Girls at Play: Do We See Black Childhood Clearly?

 “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”
― Dr. Seuss

Where Have All the Children Gone?

As I watch YouTube videos of black girls who twerk, as I invite and request my students to study their performance as both play and to examine how others’ views of black girls’ childhood are distorted and distorting how those girls see themselves, I have been remembering my earlier work on black girls’ games. I don’t want to lose that black girls are children at play while also critiquing what it means to play with self (sexual)-objectification. This video doesn’t have that objectification piece in it from the girl or the boys. Check it out. Perhaps introducing this music and dance to adolescents would be interesting. Having them analyze its difference from US twerking in videos.

PS What I love about this video also is that they are playing freely in the mud after a rain in their yard.

//

 “Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”
~ Fred Rogers (from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

Courage as Home: Maya’s Call to Rise & Represent Self Well!

Your destiny is to develop the courage to flesh out the great dreams, to dare to love, to dare to care, to dare to want to be significant and to admit it, not by the things you own or the positions you hold, but by the lives you live.

Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

Screenshot 2014-06-07 12.40.25

 

What if courage was a place called home?

What if courage was a place we called home? What if the rising Maya Angelou spoke into existence from “Still I Rise” was a returning to one’s self, one’s spirit, what one was put her on the planet to do fuller than you, your ego, will allow you to see in the storm?  This is the gift of the life of Dr. Maya Angelou. I call her doctor cuz she’s been our shaman of humanity, from its dark recesses with its darts and its dawns of soft slow rising or blazing revelations. I bless her today as her homegoing service just concluded at 12:30 today livestreamed online by Wake Forest University, her academic home.

De-segregation of spirit: Be ready!

We black girls and women have a special place in our hearts for what Maya Angelou provided before we even read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. She sang my song for me before I knew it had a tune. She recalled my mother’s and my mother’s mother’s journeys before Segregation. She stood as a testament to we are not our past and we are always creating our future and that everything we do in life we define. The creative act of rising to each bitter and sweet occasion whether lied about or to, whether talked about or called out of our names as bitches, hos, mammys, negras, or even when we aren’t even aware of our own self-destruction, we still have the opportunity in this life to rise.

So all  there is is to be ready!! Be willing. You and I are always able!!

Rest in power, in our love, and in our future endeavors to rise to all you left for us to create from Dr. Maya!!

“somebody/ anybody
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she’s half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly.”

― Ntozake Shangefor colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Kyraocity Speaks!

What if courage was a place called home for black girls, for black women, for all women, for all of humanity to sing from? What if we brought this to our notions of our online reputation and how we present our self in the media? Black girls pay attention!! It matters more than most for you to represent without falling into somebody’s respectability politics but to consider your own future identity which only you can build but hundreds online will encourage you to damage. Be ready!! 

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5 Digital Lessons Learned the Hard Way, pt. 2

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

In my previous post inspired by learning that the Juicy J Scholarship site on WSHH has gone down, I shared lessons 1 and 2:

Lesson #1 Websites containing YouTube videos can disappear.

Lesson #2: Capture everything that is meaningful while you work with online media.

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

These were more tech oriented lessons that a new digital ethnographer of YouTube must consider in collecting data online.  Here’s part 2 of the post. It was way too long to subject you to in one sitting.

This set of lessons speaks more to my upcoming political sociology course. I needed a thrust for the semester. Some way to make it both real and relevant. I call this the “going public” part of every course I teach. It usually involves 1) sharing whatever we learn with people outside the academy, 2) collaborative learning, and 3) often but not always a publication of work in the public sphere.

A Relevant Pedagogical Aside:
Check out my curated op-eds by Baruch students from 2011 released on MLK day that year, dedicated to James Baldwin, titled Could You Be the Bigger Nigger? on Scribd.com (View count: 7700+). Check it out and please rate it if you like it the idea and/or the project and share it with both teachers and students in high school and college!

On to the final three lessons I learned doing a digital ethnography of twerking on YouTube.

Lesson #3: Stop and Think! Find Other Solutions When Data Goes Missing

This past Saturday, I had just shared with a sister in Harlem about my aims for my political sociology course that starts next week. In the conversation, I convinced myself that studying the Juicy J site was a perfect plan for the semester. Stop and think. What could I do that would be equally engaging and how could I use it still to teach my political sociology course? What about involving all 36 students in the sociological analysis of the 67,000 videos results that are yielded by a search of “Juicy J scholarship contest” on YouTube’s massive archive?

OK 67,000 is too large, but we can choose a significant sample of say 200 contest videos. Maybe some other sociology or anthropology professor could do the same and we could compare and contrast our methods and results.

What fascinates me about the idea is that my students and I can collaborate to study and analyze the political sociology of the contestests’ submissions (where they all women? all cisgendered?) while we learn and study from a new textbook by Dobratz, Waldner and Buzzell titled Power, Politics and Society: An Introduction to Political Sociology (2012).

