Posted in Monthly Book Recommendations, On The Radar

Dr. G’s Monthly Book Recommendations-March 2022

Keeping it short and sweet for you all this month, I want to let the books shine!! This month is in honor of Women’s History Month!! Seven books that will capture a wide range of experiences all written by women!

Check them out below:

  • Black Cake ~Charmaine Wilkerson
  • Carolina Built ~Kianna Alexander
  • The School for Good Mothers ~Jessamine Chan
  • Julián is a Mermaid ~Jessica Love
  • We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World ~Malala Yousafzai
  • Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time ~Tanya Lee Stone
  • Memphis ~Tara M. Stringfellow

And remember you can always go back and check out the previous month’s list and past recommendations in the “Resource” section of the website!!

“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” 

– Toni Morrison

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts..., Feature Spotlight, Uncategorized

Black Joy is the Future!!

#SuchAVibe…

On this past Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to participate in some real life “Black Girl Magic”!! As part of the “Black Feminist Future Series” put on by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, myself and four other AMAZING Black Afrofuturist women (Susana Morris , Tiffany E. Barber, Esther L. Jones, and Kinitra D. Brooks [moderator]) took part in a very fulfilling conversation about Black women and theories of the future!!

Nothing like sharing the “virtual” stage with a group of brilliant minds such as these Black women!! My mind, body, and soul were overflowing with Black joy and hope!!

Check it out below:

For more upcoming “Black Feminist Futures” events at the Schomburg check out the following link here!!

Posted in New Trailer Alerts!!, On The Radar

Weekly Trailer Alerts!!

Many of these trailers were featured on Sunday during Super Bowl LVI, but just in case you need a reminder…

Check out these jaw-dropping trailers below:

The Endgame (Streaming on NBC February 21st)

A Madea Homecoming (Streaming on Netflix February 25th)

Cherry (In theaters February 26th on Apple TV+ March 12th)

The Adam Project (Streaming on Netflix March 11th)

Alice (In theaters March 18th)

Jurassic World Dominion (In theaters June 20th)

Nope (In theaters July 22nd)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Streaming on Amazon Prime September 2nd)

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts..., Holiday Celebration!!, On The Radar, Resources

“You Get Me!!” Corporate Businesses Nailing Black History Month!!

Going into Black History Month every year I’m always mixed with emotions. On one hand it’s an exciting time to highlight the experiences of Black people, but then I am suddenly on edge seeing what things are specifically set to come out in February because its Black History Month. As I have said many times before this celebratory effort is one that happens 365-24/7, especially considering I am a professor in an African American Studies department.

Nevertheless, I must say things are getting better and the efforts made from various organizations/corporations are evolving (despite ones who still miss the mark). And because “sharing is caring” I wanted to make sure I highlighted a few businesses that are putting in the work and who really get me!! Check them out below:

  • Target: One of my favorite brands and a place where I do not mind spending my coins is Target. They have been consistently spotlighting black talent and not just in February!! In its eighth year, Target presents “Black Beyond Measure,” which includes a limited-time assortment of apparel, accessories and home goods designed by Black creators along with highlighting Black-owned brands sold at the retailer.
NEW @ TARGET * BLACK HISTORY MONTH - YouTube
Photo credit: Target YouTube
  • Old Navy: The clothing brand has partnered with three talented Black artists — Temi Coker, Lo Harris and Destiny Darcel — to create Project WE t-shirts centered around their love for the Black community and culture. Project WE is a collaboration between diverse artists and includes a donation of $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in support of youth arts programs. They are also donating $50,000 to support the 15% Pledge, a growing platform that calls on major retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.
Check Out Old Navy's Black History Month Tees | POPSUGAR Fashion
Black creatives (l-r) Temi Coker, Lo Harris and Destiny Darcel
  • Amazon Launchpad: This program is celebrating Black innovators and the stories behind their businesses throughout Black History Month by highlighting an array of brands on its various platforms.
Amazon.com: Amazon Launchpad: Celebrate Black History Month
  • Nordstrom: For 2022, Nordstrom is celebrating Black History Month through a variety of initiatives everything from spotlighting Black-founded brands to celebrating culture through personal stories. They will also honor Black food culture by featuring recipes by Spice Suite founder Angel Gregorio at the store’s specialty coffee bars. Additionally, the retailer has committed to increasing Black and Latino representation among its managers by at least 50%, delivering $500 million in retail sales from Black and/or Latino-owned brands and increasing charitable donations to organizations that promote anti-racism to $1 million every year by 2025.
Nordstrom Rack: Shop Clothes, Shoes, Jewelry, Beauty and Home
  • Peloton: Through uplift, celebration and empowerment Peloton is highlighting the “magnetic energy of the Black diaspora that breaks boundaries and moves us forward.” This is done through themed classes, special artist series, and for a third year they launched a special apparel line featuring the work of designer Erwin Hines. Peloton will also mark Black History Month with a charitable contribution of $100,000 – to support the development of a community wellness center in Chicago’s South Side. They are partnering with Claretian Associates, an organization with deep ties to the neighborhood.
Peloton Has Released A New Apparel Collection In Celebration Of Black  History Month - 29Secrets
Peloton’s new Black History Month apparel line
  • Victoria’s Secret PINK: The beauty and fashion brand has partnered with We The Urban founder Willie Greene to release an exclusive “Pink x We The Urban” gender-free one-size tee (this has been an annual effort). In addition, PINK is donating $50,000 to the Black and Pink organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of system-impacted LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS.
WE THE URBAN
  • Apple: The tech giant is spotlighting Black business and innovation while also amplifying Black voices through a multitude of its platforms and specially curated collections. Some of these include, Apple Maps where users can learn about Black history or discover Black-owned businesses through curated Guides; their Shot on iPhone campaign, “Our Stories,” features portraits and video of four pioneers who are at the nexus of Black history The company also launched a special edition Apple Watch “Black Unity Braided Solo Loop” watch that features matching unity lights on the face of the watch. It gets its inspiration from the “Afrofuturism,” framework, which explores the Black and African diasporic experience through a narrative of science, technology and self-empowerment.
Apple spotlights Black voices during Black History Month - Apple
Apple’s 2022 Black History Month theme

