Black Girl, Grad School

an amalgamation of personal politics, and my life as a Ph.D. candidate

“Freedom Is Still More Expansive Than Civil Rights”

Posted on 2018-04-30

This past week, I was given the opportunity to present at the 19th Annual SALISES conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The theme of the conference was “Sustainable Futures for the Caribbean: Critical Interventions and the 2030 Agenda.” I learned a great deal from that conference and was able to see a lot of great presentations and take-in a lot of knowledge from those presentations…

However, that is not what this blog post is about.

That information simply sets the stage for my leisure reading that I was able to do on my way to Jamaica and whilst in Jamaica. I decided to take the book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angel Y. Davis with a foreword by Cornel West with me and it was a really good addition to my trip.

The book spoke to the violence of austerity, prison as part of an industrial complex rooted in slavery and capitalism, anti colonial struggles which are happening in various parts of the world, and transnational solidarity along with the importance of making the links/connections of our local struggles with global ones. In all the book made a statement about the power in protest and in collectivising— in a world where neoliberal ideology teaches us to value individualism— which still matters for systemic change.

The book also raises an important set of questions. Namely, “[h]ow do we respond collectively to the militarization of our societies? What role can Black feminism play in this process? What does being a prison abolitionist means in concrete terms today?” (sic) (xiii).

In the opening interview by Frank Barat, the dangers of individualism are spelled out—not only as promoting capitalism, but also as minimising history and the work of ALL of our ancestors to historic individual stories. It is noted that “it is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognise their potential agency as part of an ever-expanding community of struggle” (2).

I think that this is important to remember as someone continues on to read the book,so that they can make the broader connections of the themes. There are a few themes in the book which stood out to me, that I would like to potentially engage with others on. This can be done in the comments or in person. To save time on this post however, I will share some general thoughts and ideas that I had whilst reading the book—which should collectively be on all of our 2030 agendas.

1: We need to, in these United States of America, recognize that our tax dollars fund imperialism, thus genocide, abroad. We need to not only acknowledge this, but take responsibility for this—in terms of who we elect and whether or not they will continue to fuel a military industrial complex which are hurting those in the Arab world in the Middle East and in Africa.

SETTLER COLONIALISM AND APARTHEID IS HAPPENING IN PALESTINE BECAUSE THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED KINGDOM FUNDS IT THROUGH ISRAEL.

2: Academic institutions within the United States of America, MUST do more for advocating issues regarding social justice—in the US and abroad. They advocated against an apartheid South Africa and they must do so again for Palestinian, Black, and Indigenous struggles.

3: Thanks to the Occupy Movement, we can now openly critique capitalism. We must not think of the Occupy Movement as done, just because people aren’t visible with tents.

4: What does the world’s largest private corporations say about us? (Walmart, Foxconn, and G4S)

5: We need more action— not conversations on race— however, we also need to learn how to talk about race, in order to have meaningful action.

6: We can learn from feminism— in terms of methodologies. We can learn from trans-feminism’s which would allow us to be flexible precisely because “we have to learn how to think and act and struggle against that which is ideologically constituted as “normal”” (100).

I think that we have gotten this wrong many times, which is why we are still in struggles which have started long ago.Trans-feminism teaches us that “the process of trying to assimilate into an existing category in many ways runs counter to efforts to produce radical or revolutionary results” (101).

7: In regards to feminism which shows that the “personal is political,” we must acknowledge and recognize that “[t]he imprisoned population could not have grown to almost 2.5 million people in this country [USA] without our implicit assent” (106). If we protested under the Reagan-Bush era and the Clinton era— we would not be dealing with a prison crisis.

8: We all— not just white people— have to unlearn racism. People of colour unlearn that racism is an individual act that can be dealt with via sensitivity training (cough, Starbucks 2018). “No amount of psychology therapy or group training can effectively address racism in this country, unless we also begin to dismantle the structures of racism” (107).

9: Protest matters.

10: Do not let narrow individualism overwhelm you because ‘when x happens you’ll be dead’ — if our ancestors gave up, where would we be? This is why i also think these points matter for a 2030 agenda. The future generations should always start at a different (more progressive) point in the struggle (freedom is a constant struggle).

