150 Years of Freedom + Kyra Unchained

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
Helen Keller

“The past is always tense, the future perfect.”
Zadie Smith

Graphic design by Billy Swayze

Graphic design by Billy Swayze

150 YEARS OF FREEDOM FROM NEW YEAR’S EVE TO DAY (1862/63)

Today not only marks avoiding the fiscal cliff, but it marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation or 150 years of Freedom, on being unchained.

Despite all the controversy, it was fitting that I saw Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained last night just before bringing in the New Year. New Year’s eve is often referred to as “Watch night” or the “Watch meeting” (commemorating Dec 31, 1862). Still today, there are African Americans who sit vigil re-enacting the eve before freedom came in this nation. I better get my black-eyed peas a cookin to honor that long-held black tradition the next day. It brings good luck on New Year’s Day, it is said.

I enjoyed New Year’s eve 2012.  I stayed out til 4:30am–highly unusual if anyone’s been following my FB updates about getting 7-8 hours sleep regularly.   I had amazing conversations at the annual loft party of Marlene Duperley, an amazing sister in Brooklyn. I got to see one of my earliest students from UVa, Tomika Anderson, who brought me into that network. She’s coming into the fullness of her black womanhood in 2013. And I got to hang with my dear friend Atiba McLean who accompanied me to Django Unchained at a theatre in Brooklyn last night.

So much to say about the movie. It’s deliciously complicated and worth the trip from my perspective as an African American women interested in hip-hop remix culture and as a scholar. I’ll only say that Sam Jackson looked JUST LIKE Uncle Ben on the Uncle Ben’s Rice packaging (or was it just me?).  I’ll blog more about the movie. This post is about reckoning my year of transformation as well as my accomplishments in 2012.

RECKONING MY YEAR

I started using One Note religiously upon a recommendation from one of my political sociology students and in it this morning for over an hour, I captured everything that came to mind about my year that is empowering. Came up with a list of 66 things from which I created a top 10 list for me and I sense I will use it as a guide to blogging this month.

This is just a list with short descriptions of things to be noticed, that were reckoned with, in 2012. The list helped me focus on some key intentions and aims as I make the next list of my aims for 2013. Start with the familiar, say what’s left to be said and then create newly — that’s my strategy today.

So here goes! It’s actually a list of 12 for 2012.

      1. KYRA UNCHAINED
        Gambled for my soul rather than gambling my life away in a marriage that didn’t work. I embraced a quantified self which has unleashed room for me! AND I’ve been speaking powerfully such that people offer to work with me.  Thanks to Atiba McLean for observing me as a gambler in a convo about Django Unchained this morning.
      2. ASKED FOR HELP WHEN I WAS MOST AFRAID (Courage)
        See the “strength of weak ties” (Granovetter, 1973). I learn newly that “necessity IS the mother of invention”. My next political sociology course will focus on the sociology of courage.
      3. BLACK WOMEN FROM DOUBLE-DUTCH TO HIP-HOP
        I am an expert here but have not transacted well on my expertise in the past. Too many missed opportunities or indifference. I start teaching a winter course at Baruch, tomorrow, titled Ropes, Rhymes and Women in Hip-hop and emotional abuse will be a core theme.
      4. STUDY, THINK & PLAN/WILLPOWER
        Participated in an amazing training. Became a student of Influence Ecology, LLC thanks to Rachel Davis and out of deliberately studying texts like WillPower by Baumeister and Tierney, I rediscovered my love for reading. Academia nearly killed it.

        “Keep your mind on your objective, and persist until you succeed. Study, think and plan.”

          W. Clement Stone 1902-2002

      5. AGITATION, COMPLIANCE & SISTERHOOD
        Four double-dutch champions invited me to write a book about their experience. My divorce and the disruption it caused nearly led me to give up on writing for them. I learned to love writing again which is highlighted in the forward for the hip-hop feminist pedagogy reader WISH TO LIVE (I highly recommend it!).
      6. LOST MY VOICE? OF COURSE: HEALING SOUNDS
        During my marriage I lived the poem that Alice Walker wrote titled “Lost My Voice? Of Course (for Beanie, a childhood bully).” I had not sung professionally for over a year since I had gotten married.  My voice matters. Attending Imani Uzuri’s CD launch party at Joe’s Pub returned me to my voice and my light. Thank you Gabriella Callender. More singing soon.
      7. EXTREME SELF CARE, AFTER THE FIRE
        The period before the divorce was brutal. I made a simple request to find a support group on FB. What came back was an invitation from my Andrea Wangsness whom I only knew online. She said if you start it, I’ll join. I did and what an experience of learning to thrive over 6 months!
      8. THE MAYOR OF THE WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE
        Serendipity has always been present in my daily life. My grief during the divorce often numbed me to that possibility. Through a connection from dear friend Parris Whittingham (@iamparris) I found a fully furnished apartment requiring no deposit at an unbelievable price. I could live on my own again and discovered a passion for walking the Williamsburg Bridge (over 4 months now).
      9. #IGNITE50 – EMBRACING FAILURE
        Thanks to a chance meeting at a SkillShare event, I was invited to speak at IgniteNYC #13 on Failure. While at first reluctant to talk about my marriage, I did and it was SO healing. The talk Relationship Status: SBW Being True at 50 was my own way of celebrating my 50th birthday that happens to coincide with 9-11.
      10. EMBEDDEDNESS & EMERGING ADULTS
        I was needed to teach Sociology intros and a political sociology course this past fall. “Embeddedness” refers to the “degree to which ties are reinforced through indirect paths in social networks” (Conley 2011, 156). Through Twitter I found a former NYU student Jacob Soboroff who now heads up HuffPost Live. He visited my political sociology course via Skype and totally got who I am: A teacher. I teach emerging adults to own their own greatness.
      11. ACADEMIA – AN ACCESS TO FREEDOM
        Zoe Sherinian, A colleague in ethnomusicology and who participated in my divorce support group, insisted I return to my national conference meeting in NOLA. I had no money but from her nudge was gifted a trip that renewed my desire to rebuild my membership as a tenure-track faculty member. I have my first  job interview on the West Coast in January.
      12. SELF-CARE AND THE DIVINE
        I thank myself. I am grateful (thanks to Bill Lamond) that I can say I am grateful for being me, for my courage, my gracefulness, my honor of myself and my voice. Nothing added. Nothing taken away. That is the greatest lesson I learned this past year. And I am grateful for all the intimate friends who helped me see myself clearly including my students with whom I transact for greatness!

Parris_Whittingham_Photography_Kyra_Gaunt0030

Out with the old. In with the new. Much, much more to come in 2013!!

Happy new year! Habari Gani, Imani! (Kwanzaa Day 7 of 7)

Keep the faith! Build trust in yourself and it will come back to you ten-fold!!

Define who you are and what you say!

Be true to you!

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde

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