What Was Missing from the #YoungFabFemale Discussion

As a relatively new Houstonian, health writer/journalist, assistant professor of communication studies and fabulous Black female (or at least I’d like to think so), I was thrilled when my colleague sent me an invitation to join her this evening at “Young, Fabulous & Female,” a conversation focusing on Black women’s success sponsored by The Root and Toyota. The theme was “Crossing the Line,” and panelists were to share tips and wisdom for Black women pursuing successful professional journeys.

I shot straight across my new city after a long day of work with heart and mind open to receive some fabulous words of wisdom and empowerment from a panel of accomplished women in areas inclusive of ministry, medicine, and media… in other words, ALL of my faves.

A few minutes into the panel, I felt my enthusiasm begin to wane. While there were gems dispersed throughout the evening that received a head nod or two, I couldn’t help but feel deflated. I listened as comments were made that circumvented and overlooked critical issues Black women face despite, and within, all of our authentic fabulousness. Continue reading

The #blkgrlmvmt: Why it matters.

I want to write a book.

Of course, if you know me, you know that I want to write several books. And, that I come up with a new book idea almost annually. However, this story – The Black Girl Movement – is one I really want to tell.
If you’ve had the opportunity to click around my site, you may have read where I’ve tried to figure out what it means to be in motion, or where I tried to connect those concepts to my research. For me (and I know my adviser Elli would love this), my research interests and this book idea — which is not entirely an academic one — are closely intertwined. Continue reading

In Motion: Lessons from a summer of transition.

Me and some of my favorite future PhDs. #Cubenation, hold it down.

Me and some of my favorite future PhDs. #Cubenation, hold it down.

I’m almost certain when I look back in a few years I’ll have some trendy name (e.g. “Bluppie Beginnings” or something like that) for this summer of transition. There have been many changes — endings, shifts, new beginnings — in less than 15 weeks. I finally completed grad school, left my doctoral internship of four years, and moved all the way to Texas to begin a new career. At this point, almost every day is a blur. However, it hasn’t been lost on me that this is, and has been, the goal. This very moment. This phase. It’s what I’ve been working for: I’m in motion.

There have been moments, several of them, where I’ve been overwhelmed by the emotions I feel. I loved my role with University Housing, and transitioning to my replacement was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m pretty sure I dropped a single thug tear on the day I grudgingly relinquished control of our social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, Instagram, Storify, Google+ — all of it!). I immediately had to unfollow each one so I would not begin obsessing over what I was letting go. I had to repeat to myself: Felicia, you cannot be a doctoral intern for the rest of your life. Continue reading

What’s Next?… All BLACK Everything.

In March 2015, I presented original research for the first time as a Ph.D. at the annual meeting for Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA). My session, Countering Digital Marginality, was designed to start a larger conversation in higher education on the increasing relevance of tuning in on online platforms and engaging with marginalized students, who use those platforms to amplify their (often silenced) voices. My case study centered a black male student, Travis*, who openly identified as gay online and had reached out to my department for help during his transition to campus life. I situated Travis’ story within the recent trend of online activism performed by students of color and marginalized members of student organizations nationwide – think #ITooAm movements at Harvard, Oxford, and most recently at UGA. I loved being able to share Travis’ story and, even more, being able to take real action because of it. More on that in upcoming weeks.

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Inspiration or Permission?

Weeks ago, I sat in on a brilliant master’s thesis defense by Jess Hennenfent. Jess’s thesis, “Socially Me,” was an auto-ethnography that uncovered some important intersections of identity(-ies), performance (dramaturgy), and social media. The discussion that ensued during the defense was as brilliant as her project sounds. At one point the committee was tackling the issue of taking risks online and in our writing when one member, Dr. Acosta-Alzuru, shared that she believed one text in particular gave Jess permission to take risks in her writing. She said, we often say that we are “inspired” by something we read or see to pursue our own hidden interests, but what we really mean (sometimes) is that what we observed somehow gave us permission to pursue an idea that we previously were on the fence about. At this point in the conversation, my brain began to spiral around the tangent of this incredible observation.

Inspiration or permission?

In my opinion, both concepts are powerful. I have been, and remain, adamant that social media’s greatest utility rests in how we use platforms to exchange information, ideas and stories. I previously wrote that it was a blog post that “inspired” me to pen my first piece for Chronicle Vitae. However, as soon as Dr. A made her remark I knew that the author’s courage had given me permission to publicly expose my vulnerabilities — just as she had done through her writing.

I have a hunch that this observation will continue to stick with me in the weeks ahead as I grapple with the role of social media in various cultural contexts and social movements. In the weeks that have passed since Jess’s successful defense I have often thought of an idea, “Are you waiting on inspiration or permission?” I often follow that question up with another: “Who out there needs you to hurry up and decide, so they can be inspired or gain permission to perform a courageous act of their own?”

How can we learn from the actions of others?

Here’s what I love about social media: its ability to connect people with others.

On the surface it seems so simple, but the power of those connections is anything but. I’m very particular about my language so I want to clarify: I don’t believe in the power of social media; that doesn’t exist. Social media is a tool. I believe in the power of people who use social media to perform meaningful actions – to spread the seeds of a new idea, to publicize little known facts, to share photos across the globe, or to simply connect with other people. These series of small, meaningful actions are the source of power that people often mistakenly attribute to social media. Continue reading

Preserving the Sexy (and knowledge) with Black Girls RUN!

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BGR! Preserve the Sexy Tour – Atlanta, Ga.

Toward the end of July I received IRB approval for my dissertation research on Black Girls RUN!… Whew! I was cutting it close.

The notification came just in time for me to get excited about the Atlanta stop of the Preserve the Sexy Tour (PTST), a series of half-day workshops in cities across the country designed to provide BGR! members with valuable running tips and information. In addition to social support, proper education is a key element to sustaining change. Have you ever tried to run more than three miles in a pair of cross trainers? Do you know what a difference it makes to roll your ankles and warm up your calves before you go for a run? Having the knowledge to navigate these seemingly simple scenarios could mean the difference between someone testing running out as a fad and adopting running as a long-term lifestyle change.

I’d been looking forward to the Atlanta stop all summer because I had questions about my experiences with shortness of breath and my growing interest in foam rolling. Now that run more frequently, I have focused concerns because I’ve increased my distance and am trying to quicken my pace. In each session, I was able to get answers to my questions from credible sources. By the way, I tried the techniques (focused breathing patterns and foam rolling pre- and post-run) this week and they worked wonders! Continue reading