11: Freedom is more expansive than civil rights (Black Panther Ten Point Programme highlights what freedom would look like. If Civil Rights guaranteed freedom, we would still not be engaged in the same struggles)

12: Education has been so commodified, that “the very process of acquiring knowledge…is subordinated to the future capacity to make money” (120).

13: We must expand the sole emphasis on the working class to also focus on the poor— as distinct— in our critiques of capitalism.

14: We must incorporate, into our stories of Black struggle, LGBTQ struggles, Islamophobia, Immigrant Rights, and Transformative Action—because they are all related and interconnected.

“Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (127).

15: Genocide, as per the Genocide convention at the U.N. still happens within the U.S. against Indigenous (Native) and Black communities.

16: Why is a foreign government (Israel) aiding in the training of policing U.S. citizens? Is the Israeli police mandate to “protect and serve?” If not, is their training of our police warranted? Especially when that training has helped the militarization of U.S. police forces.

17: How is it, that we have allowed corporations to make connections between education, health care, security and prisons to increase their profits— before we have made these connections within our own struggles? (e.g. G4S has a hand in all of this)

The last sentence within the book reads: “We cannot be moderate. We will have to be willing to stand up and say no with our combined spirits, our collective intellects, and our many bodies” (145).

RECOMMENDED BOOKS IN THE BOOK:

W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America

Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It

Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, but Some of us are Brave

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

Beth Richie, Arrested Justice: Black Woman, Violence and America’s Prison Nation

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Eric Stanley and Nat Smith, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock, and Joey Mogul, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States

Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of the Law

Tennessee Fails to Condemn Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right…because to do so would be “Divisive”

Posted on 2018-03-16

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but presently, we live in a world where morality and ethics are increasingly seen as solely relative. This has allowed pleas for morality when it comes to our interactions with each other to simply be ‘liberal buzzwords’ and ‘emotional pleas,’ from those who fight for human rights and legislative decency and/or justice. No longer is this a debate amongst philosophers, but apparently, the debate has ended.

This is troubling.

I cannot think of any instance, where the persecution of someone based on race, for instance, is morally ‘relative’ versus ‘universal.’ Can you?

In this climate, to question the morality of a white supremacist is considered ‘bashing.’ Therefore, it is implied that we must take a neutral stance when interacting with their beliefs, because condemning it is simply a ‘disagreement,’ which implies that there is something to their beliefs which is valid or not wrong (because nothing can be ‘wrong’).

This neutral tendency for white supremacist beliefs also plagues the “ivory tower.” Not just amongst students and administrators who hold these beliefs, but also by  professors aiming to ‘not offend’ in their classes. This undoubtedly helps with the legitimization of these despicable views—which are inherently immoral, abhorrent, and disgraceful—as simply ‘self-expression(s).’

On February 28th, as I sat in my grad course, my professor aimed to defend the indefensible—not because he “agrees with it,” but to not just “throw [an author’s] argument away.” The conversation went like this, verbatim:

Prof: it doesn’t take into account whether the alt-right is wrong or not—

Me: that’s not even a question of whether I think it’s wrong or not, it’s literally a “self-expression” which has structural and institutional implications as to whether or not some people should live or be discarded from societies

And if you’re wondering, then yes: class discussions in grad school are actually like this.


So, why  did I just give you this long tangent before I getting into the topic of discussion for this blog post?

Simple. First, I want you to know my stance on the issue up-front; and Second, because those in the house who commented after not putting the notion up to vote, tried to make a ‘relative’ argument.

Here’s what happened:

On Wednesday March 14, 2018 Tennessee legislators declined to vote on a resolution (House Joint Resolution 583) that would denounce White Nationalism, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the Alt-Right within their state. Because they declined to vote on the resolution, it did not even need to be discussed on the floor of the House Subcommittee.

