Do You See What I See?

Several weeks ago, someone that I consider to be a peer asked me for guidance on something that I have no expertise or really any knowledge about. I communicated quietly, nonchalantly and without hesitation that I couldn’t help him. Not only did I not know enough about the context or the situation, I also didn’t know enough about the topic in general to provide any help. The stakes were too high, this was an important situation and the decision he needed guidance about could be trivial if played well, yet extremely harmful if not.

Questions that confuse us, yet folks insist on asking.

Questions that confuse us, yet folks insist on asking.

After my quiet yet thoughtful response to his request he insisted I help him. I, curtly, declined again. He insisted once again, and I became impatient. My voiced elevated a bit and my tone and cadence was testy at best, bordering on angry. I began with, “I just told you…you aren’t/don’t listen to me…” He then tried to end the conversation/change the subject, yet in doing so his language put the onus on me for not WANTING to help him, rather than what I was actually saying which is I COULD NOT help him (read: I actually don’t have the ABILITY to effectively help).

He kept insisting that I “have style” and so I could and should help him choose something stylish to wear. I shared with him that I know nothing of style. I simply put together things that I believe reflect my inside, what I feel, what the situation and context call for. His language kept reflecting that he felt I was refusing to help him when I was able to do so.

This has me reflecting on the nature of relationships/interactions in general, and then also about the nature of patriarchy. We’ll deal with the issue of patriarchy later, and thoroughly. Yet, the interaction highlighted something about leadership that I must grapple with civically, professional and, so it seems, personally.

How can anyone lead you if they don’t see you? How can you lead anyone if you don’t see them? Even if we prioritize following, rather than leading: How can you follow someone, trust them and have faith in them, when they don’t see you? How can you lead someone, know and serve their needs, if you don’t see them?

What should one do when interacting with someone who does not SEE you? How does one go about SEEING those around them? We often place an emphasis on listening (and in some respects hearing), yet can one accurately do either without first and/or simultaneously SEEING?

When I say seeing, I don’t mean reflecting. I mean clear, unadulterated, unclouded observation. Looking at someone and taking them in without addition or subtraction. In someone ways seeing without processing, instead simply imprinting. It takes multiple interactions to SEE someone, including observations of them interacting with others without (interacting with) you.

Additionally, how often do we see ourselves in this way – clear, unadulterated, unclouded observation of ourselves?

When was the last time you did not process yourself, measuring yourself against some standard or expectation?

Whether observing our ego at work, our social self or what our true self does when no one is watching, when was the last time you SAW yourself, actually looked at yourself?

When was the last time you made an imprint of yourself?  Just looked at yourself, your actions, your behaviors, your thoughts and just watched them…

In the words of one of the most iconic commercials of my childhood, I’d venture to say that for most of us, “…well that’s too long.”


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The Break-Up: Making Decisions

For many of us summertime is a little slower, or perhaps just more fun or free to work as we choose. We often have flings with ourselves, finally enjoying the things we wish we could do all year long. As the summer solstice approaches and you have a bit more daylight to see how you’d like to spend your time maybe it’s time to recommit to your first love: YOU.

Be Joyful Frequently

How often do you break-up with yourself to live a life uncommitted to your values and priorities?

I know it sounds weird to say that we break up with ourselves. Yet if you think about how often we make choices that are out of line with what we believe about our lives and ourselves, you would think that who we are at our core is completely different than who we as we go about everyday life. Many times our behavior says to our soul: I think we should see other people.

This is a common, and even predictable, thing. I mean, making decisions is hard. Especially when you consider the way that we tend to make decisions.

When you have to make a decision, do you look at all the choices you have, and by looking at your choices, believe that you’ll be able to determine which choice…

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School’s Out, Summer Fun – Professor’s Gone Wild!

So many folks have asked in the past 3 weeks, “So school’s out…? What are you doing with your vacation.” Well to tell you the truth, when school’s out, after a short time off, the REAL work begins. There’s no way to be successful as a faculty member without two things 1) a plan; and 2) students. Making sure that students get to college and are prepared to be successful is a true joy that I have. It’s often what I spend my evenings, weekends, and summer (vacations) doing. This year,the first such activity for my summer break was with the Uplift Education‘s summer bridge program. Bridge programs are an imperative part of the educational pipeline and the “road to college” for ALL students whether first generation college students or students with long legacy of post-secondary education.

My colleagues and I had just a great time with the two groups of Uplift students this morning. We discussed why it’s important to be engaged inside and outside of the classroom in order to be a successful student. We also discussed some of the fallacy’s about college success that really help us understand the difference between high school and college. Some of the students were really surprised when I suggested that even though they’ve been doing it much of their life, they really don’t know how to read – at least not reading to be successful in college.

