On this past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to be a featured contributor for a Juneteenth Reading List on VCU News!! I am always excited when I get to share a some resources and good reads/finds!!
The recommended reading list consists of various faculty on the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) campus. The list is meant to inform and celebrate the Juneteenth holiday. As noted by Elinor Frisa,
VCU News asked faculty, as well as staff from VCU Libraries, to suggest books that help readers understand and celebrate Juneteenth and all that it represents.
For my featured selection, I chose ‘We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy’ by Natalie Baszile.
Readers also get the opportunity to see the ways in which Black farmers use the land to discuss race relations, create identities, showcase the harvest as a healing tool and explain how it passed down through generations. I recommend this book as it is filled with rich history (past and present), it speaks to the importance of land ownership for Black Americans and it does not rely on one type of farming story. “We Are Each Other’s Harvest”is an inspiring book that informs, encourages and serves as a guide to the future legacy of Black American farmers.
On last month, I had the opportunity to present a paper on “#BlackGamersMatter: Gaming and the Black Imaginary” at the Beyond the Page-“Present Encounters: Digital Humanities Meet Afrofuturism” at Temple University (Philadelphia, PA).
And if you are interested in checking out the full symposium see the following videos below:
Part 1: Welcome remarks by Joseph P. Lucia, dean of Temple University Libraries; Keynote Address by Dr. Reynaldo Anderson, associate professor of Africology and African American Studies: “Afrofuturism: The Second Race for Theory,” See here
Part 2: Discussion with curator, art director, illustrator Eric Battle, and illustrators Damali Beatty and Nilé Livingston for the Black Lives Always Mattered!: Hidden African American Philadelphia of the Twentieth Century original graphic novel, See here
Part 3: Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio project presentations in the Scholars Studio Innovation Lab, See here
Part 4: “Virtual Blockson” presentation with Jasmine Lelis Clark, See here
It’s that time of year where I always like to reflect on another academic year in the books! This time around I wanted to share my gratitude and appreciation in the form of a letter to my students.
You have done it again. You have figured out a way to pull at my heartstrings and fill me with emotion. Let me first start out by saying I am so proud of the work that you have done and will continue to do. Many of you started out with me when I arrived to VCU in the Summer of 2020, several of you became repeat student in my classes, and to see you walk across the stage with the biggest smiles is truly a proud moment.
This semester much like the previous ones was definitely a roller coaster ride, it just has a new name! I enjoyed coming to both classes with a new mindset and leaving with new energy. For Spring 2022, I got the opportunity to teach a special topics course, AFAM 491: Say Her Name-Humanizing the Black Female Voice in Television. From the onset, I was excited about teaching this course because we would be discussing three televisions shows that were changing the game (HBO Max’sA Black Lady Sketch Show, I May Destroy You, and STARZ’sP-Valley). The format of the course would be different and outside of my normal lecture-discussion style. For this class we would be doing regular deep dives (almost each class period). The excitement that each of you brought was mind-blowing, considering many had never watched the shows or even heard of them. And like most new classes you are never sure how it will play out, but this was definitely a win. The diverse perspectives that each of you brought to the discussions, along with implementing your critical thinking skills really made me wish we could add more time to each class. There was never a day when we did not run over, and in this case that was not a bad thing. Who knew that critical television analysis could be so fun and engaging?!! And then when we had the surprise guest (Cherokee Hall-‘Extra Extra’) from P-Valley come and talk with us you all really lit up! Thank you for doing the work and making it easy for me to come to campus and show-up 110%!!
I also got to teach one of my tried and true favorite courses, AFAM 111: Introduction to Africana Studies. Now this class had a different format as well, it was a one-day a week meeting for 2 hours and 40 mins. And let me tell you, I had no idea where I would even begin with this teaching in this format, but we made it work. Lecture for the first part and a film screening in the latter half. While this posed a challenge, your feedback about the class set-up was much appreciated and well received. Change can be difficult, with solid teamwork the possibilities were endless. With many of the students in this class were freshman and sophomores, my hope is that you got at least a little something that might add, change, reframe, and/or expand your thinking and engagement with the world going forward. Thank you for helping me to be more inclusive, push my creative lens, and nurture my heart, mind and soul.
Now for some of you the next step is graduate school in either a new city or even state. Take all the skills you have gained and build from them, create new memories, show the world whose next up! And others are going straight into the job market, putting that talent into action immediately. As the historian Keisha Blain said, in reference to the Black Nationalist Women fighting for global freedom, “set the world on fire.” “Set the world on fire” with innovative methods of change, “Set the world on fire” with your leadership, “Set the world on fire” with your unapologetic attitude, and “Set the world on fire” with your joy and determination. You got this!!