These businesses get me!!

What I can also really appreciate about these businesses is that many if not all have year-round efforts, and are making sure Black creatives and talents are getting their shine!! It’s really important that you do more than just sign a check (no complaints here), but that you make a full on investment of the talent!!

Posted in On the Desk..., On The Radar

Black History Month Spotlight!!

You know me I love an opportunity to spotlight actions, programs, and moments of significance, especially those of the Black experience. So I wanted to share something that came across my “virtual” desk on yesterday, Disney Parks celebrating Black History Month with a new campaign…Reimagine Tomorrow !

Reimagine Tomorrow is meant to showcase Disney Black cast members and other workers for their role in making the parks run. First up is Lanny Smoot, Research Fellow at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) Research & Development who helped bring “The Haunted Mansion” attraction to life. Throughout his career he has obtained more than 100 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office associated with his work (which is the most of anyone in the Walt Disney Company). Talk about a wealth of innovation!!

Check him out below as he talks about his experiences:

According to Smoot he explains, “My mindset is to create things that are fun, entertaining, often surprising and, hopefully, a bit ahead of their time.” He further notes, “At Disney, I can work on cutting edge technologies that are designed to make people happy. What’s not to like?!”

Another thing that really stuck out for me was how he continues to think about the future. Smoot shares, “We need to give young students – especially Black students and people of color – experience in these fields. The Walt Disney Company is digging deeply into this by making sure that we mentor diverse young people, and I’ve done that many times myself.”

Nothing like seeing one’s imagination play out LIVE and in LIVING COLOR!!

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com
Posted in Conversations with Beloved & Kindred, On The Radar

Guess Who’s Back…Season 2 of “Conversations With Beloved and Kindred”

“Sit back and wait to hear a slammin track…Rockin jams by popular demand, I’m back” ~Rakim, ‘Guess Who’s Back’

WE ARE BACK for another season of “Conversations with Beloved and Kindred!” And we are hyped and excited to get back to it!! Did you miss us?!! Well we missed you!!

Kicking off Black History Month, in this second season Dr. Robinson and I are looking forward to bringing you more intellectual commentary as we dive into the Horror and Thriller film genre!

In the past five years since Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out debut on Hollywood screens the genre horror has really picked up steam and garnered new audiences. But what about Black horror and thrillers specifically?? Although not a new genre it has not received the same amount of attention as other horror films. So Dr. Robinson and I want to shed light on some seminal, classic Black horror and thriller films as well as some newcomers that are worthy of your viewing!!

As noted by horror writer and educator Tananarive Due “We’ve always loved horror, it’s just that, unfortunately, horror has not always loved us”. Well we hope that with each episode we can bring to you this season we share some love and appreciation to the Blackness in horror!!