Do you know how to read?

Click the link above to read the post about college reading, or visit for more tips on reading, time management and other suggestions for success as an undergraduate and graduate student.

If your program is interested in summer bridge workshops or workshops to help the students in your school, church or community organization prepare for college success send me an email (using the form below), tweet or facebook message. I can’t wait to work with you to create success!

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Why Lauryn was right – “My emancipation don’t fit your equation.”

Beyonce recently released a song via sound cloud entitled “Bow Down/I Been On” that is being highly criticized. I take issues with the criticisms. I firmly believe that the criticisms stem from our patriarchal and self-centered consumption of culture, particularly the cultural work and products of women and girls.

My issues are not because there are criticisms.  I believe we should engage in more constructive criticisms of contemporary culture and it’s materials. Yet, I take issues with the commentary surrounding Beyonce and the single for two primary reasons 1) Because of how she is being criticized and 2) the lack of actual criticalness in the actual criticisms.

The Gaze of Criticism

Much of the criticisms I have encountered center on the language being used, the fact that the song displays (too much of her) hoodness, and that she’s gone too far in her arrogance. Many are displeased with the use of the word bitch and crying foul. Many men and women, mostly women, are upset about the use of the word long deemed derogatory and engaging in debates similar to those surrounding the word nigger. Women of all races and age groups are arguing that she’s contradicting herself and that her image as a role for girls and girl power is now tainted.

She’s just gone and ruined everything!

Hold on, wait a minute. She’s gone and ruined what?

Beyonce has used the word bitch before in popular songs. Moreover, have you ever listened to “Ring the Alarm”? What about “Irreplaceable” or “Crazy in Love” or going back to gurl group days, “Bills, Bills, Bills” Or “No, No, No”? Capitalistic consumption is a tricky beast. Beyonce is a creative genius, pulling the puppet strings and making us dance, while we all think we’re real boys.

Through our purchasing and engagement of artists we create an image of an artist that fits with our beliefs and priorities. Often, an artist with a discography as varied and deep as Beyonce’s is largely appealing for this very reason. Particularly because she rarely explains her work, she simply produces and distributes it.  This unadulterated presentation allows consumers (folks who refer to themselves as fans) to connect as they wish. Thereby, folks are able to create a Frankenstein Beyonce of sorts.

Fans and consumers alike, can piece together the ideas, emotions and experiences of each song they decide to consume and enjoy. This Franken-Bey is of our own creation. It represents ourselves, (our) Beyonce is just like us. She has had our experiences; she has felt the same emotions we have; she believes the same things we believe. How do we know this? Because she sang about it in that one song and we were really feeling it; we know just where she’s coming from.

Oh really, do you?

Let’s talk about that too.

Critiques Absent of What’s Critical

Critical actually means to involve the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. Objective in this case doesn’t mean, without bias, it means based on actual fact. The actual facts are:

Beyonce is from the third ward of Houston. Parts of which went through a process of gentrification late in the first decade of the current millennium, many parts of which did not. I’ve never heard of gentrifying or revitalizing a neighborhood that is already posh and upscale. So for those of you that have only consumed Beyonce as a grown woman, writing and singing about love and making her space in the world, I’d like to let you know that it’s the hood. Beyonce has never hidden this and isn’t ashamed of it, folk just attend to what they wish. But this is the woman who wrote, sang and danced appropriately to Booty-licious ending the video quite well with a fedora and gold tooth. Please also see the video for “Soldier” (listen to the lyrics as well) and listen to the actually lyrical content of “Lose my Breathe.” All of which are her creative works (see what happens when there are no more liner notes to flip through and read – darn iTunes). She met, attracted the attention of, sustained a relationship with, and subsequently entered in the agreement of marriage with Jay-Z, Jigga, Rock-boy. She has never said or indicated that she was your girl next door – nor that she wanted to be.

