Sunday, September 6, 2009

Black Feminist of the Week: All Hail the Duchess...Dr. Duchess Harris That Is

It was about a year ago that I began hearing the name Duchess Harris. I know, your probably thinking "Honey, you are soooo late!", and, well, yes I am. However, I am so excited that I perused through Melissa Harris Lacewell's Twitter page to look at her followers .  It was then that I became instantly amazed at the page of a PHENOMENAL WOMAN by the name of Dr. Duchess Harris. I instantly put the name that I had been hearing and the face together. This led me to search for her on FACEBOOK, and then led me to her personal webpage  So, I am here today asserting that she be recognized as the feminist that she is.
According to Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins, being a Black feminist requires that one believes that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together, and according to this definition Dr. Harris epitomizes Black feminism.  In fact, by simply glancing at her accomplishments one can find this to be true instantly. Currently, Dr. Harris is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, and is also a J.D. Candidate at the William Mitchell College of Law (As if it is not difficult enough to get a PhD!!!! She makes my excuses seem extremely lame!) In July, Dr. Harris was featured in Essence magazine to explain "How She Does It".  In addition, Dr. Harris has recently released two, can you say 1...2..., books in the last two months.  Her first book entitled Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton was released in August 2009.***Stay Tuned For My Review/Praise of this Book***

The second book, which she co-edited entitled Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity was just released in September 2009. Did I mention that Dr. Harris has three children (one who is surviving with autism), and a husband? So, as you can see this sister is Black feminism. But, these are simply the things that she is busy doing today. All made possible by academic consciousness-raising, which started early.

According to her biography, as a college student, Harris became the first Black woman to lead a Ivy League student government at the University of Pennsylvania.   Harris states on her web-page:
My experience of being the first Black woman to lead a student government in the Ivy League, while simultaneously being mentored by Mary Frances Berry, inspired me to wonder how the stories of Black women's activism are told.
This early leadership and mentoring led Dr. Harris to later pursue a PhD in American Studies, and write her dissertation on "Black women’s organizing in response to Black Power and the Second Wave of Feminism" at the University of Minnesota; be featured in Ebony Magazine's Thirty Young Leaders of the Future, and eventually join the faculty of Macalester College as a Assistant Professor.  Fortunately, the walls of the "ivory tower" hardly stop Dr. Harris from professing to any audience in any setting, especially since she "can find a classroom on any street corner".  She is a true public intellectual. Dr. Harris travels anywhere from Selma, Alabama to Capetown, South Africa successfully sharing and gaining knowledge.
On of the most fabulous things about this Black feminist, scholar, traveler, and mother is that she finds time to update her fans, friends, and foes on Facebook and Twitter about what she learns, and has to teach. She keeps it real and savvy.   Dr. Duchess "Miriam" Harris, you are great inspiration as well as an intellectual gem that is cherished by me, and so many others. Please keep up the wonderful work and thank you.
*Photos and information are from
For more information on Dr. Duchess Harris please go to or

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Black Feminist of the Week: Alexis Pauline Gumbs

So, in an attempt to rid of the notion that there is no such thing as Black feminism (because some people actually believe this), rid of the idea that Black feminism is somehow outdated, and to pinpoint Black feminists that are out there working diligently in the world to dismantle hegemonic systems of power other than those who have been identified redundantly, I will each week feature a Black feminist of the week (well, of my week at least).
My motivation comes from a willingness to teach myself what those in academic classrooms often do not. So, I will start with a young womyn who's blog I have been reading for quite sometime, but only recently put a face with a name by doing more research. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, aka Lex, is a true inspiration to me, and from the posts on her myriad of blogs, is also an inspiration to others. It is her question about a week ago that really motivated me to start this small segment. Outside of her many blogsites (, started a traveling workshop entitled "MobileHomeComing", which is "an immersive intergenerational community documentation and education project based on her lust for the black queer community!". Lex also manages to place educational media and reading material on her site to enrich the minds of her readers. She consistently features historical information on writers like Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, and the list goes on.
Alexis is everything and more that a inspiration should be. In addition to her activism, traveling, and rhetorical consciousness-raising, Lex is currently pursuing a PhD in English at Duke University, and writes specifically on the survival of Queer feminism. She deserves to be recognized and is a fantastic pick for the first Black feminist in this series. Thank you Alexis Pauline Gumbs for keeping the movement alive and for structuring new ways to engage in feminist consciousness-raising.
For more on Alexis Pauline Gumbs please visit
Click on the link below to watch some of her work:

