So as of last week Tuesday, I officially made it through my first year on the tenure-track at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA), [ALL GRADES ARE IN] and what a roller coaster ride!! As we all know this was an “interesting” time to be a student, parent, and teacher as it relates to the academic world. And this year was one I will never forget! For example, as noted above this was my first year on the tenure-track, which means not only did I start a new job in these unique circumstances, but I also moved to a whole new state and city in the middle of a pandemic! Many have asked, how have I coped and managed the move during these time? Well my answer to that is…I really did not have a choice, you kind of have to ride the wave or it will take you out. Needless to say, I have had a great deal of support professionally and personally, so that has made this transition a lot easier to navigate (Thank goodness for my many villages!!). Also, the fact that I am in a place that I am loving and doing what I love makes this roller coaster ride a fun one!
Now mind you, I have been teaching pretty much since I was in my doctoral program, so thankfully this academic year was not my first rodeo. However, it was my first experience with teaching full-time virtually. For many people like me, their places of sanctuary were quickly transformed into places of work and everything that came with it. I must admit, teaching virtually this academic year further confirmed that my preference for learning and teaching will ALWAYS be physically in the classroom. Not being in the classroom, physically, made me miss a lot things that I truly value. The presence of the students, literally seeing their faces, the interactions, the energy that permeates in a room, actually going into my office and seeing other faculty and staff, meeting other colleagues for coffee/tea, participating in on-campus activities, and so much more. During and after this school year, I would be more in tune with the long and short-term effects of teaching and learning in a virtual space. For some it worked, others not so much…This past year I witnessed not only students struggling, but faculty and staff as well. To be expected to essentially turn “water into fine wine” within days and weeks was quite the feat. Now in a way we accomplished what was asked of us, but that is not to say we did not come out without some bruises and wounds. I have come to realize that it is ok, and necessary, to acknowledge the stressful moments, but it is what you do to move past the stress that also counts. Lots of lessons learned! All in all, we survived and in many ways thrived!
Part of moving forward for me was participating in my first commencement post-PhD graduation, and recognizing our students in the Department of African American Studies! Seeing the excitement as our students proudly wore their cap and gowns get recognized and cross the finish line was a moment I will never forget and always cherish (You can see a snap shot below)!!
So what’s next for Dr. G??!! Well for the first time in 5 years I will not be teaching in the summer. It took a minute to digest that I would not be teaching this summer, but I will say that I do have this sense of relief. In past years, it just became a part of my norm/routine, but as priorities change so does the routine. So, instead of teaching I will be in the archives full-time starting next month in Chicago! I was fortunate to receive a summer fellowship through the Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC), where I will be able to dive into the crates and examine the presence and importance (past and present) of Black female creatives and characters in comics and cartoons specifically within Chicago. I am really excited to have this opportunity, as it will play a huge role in my upcoming book project.
And after spending some time in the Chi’ I will come back to Richmond and tackle the archives on my own campus (VCU) and dive into the Comic Arts Collection! Let’s just say it will definitely be a productive summer, and I am very excited to get to work!
In addition to the work, you gotta make sure you get a chance to leisurely play a little bit! And with certain places returning back to some sense of normalcy, I will definitely continue exploring my new city (and other cities) while also squeezing in some R&R. Some of that R&R will be me getting my read on!! And I already have a few books that I cannot wait to read (a few you can find on my monthly book recommendations list). My balcony is going to get a lot of attention!!
Plus, this summer is going to be all about discovery and re-discovery. As I quickly approach ’40’ in a few months, I am continuing to learn more and more about myself (professionally and personally). The summer is a perfect time to recharge, recalibrate, and rejuvenate!!
Now that the school year is finished, what is on your agenda? How will you spend your time this summer?
Closing out this month on Jaya’s Pop Culture Minute, BFF intern Jaya dives back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an analysis and some commentary on the Disney+ series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier!!
With the ending of Wandavision, Marvel was set to release its latest series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, a show following two characters that when all is said and done we do not really know. But as the episodes started coming out there became a clear divide between the praise Bucky Barnes was sent and the lack of praise and comments for Sam Wilson. Essentially Sam Wilson is being treated as an accessory within his own show.
