Thursday, February 28, 2013

Confession of a Gospel-Loving Hip-Hop Junkie: Going Up Yonder while Nodding My Head to Breakbeats

I am a gospel music lover and hip hop junkie to the core. Go figure.  I'm an old school church girl who loves lyricism.  Hubs often laughs at my extensive knowledge of Negro spirituals and 90's hip hop.  When y'all send me on home to the Lord, I think I want a gospel singer and a DJ playing breakbeats at my funeral.  Today will be a glimpse into my two favorite genres in the whole wide world. Both genres employing the Black tradition of call and response.  Both grown out of pain.   Both highly emotive.  Both used to uplift and get us through tough times.

First giving honor to God (shout out to the old school saints!). . .
I've mentioned before that my dad is a pastor, so gospel is in my blood.  My favorites - Kim Burrell,  The Anointed Pace Sisters, and The Clark Sisters.  I love the old stuff.  Some Walter Hawkins I'm Going Away?!?  Yes Lord!!!  I live for the line, "It won't be long. . . Some day we'll meet aa-aa-aa-gain."  Come on, tenors!!! Where's my tambourine???  Anyway, at the moment, the Pace Sisters' When God is in the Building and Kim Burrell's Seeing Over are on constant rotation.

This one right here. . . Maaaaannn! I was torn between posting this and U Know

She starts singing at 0:20. "You've got to believe in what you cannot see." Minister to the people,  Kim!!! 

It doesn't matter where I go in life or how often I miss church, I will always be connected to gospel music.  It connects me to Him.  It reminds me of home.  It reminds me of family.  It ministers to me when the going gets rough.  It gives me roots.  I was transported back to Texas and have had church about 3 times trying to write this post.

If I'm talking about how music influences my memories of growing up, then I have to talk about my love for hip hop.  How does a southern church girl develop an affinity for East Coast hip hop? Hmmm. . . It had to be A Tribe Called Quest.  There were other groups before them, but Tribe appealed to my 13-year-old quirkiness.  Smart guys rapping about smart stuff over jazz loops - yes, please.   Tribe will always and forever hold a special place in my heart.  Love 'em so much they provided the soundtrack for Hub's and my first dance at our wedding. 

If you follow this blog, you probably have a sense of my hip-hop musical taste.  I'm a hip-hop snob.  I listen intently for wordplay.  My husband and I have long conversations about lyrics.  I love to talk about the poetic structures of different MCs (like, Freeway's verse on What We Do could be recited sans music).  But to keep it totally honest, every once in a while I need some good ole southern hood anthems.  Hey, you can take me out the South . . . you know the rest.  

Right now, the youngster Joey Bada$$ can do no wrong in my book.  MF DOOM is a perfect MC to me.  I'll probably be a little old lady hobbling to a Jay-Z concert on a cane, but he'll be using one, too, so it's all good!  Yeah the the misogyny can be excessive, and as I've grown up, my tolerance for it has become nonexistent, BUT, a smart MC over a good beat . . . **swoon**. 

Imagine my excitement when my two musical worlds collided.  I lost it a few years ago the first time I heard Overcome by PacDiv. Sampling the Clark Sisters and good lyrics?!?!  Yes ma'am!  Here's the original, Overcome, by the Clark Sisters:
Yassssss! Mattie Moss Clark and her girls never get old. I can watch old Clark Sisters videos all day. 

Here's PacDiv's take on Overcome

Crazy (in a good way) I tell ya. Tell me that ish wasn't awesome, and I'd say you're telling me a lie.

These two genres seem worlds apart, but they aren't.  Many of us have felt euphoria in the club on Saturday and on a pew on Sunday morning.  I've learned that distinct and unique parts of my life don't have to exist in little boxes.  Why compartmentalize when the mashup is more fun? Isn't it awesome that we can be made up of so many different things?  Isn't it awesome when we can connect the dots among them?

I'd like to leave you with another gospel/hiphop mashup. DOOM's Thank Yah.  It's my way of showing a little gratitude for taking this musical trip with me. Just know there's more good music to come.  Be sure to put me on to some good hip-hop/gospel mashups if I've missed any.

Until next time . . . Keep bouncing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Personal Growth and Getting What We Think We Deserve

Hello readers! Thanks for stopping by the blog today.  First, a little mood music for today's blog entry, Cleva by Erykah Badu :

"I'm alright with me." ~ E. Badu

Last week was a roller coaster ride. I thought I was headed down a particular path that ended in a way that I just hadn't anticipated.  It's one thing to be told you've missed the mark.  It's another to be told you're one of the best, but you're still not getting a shot.  Sigh. . .

Saddled with disappointment, I told my friends and family what happened. They rallied around me with love, support, and a few "F&ck 'ems!" One theme that was among the consoling was "You're totally good enough." While I appreciated the kind words, I realized  that I never felt that I wasn't, hence the theme song for today's posting. One time for self-growth!  Inadequacy would have haunted me to no end a few years ago.  Today though, I'm alright with me, just like Erykah.

Here's the bottom line: For whatever reason, what I desired last week isn't my destiny.  While I'm uncertain of the future, and I battle bouts of fear almost daily, I know deep in my gut that I'm good enough.  I'd bet on me and my strengths any day. I'm alright with me.

When I first got the disappointing news, I wanted to pout and get a little pompous and talk about all of the things that I believe I deserve.  I believe we are entitled to many good things in this life, but not necessarily the ones that my ego was trying to feed me.

