shift” is), and she was gettin’ down! Now, that wasn’t my favorite Sam Cooke song, that honor goes to “Bring it On Home to Me,” but I’ll never forget that afternoon in Alabama with my Grandmother getting her groove on to the Cha Cha Cha song. Here’s to you Alga Mae:

One of my favorite groups of the 1960s was of course, The Supremes. They were stylish, beautiful, and I loved ALL of their songs. I can’t even pick a favorite, well, maybe “Someday We’ll Be Together,” but I remember when I was in high school Phil Collins remade “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and even then my critical self decided that he couldn’t hold a candle to The Supremes, and I promptly went out and bought a 45 of the original version.  Back then, our local record store was Flip Side Records, and you could buy anything on vinyl. My dad had one of those huge console stereo systems, and it could play EVERYTHING.  I don’t even think you can find one of those things now, well, you can probably find one on eBay.

My other favorite group was you guessed it, The Mighty Temptations. I just loved everything about them, especially their smooth vocals and precise dance moves. I had cassettes, (a box set, no less), of all of their hits and I also had one for The Supremes, as well as The Miracles.  I think I loved “Just My Imagination” best because it’s such a sad song. I also kinda loved it when Hall and Oates sang “The Way You Do the Things You Do” with them at The Apollo in 1985.  And let me just say that until MTV came along, I thought Hall and Oates were a Black duo. Yeah, I did.

I can’t finish this blog without mentioning Marvin Gaye, the smoothest brother singing in the sixties. I’ll just post a couple of  videos and let  you bask in his chocolate glory…

Ok, I love this next song, and I’m not going to comment on the back up dancers. Context, people, context; it was after all, 1963.

Tomorrow, my last blog in this series: the music of my pre- and teenage years, the 1980s.

Birthday Music, Part I

So, this week marks the 44th anniversary of my birth. Those of you that know me personally know that my birthday is 9/11, yeah, THAT 9/11. While I’ve never been much for celebrating birthdays, I am inclined to do a little reflection and introspection as I mark another year in the world.

Today, I’m posting music from the 1970s. So much of my little world was surrounded by music, GOOD music, and although there is no way that I can write about all the songs I loved as a kid, I’ll share a few of my favorites here:

I fell love with Kool and the Gang on first listen! This song is still one of my favorites, and I’ll never forget hearing it in Mrs. Mathews’ 5th grade class. My best friend at the time, Pam, started the dance party (I was much too shy to get up), and Mrs. Mathews let us have at it for a few minutes. I loved her class, as this is where I was introduced to Edgar Allan Poe and “Annabel Lee.” I could listen to Mrs. Mathews read this poem all day. She had the most amazing southern accent, you know the ones cultivated by “southern gentility,” and at nine years old, I had no real notion of the race and class issues associated with that moniker; I just knew I loved her sing-song accent and that this poem made me cry because it was so sad. And besides, this post isn’t about that.

Another one of my favorites was “Takin’ it to the Streets” by the Doobie Brothers. I remember seeing them on the television show “What’s Happening” and that  two-part episode is probably my favorite. Rerun was trying to bootleg their music at a concert and of course got caught. I don’t remember much else about it, although you can watch it on Youtube if you are so inclined.

The last video I’ll post is one of a classic Jackson Five performance on Soul Train. It’s hard to believe that I was only four years old when this episode first aired. All I really remember is that my dad had this album on 8-Track cassette (look it up if you don’t know what that is), and I wanted an MJ afro. I had a LOT of hair when I was little, and I could hardly wait for my weekly wash so that I could pick out my hair when it finally dried.  I only had a little time before mama sat me down in front of the stove with the Blue Magic hair grease and straightening comb, so my Angela Davis /Michael Jackson afro was more of a fantasy than a reality.

Tomorrow, I’ll post some of my favorites from the 1960s. I was born on the tail end of that decade, but I’ve always felt like I was a 60s baby. I don’t know why, but I do know that 1969 was a pretty good year for me….