I may no longer have access to the top-rated and most-popular videos in Juicy J’s contest, but there still remains a huge pool of valuable and meaningful data on YouTube that will allow us to study on race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, socioeconomic class and social-class values, and age relative to adolescent black girlhood, youth dance culture and the exploration of emerging adulthood through embodied musical practices among black and non-black women. The top-rated videos would have added a real powerful dimenstion to the study that students might find fascinating but all’s well because of YouTube.

Here are some thoughts about how I intend to link the study of hip-hop music videos and twerking videos around the following chapter themes. Would love comments and other ideas if you’d care to share. Here’s what I am thinking:

Chapter 1  Power
C. Wright Mills wrote (1959: 181): “Power has to do with whatever decisions men make about the arrangments under which they live, and about the events which make up the history of their times…men are free to make history but some are much freer than others.” (Dobratz et. al, 3).

In the social settings of online always-on media, what kinds of power do black girls/women twerking have and what kind of power (economic, social and structural) do the owners in the recording industry who produce hip-hop videos via VEVO or  the owners of social media distribution sites like WSHH and YouTube have around these women’s user-generated content?

Chapter 2 Role of the State
In this chapter, democracy is discussed after distinguishing the nation from the state. “Markoff (2005) contends that there is a great deal of variation in ‘democratic’ nations, with some having widespread violations of civil liberties [my concern is about minors and black girls] despite holding free elections and others so ineffecient at providing basic government services that they are termed low quality democracies” (Dobratz et. al, 47).

From a class-based view of the state, the FCC once monitored public airwaves like radio and TV to protect minors from harm by advertisers and content creators. Since YouTube or WSHH  are privatized entities, they are not bound by any laws to protect minors from harm, and you cannot make a request based on the FOIA — Freedom of Information Act — for such a privatized company to share its data or the ‘user-generated’ data it used to promote the contest or to hide incriminating data affecting the politics of youth culture, gender, or patriarchal abuses in the corporate personhood of capitalism)

Chapter 3 Politics, Culture & Social Processes
This chapter includes a discussion of the “faces of ideology” Are black girls and other non-black girls the faces of ideology in hip-hop–with their asses?)

Chapter 4  Politics of Everyday Life: Political Economy
This chapter deals with the Welfare State: “all people in American society benefit from these programs” (Dobratz et. al, 130). Corporate welfare is called “wealthfare” or “phantom welfare”. How much money does the record industry make from hiphop and from YouTube’s music videos, which occupies 90% of its most-watched videos?  The other part of the welfare system “has been referred to as public assistance programs that are funded through general government revenues” (ibid.) from the income of the working classes of Americans often legislated through Congress or state-level government.

How are changes in public assistance programs for college student loans  and the feminization of poverty among college-age mothers apparent among the user-generated videos submitted for the Juicy J contest?  Check this submission video of a black woman sharing what it means to have to “pay outta pocket” (1:40″) for college.

The remaining chapters offer similar correspondences that we could make between the twerking videos and hte politics of power, people and the state in our society:

Chapter 5 Politics of Everyday Life: Social Institutions and Social Relations
Chapter 6 Political Participation
Chapter 7  Elections and Voting
Chapter 8 Social Movements
Chapter 9  Violence and Terrorism
Chapter 10 Globalization

I believe having students learn to how to make their own assessment and perhaps a powerful argument about the impact of music and hyperconnectivity on the Always On GenerationViolence Against Women and Girls Mattershow entertainment information overload and hyperstimulation of explicit mainstream hip-hop video content by distributors like the always-on VEVO and WSHH in tandem with viral twerking videos always available as user-generated content that girls and women upload themselves may (or may not) suggest, using various methods, a kind a sociologial warfare  being waged on girls and all youth via linguistic violence (Gay 1997). We will see.

Lesson #4: Stay Calm and Keep Love Alive

In the past, perhaps a sign of naivête from my own feminine insecurity in a patriarchal world, I’ve wanted to get mad and turn off when things like this happen. I turn away. Jump on the bandwagon and fight! Or make snap judgments without assessing the problem at hand as if media is always evil even in the age of YouTube. Immersive ethnographic study requires staying power. So, I’m stickin’ and stayin’ but I am trying to catch my faux pas’s too. This digital ethnomusicological research on twerking has a robust potential to say some things that aren’t easy to find, say or see in our society around black popular music cultures.