The resolution was proposed by Representative Jon Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) last year in August 2017 after the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville, VA (Unite the Right), which killed one anti-racist protestor and injured several others (after a white supremacist drove his car into the anti-racist protestors). Shelbyville,TN was also the October 2017 site of the second largest “White Lives Matter” rally. During this time, Rep Bill Haslman (R-Knoxville) denounced the rally , stating that those who participated were “not welcome in Tennessee” and he denounced the White Supremacist Movement.

 

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[Image: https://medium.com/@NagasakiOsada/347-white-lives-matter-rally-in-shelbyville-tennessee-should-i-attend-3286ee23e7cb]

Clemmons proposal aimed to recognize, via the courts and police, White Supremacist groups as domestic terrorists. Stating that these ideologies “remain very real threats to social and racial progress.” Ideally, he wanted his state to market clear that they were anti the actions of White Supremacists.

Why This Matters

The bill could not have presented itself at such an opportune time. On Sunday, March 12, 2018, Identity Evropa (IE), a Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist organization, held its first national conference—“Leading Our People Forward 2018”—in Nashville, TN. During the conference, they displayed a large banner which read “European Roots, American Greatness” in front of the Parthenon in Nashville. This symbolism is not to be mistaken.

[Image: https://twitter.com/IdentityEvropa/status/972897038483492864]

The goal of the conference was in line with its ideology that “advocates for the preservation of Western (read: white) culture.” Part of this pursuit is to help get themselves closer to “a white ethnostate [that] opposes multiculturalism.” IE is inspired by the European identitarian movement. Its speakers included older members of the alt-right “American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor and former Ku Klux Klan lawyer Sam Dickson, both of whom are members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the white nationalist hate group that inspired Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Taylor praised IE members for as being “smart, committed, sensible, and impressive in every way.””

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[Image: https://twitter.com/IdentityEvropa/status/974042862890471425]

The question remains: given Tennessee’s current—and past—situation with these abhorrent groups, why did this bill not get passed or even make it to discussion?

The Blame Game— cue, Relativism

House Joint Resolution 583 which condemned white-hate groups was rejected without any explanation because, according to some Tennessee Republicans, “the resolution was a trap, written to embarrass them.”

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^That was my face too when this reasoning came out. How is a resolution that condemns White-Supremacy, ‘embarrassing’?? Apparently, one lawmaker thought that using the term ‘terrorist’ for White-Supremacist organizations and group identities was “vague and designed to be divisive.”

The Resolution in Full Context

In its full context, the resolution stated that it wanted to:

urge law enforcement to recognize these white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist organizations and to pursue the criminal elements of these domestic terrorist organizations in the same manner and with the same fervor used to protect the United States from other manifestations of terrorism.

The reasoning behind the language, according to the resolution, was because present-day manifestations of the alt-right conjure painful memories of our nation’s past.” This painful past, according to the resolution saw White Nationalism and Neo-Nazism as menaces to societal order that seek to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide the nation, and foment hatred, classism, anti-Semitism, and ethnic eradication.” 

Does the Language in the Resolution go too Far?

The answer is no.

The resolution is very straight forward and factual. In literally uses the past history of the U.S. as the impetus for legislative improvement in Tennessee. We are not that removed from knowing that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), was a domestic race-based terrorist organization.

Due to the massive amount of attention that the rejected resolution received, Tennessee Lawmakers—that are overwhelmingly Republican—now want it to be filed for a second motion. Because ‘of course’ they agree that White Supremacism is ‘bad.’

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I don’t know what if I believe that, but I am interested in seeing what happens next.

PlannerCon 2018, San Francisco Weekend: Day 3

Posted on 2018-03-05

Sunday, March 4

On Sunday, I got a lot of sightseeing done!

…Yes, I did skip out on my workshop session #4: Digital Tricks and Planning –because I questioned the type of practical advice I would be given. It also did not help that this workshop leader gave a speech on Saturday afternoon, and again on Sunday morning.  I was getting an overload from him it seemed. I did support his non-profit for Foster Youth– called Evolve U– on Friday night, and had a nice conversation with one of the Foster Youth.

