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The Threads

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Weaving Together

The #NotYourMammyStudy might be my dissertation project - the culminating work of completing the Ph.D. - but it is also an exercise in community and feminist solidarity.  I connected with 27 other co-conspirators, dancers intellectuals, creatives, mothers, healing fighters, and curious dreamers. Including myself, 28 Black women in total participated in the #NotYourMammyStudy. This project is a weaving of all of our threads that bind us together in a most beautiful tapestry of possibility.

As I moved into the writing of this dissertation. I remained committed to honoring our shared vulnerabilities, staunch refusal when it comes to the exploitation of our labor, the murkiness of not knowing when to speak up or stay silent, and the in-between "aha" moments that help us each get to the finish line. Here are some of the common threads that feel the most vibrant.

Sistren in the Struggle

Over the course of two months, I interviewed 28 women and femmes who identify as Black women pursuing a terminal degree in American academia. All participants, including myself, attended or recently graduated from a White Serving Institution (WSI) in the United States of America.

Of this sample, 8 crossed the graduation stage and became doctors by the end of June 2022  🎉🍾💃🏾✨👩🏾‍🎓!

This visual illustrates participant's field of study - ranging from my own discipline of education to the arts.

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Common Threads

3. Developing boundaries, and protecting them, continues to be a major theme in navigating White Serving Institutions (WSIs) - not only as a protective measure but also an avenue for relearning who we are outside of our programs. 4. 100% of participants described a commitment to lifting as they climb - whether that meant widening possibilities for their children, siblings, neighborhood communities, or other Black women looking to cross the graduate stage.

We know that there is no monolith when it comes to the rich community of Black women and non-binary folks. We each experience our Blackness, gender, sexuality, faith, bodies, intimacies, and culture(s) differently. While our socio-political identities as Black women and non-binary people link us, our struggles in American academia as terminal graduate students will always be complicated by the nuances of what it means to traverse this journey in our respective bodies. Here are some interesting shared elements that complicate yet bind our experiences:

1. 75% of participants self-identified as first generation students. They'll be the first in their families to earn an advanced degree. 2. 25% of participants named the importance of previously attending Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Women's Colleges, and/or programs like Mellon Mays to help in preparing them for the overwhelming Whiteness of the academy.

Soundtrack to the

No matter where our journeys began or ended, and the stops along the way - each of my sistren in this project refused the role of the department mammy in one way, shape, or form. For some of us, this refusal was immediate - as axiomatic as breathing - while others, like me, needed time to grow and sharpen their voice so that no became a complete sentence. Throughout this ongoing journey, music and art sustains us. Sometimes it's a f*ck you anthem, a reminder of a higher power, a Megan Thee Stallion-knees type of dance, or a melody that keeps us moving forward. Here are the songs that make up the soundtrack to this season of joy, healing, and being present in our respective lives - curated by participants in the #NotYourMammyStudy

Talk Back Hangouts

Talk back sessions are virtual hangouts hosted on the private #NotYourMammy Discord server. These one (1) hour hangouts are inspired by bell hook's Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black - as a figurative space to talk back to the web of misogynoir that permeates our education journeys as siblings in the struggle.


Throughout the months of July - August I hosted 6 hangouts to help "define and determine alternative standards, to decide on the nature and extent of compromise" as we each worked towards crossing the graduation stage and refusing the assumption that we'll be our departments' mammies in the process (hooks, 1989, p. 80).

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