Black Feminist Writing A Self-Declaration of Existence

Yesterday I wrote a note to myself while reading over my completed thesis. The note reads as follows: "My ability to write is connected to my ability to be free from the opinions of others. Once I do things to satisfy me, I can then begin to write freely and satisfactorily in a manner that will one day free others." I mean look at the last time I posted anything on this blog, it has been exactly three months! But, I claim I love to write? Well, I do, but something has been holding me back. Something has made me fearful. Something has caused me to feel as if I were lying to myself or that somehow what I wrote was inauthentic. A week ago I was called a "fake feminist" by a person very dear to me, and while I beg to differ, I also know that I often fail to live the life I portray. I mean, how can I when I am running away from my discontents? So, I am courageously re-declaring myself FEMINIST! Not for the worlds validation, but for my own.
Now, back to the issue at hand. I HAVE FINISHED MY THESIS! I have written a body of work that can perhaps one day be published, that will one day inspire another young Black girl, female to elaborate and know that she can do it too! I have written myself into existence, I mean I was already living, but now I exist as a Black, feminist, LGBT advocate, activist, WOMYN, speaking because no one bothered to speak to me!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Black Feminist Writing A Self-New Love...Literary That Is

So, I have been thinking....I'm in love with narratives of black lesbian women! Yep, I said it...I'm not one and I should not even have had to say it, but I think this is why it makes it so interesting to know that I love their coming of age stories...and noting the similarities, while the world is stuck on the differences. This past week in class we "attempted" to read Judith Butler and I thought about the blurring of the lines of divisive sexualities. But, at the same time I think their is something wonderful in writing about their struggles and their success in dealing with it. Gosh, I thought life as a young, black, woman was hard, but can you imagine being young, black, lesbian, and a woman?

I am saying all this to say that the autobiographical narratives of contemporary black, feminist, lesbians is a new direction that I would like to take my writing in. While I am still going to focus on Audre Lorde and bell hooks...I am going to show how the writing of more contemporary black feminist memoirists like Staceyann Chin are shaped by later writers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black Feminist Writing A Self-Food For Thought

Apparently, there will be days that I choose not to work on my thesis...this is one of those days. But, I do realize that I think about additions to my writing and possible ideas for my writing everyday. Today, a quote from Audre Lorde's essay "Eye to Eye" made me think about why I chose to write my thesis and an additional direction to take my thesis in. The quote is as follows: "Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself."(Lorde, Sister Outsider) The reasoning behind my thesis was to initially intrigue women to find a common ground and a sense of harmony in the writing that led me to my declaration of feminism. When I first read many of the words of bell hooks I realized that we had a lot in common. For example, her mother was very distant mentally from her as a child and my mother was distant physically. Initially, this distance leads to the same feelings of sadness and solitude. While bell hooks learned early to find comfort in her writing and no longer seemed to feel alone, I only recently became familiar with the cathartic abilities of writing. By writing I would really love to get to the point where I find solace in my solitude. I would like to feel comforted and warm when I am alone because I able to think and write, and just be me. I realize that this is a point I wish to reach so that nothing "I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me" like my loneliness. See I was sad when I was lonely, and that was in a way diminishing all that I was or I am to become because one never knows who they truly are unless they can be that way when they are alone. I realize that their are black girls and black women everywhere who yearn to find a common place to go where people do not judge them. I found this place within the narratives of the lives of Audre Lorde and bell hooks. Their writing for me is the chisel that reminds me of our sameness.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Black Feminist Writing A Self-Can Mental and Physical Enlightenment Help You Write?

The answer is YES! So, after reading Lisa's blog-post I couldn't help but smile continuously because of the similarities in our process. In fact, a few weeks ago I suggested to myself and others that on May 4th I would begin walking, eating healthier (which might be a stretch because I'm a veggie anyway), and enlightening my mind in a spiritual manner through mindful meditation. Writing is a process, which is holistic. It seems impossible to fully delve into the writing process without actually being mentally and physically fit. Besides, my whole topic focuses on the use of autobiography as a consciousness raising and rhetorical tool. Consciousness means politically, socially, economically, psychically, and mentally being aware of ones surroundings, the oppressions that lurk within them, and one's own position in those surroundings. I believe that once my life is filled with healthy choices, it is only then that I can dare speak to others about being conscientious. But, because I must write now as a requirement for a degree I must do these things simultaneously. Essentially, my own enlightenment is more important and urgent than completing a third degree, but I love to write so they go hand in hand.

