"Free Your Ass, and Your Mind Will Follow"
Emdin, C. (2017). For white folks who teach in the hood… and the rest of y’all too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston: Beacon Press.
Lorde, A. (2007). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. In Audrey Lorde (Ed.), Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (110-114). Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.
Love, B. (2017). A ratchet lens: Black queer youth, agency, hip hop, and the Black ratchet imagination. Educational Researcher, 46(9), 539-547.
McCready, L. (2010). Black queer bodies, Afrocentric reform and masculine anxiety. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(1), 52-67.
Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. New York: Room 400.
Dr. Carmen Kynard
Dr. Bettina Love
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz
My "Home By The Sea" - Hampton University
I’ve always been a proponent of and advocate for Afrocentric pedagogies for African-American students who are amidst transitional stages of identity development. Since “catching some sense”—a term that Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz (personal communication, September 2017) uses to describe coming to a better understanding of self, others, and/or the world around us—at my “Home by the Sea,” Hampton University, my belief has always been that identifying our African roots and developing a sense of African self will promote a healthy and positive self-concept that extends our story beyond enslavement. Soon after enrolling at Hampton, I underwent some serious mental and physical changes like cutting off my permed hair, rockin’ a fro, which would
eventually become locs, and immersing myself in neo-soul and hip-hop music. Before Melanin’ Poppin’ was a mass movement across Black American culture, it was my HBCU that cultivated my love of all Black everything. Afrocentrism was unquestionable for me, and my commitment to it was unwavering. I loved it and it loved me back.
It wasn’t until reading Lance McCready’s (2010) work, Black Queer Bodies, Afrocentric Reform and Masculine Anxiety, that I ever really questioned the perfection of Afrocentrism, and the ways in which my African-American, heterosexual, cisgender womanness contributes to
my acceptance of it, and more significantly to this analysis, its acceptance of me. As an educator, I’ve taken great pride in my attentiveness to inequity and exclusion and my passion to push into those spaces, but all wrapped up in my own enamoring of Blackness, I’d fallen short of noticing “the nationalist politics at the heart of [Afrocentrism] that fail to interrogate social and cultural practices based on hegemonic notions of masculinity and heteronormativity” (McCready, 2010, 64). Oh, the things we don’t think about when we don’t have to, when they aren’t our daily lived experiences. This is precisely why I believe it’s critical to surround ourselves around people that can grow us and expand our thinking and our sight.
This also depicts the necessity of what I’d like to refer to as “F.U.B.U. [For Us By Us] Research,” which, simply put, is work that we commit to doing that is authentically and organically aligned with the context of our lived experiences. For example, as a
Black woman from the hood, my F.U.B.U. research
would take place in the hood, with (not on)
individuals from the hood and/or individuals in the
hood currently, and particularly for (the benefit of)
the hood. Does this mean that I can only write
about and research the hood? Absolutely not! But
it does mean that I have a particular responsibility
to preserve and protect my people and to interrupt
the prescriptions of “outsiders” onto the spaces
and contexts of which I have a deep level of
understanding. Without this sense of culture,
place, and space, we run the risk of reducing the
research to what Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) refers
to as “travellers’ tales and adventurers’ adventures… generally the experiences and observations of [outsiders] whose interactions with indigenous [or neo-indigenous (Emdin, 2017)] ‘societies’ or ‘peoples’ were constructed around their own cultural views” (8). This is why I find queer of color methodological perspectives so necessary and so insightful.
Bettina Love (2017), whom I had the ultimate pleasure of meeting and engaging in conversation with at AERA 2018, brings our attention to a set of tools to “dismantle the master’s house” (Lorde, 1984)—the Black ratchet imagination as a methodological perspective, which holds us accountable in recognizing that research investigating Black queer youth should be “humanizing, hyper-local, messy, and unfixed in its framework” (545). She clarifies it further stating,
“This methodological perspective should only [emphasis added] be used by researchers with a robust historical and present-day understanding of their participants’ community and how it has been impacted by racism, capitalism, transphobia, classism, rigid ideas of gender, heteronormativity, and homophobia” (545). In other words, if I fix my face to talk about it, or in this particular sense, study it and write about it, I better know it inside and out; and if I know it inside and out, I have a responsibility to preserve its humanity, to shed light on
its brilliance, and to build it up when dominant narratives seek to marginalize it and tear it down. Perhaps this is why the Black ratchet imagination (Love, 2017) lens “recognizes, appreciates, and struggles with the agency and knowledge production of Black queer youth who are resisting, succumbing to, and finding
pleasure in hip hop by undoing the heteropatriarchal, liberating, queer, homophobic, sexist, feminist, hyper-local, global, ratchet, and conservative space of hip hop” (539-540). Thus, when the “outsider” sees nasty, sexually suggestive dancing (Love, 2017), F.U.B.U. Researchers see the liberation of “freeing your ass, and your mind will follow” as Big Freedia would say (Ross, 2015, as cited in Love, 2017, 544).
So, in the spirit of freeing both my ass and my mind,
queer of color methodological perspectives remind
me to ensure that my research is an act
of liberation—not only by way of
investigating challenges of
marginalized communities like my
hometown, but further, examining
how the individuals within those
communities create, resist, find joy,
build self-efficacy and community,
find pleasure, celebrate, and practice agency (Love, 2017).
By de-centering my voice and lifting up the voices of the community, I, instead of becoming so wrapped up in the context meaningful to me but barring of others or presupposing methodologies that may or may not fit my participants, will be able to choose responsive methodologies, analyze data collectively, and disseminate accurate and legitimate findings within and outside of the communities I know and love, with whom my liberation is bound.