I deserve to be fulfilled, but that doesn't mean I always land the job I want.

I deserve to be happy, but my career is only a PART of that happiness.

I deserve to be loved, but not everybody has to love my ideas.

I just told one of my best girlfriends today that I feel like my life is a deck of cards that are all thrown in the air right now, but y'all just hold on, ok?  Hold on for when those cards fall. Here's the thing, I don't even know how they're going to fall, but however they land, I'm game. God says I'm equipped.  This isn't my first time at a crossroad. I can handle it. I'm alright with me.

Y'all g'on and have a good day (I just said that in my best southern twang.).  Feel free to share some of your personal growth stories and how you've dealt with tough times if you're so inclined.

Until next time. . . be alright with YOU!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Picture borrowed from here
Trayvon Martin.  I would be remiss if I didn't remember him today.

He could have been my student. He could have been my nephew. He could have been my little cousin.  He could have been my son.  Hubs and I talk all the time about what we'll have to tell our little ones about being a Black boy or girl in this world.  Trayvon's story is just a reminder that childhood just isn't protected the way that it should be.  Trayvon's case made the news. Who knows how many stories of wrong place/wrong time/wrong appearance are out there. May his parents find some peace today and every other day that they have to face the bitter reality of life without their son.

Until next time. . . keep lifting up our children.

On Getting Grown

Over the last week I've had random conversations with my friends and hubby about the following:

  • Random joint pain 
  • ovulation 
  • eye creams & nighttime serums; and 
  • dietary changes 

All of these convos have led me to one conclusion: I am not 22 anymore, though I sometimes feel like I am in my heart.

I'm not chasing the fountain of youth. I thank God for every year he allows me to see, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trying to preserve.  I've found that as the years pass, seeing big physical changes require a more concentrated effort. If I did half of what I do right now when I was in my 20's, I'd have been a toothpick.  That is so not the case at 36.  I don't even want toothpick, I want leaner and fitter. I want to be my best self.

So in my effort to keep it all together, I've been doing some serious conferencing with myself. I think that a few minor changes will usher me into health and wellness as I stand at the threshold of my late 30's.  Here are a few of the changes I've been making:

Eliminating large amounts of sugar, especially the processed kind.  Juice, jelly, ketchup, syrup - all things I rarely consume, but I think I can go harder.  I've seen the benefits of eliminating high amounts processed sugar, thus I'm going to try to limit my intake to small amounts of natural sugar from fruit and green juices and an occasional cup of coffee with hazelnut cream, no sugar.

Upping my water intake. I also know the benefit of this practice. Given my exercise routine, upping my water intake is a MUST. Plus, since I'm cutting sugar, I should be subbing juice for water anyway. Sparkling water rocks!
I can't get enough of these right here!!! They give me my soda fix. 
Cheating with food that's worth it. I am going to really begin to enforce #8 on this list.  I'm all for moderation, so you'll never hear me say, "I don't eat dessert or bread EVER," but I do believe splurging needs guidelines. I'm going to start making my splurges worth it. If I'm eating a roll, it should be freshly baked and made with love. If I'm splurging on dessert, it has to be better than Carvel cake. (Hey, Hubs! Sorry!)

These homemade au gratin potatoes from Valentine's Day - TOTALLY worth it! 
Exercise is a must.  Yeah, most weight loss happens in the kitchen, but a healthy body also happens at the gym. I've hit a point where exercise is a must. I like a little muscle definition.  I love the after-gym burn.  I have to keep my heart healthy. None of these things are possible without exercising. Whether it's climbing Jacob's Ladder with Cindy, or getting it in at home, exercise has become a non-negotiable.
I'm in love with these beauties. Looking down at these during a workout makes me happy! 
I'll keep you posted on my progress to get to my leaner, fitter, healthier self.  Feel free to join me!  Let me know how you're working toward your best self in the comments below.

May your Tuesday be magical. I'm headed to campus for the rest of the day. I've packed my lunch and planned my meals. Just pray my patience through these looooong, sedentary meetings.

Until next time . . . I'm off to try to log some steps on my FitBit!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kwah - ven - zha - nay: It's not that hard to say. Really, it's not.

Gosh, I love fearless little girls. 

Leave that baby alone!!! Enough with the name bashing and name calling.  I'm so disgusted, I'm not going to link to any of the articles that have taken over my Twitter timeline.

I know what it feels like to be judged according to how your parents chose to name you before people actually meet you. I think about my name being at the top of any paper that I write and how I will perceived before people read my thoughts and ideas.  My name isn't long or difficult to say, but it does cue you in that a brown girl is in the mix.  My name is decidedly "ethnic," born out of 1970's pseudo-Afrocentrism, and it's alright with me.

I purposely give my research participants "ethnic" names.  I cringe when people ask folks with hard to pronounce names, "Can I just call you, X?" I think it can be lazy and disrespectful. I do my damnedest to say people's names, even when my southern dialect fails me.  People deserve the effort.  As a former teacher, I learned my share of interesting names - some passed down through cultural tradition, others invented in the minds of creative parents.  I've seen students' eyes light up when I've sounded out difficult names and gotten them right.  They knew that I saw them. They felt acknowledged.  I only used nicknames when students asked.  Everyone deserves to be called what they want to be called. You don't get the right to shorten folks names if they didn't ask you to do so.  I'm glad Quevenzhane' gets people together.  Make them learn your name, baby, whether they like it or not.