And just in case you need a little refresher or you are new to the series, Conversations with Beloved & Kindred  is a web series in collaboration with the Program & Outreach Division at Auburn Avenue Research Library (Atlanta, GA) hosted by two Black feminist creatives myself Dr. Grace D. Gipson (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Dr. Kaniqua Robinson (Furman University). Through each episode, we talk about creative works (i.e. literature, film, television, and art) that are grounded in the Black experience. Following in the footsteps of two legendary women Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, Gipson and Robinson seek to fill in the gaps of Black history by reimagining a supernatural Black past and present, while giving voice to the silenced narratives.

So stay tuned!! Mark your calendars and save the date, February 10th will be here before you know it!!

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Pexels.com
Posted in A Professor's Thoughts..., On the Desk..., Resources

Dr. G’s ‘Top 21’ Books of 2021

Did I mention I love to read…Well I DO!! Ever since I was kid I always had a book to read. Even as I hit 40 this year, I made sure I had my share of reading done. Matter fact this year I even did a Reading Challenge (on Good Reads) where I had to read at one book a month. And as I type this post I managed to get in 15 books plus a few comic books and graphic novels. It felt good to turn the pages (old school reader) of each new book and then look up what my next read would be!!

With all that said, I figure I would keep up with my tradition from last year and compile my ‘Top 21’ books from this year, and as an extra bonus for me I even got to meet some of the authors!! Pretty cool!!

Nothing like sharing some of your faves!! As I always say, ‘sharing is caring.’

So in no particular order, here is my Top 21 List of Books for 2021!!

  1. Just As I Am ~Cicely Tyson
  2. Somebody’s Daughter ~Ashley C. Ford
  3. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre ~Carole Boston Weatherford
  4. Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America ~Keisha N. Blain
  5. Luster ~Raven Leilani
  6. Black Leopard, Red Wolf: The Dark Star Trilogy ~Marlon James
  7. Digital Black Feminism ~Catherine Knight Steele
  8. Maya and the Robot ~Eve L. Ewing
  9. The Black Flamingo ~Dean Atta
  10. Fast Pitch ~Nic Stone
  11. Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me into The Life of My Dreams ~Yvonne Orji
  12. The Day the Klan Came to Town ~Bill Campbell
  13. Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood ~Edited by Kwame Mbalia
  14. Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South ~Regina N. Bradley
  15. The Book of Unknown Americans ~Cristina Henriquez
  16. The 1619 Project ~Nikole Hannah-Jones
  17. The 1619 Project: Born on the Water ~Nikole Hannah-Jones & Renée Watson
  18. Stella’s Stellar Hair ~Yesenia Moises
  19. How the Word Is Passed A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America ~Clint Smith
  20. Libertie ~Kaitlyn Greenidge
  21. Raybearer ~Jordan Ifueko

Happy Reading!!

~Dr. G

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts..., On the Desk...

It’s #WinterGraduation Time!!

Ahhhhh it’s that time of the year again! It’s a Saturday morning 8:30 am in Richmond, VA on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. The fall/winter season of graduation is upon us!! One thing I do like about VCU is that we have graduation twice a year, for those who finish in May and those that finish in December. December graduation this year was my first time participating in the entire school celebration at the Siegel Center here on the VCU campus. And this year was extra special as I had the awesome opportunity of hooding my former student and sister friend Dr. Lisa Winn Bryan!! Participating in this joyous moment is one that I will treasure for a lifetime. I remember when she asked me to take part in this incredible moment I had to make sure I was not dreaming, causing this is a serious thing. And what really got me was that morning as all the graduates are preparing for the big moment, Lisa walks in and sees me and she immediately begins to tear up and I had to fight back tears. That was the beginning of what would be one of the most rewarding days in my professorial career.

Just a few captured moments with my sister-friend Dr. Lisa Winn Bryan!!

Graduation is ALWAYS one of my favorite times of the year here at VCU and I get to celebrate it twice once in the spring and also in the fall. This momentous occasion is one that with each year will become more and more special. This is what happens when you become invested in your craft and the students who play a role in its shaping.

This semester has been about self-determination and perseverance for not just myself, but especially for my students. Each one of them in their own unique way has charted a path to success on their own terms. I say this every semester, but it warrants being mentioned being a professor/teacher is way more than providing weekly/daily lessons and educating the future…it’s about being a listening ear, parting growing wisdom/advice, showing support in-person and via Zoom, creating platforms for stories to be told, and as my Soror and the first president of National Association of Colored Women (NACW) Mary Church Terrell once said “lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go.” Graduation is the culmination of all the hard work that students take part in during their academic matriculation, and we as professors get to see the fruits of their labor flourish. I am always grateful that I get to change lives regardless of how big or small.

