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?”

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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