Here's to the Quevenzhanes of the world.  If folks can get Les Miserables right and can accept people naming their children Apple, I'll be damned if we can't sound out her name and say it and ACCEPT it.  Hell, she created a video to help us.

Until next time. . . get her name right! May she rock on with her little flexed biceps and puppy purses!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

STEM Fierceness: (Almost) Dr. G!

I am really excited about today's STEM Fierceness post. I'd like to highlight a dear friend of mine, Treda Smith Grayson. When I first met Treda years ago, I was totally intrigued by her career path. She works in the field of marine biology and loves all things related to the water. Boy, talk about laughing in the face of stereotypes and myths. Treda is an awesome person and has a brilliant mind. We're not just friends. We are part of the same service organization, SisterMentors, a support group for women of color earning their Ph.D.s. In turn, we, the SisterMentors, mentor girls of color on the weekends. Treda actually called me and told me to watch Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry's show on girls in STEM. She's an awesome woman doing awesome work, and her story is one of tenaciousness, grit, and belief in one's self.  Let's learn a bit about her story in her own words.  

Treda at work in the water. 
Introduce yourself to the readers. 
My name is Treda Smith Grayson.  I am employed as an Environmental Protection Specialist in the Office of Water at the US Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters.  I lead a national program to assess the condition of the nation's estuarine and coastal waters.

What is your education background?
I have a B.S. in Marine Science with Biology and German minors from Coastal Carolina University, and a M.S. degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins.  I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University (Fall 2014 will be here before I know it!!!!!).

How did you become interested in science? Who were the influential people in your career decisions and interests? 
I have always loved being around water.  Growing up in Central Virginia, my family and I spent a great deal of time fishing, crabbing, boating and recreating in water.  I remember our trips to the beach where I would just sit on the beach and dig in the sand to find little animals to keep in my bucket. In school, my favorite lessons  were always about the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay.  When I was 6 years old, we went on vacation to Monterey and Santa Cruz, California, where we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It was there that I learned more about marine biology and for the first time learned about being a marine biologist.  Even then I didn't fully know what a marine biologist actually was, but I knew that it meant working in or near water, and that was what I wanted to do in some fashion.  After that, I spent countless hours reading our set of encyclopedias and tucked in a corner of the public library reading about oceans, sea animals, waves, and beaches (Don't Judge Me!).  Throughout grade, middle and high school, I pursued my love of all things science and math, and was absolutely elated when I found Coastal Carolina University's (CCU) marine science program.  At the time, CCU was one of just a few universities on the east coast (besides several schools in Florida) that offered B.S. programs in Marine Science.  I say time and again, going to CCU was one of the best decisions that I ever made.  

As for those that influenced me most, I would have to say without a doubt my parents.  They admit that for a while, they had no idea what I was talking about when I said I wanted to be a marine biologist at such a young age.  All they knew is it excited me and they did everything that they could to nurture this eagerness they saw in me.  Never once did they try to urge me to go in another direction.  They believed in me, supported me, and have been my biggest fans every step of this journey.  I will always be grateful and love them for their unwavering support and love.

What does a typical workday look like for you?
Because I am not in a field cycle at the moment, my typical workday is filled with meetings, meetings to prepare and analyze data collected back in 2010, direct contractor activities and to begin planning for the 2015 field season.  During the field season, if I'm not out on a boat sampling with or auditing a state field crew, I'm in the office managing the day to day operations to keep the project running smoothly.  The beauty of my job is the opportunity to not be stuck in the office all of the time.  I do enjoy those moments out on the water here and there.  

What do you love most about your career? 
I think what I love most about my career (especially in the federal government) is that I am able to take my science and policy background and directly apply it to help solve real world science and policy issues.  Sure, there are those times when I feel bogged down by the bureaucracy, but I'm constantly interacting with other federal agency and state partners, academicians, consultants and sometimes even policymakers.  I have had numerous opportunities to give guest lectures, speak at conferences, and travel the country and the world.

Have you faced any unique challenges being a Black woman in a STEM field? If so, what are they? 
I wish that I could say that I have not had to face any challenges as a Black woman in the STEM field, but that would be a lie.  The thing I have encountered most is some people assuming that I don't know what I'm talking about because I am a Black female.  How many Black women do you know in the marine science field, or more broadly in the monitoring and assessment field that I currently work in?  I have been fortunate enough to a participant in various programs through the years to recruit, support and encourage people of color to engage in the STEM field.  These programs have provided me with a network of colleagues that understand the day to day trials that we collectively face, and it is good to when we come out successfully on the other side.  

What are your future plans for your career? 
I really like being able to apply my technical background to address science and science policy-related issues.  I see myself continuing along this vein, perhaps becoming a senior science advisor either in the federal government, or even on Capitol Hill at some point in my career.

Who do you admire in the STEM profession? 
Those that I admire most in the STEM profession, ironically happen to be in the marine science/oceanography world: Rita Colwell and Sylvia Earle, both of which are legends in the field and charted paths for those of us that come behind them.  I must not forget my lifeline of mentors of color that have helped to keep me afloat all of these years:Dr. Deidre Gibson (Hampton University), Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson (University of South Carolina), Dr. Ambrose Jearld (NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service) and Dr. Brandon Jones (US EPA).