Additionally, those critiquing the song also neglect to see the lyrical, musical and conceptual overlap between “Bow Down” and MUCH of her other work as a solo artist.  “Bow Down” is much more complex and intricate than these other popular singles. This may be the reason why folks are having a hard time digesting it. I’ve detected 4 or 5 musical layers in “Bow Down.” Many of them are rythmically and tonally similar to layers in her previous work. If you take them apart and, one or two layers at a time, pair them with the swaggerfic-gangsta-arrogant-can’t-nobody-tell-me-nothing trope she’s invoking you will get the following singles:



Freakum Dress

Schoolin’ Life

Get me Bodied

Check on It

Upgrade You

Déjà vu

Kitty Kat

Beautiful Liar

Suga Mama

Ring the Alarm

Hip Hop Star

…well you get the point, as many of these were released as singles and videos. If you didn’t pick up what was being putting down, here is the point:

We are only surprised because we weren’t paying attention to her body of work. To her artistry. To her. We’ve been consuming without analysis, true evaluation or actual attention to the critical, i.e. important, threads that have ALWAYS run through her artistry. The products of her craft she has offered to us. Products to which, when offered to you, you did not say, “No, thank you.”

So as Beyonce said, but you didn’t like to admit, “I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world, don’t forget it, don’t forget it. RESPECT THAT…”



Blog vibes: “Lost & Found” by Lianne La Havas; “EAsier” by Fred Hammond; “Still” by Yellokake; “The Highway Don’t Care” by Tim McGraw


Filed under Culture, Social Problems, Sociology, Women's History Month

There’s Always a New First Time (The First Day)

So, I was sleeping until I woke up for no reason at 2:47 AM.

Didn’t have to go to the bathroom or anything. Laying in bed, I checked my phone and had received a message from a friend with a sneak peak of a blog post he was going to make public today. J. Wiggins is one of my dearest and most talented friends. They say that “Familiarity breeds contempt,” yet I know this dude’s government (read: birth name on government documents) and he’s heard me say things I’d turn red about if repeated in public, yet he never ceases to inspire and amaze me. He fascinates me, and shows me things about my self as a person and professional that make me better.

His most recent post helped me explore some aspects of humility I’ve been struggling with, and also, helped me understand why I’ve been anxious about the beginning of this term. I haven’t been nervous about the first day of school since 5th grade when I moved in the middle of the year. It was the one and only time I EVER remember being nervous. Yet…

“So, I was sleeping until I woke up for no reason at 2:47. Didn’t have to go to the bathroom or anything. Laying in bed, checked my phone and you’d sent me the link to this post.

First, thanks for the “sneak peak.” Second, get out of my damn business with your lessons in humility! Third, I can’t believe I get to both know you and call you friend. God’s got something special going with you dude. 

Thank you for sharing with me. I realize now why I was up at 2:47 AM…today’s the first day of the semester. The first day of the second semester of me being a full time professor. Last term I was too swamped with being “new” to be nervous. Yet after a semester of the many of the students enjoying how I engage them in my classroom, and the administration responding to my request to teach two new and different classes based on student interest, I realize that I’m at a new level. After more than a decade of teaching what I’ve been doing won’t be good enough. Figuratively, they’re lined up outside my storefront, based on word of mouth, and I hope the first ones in don’t tell the others to just go on home. They’ve shown up, and I hope to God it’s worth it.”

Blog Vibes: Someone That I Used to Know by Luke Conrad; Diced Pineapples by Rick Ross; Do You by Miguel; Too Close by Alex Care;

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Sometimes we miss the point: Thoughts on Bias in the Classroom

picture from google images

I just read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a study done by Darren Linvill and Joseph Mazer, both of Clemson University, on student learning and instructor bias. I believe that the article and some of the folks interviewed about the study and the larger issue it addresses – teaching, learning and bias in the classroom – ironically ignored a larger fundamental teaching and learning issue. The implicit and explicit construction of power that emerges when students are unclear of how it will be judged that they know the content of the course (i.e. their final grade).

Bias is present in all social contexts involving humans – period. Even if they are not expressed by professors we all have our biases. This fundamental fact is at the core of research methodology. In research there are mechanisms that limit the impact of bias. This is also the case in the classroom environment, yet for a myriad of reasons, we do not employ them – which is unacceptable in the arena of research.

Pedagogically, the use of rubrics, the creation of clear and measurable learning objects (that are then incorporated into the rubrics), and the use of student centered learning practices (that focus on said learning objectives) make it clear to the students how they earn their grades in the course. Therefore it isn’t about their opinions on the topic discussed in class or the instructors opinions; its about course objectives. Therefore these communication and debating skills, being recommended by both the study proponents and detractors, can be developed in the classroom and across disciplines – because both students and instructors can speak freely having reconstructed the power dynamic around meeting clearly described learning standards. This is much more effective and productive a strategy, rather than students, and profs, believing grades are associated with something that pleases the professor.

You can read the article that sparked this post here, and find the original study by clicking here.

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Another perspective on youth behavior and culture in urban environments…how many missed opportunities will we create. It’s everywhere

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