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.
While at NASPA, I had my photograph taken for Dear World, a NOLA-based initiative created to allow native New Orleanians to share love notes to their city and the world post-Hurricane Katrina. Although many messages crossed my mind while I stood in line, the one that stuck was “All BLACK everything,” which I felt best summed up my most recent work and what I hope will be my future research trajectory. Here’s what I wrote to accompany my post on Instagram and Facebook:
My #DearWorld image at #NASPA15: All BLACK Everything! Because all the messages I wanted to write would not fit:
Throughout my doctoral program I have been most fascinated with the upsurge of the term “Black” coupled with proud, unapologetic performances of blackness, particularly in online spaces. I am especially intrigued by how the use of the term (and other coded language) within tags and labels move beyond politics and issues of representation, and also form and mobilize communities by connecting people and archiving relevant discussions. I have highlighted and annotated Stuart Hall’s essay, New Ethnicities, countless times, growing fond of how he touches on the discourse of blackness in black cultural production. The work being done is, in my opinion, nothing short of revolutionary.
To begin the next wave of my career, I gave two presentations at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association that aligned with this theme:
Trending Topics: Social media’s role in supply and demand, criticism and engagement with Black women on Television
Hashtagging Health: Exploring Black Women’s Use of Social Media to Promote Health in Online Communities
So, what’s next? My hope is to continue studying black cultural production in online spaces and sharing and spreading the knowledge, beginning with my new position as Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. :)
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