Last year I had my snap judgements about Lil Wayne’s viral YouTube video released on Valentine’s Day titled “Love Me.” I have written about what I learned after some analysis in a forthcoming chapter of a book on Obama and Hip-hop edited by Travis Lars Goma and Erik Nielsen. I was amassed at the social impact this media may be having on girls.  The YouTube video had amassed over 63 million within four months, which seems big but is dwarfed by videos by white male rappers in the mainstream. Yet this traffic is not insignificant. To date, it has yielded over 100 million views in just under a year. What was noticable then based on YouTube statistics up through June 2013, when the format changed–another lesson in capturing things–was how they revealed that females ages 13-17 and 18-24 lead in its audience demographics not males 13-17.  Males 18-24 came after the two female demographics. Gives credence to the hook in the song: “Long as my bitches love me. I don’t give a f#ck about no haters, long as my bitches love me.” The music industry trades on this seduction of girls.

So “Stay Calm and Keep Love Alive” because the most damaging war of revolution is not being waged simply between “these thighs” as Sarah Jones once rapped (learn about how a recording of this poetry was banned by the FCC back in 2001). The actual war is being waged over our minds and our attention. A soft head in this sense will make for a tougher life esp. as the feminization of poverty widens.  The mental slavery of women continues in new ways on YouTube in my opinion.

NOTE: If you’re looking for a broader context on sex, gender and desire in commercial music videos, broadening the analysis beyond black artists or hip-hop, check out Sut Jhally’s DreamWorlds III. Here’s a clip. These issues are not limited to hip-hop not music and any rapper using tired old argument about sexism exists in the broader public needs to move on.

Please like or comment. Engagement is a pathway to higher learning. The views in my head require feedback to know whether it makes senses beyond my internal logic. 

“Democracy, Imagination & Peeps of Color”

 

 

After spending all of my adult life on what I will generously call the Left, I have become suspicious and uninterested in any Art tied to an ism. I agree with Adrienne Rich’s call for an art that “goes to the edge of meaning” as well as Art that discovers new resonance in the familiar. But, if ever we need an avant- garde (for lack of a better term), it is now. 

From THINKING OUT LOUDDEMOCRACY, IMAGINATION AND PEEPS OF COLOR

http://www.augustwilsoncenter.org/aacc_pdfs/DiversityRevisited.pDf

This essay/talk was given by poet by Sekou Sundiata. Must read. This doc was discussed and dissected at HarlemStage Friday night. It challenges people of color and “people of whiteness” to rethink not diversity but our democracy and this State. A poet, Sekou speaks also to the power of words, imagination and art to facilitate the 51st state of our union.

My work has always existed at the intersection of art and democracy with girls, learning and ethnography at the center of it. Socialization of self, group and how we represent ourselves in seemingly sovereign ways to others and how we seek to maintain our cultural values and ways in this democracy.

Invite you to read and share.

PLANNING vs. WORRYING: Get into the Ropes ‘n’ Live all your Nine Lives

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PLANNED MASTERY COMES FROM DELIBERATE PRACTICE OVER A LONG TIME: This colourfully-dressed sista finishes a long stint in the double dutch ropes including pop-ups outside BAM in Brooklyn during the Dance Africa Bazaar Memorial Day Weekend 2013.

What if you put as much time in planning as you do in worrying about what happened?

How would that impact what’s next for you? How would you react when things — good or bad — come your way? Would the speed of your actions differ?

TAKE A MOMENT and consider where you spend the most mental energy.

It’s time to workout your mental fitness.

And remember Kyraocity/curiosity didn’t kill the cat but our own satisfaction can bring it back!!  #liveallyourninelives

Females as Content Creators on YouTube & Hip-hop Videos

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
Maxine Hong Kingston

This summer statistics got me. YouTube decided to stop allowing you to see the statistics on videos for age and sex which totally effed up my research agenda this summer.

This happened in the middle of my summer session courses. The final week was planned around gathering data for music videos viewed by Female 13-17 as a top demographic for VEVO videos by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. These are not subjects of hip-hop I really would have ever wanted to study but because my earlier work in on girls and hip-hop, I went there.

It was intriguing to me that girls 13-17 could be counted on, literally, to view videos with lyrics like “Love Me” by Lil Wayne with Drake and Future. This is a cut-n-paste from RapGenius.com so you can also see what fans are saying about the lyrics line-by-line:

[Hook: Future and Drake]
I’m on that good kush and alcohol
I got some down bitches I can call
I don’t know what I would do without y’all
I’mma ball til the day I fall

Yeah, long as my bitches love me (yeah, yeah)
I can give a fuck ’bout no hater
Long as my bitches love me
I can give a fuck ’bout no niggas
Long as these bitches love me

[Verse 1: Lil Wayne]
Uh, pussy ass nigga stop hating
Lil Tunechi got that fire
And these ho’s love me like Satan, maaaan!