What advice do you have for Black girls who are interested in careers in STEM? 
I would offer the following advice to Black girls interested in careers in STEM- Be persistent, confident, seek encouraging mentors, most importantly, know that you DO belong in this space, in this field, and in this career.  Never believe when someone tells you that you don't belong, as you have as much favor, aptitude, and knowledge as the next person.

Impressive, right? I told you all she was awesome. I'm totally inspired by Treda. She's one of my personal heroines. 

Until next time. . . be fierce, in STEM or wherever you choose to make your mark! 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I'm the Boss!!!

A little wife-life humor.

I hope you're having an amazing weekend. I just spent 6 straight hours at the library, so I'm about to relax. I'm so tired, I'm blogging from the phone. I can't stand to look at my laptop.

Until next time . . . I'm off to boss him around! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

STEM Fierceness: Ms. Hickson

This morning in the STEM Fierceness series, I'd like to highlight an amazing woman doing amazing work with young people. Tanya and I met when we were about 19 years old in our Finite Mathematics class.  Little did we know we'd become the best of friends.  She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and we still find ourselves talking math and education to this day.  Tanya started teaching AP Calculus a few years ago, and I've watched her grow as a teacher. Best believe if I have a mathematics question, she's one of my first calls!
Ms. Hickson in her classroom
In celebration of Black women in STEM, I asked Tanya if she'd like to be featured on the blog, and she happily obliged. Without further adieu, here's a little about her experiences in mathematics in her own words.

Introduce yourself to the readers. 
I'm Tanya Hickson, high school mathematics teacher. I teach Algebra II, Precalculus, and AP Calculus. 

What is your education background? 
BS in Math Education from Florida A&M University

How did you become interested in mathematics?  
I believe that I have always had a thing for math. I can remember winning the multiplication contests every time in elementary school. I guess you could say I was always pretty good in math through out my primary and secondary education years. 
I took this picture of Tanya's classroom board from her Instagram account. This certainly isn't multiplication. 
What does a typical workday look like for you? 
Oh goodness! Well, we are on an A/B day block, which means I don't see all of my students everyday. I see some students on "A" days, and I see others on "B" days. I'd say A days are my heaviest days. I go from teaching Algebra 2 , then PreCalculus, then I finish the day off with my only AP Calculus class. My brain is fried by the time I get home. 

What do you love most about your career? 
I think that one of the best things about teaching a subject that you love is to see your students have that same passion for the subject as you. I love to see my classes get into a debate about what method was better to solve a certain problem. I also when my students tell me that I have inspired their love for math. Not many of them express this!  However, the few that have leave me feeling good. 
A Valentine's Day gift from one of Tanya's student; how sweet! 
Have you faced any unique challenges being a Black woman in a STEM field? If so, what are they? 
I am one of two black women currently teaching AP Calculus in my district.  One of the things I have noticed is how people react to me when they see me enter a meeting room, as if they are surprised.

What are your future plans for your career?
 I see myself working on high school curriculum at the district-level in my school system.

What advice do you have for girls who are interested in careers in STEM? 
Stay the course.  Continue to progress in your educational journey.

I'm so grateful to Tanya for sharing her experiences is STEM. She's an awesome teacher, and she's touched the lives of so many students from all backgrounds and walks of life. She's definitely giving us STEM fierceness.

Until next time. . . go be fierce!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Things I'm loving on the Web

During my downtime, I write this blog and also read a lot looking for inspiration. Here are a few of interesting things that I ran across this week while reading and web surfing.

Sisters from the South
Borrowed this from YouTube. You can take us out the South, but you can't take the South out of us!  This video did my heart good. I'm a long way from home, so to see two sisters from Houston, TX, Beyonce and Solange (so alike and so different, like my sister and me!), grooving to some old school New Orleans bounce made me a bit homesick and a lot nostalgic.

Sound Off: Yasiin Bey, b.k.a. Mos Def, Talks Barclay Poetry and Avoiding Beef With Jay-Z
And about Mrs. Carter's husband. . .This article is from one of my favorite online magazines, Clutch. The author discusses a recent interview with Yasiin Bey (formerly known as the mighty Mos Def; remember him from this post?) and his critique of Jay-Z's involvement with the building of the Barclays Center. I'm interested to see how this will play out, or if this plays out at all. Bey raises some points to really ponder as it relates to community growth, expansion, and materialism. More than anything, this article highlights how we can criticize constructively and in the spirit of love and respect. I like Bey's moxie. I don't know too many MCs who'd be willing to address Jay directly in this way.

On Seeing Lena Dunham Naked
I'm a huge fan of the HBO series Girls. Yeah, I get the criticisms about the lack of diversity on the show. I really don't care because 1) the show is well-written and acted; 2) I can still relate to the stories (I've been young and dumb; and 3) the show is based on Hannah's reality, and her reality speaks to the larger reality of gentrification. Hannah very well may not live in a multicultural Brooklyn, well, at least she doesn't really acknowledge it. And, yeah, she's naked a whoooole lot, which is really offensive to some folks. Not gonna lie, I've cringed a few times myself. I ran across this great article that discusses body image and Lena Dunham's decision to flaunt her figure all over cable TV. In some ways, I identify with the author's struggle to learn to live in the skin you're in. I get it, Lena. I think I finally get it! Let's hear it for the girls whose thighs rub together (mine included)!


The music. The beauty. The talent. The clothes. All. Of. It. Nice work, Miu Miu. I've been a fan of Ana DuVernay's work since My Mic Sounds Nice, a documentary about female MCs, and I absolutely loved her film, Middle of Nowhere. This short film, with no words mind you, reminds me of what makes my girls so special. Each of them bring something unique and different to my life.