As the show ratings progressed, it became known that Sam Wilson was not the reason why the Marvel fandom liked the show. This is nothing new, Black superheroes are constantly pushed behind their white counterparts, and are treated less than by a majority of the marvel fandom, (mostly from dudebros and uneducated fans). What most of the fandom lacks in seeing is what they deem Sam Wilson is worth. Within a week of the first two episodes Sam Wilson was at the bottom of polls conducted by various fan run sites and pop culture news outlets. For example, one had Sam polling at 11% while Zemo was at 20% (according to Fandom Wikipedia). This is a noticeable difference. It was not until the fourth episode that Sam Wilson started to gain traction as a result of John Walker, the government appointed Captain America bludgeoning an innocent person to death (episode 3). It’s almost as if Sam had to prove his worth in the eyes of the Marvel fandom in order for him to gain credibility.
As a Bucky and Sam fan myself, I noticed how Bucky polled very high early on in the show, while Sam stayed low. Interestingly enough, in the first few episodes Bucky had more lines than he did in the MCU movies, but this does not mean he was better in any way than Sam. Time and time again this pattern repeats itself, Black superheroes whether they have their own movie, or show, constantly have to prove their worth or earn their credibility in the eyes of a majority of the Marvel fandom. An early example of this is James Rhodes and Tony Stark. Through the Iron Man franchise Rhodey is treated as a sidekick or an accessory to the playboy philanthropist. We get very little backstory about Rhodey and he’s treated almost like a filler character. This continues even in the Avengers movies where Rhodey is seen as the sidekick. Even now, decades later after the last Iron Man movie, the Marvel fandom still treats him as a sidekick and not his own character due to Marvel’s lack of character development.
After watching the finale it seems even more obvious that Sam had to prove himself as a character for people to like him more, whereas Bucky was already well liked. Additionally, the finale received the lowest ratings, which is interesting because this episode is the first time we see Sam really step into his role as Captain America. On Instagram only a DAY after Sam took up the mantle people were making their own edits of Sam in the suit, along with tweets of who should be the next Captain America after as if Sam did not just become Captain America. This further proves how much Sam Wilson is treated as a side character/ accessory in his own show. As stated earlier, the Marvel fandom has shown this pattern time and time again. This is an issue that Marvel writers must deal with moving forward. A step in the right direction would be to hire more diverse writers so we can stop this pattern, because as a Black Marvel fan this constant pattern is tiring and irritating.
So let me just start out by saying when I saw the flyer below I immediately felt like a kid in a candy store and they had all of my favorites right at the front door (yeah pretty excited)!! As a Black woman who studies and is a comic book fan this is quite significant and major! Even with the success of the 2018 Black Panther blockbuster (R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman) and I would even add the Dora Milaje and Shuri on the big screen, there is still a need for regular and consistent images in film and television (particularly in the comic book realm). Thus, this (re)introduction of Monica Rambeau into the WandaVision series on Disney+ is a major move!! Monica Rambeau is a force to be reckoned with in the comic book universe (at one point she helmed the title of Captain Marvel)!! And the fact that actress Teyonah Parris is in the role gave it extra cool points!! Glad to see that she is getting some just due as an actress, Ms. Parris got talent!
As you will see throughout my posts, I am very much an advocate for more diverse representation of Black women within the comic book medium. It is crucial that comics display a continuous diversity of characters!! Little Black girls and boys should not have to wait until they are adults before they see someone that looks like them within pop culture (and honestly society as a whole).
Now even in my excitement with everything about the series, I do have my reservations as I am hoping that Rambeau’s character (in particular) will not be surface-level and that she will have a long-lasting impact!! There is SO much potential and SO many opportunities with this character…
WandaVision premieres its first two episodes on today January 15th via Disney+!!
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ~Frederick Douglass
It is nothing like finding a good book, a cup of coffee (or your drink of choice), and curling up on your couch as you float in literary heaven. I am always thankful when I get the opportunity to flip through pages, listen on Audible, or digitally swipe through the Kindle pages.
Here in this space, I will offer my suggestions of good books to add to your reading list (whether personally and/or professionally). This will be an opportunity to share books with you and hopefully get some recommendations from you as well. As they say, “sharing is caring.”
So make sure you stay tuned, you never know what may cross my desk!!