Fuck with me and get bodied
And all she eat is dick
She’s on a strict diet,
that’s my baby
With no makeup she a ten
And she the best with that head
Even better then Karrine

She don’t want money
She want the time that we could spend

She said “Cause I really need somebody
So tell me you’re that somebody”

Girl, I fuck who I want and fuck who I don’t
Got that A1 credit, that’s that filet mignon
She said “I never want to make you mad
I just want to make you proud”
I said “Baby just make me cum
Then don’t make a sound”

Boys 13-17 are not watching these kind of videos. 18 and up yes but not the youngest male demographic.

Students in both my sections were invited into my research exploration in girls and hip-hop videos on YouTube. Yesterday we watched what looked like a 10 year old white kid lip-syncing to “(Long as my bitches) Love Me” from his bedroom. 13 is the youngest you can be to have a YouTube account but it was clear from this video that smart digital natives have work arounds. The students and I have been talking about the ethics of young people on YouTube as a vulnerable demographic esp. under 13 but also 13-17 given the nature of the lyrical and visual content of rap videos (not to mention other nudity, vulgarity and obscenity found on YouTube even the Yasin Bey Guardian video is not appropriate for young people without parental guidance). More on that in another post.

It’s been a fascinating inquiry with 30+ undergraduate students ranging from 19 – 30. I challenged them to do participant observation after 5 weeks of studying and testing. Become a creator on  YouTube. Create a 2-4 minute video broadcasting yourself. Do what you want. Can be related to the class or not. They were also asked to watch 10 TED Talks, TEDx talks or TED-ED talks of their choosing.  The final project was to create a YouTube playlist that began with their created content + at least 3 TED talks which they had to go public with and share with at least 3 people.

All the students have been amazing themselves becoming creators and we’ve been able to talk about the multi-local sites of YouTube in ways we couldn’t before this week.

One student named Caroline got affected by the video of Yasin Bey electing to subject himself to the force feeding that Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strikes are being subjected to twice daily. I watched it Monday and shared about it in class.

Today, she came with a really remarkable video of her own with the help of her friends back in Lexington, Kentucky. I love the power of participatory social media and her video exemplified this. It was brave. Provocative. Collaborative. Engaging. Real!

I wanted to share it and I could say so much more but I gotta run to finish my essay for a book on Obama, Change and Hip-hop that started all this mess and rich study for me. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Caroline wants to meet and interview Mos Def aka Yasin Bey as a budding actress and a committed social activist in the making. This is the first time she’s EVER done anything like this or gotten involved. If you can pass this on, please do SHARE THIS!

We ended by talking about how young girls are not commonly content creators around hip-hop culture and on YouTube compared to young males. Caroline’s video though she is not in it herself is a kind of power a woman can wield from behind the scenes if she so chooses and she did!

Share this video below along with the Guardian video featuring Yasin Bey. The link is featured in Caroline’s playlist here and don’t forget to leave her a comment so she can learn the impact of her work in my class! Thank you!

Curiosity works! The access is through the unspoken. Voice it!

Kyra


THRIVE-BY APPS: Beeminder

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People who know me or follow me on social media know that I use apps to quantify my success in life. Last year I read and micro-blogged on Facebook about the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by renowned social psychologist Roy Baumeister and award-winning NYT journalist John Tierney. I’ve read the book twice since and refer to it often.

You could sum up a large body of new research literature with a simple rule: The best way to reduce stress in your life is to stop screwing up.  That means setting up your life so that you have a realistic chance to succeed.  Successful people don’t use their willpower as a last ditch defense to stop themselves from disaster, at least not as a regular strategy…[p]eople with strong self-control spent less time resisting desires than other people did….They use their self-control not to get through crises but to avoid them. …They play offense instead of defense. (Baumeister and Tierney 2011, 238-239).

I’ve been taking a long hard look at things that have been hidden from my own view but that were there to be seen and noticed if I were actually thinking and planning rather than living my life moment-to-moment. I have lived my life the last 10 years by serendipity alone to my own detriment especially in the last 2-3 years. I quit a great job. Got married and divorced. And am gratefully starting the next phase of my life powerfully.

I’ve spent the last 16 months getting present, thinking accurately, developing habits that fit long-term thinking in the areas of my health, money and work. This is not about what I do to earn money but the work I do with my mind and body biologically, linguistically and socially to get to the best job, career and savings. It’s starting to pay off with deliberate practice over a long period. This is a kind of practice I have never mastered before in my life.

What I am discovering, and more importantly demonstrating  to myself with the help of my apps is the power of my action: daily weight monitoring, fitness from walking the Williamsburg Bridge daily, eating salads daily, eating 3 meals a day, losing weight slowly and surely, sleeping 8 hours a day, drinking 9 glasses of water a day, planning ahead for my teaching and learning, etc. All this I am learning in completely new ways via apps on my iphone and it is in line with the theme of my blog: voicing the unspoken.