When people tell me, “I can see the passion that you have and the deep care for your students,” I get all emotional again because that statement is soooo true! I love what I do and would not change it for the world!
While I may not be your professor anymore, just know that I am always here to support in any way that I can. I’m just an email or call away!
Another semester in the books…Another set of grades submitted…Let the summer begin!!
In a show of solidarity and support, I wanted to make sure I shared this statement from my department chair regarding the most recent events in Buffalo, NY…
The Department of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University is founded on the will and self-determination of the Black community. Our principles reflect a commitment to justice everywhere, to the liberation of people of African descent and to fostering the unabating excellence evident in Black communities across this nation and around the globe.
The VCU Department of African American Studies thus denounces all forms of terror and violence against Black bodies and Black communities. We stand in solidarity with the collective efforts of our local community and nationwide grassroots movements that continue the fight against acts of domestic terrorism fueled by white supremacy that now includes attacks on 13 people — citizens of our broader community — that occurred in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022. We stand in solidarity with the families and loved ones of three victims who were injured and the 10 victims whose lives were taken in this act of anti-Black violence and hate. We stand in solidarity with the far too many other Black people who have been slain since the inception of this country.
The humanity of all Black people and the dignity of life itself must be held as a paragon and a universal fact. We are united in lifting our voices, using our power and leveraging our privilege to eradicate racial inequity in this country. We call on our colleagues, students, and allies across the nation to stand courageously with us. To all of those who have already made public statements, we thank you.
We demand justice for the victims of the Buffalo massacre, their loved ones, and their community.
We demand justice in the name of our ancestors who have been here before.
This discussion explores the 1997 film Eve’s Bayou. Actress Kasi Lemmons made an auspicious debut as a writer and director with this delicately handled, wrenchingly emotional drama, hailed by critic Roger Ebert as one of the best films of 1997. Eve’s Bayou begins with ominous narration: “The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.” From that point the story moves backward in time and memory to Louisiana in 1962, when a young girl named Eve (Jurnee Smollett) witnesses a shocking act on the part of her womanizing father (Samuel L. Jackson). But what really happened? And can Eve be certain about what she saw when there is more than one interpretation of the facts? Less a mystery than a study of deeply rooted emotions rising to the surface to affect an entire family, the film has the quality of classic Southern literature, with layers of memory unfolding to reveal a carefully guarded truth.
Just in case you want to refresh your memory of the movie, check out the trailer below:
So this past weekend I had the pleasure of being featured in two news outlets VCU News and USA Today!!
For VCU News, I was interviewed about one of my Spring courses, “Say Her Name: Humanizing the Black Female Voice in Television.” I got a chance to surprise my students with one of the actress [Cherokee Hall who plays “Extra Extra”] from the STARZ television series “P-Valley”.
Check out some of the story here:
It’s important to Gipson that the course engages with what’s happening in the world. The representation of Black female actors and the characters they take on has always been essential to the success of television as a medium,” she said.
However, Hollywood is not quick to showcase, celebrate, and even hire them. Television has made strides, but it has been inconsistent and slow moving,” she said, adding that many of the women whose work the course studies are breaking barriers and re-setting television culture. I want students to see how television and film are a way to tackle issues and problems.
Joan Tupponce-VCU News
Now for the USA Today article, I switch gears and offer some social commentary on the Dave Chappelle incident and whether America can still handle a joke!!
Here are a few of my thoughts below:
But the combustible cultural moment we are living in — one roiled by political discord and pandemic restrictions — certainly is testing that joke and let joke philosophy, says Grace Gipson, assistant professor in the department of African American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
I feel like in his day Richard Pryor took things to an extreme maybe even greater than what we see today, but no one was bum rushing the stage, says Gipson. Today, it seems like people are free to show their anger beyond heckling.
On this past Tuesday morning, I got to sit down again and talk with my friends over at Let It Be Known w/Stacy Brown and Black Press USA TV discussing the topics of “Black Women’s hair,” “Respectability Politics vs. Defending Black Women,” and the recent #TheSlap incident!!
Lot’s of great commentary and perspectives were shared!
Tune in below:
And let me make sure I give a shout out to my fellow panelist Carrington York (a School of Journalism graduating senior at Howard University)!!