Until next time. . . I'll be on the lookout for more cool things to share.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

STEM Fiereceness: (Almost) Dr. TJ

First, a little mood music. I submit On My Way by Reflection Eternal, one of my personal pick-me-ups, for your listening pleasure.

"Whether sunny or rain....Whether ecstasy or pain...I'm on my way!"
As a means of speaking my greatness into existence, I'll start by highlighting myself. Yup, gonna toot my own horn today. I take my commitment to increasing underrepresented students' participation in mathematics very seriously. As a teacher, teacher educator, and budding researcher, I want to do my part to provide students with quality mathematics instruction.

If you read my Ph.D story, you'll remember that I've had the opportunity to teach prospective mathematics and science teachers since I've been in graduate school. I'm grateful to work with faculty who have given me the space to create a course that I think is really special. In this class, we tackle tough issues like like the one I addressed in last week's post. Ultimately, the class is designed to have them think about everyday math and science classroom issues from an equity perspective.

One of our very first exercises is writing our mathematics and science autobiographies. People who teach math and science, especially at the secondary level, tend to be pretty good at the content.  Sometimes math and science teachers have difficulty working with struggling students because they are very adept at the subject matter. We call this the "expert blindspot" in education research. So, to think critically about how to reach struggling students, my students and I delve into our own mathematics autobiographies. We look for issues of privilege and oppression that shape who we are and how we approach teaching. Here's an excerpt of my autobiography that I share with my students:

My family has been incredibly influential in shaping my perceptions of myself as a learner of mathematics. My father, a self-taught computer programmer, always told people that I got my “math brain” from him. Growing up, I was never afraid of doing mathematics because my father always made it seem as if it were something that we were predestined to do and to be good at thanks to our “math gene.” On the other hand, my mother always raved about how proud she was to have daughters (my sister also had lots of success in math classes) who were highly successful in a subject area that challenged her.  To this day, she still talks about how she feels like our success in math is her victory,
When I look over my academic career, I also attribute my love and confidence in mathematics and my desire to teach it to several mathematics teachers that I had during my K-12 and college years. I would say that my curiosity and fascination with mathematics began in the third grade with Mrs. Gaylor and long division. Mrs. Gaylor was the first (and one of two) African-American teachers that I had. She always displayed her admiration and support for me both in and out of class. She made me feel mathematically competent by sending me to the board, having me explain answers to my fellow students, and allowing me to be her “helper”. In retrospect, while I felt like Mrs. Gaylor’s favorite, I would surmise that she was able to make many of her students feel the same way. Many of my classmates have similar feelings about Mrs. Gaylor and her class. Nonetheless, Mrs. Gaylor and her warm and heartfelt approach to teaching definitely shaped my feelings about mathematics and my desire to teach it. Additionally, having an African-American woman as a mathematics teacher gave me a frame of reference. I was able to see myself as one day being a teacher and teaching a “hard” subject like math. 
A second influential teacher, Mr. Parr, is, by far, the most knowledgeable math teacher that I ever had. He taught my Algebra 2 and Precalculus classes when I was in high school. He had a way of taking very complex material and making it accessible to my classmates and me. I attribute much of my academic success in college to Mr. Parr’s solid foundation. He was on the cutting edge of technology, as TI-82 calculators were fresh off of the assembly line. He always had an answer to the “whys” and “hows.” When I was a high school teacher, I often found myself thinking, “What would Mr. Parr do?” when I was faced with an instructional challenge. Mr. Parr opened me up to the intellectual rigor of mathematics. He made set theory and asymptotes seem totally approachable. I had the opportunity to thank him about two years ago. I am more appreciative than he’ll ever know.            
Dr. Harvey, my Calculus 2 and 3 teacher, was also highly influential to my development as a mathematics learner. I attended Florida A&M University, a historically Black college in Tallahassee, Florida. That experience alone was highly influential. Transitioning from being one of the only Black students taking advanced math and science in my high school to taking advanced mathematics with Black students from all walks of life, cultures, and backgrounds was amazing. It made Black excellence in mathematics the norm. This proved to be highly influential as I faced predominately all-Black classrooms during my first years of teaching. Learning mathematics from a classical AND cultural perspective never made me see excellence and being Black as dichotomous. Dr. Harvey, a well-known and respected professor in our department, appealed not just to our intellect, but to our spirits as well. He referred to everyone as “mathematician,” and so I began to see myself as one. He encouraged us to continue our education, for being African Americans with mathematics degrees was rare, and our collective voice was needed. 
Post-college, my identity as a mathematics learner has continued to be shaped and redefined. Being a woman of color in mathematics can be isolating at times. Sometimes I find myself wondering if I am being discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, age, dialect, or some other characteristic that makes me who I am. Other times, I realize that having a different, unique voice is needed and necessary. More than anything, my experiences have helped me to realize that learning math is equally affective as it is intellectual. Each day I engage with mathematics, whether teaching, working a difficult problem, or working with prospective mathematics teachers, I am aware that this story of my relationship with mathematics is still growing and changing.
There are a few things about my personal journey that I'd like to point out.

1) My family believed in me. While I now know that there is no such thing as a "math gene," my father's confidence in his little Black girl to excel in mathematics has been powerful in my quest to succeed in mathematics. He never doubted my sister and I for a second, thus, we didn't start our academic journey by doubting ourselves.