BECOMING CURIOUS ABOUT OUR SELF

One of the explanations before the voicing the unspoken is that curiosity comes from making room in your thinking for new ideas. That means voicing more than what you already know especially about yourself. You are not like an physical object, a table or a chair. All physical objects including our bodies change from moment-to-moment. But a chair is not capable of any consciousness about its own change. Not unlike the chair, we often operate in life without any consciousness of our changing states. We need help to be and become self-aware. It’s easy to observe others but we cannot see our own eyeballs or ourselves for that matter. We see what’s outside ourselves better.

The mysteries of living a life that matters to me are starting to unfold but it has been the objective measuring, the quantifying of those things I contribute to the SELF I am creating that has made the difference. So from time to time I thought I should share what apps I use to move from surviving to thriving. Thus, I came up with the ideas of blogging about the apps I thrive by or “thrive-by apps” for getting where you truly and accurately want to be.


I THINK, THEREFORE I AM? IT DOESN’T MEAN I’M AWARE OR IT’S ACCURATE

Subjective feelings, moods, despair and disappoint versus patience and accurate thinking have been the downfall of my efforts before this year. I can’t keep my goals present without my apps and I cannot see the objective and accurate thinking needed to continue to develop a goal over a long period of time in this current age of social media and technological distraction that alternates often with feelings of loneliness or doing things alone. This is a particular symptom of being single, being black and a black female professor all at the same time who doesn’t live near here immediate family and grew up as an only child. I am thrown towards loneliness or alone-ness is more accurate.

Certain apps aimed at a “quantified self” approach to live make a world of difference to my mental and emotional wellness as well as my actual progress and achievements towards what truly matters to me. Of course, being able to articulate that is more than half the battle.  To learn more about the Quantified Self movement or QS click here.

BEEMINDER

The app I want to introduce first is one of my most recent additions to about 5 apps I thrive by. I heard about it at the first Quantified Self meetup I attended in May 2013 here in NYC. In the meet-and-greet phase at the top of the night, I heard this brainiac Sikh talking about several apps. He had attracted a crowd of listeners as if he was one of the speakers. He was not. I was captivated by how much he was showing off how much he knew about this and that app when he mentioned an app that was better than any other for tracking goals because the focus is on commitment as a contract not simply tracking a habit or goal.

The app is called Beeminder. I downloaded it on my iPhone that night and tested it out. It’s been a month. And I LOVE IT!! It’s like a Kickstarter app for your personal goals and can be applied to reading pages to complete a book, walking a set number of miles a week, or weight loss or gain (View my goal here). It’s unique for it’s simple input systems though it takes a week to get used to the visual display. But once you get it, you’ll have access to staying on track with your goals in a completely new way.

The description of the app from the site itself cannot be beat, so let me just cut-and-paste it here.

What is Beeminder?

It’s reminders with a sting! Or, goal-tracking with teeth. Mind anything you can graph — weight, pushups, to-do tasks completed — by replying with data when Beeminder prompts you. Or connect with a service (like Fitbit) to report automatically. We plot your progress on a Yellow Brick Road to your goal. Keep all your data points on the road and Beeminder will always be free. Go off the road and you (literally) pay the price.

How is Beeminder different?

Beeminder is Quantified Self plus Commitment contracts. [THIS IS WHAT MAKES IT WORK FOR ME!!] If you just want self-tracking you have a lot of choices and if you just want commitment devices you have more and more options as well (StickK being the most well-known). Beeminder combines self-tracking and commitment contracts: keep all your data points on a Yellow Brick Road to your goal or we take your money. The combination is powerful. We call it flexible self-control.

Each morning I get separate emails asking me to update each goal and letting me know where I am progress-wise. Am I on track, off-track, how many days do I have before I go off-track, am I in danger or safe. No thinking here, just setting you up to succeed. So some of the benefits include:

  • choosing daily reminders sent to your email, SMS or none
  • backing up all your data daily to the website
  • viewing a more comprehensive view of your progress online
  • reminders come after each update letting you know if you are safe and on-track or in danger and
  • it tells you exactly how many days and minutes you are safe or in danger like a countdown. This is the best incentive!


MAKING IT COUNT

You can also sign up to contract for a consequence of $5 or more when you go off track. If you go way off track, you get locked out of the app and website until you recommit and you of course lose money. Unless there is a consequence along with a clear articulation of whatyou want to achieve, there is no winning. You are just operating with good intentions. This is truly an app to thrive by. No surviving through false actions and intentions.

You can also get this unique visual incentive of staying on a yellow brick road and you can share this to let your family or special friends in on your progress. I’m starting to realize how much more effective it is to not SHARE this with EVERYONE. Keep your network small and ambitious.

I wanted to test this app out for a month before outing myself on downloading another app. I wanted a demonstration of my progress. Not just a good intention. So far, I’ve been successful at staying on track with a specified period of weight loss, walking and studying to build up my deliberate practices around health, money and work. I definitely want to now invite a team of fit-minded folks to join me.