Evolution

Over the past couple of years I’ve envisioned this blog to be a space for showcasing and discussing Black lesbian cultural texts. (I’ve been a slacker, I know.) I’ve also tried to marry a little of my academic life with my personal life, and that has prevented me from posting here as much as I’d like. In other words, as a dissertating grad student about to go on the job market, I’ve been pretty careful with my posts. However, I’ve found a better solution: create a separate space for my academic “stuff.” Duh. 🙂

I’d like this space to be a little more ME, so I’m removing the “Academic” page and I’ll be posting more often about things that move me, and although most of them will be related to my identities as a Black lesbian wannabe academic cultural critic, some of them may not. Thank you for reading along with me thus far and I hope you’ll be seeing a lot more from the blog soon.

The struggle continues,

Sister Outsider

I Made this Money, You Didn’t: or Why I Won’t Be Supporting YOUR Black Lesbian Business

I came across the article Black Lesbian Owned Businesses are Endangered today, and I have to admit that it read more like a rant than anything else, and to be honest with you, as a Black lesbian with dollars to spend, I was offended by Ms. Breedlove’s comments. I do my best to support Black owned establishments, and actively seek out Black and lesbian owned businesses that provide services or goods that I need. While I understand that she may be frustrated, the way to encourage me to patronize your place of business is not to call me a “crab in a barrel,” or to make judgments about how I spend my money.

Likewise, if you know anything about the current state of our economy, then you must know that Black lesbians have a higher rate of poverty than most other LGBT folks, and are usually raising children as well. So, no, most of us aren’t spending $400 on weaves or sneakers, and if we are, that’s our business, not yours.  If you want me to buy what you’re selling, how about you market a quality product that people want instead of putting them down and suggesting that all Black lesbians are a bunch of weaving wearing, stripper loving idiots who don’t have the good sense to know how to walk away from poor service, or that we all patronize homophobic or racist establishments?

Perhaps Ms. Breedlove needs an attitude adjustment more than my business.  The one thing that she seems to forget that she is in the social networking business, so no, we don’t necessarily NEED your service, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr do just fine. However, I have utilized Black lesbian-themed social networking sites, because I do like the idea of an internet space that caters to my needs, and I’m a member of at least one site that I truly love.

In order to EARN my business, Black lesbian business owners need to do more than assert that I engage in behaviors that are taking money out of their pockets or lay some guilt trip on me about tithing my money to a business that doesn’t meet my needs, simply because we are part of the same community.  And while I support strippers and other entertainers’ right to do what they do, I’d rather spend my money on a nice vacation, concert, or some other activity where I’m getting more for my buck than a handful of sweaty ass.  You also need to do more than insinuate that all of us are fighting at the club every weekend, drinking up the money we should be spending with you. You also shouldn’t assume that some, if not most of us, who are doing well financially, aren’t already giving back to our communities, financially and by providing other resources and support to the issues that we care about.

Ms. Breedlove, you seem angry that we aren’t supporting YOUR business, and while I am certainly willing to give any business a chance to earn my loyalty and hard earned dollars, I am hard pressed to give one to a business that focuses more on telling me why I’m a careless consumer than proving that she has the best service or product on the market.

From one Black lesbian to another, it might be a good idea to change your marketing and publicity strategy, because although some Black lesbians may engage in some of the behaviors you mention, you may have just managed to offend a huge portion of your target consumer base in a major news source.

Probably not good for business.

What’s in a Name?

So, check this out:  I’m a member of a couple of Black lesbian groups (mainly social, mainly women over 30), and yesterday’s question for discussion was as follows:  “What type of women do you go for, passive, submissive, aggressive, or a combination of all three?”