2) I had a supportive village. You know how people say, "I'm doing this for all the people who said I wouldn't be anything"? Well, I don't know what that feels like. My teachers and the people my parents allowed into our lives always held us up. They made us feel competent. They normalized excellence. I owe my success to church-sponsored oratorical contests and Bible drills. To the members of our church who honored us for making honor roll by presenting us with crisp $5 bills in front of the congregation. I was loved. I was nurtured. I didn't start to doubt myself until I forgot the things I learned from my parents and from my years as a child at a little store-front church in Stafford, TX.

3) I excelled in mathematics because I was attuned to it intellectually and affectively. Math doesn't have to be taught as a cold, distant subject. There's love and care woven all throughout my mathematics autobiography, and I hope that if some of my students ever write theirs, there will be some love and care interwoven - at least in the part about me :). While I can't teach new teachers to love their students and to be warm, I can make sure that they take affective issues into account as they teach.

As the Reflection Eternal song at the beginning of this post reminds me, I'm on my way - despite setbacks, doubts, insecurities, and procrastination. I'm. On. My. Way. Period. I'm off to go work on this dissertation (as always). I'm off to make my mark in the world. I'm off to continue drafting my mathematics autobiography.

Until next time . . . be on your way!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

More STEM Fierceness is on the Way!

Get into this!
I was on the verge of catching the Holy Ghost when I saw this segment on Melissa Haris-Perry's show. I almost missed it, but one of my fellow sisters in the STEM struggle (who you'll read about on this blog!) sent me a text to get to the TV pronto. It seems serendipitous that Melissa Harris-Perry decided to discuss girls and women in STEM, as it coincides with my desire to feature Black women doing amazing work in STEM fields.

Harris-Perry's show was about women, more generally, in STEM, but I'm going to narrow my posts to Black women in STEM, and not just because it's February. I stand with all of my sisters who work to make their mark in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, but I know the realities of being a Black girl in a sea of faces that don't look like yours. I know what it feels like to have people watch you at work and to look at you with disbelief, almost as if they are shocked that you know what you know. I know what it's like to have people distrust your answers to math problems even though you're absolutely right. I know the feeling of being treated as an anomaly when you know you really aren't one; others just didn't have the same opportunities. I'm not saying that women of other races and ethnicities don't experience these things, nor am I saying that all of these instances should be attributed solely to race. I just prefer (for now) to narrow my posts to something I know really well - living life and succeeding in mathematics at the Black-female intersection. Click on the previous link to learn about Dr. Patricia Hill Collins and her amazing work on this subject.

Last week, I highlighted Dr. Haynes as the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D in Mathematics. For the next few posts in the STEM Fierceness series, I'll be highlighting women who are presently making strides in STEM fields. Remember, we make history EVERYDAY! Though most of us won't be featured in history books or on television, we can still make an impact in our communities,  and we can etch ourselves into the memories of those whose lives we inspire.

Hold on, there's lots of STEM fierceness headed your way! If you know someone who should be featured, hit me up! I'd love to feature them.

Until next fierce!

Monday, February 11, 2013

On Consuming Unlimited Amounts of Meat

This is what my breakfast and lunch looked like yesterday:

I was repentant. I was in serious need of a detox. I made breakfast for my hubby, but I could not stand to look at a piece of turkey bacon for myself this morning.

So my cousin invited me out to dinner at one of those Brazilian steakhouse places. You know, one of those places where the guys walk around with various cuts of meat on skewers and slice it onto your plate. I hadn't been to one in years. As a matter of fact, Saturday's dinner made the second time I'd been to one.  The first time I went with my hubby, and I had the salad bar. His plate looked yummy, but I just don't love meat all like that. Between the salad bar and the sangria, I was good.

It was Restaurant Week here in DC, so I convinced myself to indulge. I thought about only doing the salad bar, but I didn't want to be that girl. I've long had a love-hate relationship with meat. I was vegetarian for a while. I still go meatless quite often. I've even dabbled in veganism. I'm not a big meat eater, but I don't want to box myself in on some "Oh, I don't eat meat" type stuff and then get caught out there gnawing on a leg of lamb. So I prefer to think of my style of eating as veggie-heavy with some exceptions for red meat on occasion. I'm still working out that chicken part, but for now we eat mostly organic & free range. However, in my effort not to be that girl, I usually don't share all my picky food stuff with folks. I just tell it to anonymous people on blogs. Furthermore, I don't tell adults (unless you married me) what is best for them to consume.

So when I was sharing the yummy smoked goodness of last night with my girlfriends, one of them was all, "Let's go this week! Smoked meat is awesome!" Yeah, it's awesome, but an all-you-can-eat meat smorgasbord twice in one week?!?! Ma'am! She was all, "Roasted meat is good for you! It's compatible with your blood type."** Sorry. I cannot be convinced that a smorgasbord of unlimited steak and lamb is a wise and healthy choice for someone trying to stay on the healthy straight and narrow and keep their blood pressure under control without medication. All things in moderation, and the meat-on-the-stick spots are not meant for moderation.

With all of this in mind, I'd like to offer a few suggestions for managing yourself at dining establishments such as these:

1) Pace yourself. Embody the ways of the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race. Don't come out the gate with eyes bigger than your stomach. Know that the meat pushers will be by the table 897 times during your dinner, so just be cool.