ARE YOU FIT-MINDED?

I am looking to join and create a team of long-term doers.
What I mean by fit-minded is this.

  1. You are willing to be ambitious in your interactions. No one is carrying you on this but you.
  2. You are willing to be accountable to others. No one is going to look after you per se but you get to report to us about how you will adapt to meet your goals when off track.
  3. You are willing to trust the data not your feelings and stay committed for the duration of a long period (at least one month; ideally 3 months).
  4. You are a learner and can take on testing your habits rather than thinking you already know. If I knew how to do most of the things I want, I’d already be doing it which I why the apps and social support makes a difference for me.

If you’re interested, let me know. Email me at kyraocity at g mail. com

Otherwise, if you are using apps to “quantify” you SELF, please share in the comments what works for you.


DO MORE STUDY ON THE QUANTIFIED SELF

If you are looking for a great read on the subject, check on Chapter 5 of Willpower titled “Where Have All the Dollars Gone: The Quantified Self Knows” which presents data from Mint.com to other apps that help you change your distorted reality or get real about your distorted views of change. The authors assert that self-control begins and ends with self-monitoring. Baumeister and Tierney write:

Now that computers are getting smarter, now that more and moreof them are watching us, they’re not becoming self-aware (at least not yet) and they’re not seizing power from us. Instead, they’re enhancing our powers by making us more self-aware (110).

Here’s to becoming self-aware. I feel like I was never self-aware before all these apps helped me truly observe how I operate. so that’s my first thrive-by report. Til next time~!

Keep being curious! Why? Kyraocity Works!!!

Yours truly,
Kyra-of-the-City

Separate But Equal. Debt Slaves.

“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” – Chief Justice Earl Warren in Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.

Integrated School of Girls

May 16, 2013 by

On May 17, 1954 [59 years ago today], the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision, ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public educational facilities was unConstitutional. The case was brought on behalf of Linda Brown, a black girl from Topeka, Kansas, who had been denied admission to her local elementary school on the basis of her skin color.

At the time, public facilities were segregated based on the justification that a 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations in railroad cars conformed to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. But in Brown’s case, the all-white school she wanted to attend was closer to her home and was far superior to the all-black school that other children of her skin color and from her neighborhood were required to attend. For more read here.

Today, students of color and poor whites in industrialized countries like the UK or the US still struggle for access to the right to an education but it’s not skin color that limits most anymore. The film DEBT SLAVES gives us a view into the problems college students are facing today. I wish I could an embed it here but trust me — you want to what this short but engaging film by young film-maker Makeda Mantock in association with the Guardian and the National Union of Students

In the US it is said that there remains a 60% drop out rate for high school and 40% drop-out for college. Students today, who are emerging adults, have “money on our mind” and cope with being “burdens on parents and the state.” There’s little time to focus on a higher education that could solve the needs of society and dreams of our societies — the next generation.  Who would have thought Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign would include college students?

Wonder if there will ever be a National Union of Students here in the “Untied” States of America (where separate but equal remains in higher ed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways)?

Please watch the short film DEBT SLAVES from the Intergenerational Foundation Young Film-makers’ short film competition.

marshall-quote-1What I love about this short film is its use of a personal poem (written and co-directed and co-produced by Havana Wellings-Longmore, performed excellently by several actors). It’s got a hip-hop and spoken word feel though in reality it’s scripted and performed with veracity. The flow and the passion is palpable and speaks to issues college and university students around the world are struggling for. #powertothepeople #educationforall

We just ended our spring semester at Baruch College-CUNY on Wednesday. After engaging and empowering 33 diverse emerging adults in my political sociology course to “go public” — to plan and launch public speech acts around issues they cared about for at least 20 people –  I noticed we never once considered working together as one group, as a collective on one collaborative act. That would have been social power in a social setting. In any event, the class tracked over 400 courageous acts throughout the semester. Many if not all now feel empowered to express their freedoms and practice their civil rights like never before.

Unionizing efforts may seem long gone in higher ed but I just bet eventually these emerging adults are gonna surprise us all. I’ll be waiting!

No More Debt Slaves! 31525_20121106_204725_bored_quotes_03

Up with the Learning Revolution!!!

What If Higher Learning Was All About Remix? (On Foucault)

“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

For about 4 years now, I’ve been experimenting with an assignment of remix in writing and other practices in my classroom where students emulate and replicate being consumers of their own productivity inside a given text or framework. I was in a course exploring how one can be empowered by ANY communication, verbal or non-verbal. It was not an academic training, thankfully, but it was a 10 month course with a weekend long training in Los Angeles once every two months and meetups with local participants here in NYC every week for, yes, 10 months. The meetups were practice sessions for completing homework between the five weekends. The course was called Partnership Explorations.