This change was specifically seen in my Capstone Senior Seminar course! I had the opportunity to mentor 7 AFAM seniors as they completed their senior thesis research projects. The topics ranged from the importance of Black motorcycle clubs in the Hampton Roads, to the issue of colorism for Black men, to the need for academic safe spaces, to better representation in comic books, to healing and processing Black mental health in Black matriarchal figures. And if their oral presentations were just an appetizer to their research papers….I cannot wait till the main course!! I am so proud of each of them and the work that they have done. Overcoming fears, sharing their personal stories, being vulnerable, and taking risks that will make them better scholars and people!!

A few of my students from my AFAM 499 course, “Capstone Seminar in Africana Studies” [Bottom picture l-r Angelica Williams, Alexa McNeil, Dr. Gipson, Nylah Kelly, and Winfred Walker]

Look out world, there’s a new set scholars entering and they have something to say!!

~Dr. G

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts...

A Professor’s Thoughts…

2021 Black History Month Reflections…*

“Taking steps that lead to action, that result in change.” ~Dr. G

This year’s celebration of Black History Month hit me a little different this time around. Not that I do not think about and enjoy the fact that we highlight the achievements and success of Black and African diasporic people; I think I now ponder more about what Black History Month has become. Keep in mind, every February I prepare my mind for the year’s celebration, I become on high alert to see who is temporarily stepping up their efforts to celebrate Black History. Every year we see this rise in celebrating and acknowledging the Black/African American experience from various companies, organizations, schools/universities, businesses, etc. 2021 becomes even more on high alert with how the aforementioned are responding/reacting and celebrating this month due to last year’s protests and the many deaths that happened due to racially motivated violence, police brutality, and systemic oppression.

These days as an Assistant Professor in African American Studies, Black History Month is a day-to-day routine. As a matter of fact, I recently recall having a conversation with a couple of my colleagues about celebrating Black History Month. One asked, what should AFAM/AAS departments do to celebrate Black History Month? And I quickly responded with “we celebrate Black History Month 365, every semester, every academic year…we’re and AFAM department that’s what we do naturally.” As a kid, Black History Month was all about coloring pictures of historical figures (i.e. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Matthew Henson), watching an assortment of documentaries, listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, and participating in my church’s “Black History Month” presentation. In high school and college, the celebration shifted to getting deeper into the history and achievements of Black people. It also became an opportunity to have more discussions and conversations about the above with not just other Black people, but ALL people. I will say each phase of my life, up to this current moment has and always been about not just celebrating but staying informed, embracing a deeper sense of pride, continuous acknowledgement, and making sure other people realize this is not just a 28-day effort.

Starting out as “Negro History Week” in 1926 by historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson, his intentions were very clear…educate young African Americans about their own heritage, and the achievements of their ancestors. Woodson dedicated much of his life to ensure that history would be re-written and that the Black/African American population would not be ignored. He believed, “the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization.” This challenge of inserting Black Americans into history was no easy task for Woodson as he and his colleagues struggled to meet the demand for course materials and other resources (sound familiar…). But this would not stop Woodson from doing the work (Officially the celebration became a month-long in 1976)! According to Woodson, making this effort a reality was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the [Black] race.

Many often ask why February, but Woodson selected this month due to the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent figures whose historic achievements played a role in the African Americans population. Ultimately, what Woodson hoped is that the public celebrations moved beyond just simply being one week. For him Black History was never meant to be confined into one week, he actually sought for it to be eliminated and see that Black History became fundamental to American History.

Now what becomes interesting over the years is the critiques and naysayers of Black History Month. Some have argued that “Black History Month could reduce complex historical figures to overly simplified objects of ‘hero worship,’” and others have even described it as racist (this becomes very interesting how the celebration of achievements and triumphs is seen as racist…but that is for another time). Then you have specific critics like actors Morgan Freeman and Stacey Dash who criticized the concept of declaring one month as Black History Month. Freeman would note, “there is no White History Month and there should be no Black History Month…Black History is American History. While I find some slender truths to the above thought, unfortunately Freeman is not fully informed. Freeman also noted (and co-signed by Dash) that the only way to get rid of racism is to “stop talking about it” and this is where you completely lose me…It is not that easy. His critique is very much surface-level. It is actually quite the opposite. And even if we agree with pieces of Freeman’s argument, unfortunately not everyone feels the same way about Black History as American History. This is evident considering we still have to constantly remind people that Black Lives Matters! It would be amazing if Blackness and Black life was normalized, sadly we still have work to do when it comes to this endeavor.