My answer was short and sweet: “I like assertive women, not aggressive, with a soft side.” Only one other person in the conversation noted that the labels or descriptors seemed a bit limiting, and mentioned that she didn’t like any of them.  I actually started composing a longer response that mentioned that all of these adjectives/labels had pretty negative connotations, but as I scrolled down and read the rest of the responses, I decided just to let it go.  And to be honest with y’all, I know this conversation has gotten a little tired. Still, it was messing with me, so I decided to write a little about it here and see what y’all think.  To give you a little context, here’s a smattering of what I read: “I like my women submissive, except in the bedroom.”  I like them smart/sexy, and submissive and knows how to play her part well.” Sigh.

Before I go any further, in the spirit of full disclosure I’d like to mention that I am attracted to (and partnered with) a masculine of center woman. She describes herself as a “soft stud.”  I’m good with that. And if you’ve read my other post Straight Passing, Or on the Invisibility of Femme Lesbians, you know that I identify as femme. And I’m good with that as well. So my issue is not labels per se, indeed, no matter how hard we try, we always end up coming up with new ways to identify ourselves so that others have an idea of who we are or are not.  Likewise, one of the biggest issues that Black women, lesbian or not, face, is society’s ever increasing propensity to impose labels on us that we would never choose for ourselves, in order to make them feel more comfortable, powerful, whatever.

What I’m not good with though, is how we accept some of these other labels and descriptors without fully examining the ways in which they impact how we behave toward one another.  Here I’m going to limit myself to speaking about the Black lesbian communities of which I am a member, in other words, I’m speaking about my own experiences, as well as some I’ve witnessed.  Bebe Moore Campbell said it best when she proclaimed that “Your blues ain’t like mine,” so just know that I’m not trying to generalize or stereotype all Black lesbians.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s just break these terms down just a little, and think about how they have come to represent at least one of the primary labels that Black lesbians (I’m also thinking “aggressive is used more in the northeast, as we southerners seem to be more attached to “stud,” or “soft stud,” which is equally problematic, given our slave history.)

Dictionary definitions for passive, aggressive, and submissive:

  • Passive:  accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.
  • Aggressive:  ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized by or resulting from aggression.
  • Submissive: ready to conform to the authority or will of others; meekly obedient or passive.

Now, I get that “aggressive” is used in lesbian communities to indicate a break from all things feminine in some women, and for others, it simply means that they are more masculine identified, although they might still identify with a bit of their feminine selves (thus the “soft” in soft stud).  Still, I have to ask myself why would anyone want to use an adjective that suggests that she is “likely to attack or confront?”  I also know that what has resulted from this label “aggressive” is the tendency for some of these women to take on all the negative attributes that have come to signify what “man” or masculinity means in U.S. culture: sexist and over-sexed; aggressive, violent behavior, a sense of entitlement and an assumption of power related only to the fact that they identify as masculine; and last but certainly most disturbing, outright misogyny. We see this in the tendency of some of these women to call women bitches and hoes, to claim that “bitches ain’t shit,” to focus on women as the sum of their body parts, (usually her boobs or her ass), and to relegate their partners to “submissive” roles in the bedroom, insisting that “real studs” don’t let their women touch them.  To claim that you want a woman that “knows her place,” is to subscribe to gender binaries that relegate feminine or femme identified women to the bedroom and the kitchen, and not much else.  I also get that some femmes seek out women that treat them this way, and I wonder why they allow themselves to be objectified in such a manner. But that’s another blog.

Now, before you get your boxers (or panties) in a bunch, I realize that not all of you think or behave this way. In fact, one of the most thoughtful pieces of writing I’ve seen on this matter is the The Lesbian Stud Manifesto, which details the ways in which some women come to claim a stud identity, and what that really means for them.  So, now I’m not sure if I’ve added that much more to the conversation, but I’ve certainly gotten this off of my chest.  What do you all think? Are the terms aggressive, submissive, and passive too negative to be associated with lesbian identities? Or does the literal definition of the term, along with its connotations, not matter at all?