If anyone knows me personally, they know that for years I’ve said that academia beat my love of reading out of me. Perhaps it started earlier when being book smart and “talking like white people” made me assign a separation from my people to reading. I loved Shakespeare as a teen and wanted to read Freud by my mother thought it was taboo for some reason she never really explained back when I was 14.

By the time I reached the Partnership Explorations course in 2004, I was eight (8) years into being a tenure-track professor. I taught at NYU then and I hated reading books and never read anything outside of work needs. I loved the Internet and probably read as much online as some do from hardback novels. But I resisted reading. Always fell asleep. LOL. I read from cover to cover one book in maybe 10 years, a confession no self-respecting professor should probably make, but it’s true. [The book was The Funeral Planner by Lynn Isenberg, a womanist entreprenurial comedy based around my alma mater, University of Michigan. It was mature, sophisticated Chic Lit.]

So when the course instructor of Partnership Explorations said there were 5 recommended books I confronted my bias. I loved the course but reading books… Each of the weekends involved sharing individually to a group of 300 participants about what you were learning about yourself and your conversations with 20 people we were expected to track in our lives.

I read one book completely. Dire Mastery: Discipleship from Freud to Lacan and I read the first 50 pages of The Order of Things: The Archeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault. Not unlike in the halls of academia, everyone in the course found the book confounding and many hated it. Though I had exposure to Foucault’s work on sexuality and liked it in grad school, this was different. I LOVED it. But still didn’t finish it. My habits were then not servicing any interest in reading more. But the preface of that book wOw-ed me.

Thus began an experiment with slow learning for me. Teaching students to replicate the preface of the book (found here: The Order of Things, 1970) in my African American music courses, my jazz course and my hip-hop courses. I have them do it early, the first weeks of class, to throw them into the world of their own thinking and sorting – reordering the mental maps of the subject they are about to encounter newly and in new ways hopefully.

In all the years since 2005 when I began assigning it, I have never written my own version but I have meticulously edited over 200 versions, I’d say. Often rewriting it for them to see other ways of thought,  to instigate and agitate their thinking (vs. thoughting). Yesterday I wrote my first draft. Today my second.

From my non-academic training,  I often challenge myself to do the work that I assign in my classes. It should be a requirement, I have learned from this practice.  It was my students’ experimenting this winter intercession that inspired me to share my own version. I’ve learned so much from my students in this and other assignments about the “sociology” of people’s experiences with black women in hip-hop. It’s like taking a sociological sampling of culture.  I wrote them earlier today: “It’s your mind each of your need to consider learning more about and intervening in the social constructs you simply inherited that were begun by people long dead and gone but that we transmit and carry on unthinkingly about race, gender and music-making. This is your opportunity to shine! Here is mine…”

Prof. G’s Foucault Remix (2nd draft):

This began as a riff off a intellectual rhymebook not well known, nor understood, inside the ivory towers of its social commons where even PhD students front in abstractions, wastin their breathe on what they “took away” from some book as if they were jookin on a basketball court (not!). It began out of a non-academic course I took on discourses and the partnership of language to uncover what’s unsaid and unknown. It arose out of the pain that shattered, as I read my participation in academia, all the familiar landmarks of my former thought — black and female thought, the thought that brands the video vixen of our hip-hop age and our corporate geography — breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which I as a black woman, a performer, and a scholar had become accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing racist and sexist things students carried with them, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse their age-old distinction between desire and ambition.

This riff quotes a ‘certain true mathematics encyclopedia’ contributed to by the fellowship of Bernice Johnson Reagon (If You Don’t Go, Don’t Hinder Me), Audre Lorde (The Uses of the Erotic read here in her own words), Tricia Rose (Black Noise and Hip-Hop Wars), Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of a Hiphop Generation), Joe Schloss (Making Beats and Foundation), and many other oracle mathemeticians, an encyclopedia in which it is written that ‘humanity in hip-hop is divided into: (a) true to Rha Goddess not Gangsta, (b) masculine masoleum, (c) domesticated pornography sold to the white masses selling black behinds, (d) Sucka MCs, (e) a Blige(d) or Beyonce(d) , (f) Fiiiiiine!! (with an extreme nasal sound to intensify meaning and syncopation), (g) rhyme retreatists, (h) not included in the present classification = invisibilified, (i) dope fiends diggin in the crates, (j) bounce, bass, snap, house, (k) Is that your real hair cuz I can’t get a comb through it?, (l) whatevah, (m) just breaks on the Billboard charts that won’t last long if they hear its a female, (n) that from a long way off look like I got fries to go with dat shake and imma reach out and take that junk in the trunk public violence.

In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing black women, women and girls everywhere as well as conscious fathers, apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of a rhyme and a video screen, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of patriciarchal and post-colonial system of hegemonic thought, is the limitation of our my own thinking, the stark impossibility of ever being without that.