My goal is to ultimately feel healthy and mentally wealthy like the phenomenal Alice Walker who shares that for her writing, talking, and sharing her words were at one time a struggle, but there was a point when she felt that "talking in this way-and seeing by their faces and responses that I was getting through-seemed entirely miraculous . As miraculous as writing." I continuously think about the writing of Alice Walker, bell hooks, and Audre Lorde when I write not only because I am writing about them, but also because they were once where I am..feeling the same feeling. They have inspired women like me, just as I hope to do for other women. I am reminded that they strive for enlightenment pretty much everyday because our growth is never ending. This is why my goal is to treat this writing process as a cathartic tool that will help me while simultaneously helping others.


"When life descends from the pit/I must become my own candle/Willingly burning myself/To light up the darkness/ Around me. -Alice Walker

Monday, April 27, 2009

Black Feminist Writing A Self-Dealing with Perplexity

I was told by my mentor Heather Neff that writing is a state of mind. You get into a mode and you just write. I was also told by a friend, Evita that it is when we find solace in solitude that we write and think the best. This is fine except for the fact that when I read and write the ideas come at a speed of like 100 miles per hour. That being said, I do have 10 pages and must add at least five more to do this first chapter justice. I have not even covered the historical background of black women writing autobiography. The goal is to finish the chapter by December 2009, but at this rate I will be done some time in August 2010...not acceptable. So, today...I will add the historical background to what I have thus far. For, without this history there would be no autobiography...and no such thing as black feminism because there would be no narrative of such a movement. In this background I plan to learn something new and share something new the next time I write to you. I am sure my research today will foster enlightenment in some way, shape or form. I plan to transgress just a little by the time darkness falls. Wish me luck;0

"Words invite us to transgress-to move beyond the world of the ordinary." (bell hooks)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Black Feminist Writing A Self-Introduction

So, I have decided to document my thesis writing process. Hopefully, it will make it much easier and make me a better writer. My thesis is an attempt to show how the autobiographical writings of bell hooks and Audre Lorde can be utilized as a form of consciousness raising rhetoric for black women. There are so many parts and I actually completed a tentative first chapter on the general politics of autobiographical writing, and how hooks and Lorde fit in or, well, don't.

I chose to write on this topic because the autobiographical writings of bell hooks was how I actually got into the whole feminism thing. Her story or stories has helped me attempt to deal with some of the things in my own life, like being bullied as a child, teenager, and semi-adult. My final hope for the entire thesis is to ultimately heal the wounds and mend some of the voids, which exist in my life by dissecting the writings of hooks and Lorde; while also creating a rhetoric that other black women and women of color in general can use to do the same. Wish me luck and here I go.

Audre told me my silence would not protect me, so I have chosen to speak.;)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wearing My Race On My Sleeve

I would like to officially say that I wish there were black-owned cafes or coffee-shops in my area, which is Northwest Detroit. This is simply because I would love to hang there all day and just write, breathe, and then write again. I would also love if my dollars went towards the upliftment of my own community. Unfortunately, there are none so I am forced to go to places in Royal Oak, Allen Park, and Hamtramck to do what I do best. This is unfortunate for two is too far and I feel that I simply do not belong. Maybe I wouldn't need a black-owned cafe if people were more open to diversity. What is an utopia to some is a place of torture for others. Quite frankly, you can not be creative when hate and misunderstanding are lurking in the air.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chillin' on a SUN-day Afternoon....Freestyle, but not a rap

I am cool. No really, I am cool with where I am in my life. I am very contemplative at this time, but that is natural. I believe it is not natural to be content with everything in your life because if you are than there is never room for improvement and we can all improve in some fashion. I am writing this because I know that there are other things I should be doing, but I am not. And, I am cool with that. What I am not satisfied with is the world surrounding me. For example, the homeless guy who limped past me as I perused through my Facebook page. The look on his face could exemplify an entire book filled with his life. The dirt, the tireless nights, filled with chills that no one seems to recognize, but me, which doesn't matter if I don't plan on helping him. But, how can I help without giving him a home or food or warmth. He doesn't want that. He wants to be free from the dirt, the tirelessness; the cold looks that he gets from people who are a reflection of you and I. Stop starring-he wants YOU to stop starring and give him peace of mind, which he lost when he was at war for YOU. Wow-ok-that was a tangent, but whatever. While you are probably wondering what I am thinking and/ or talking about he is still limping down the street looking for something to make him feel cool with where he is in life, but naturally contemplative. He isn't because WE keep passing him by. On our glorified SUN-days.

See...I Smile Sometimes!

See...I Smile Sometimes!