2) Don't wear your get 'em girl jeans. Yeah. I was wearing my jeans that were fresh out the dryer, the ones that need the wiggle dance to fit. Y'all know about the wiggle dance you do to get into those things when they haven't been broken in. I'm glad I exercised some self control because that dinner had all the potential for some secret pants unbuttoning under the table. I wore a long shirt just in case, but didn't have to do it. 

3) Don't go there lying to yourself about managing your diet. As of late, I've been logging my food on When I really thought about where we were going, I stopped telling myself the lie that I was going to be able to track my food. I surrendered to the calories, and I was better for it. Just acknowledging that I was gonna fall off the wagon that night made it much easier to enjoy my food and the great group of women I was with.

4) Get into the vegetables at the salad bar. I started the night with a huge salad. I stayed away from all of the carbs, and there were lots of them. As I type this, I'm thinking maybe I wasn't as bad as I thought I was. I was very Atkins-esque last night - high protein and high produce (Can't remember where I read that little phrase, but I like it!). Also, be sure to try some fish while you're there. Honestly, the salmon rivaled the sirloin. . . to me anyway.

Keeping these tips in mind will make your visit more pleasurable. Upon re-reading this post, perhaps I should have given myself a better pep talk the other night. Experience is the best teacher. I'll bookmark this post for next time, which will be in the distant future.

Enough talk about meat. I've got bigger fish to fry (LOL - I know; that was so bad!!!).  I'm off to start the day. I'm meeting with Cindy the trainer, and then I'm reworking one of my dissertation chapters. So much fun I can't stand it. . . sigh.

Until next time. . . I'm pulling out my blender, some fruits and veggies, and some chia seeds!

Happy Monday!!!

** My girlfriend does the eating for your blood type diet, and it works for her. She looks awesome! We have the same blood type, and it is suggested that we consume decent amounts of red meat for optimum health. I just can't do it. I come from a long line of folks with extra high blood pressure, and a high-vegetable, low meat diet is best for me. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Trying to Get Like Jessica

So I overslept today. I'm behind on my writing schedule. I had to brave the cold to go to the grocery store because the fridge was on E. Yadda, yadda, yadda. As my dissertation chair says, "Girl, please. Those are gold-plated problems."

Someone on Instagram posted about being in charge of our own happiness, and so I got myself together. I said, "Self, today your joy will not be defeated by the little stuff." So I juiced, fixed breakfast for my hubs (I'm detoxing from one of those all-you-can-eat meat on a stick places - more on that later), turned on my gospel mix to let Kim and Kierra minister to me, and pushed through the morning.

I am about to write for the rest of the day, well at least until  Rick and the zombies (i.e., The Walking Dead) comes on tonight (Yaaassss!!!). I opened my computer and remembered that I watched this YouTube video yesterday.  How fitting for my day. I've decided that for the rest of the day, I'm going to try to get like Jessica.

Jessica reminded me of a few things: My whole house is great. I like everybody. I like my hair. I like my pajamas. I like my stuff. I like my whole house. I can do anything good! Out of the mouth of babes!

I missed church as I often do :(, but my main man, Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith is about to stream live from California. I'm feeling better since my detox. I just had a great dissertation idea. Yeah, I'm in control of my happiness. I can do anything good. Jessica said so. More importantly, God said so. 

Until next time....I'm off to go stand on my bathroom sink and be great like Jessica!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nope. We'll Never See Eye-to-Eye, Hubs!

Happy Friday!

I've shared some of the awesome and dorky things my hubby has hipped me to. Today I present a couple of things we'll never see eye-to-eye about.

Carvel Cake
Within the first couple of months of dating, Shawn and I spent his birthday together. I wanted to make it special, but we were just getting to know each other, so he had to help me with some ideas. He went on and on about his love for Carvel cakes. My only frame of reference when it came to ice cream cakes was Baskin Robbins, which I find awfully tasty. So, on the night of his birthday dinner, I presented his Carvel cake with the expectation of splurging and indulging. SO. NOT. THE. CASE!! I found Carvel cake to be disappointing for several reasons. I was left with a few questions, and I need answers!!!

  1. Where's the CAKE??? The ice cream cake was literally a big block of ice cream with some nasty little chocolate crumbles, which leads to my next question.
  2. What are those nasty little crumbles??? Are they meant to be "cake?" I'm not a big sweets eater, but when I fix my tastebuds for cake, I expect something of the bread/muffin variety. Those crunchy little crumbles, not so much. 
  3. Where is the quality ice cream??? I mean, maybe if the ice cream itself was rich and creamy, I could let the nasty little crumbles slide. I guess everybody can't be Blue Bell.
I bet East-Coast readers, especially one in particular, will take issue and vehemently disagree, and to him (and them) I say blog about Carvel cake's deliciousness on your own blog. Won't be happen 'round these parts. #teambluebell

The Eric Andre Show
Bless him, Lord. 
Mosey on over to the show's website and take a peek at some clips from the show. Do this and then come back. . .

Uh, yeah.

It's not that I don't like the show. I really don't get it. I think that may be the point of the show. . . maybe? In any case, Hubs feels the need to save them on the DVR and wait for me so we can watch several episodes back to back. Some of the scenes are funny, but as for the rest, I guess my funny bone just isn't as evolved as my husband's.