The source of my remix/sample is the “Preface” from Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things (1970).

“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.”
― Michel Foucault, The Foucault Reader

The Power of a Counter-Offer in Life

Over a year ago, I decided to “defect” from academia and various twists and turns in life have led me back to the classroom for a little while longer. This summer I am teaching two cultural anthropology courses at Baruch College-CUNY. Each class has 19 students.

Every semester and every class I teach always has a unique ecology based around some theme that often relates to empowering emerging adults to own their own greatness.

I have begun to think of ecologies more and more in this context because I am interested in the sustainability of ambitious thinking and adulthood.  Social ecology “is defined as the science of the relationships between human populations and communities and their environments.” The relationships between students/teachers in a classroom, the communities in which  an institution is based and the communities students and the teacher represent as well as the urban environment of Baruch College in NYC are but one example of a complex ecology. The classroom alone is one, too.  

College students today, no matter what level–first years or seniors–do not view themselves inside a context of greatness. They are rarely related to, each and every one of them, as great citizens or great human beings and for the most part, as a few of my students confirmed this last week of the summer session, they await permission from their professor to assert any identification with that greatness. It simply never occurs to the members of that ecology to express themselves, transact from one instance to another, as student-as-adult.

Faculty committees from CUNY to Cali universities can alter their curriculum all they want, but if there isn’t a significant shift in student-as-adult, rather this or that student functioning and interacting as an adult, there can never be a revolution in learning in higher education. Not to mention that the cultural or institutional environment itself cannot be altered by a few curricular changes in a course in this or that major or liberal arts requirement.

Without a sea change in the entire ecology, what I sometimes call “a sustainable classroom model” where the true resources are not the books but are the people and their social openness, transparency, connectedness and empowerment, there cannot be any real change or transformation of learning and thinking.

So I constantly engage my students individually and collectively in a conversation for greatness and one mechanism I use is implemented primarily at the end of the semester. It’s introduced during the first days of the course but it’s true power comes at the end of the course.

Based on the premise that there is always 100% of the course left, I require students to do complete work to pass the course. They must complete 100% of the homework no matter what by the end of the class. AND they have an option on all assignments to “counter-offer.”

A counter-offer requires a student to assess:

  1. what would be of value in completing what’s expected of them for a specific assignment and
  2. what would not undercut what I , as the professor, am expecting of them in a way that would not be belittling of their greatness as a student, adult, citizen and human being.

This requires engaging them in a conversation for what it means to be “adult” in their relationship with themselves, the professor and their work. It is not an easy conversation.

An ebook I wrote with a former cultural anthropology course in the Spring of 2010 asked students to write a short essay about “what mattered to you” and it took those 28 students 3-4 weeks to write a 300-600 word essay because no one ever asks them what they thought … about themselves and their lives. This in my mind confirms a hidden and unspoken phenomena in most college classrooms. We are perpetuating a reality of “academic” thought, rather than “real thinking” (yes,  I need to add scare quotes here because it has become an abstractions in most classrooms.

We ended up naming the ebook SPEAK!: The MisEducation of College Students but I remember during the production process, a student asked me what writing about what mattered to them had to do with Baruch College. A good Socratic method of teaching requires that we explore the questions, not find quick answers. I responded, “I don’t  know. What do you think?” Another student piped up, “We’re Baruch College!!” And so the process had truly begun. That ebook has been read by over 7000 times since May of 2010.  In the past is was customary for a student’s final work to be read by one person–the professor–and that it had no reach whatsoever including that feedback from their work was rarely returned to the student before they received their final grade. So in essence any feedback didn’t matter.

These students continue to impact people beyond their classroom and what mattered to them continues to inspire students and readers elsewhere long after they’ve left my classroom.


GETTING THE POINT

So here’s what the counter-offer provides students. A chance to negotiate their work inside a commitment they have witnessed me negotiating with them all semester. It asks them to step into my role while creating their own accountability and responsibility.  It asks them to think rather than simply having thoughts.  There is a great talk by former Yale Professor William Deresiewicz for a lecture at West Point that speaks to this:

I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire and declare the job done and move on to the next thing. (Solitude and Leadership)

If you can create a context, a listening for that you may tailor the lessons to your own needs in consultation with the professor, what you find is at first students do not believe it. They rarely remember this is an option. Then as the semester progresses and the gain confidence in relationship to my style and performance as a professor, they have an inkling that it might be possible.

In the last weeks of class, I remind them that they must do complete work with integrity (wholeness not rightness) and complete 100% of their homework AND that there is 100% of the game left. This kicks them into overdrive mode and into the need for requesting a counter-offer.

And that is when student-as-adult begins to show up for themselves. They have to see it as a real need and possibility and then things start popping.

I’ll let you know how it goes this week but I am already seeing them start to thrive from their own need and drive rather than trying to simply meet my expectations.