As a federally recognized and global celebration (Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom celebrate Black History Month in October) in 2021, I realize more and more why Black History Month must exist. The celebration has moved beyond the classroom, textbooks are no longer the only source of information, Black History Month is in real time. Instagram in 2018 created its first ever Black History Month program, which featured various initiatives such as a #BlackGirlMagic partnership with Spotify and launching their #CelebrateBlackCreatives program. Various streaming platforms like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime highlight content that centers Black Voices; and in 2020 Target Corporation created a marketing campaign “Black Beyond measure” that features Black creators and entrepreneurs. Additionally, this year Apple launched a variety of ways to celebrate Black History Month through the App Store Black History Month Hub along with introducing the Black Unity Collection. Many of the abovementioned initiatives not only celebrate, acknowledge, and highlight Black culture but are also financially donating to numerous organizations as a part of “promoting and achieving” equality and civil rights nationally and globally. Although I am sometimes weary of these collaborations, my hope like Woodson, is that it becomes a part of the normal regular conversation and not just during a certain when you can say you satisfied your diversity requirement.

There is a never-ending well of knowledge as it relates to Black History and culture, and we are far beyond just simply only talking about enslavement and civil rights. We must continue to shine a light on the whole entire picture of African Americans. A wealth of knowledge awaits us, not just Black people but everyone!! We are not a monolith, but we are worthy to be celebrated!!

—-

As we reflect and close out another Black History Month celebration, be reminded that it will never be wrong to celebrate each year in February, but know that the fun can and does continue year-round!!

Image result for things to do

28 Things You Can Do For Black History Month And Even After…

  1. Educate yourself by digging through the archives of an African American-centered library and/or resource center…Make an active, regular effort to learn about the many facets of Black experiences and culture…Visit a museum/cultural center dedicated to Black History and culture
  2. Trace your family history (Ancestry.com, 23andMe.com)
  3. Support a Black-owned business
  4. Visit/Donate to an Historically Black College or University HBCU
  5. Host a Family & Friends Black film marathon
  6. Create a Book Club that highlights Black authors
  7. Tune into a podcast that discusses Black life and culture
  8. Create a soundtrack/playlist that explores the history of Black musicians and artists
  9. Call out systemic racism, stereotypes, prejudices, implicit bias and injustices
  10. Review the timeline of how Black History came to be
  11. In honor of the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement, host a themed open mic night
  12. In the workplace, have regular, healthy dialogues and conversations about Black life and history [Be thoughtful about inclusion, diversity, and collaborations.]
  13. Support Black radio stations, Black press, and Black newspapers
  14. Follow and support Black artists (i.e. comic book, manga, anime, illustrator, painter)
  15. Incorporate a regular inclusive curriculum (i.e. create lesson plans) in your classroom that inspires and educates (K-12 and College)
  16. Follow a Black historian, scholar, activist organization, foundation on social media (this provides exposure for them and you get to learn something new on daily/weekly/monthly basis)
  17. Have a game night with family and friends using one of these games (Black Card Revoked and CultureTags)
  18. Host a Virtual Wine Tasting with a Black-owned wine and or support/highlight Black sommeliers, winemakers, and businesses
  19. Host a dinner party, try a new recipe and/or create a weekly menu inspired by Black/African Diasporic cuisines
  20. Organize/create a Black History Internet Scavenger Hunt that uses questions that pertain to African American people and moments
  21. Participate in a Story Time reading Black authored children books via your local library/Tune into a “StoryCorps” story that centers Black voices in conversations about Black history, identity, struggles, and joy”!
  22. Volunteer your time with an organization, non-profit or charity (i.e. Happy Mama Happy Mini, Black Girls CODE, National Society of Black Engineers, United Negro College Fund, Color of Change, National Council of Black Studies, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Trans Women of Color Collective, Audre Lorde Project, Million Hoodies, Black Women’s Blueprint, and many more) that empowers and uplifts Black diasporic communities.
  23. Find ways to celebrate Black Joy!! (going to the park, streaming a concert, attending a sports event, etc.)
  24. Talk about the importance of journalism as well as its limitations with regards to Black social and cultural movements
  25. Create a monthly mural project that celebrates/honors Black artistic movements (past and present)
  26. Create a YouTube video diary that documents Black experiences
  27. Learn about Black history and culture through the lens of Black photographers
  28. Understand that Black Lives Matter!!

~Dr. G.

*Jointly published on “Happy Mama Happy Mini