Because I'm Wife of the Year and I love my hubby, when the Eric Andre Show Live Tour came to DC, I couldn't miss the opportunity to take him to a show. What in the hell was I thinking?!? I survived it. I was mauled by the crowd, sprayed with a liquid that I pray was water, and I almost lost one of my favorite earrings, but I lived to tell the story. I think this picture my husband took during the show captured my overall feelings about it:
Note the almost-lost, hand-crafted earrings straight from the Motherland. I don't play about my accessories.

Let's just say there were cocktails consumed during and after the show. My nerves!!! Shout out to H Street Country Club for serving the BEST after-show Pimm's cup ever.  

Spiky Shoes
I am loving the spiky shoe trend. Hubs could absolutely do without it. The other night while winding down for the night, he walked in the room, and asked, "Where did you get those from?" with an air of contempt. Those is referring to these lovlies: 
Pardon my grainy photography
How could you not love them? I'm not necessarily a trendy girl. I tend to wear classic clothes and trendy, eclectic accessories, so these were a perfect addition to my shoe collection - comfy with just a touch of edge. He might as well get over his disdain, because these are here to stay! As a matter of fact, I see a pair of Sam Edelman pumps in my future as well. 

I like that we don't see eye-to-eye on everything. It keeps things interesting. One thing for sure we'll always see eye-eye about is our love for each other. Yeah, I took it to a mushy place. I just love him! 

Until next time. . . I'm off to watch the Eric Andre Show while eating Carvel cake (NOT). 

Make the most of your weekend! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

STEM Fierceness: Dr. Martha Euphemia Lofton Hayes

Happy Thursday!

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I will be doing a series of posts highlighting Black women and men in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Today, I'd like to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890-1980), the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics in the United States.
Go 'head Dr. Haynes! Picture and biographical information found here. 
Dr. Haynes earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics at Catholic University in Washington, DC in 1943. She taught in Washington, DC public schools at all grade levels for almost 50 years and was the first woman to chair the DC School Board. During her tenure as chair, she was vital to the integration movement.  In addition to this work, she was also a mathematics professor at Miners Teachers College, a normal school for Black teachers in Washington, DC. As a matter of fact, she founded the mathematics department. Dr. Haynes was not only displayed academic brilliance, but she was also a pillar of her community. She served in leadership positions in numerous community and national organizations. Dr. Haynes is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Check out her full biography and the biographies of other Black women Ph.D.s here

Dr. Haynes' bio just made me feel like a slacker. There's so much work to do!

Until next time. . . Do the math! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Being Black, Loving Mathematics, and Making History

First, a little mood music for this post. I present Mathematics by Mos Def for your listening pleasure:

Mathematics and race - two topics that probably seem unrelated on the surface, yet they are related in ways that often go unnoticed. Rhetoric regarding the achievement gap and underperforming Black students ultimately lead some to believe that Black children are, by virtue of being Black, inherently intellectually inferior. A few years ago, I started to notice articles and images in popular media spreading the absolutely false notion that Black people cannot achieve success in mathematics. I started keeping track of these images and articles, and I plan to use them in a course that I teach where we discuss contemporary issues in mathematics and science education. I hope that these pieces of media will serve as starting points for discussion, reflection, and, ultimately, change in mathematics classrooms. Below are a few of them.

My mouth hit the floor when I saw this cartoon:
Absolutely disgusting
And another ridiculous one: 
While not nearly as damaging as the others, Aaron McGruder, author of The Boondocks, even tackles the issue of Black students and their relationship with mathematics:
Yeah, we could boo each other, but this issue is FAR more complex.
When I arrived at graduate school, I thought that I was going to research ways to "close the gap" between Black students and their White and Asian counterparts. While eliminating existing test disparities is important, I now understand issues of race and academic achievement in new, complex ways - ways, that you'll hear about on this blog. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities to read the works of new and seasoned scholars like Asa Hilliard, Claude Steele, Prudence Carter, Christopher Emdin, Erica Walker, and Danny Martin

Through reading and studying scholars such as these, I've learned that it is not enough to push teachers and students to work hard to pass standardized exams. Earning passing scores on these assessments does not equate to attaining academic excellence. These tests are floors, not ceilings. In an effort to create more sustained solutions to remedying the miseducation of Black children, we as  stakeholders have to examine our underlying assumptions about Black students and their ability to do math. Furthermore, we have to look and the systems in place that continue to produce students who are not successful in mathematics or any subject area for that matter. 

During this month (and other months, of course) I'd like to use my voice to highlight Black excellence in mathematics (and science, too!). Black people have always had a place in the history of mathematics. From Africa to the present, and we are continuing making our mark! 

I love mathematics. I don't claim to be the best at it, nor do I claim to be a math wiz, but the challenge of it keeps me interested and engaged and keeps me signing up for courses on that I really don't have the time to take. Loving mathematics and being Black have never been in opposition to each other in my mind. I, like many of my friends, have had lots of success in mathematics and have grown to love the content. My love for the subject deepened as I attended Florida A&M University. Our professors made sure that we never saw being excellent in mathematics and being Black as mutually exclusive. There's just something that is powerful in the air when everyone in your Differential Equations class looks just like you. I hope that in my years of teaching high school math, I passed a little bit of this love and pride along to my students. 

So I will use this space and my voice to highlight Black women and men who have made impressive strides in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. I'm even going to highlight some of my favorite Black folks that make mathematics history every day - in classrooms, at universities, and in professional fields. I mean, Quintessa was important, but I've gotta let some other folks have some shine.

Until next time...Do the math and go make history!