I also stayed for Sunday’s opening by Louise and got to hear Nicole Rixon from Sweet Stamp Shop speak. Her talk was amazing! She emphasized mentorship and reaching out to others to achieve/seek guidance for your dreams. She KEPT IT REAL, and it made me fall in love with her story and how she got to where she is today.

On Saturday evening, I visited the concierge desk and spoke to a woman named Lai Lei Soo, for information on navigating the downtown San Francisco area. Her advice and suggestions were excellent, which made skipping out on Sunday that much easier. ( In fact, after I’m finish with this blog post, I am going to let Tripadvisor readers know that the concierge desk at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport is very informative (this isn’t sponsored or forced)

Per the concierge’s advice, we (soloyolo buddy and I) took a free Hyatt Shuttle to the SFO airport, then got on a Bart towards Powell St. in order to get access to Downtown San Francisco’s Cable Cars.

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We took the cable car all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had lunch.

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From Fisherman’s Wharf, we took a muni (bus) to Japan Town to check out stationery stores and other cute supplies and accessories.

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We then went to Starbucks before heading back to catch a ‘muni’ (this literally means ‘bus’ in San Fran) all the way to Powell St., to catch the BART back to SFO airport for our hotel shuttle.

We got back to the hotel around 8PM and it was a day well spent!

I honesty love San Francisco and it is now definitely one of my favorite cities.

Because Sunday was the last night of PlannerCon, upon arrival at the hotel my buddy and I said our farewells. We both had morning flights, but at different times.

After saying our farewells, my #soloyolobuddy admitted to me that when I asked her about her age in the text message before we got to San Francisco, she thought: “that’s it, I won’t hear back from her again.” So she was shocked when I did respond back and followed up with her.

I was shocked by this admission, since we had an amazing time at #plannercon2018 and in exploring #SanFrancisco. She was also very smart and knowledgeable, so why would I not want to hang out with her because of her age?

After she told me this, I remembered a #quote that I shared two years ago that said:

Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow…” –Unknown

And that, is why it is important to connect with others, regardless of any of these trivial things.

Today during the Plannercon introduction, a Nicole Rixon of @sweetstampshop said to “be your #authenticself, which means to just be you”—and “don’t get being you mean bashing and portraying hate and negativity onto others,” or simply judgements.

Thus, if you are portraying judgements—I do think that it would be hard for you to be able to connect with someone outside of the aforementioned characteristics that you choose to limit your networks to. And connecting with others who are also positive and true to themselves in ways that does not hurt others, is exactly why myself and my soloyolo buddy were able to have such an amazing time.

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Sincerely, Tawm + #soloyolobuddy

[FYI: If you see yourself in any of these photos and would like to be blurred out, please contact me using the contact form on the blog, or send me an Instagram or Facebook dm. Thank you]

PlannerCon 2018, San Francisco Weekend: Day 2

Posted on 2018-03-05

Saturday, March 3

Because I have a habit of sleeping early and waking up late, I woke up at 5:11AM on Saturday morning Pacific Standard Time (PST)— whomp. I had to get up early anyway to visit the Hotel’s gift shop, because on Friday night I realized that I didn’t pack my toothpaste. I preface Saturday with this to tell you: never forget your toothpaste! $6.99 for a travel toothpaste is ridiculous! 

Anyway, Saturday was officially the first day of PlannerCon. I woke up early and met my #soloyolo buddy downstairs at 7:30AM in the hotel for breakfast— which was amazing! Candied pecan pancakes and eggs at 3SIXTY:

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We then went to PC2018 kickoff at 9AM, with an introduction of the speakers given by Louise.

The first speaker was Kristy Dickerson of START Planner. Her talk was absolutely amazing! Hands down, she was the most inspiring speaker on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, all of the talks were interesting, personal, and motivational—but Kristy’s was very inspirational on top of all of the other things. Right after her talk, I knew I had to meet her and get her book. Not only did she tell a personal and interesting story to motivate you, but her advice was really practical and applicable to me—which was why it was an inspiration.

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She opened up by asking: when will you quit?

This question at first seems odd, but she followed it by stating a simple fact: we quit a lot. We quit a lot on our dreams, goals, etc. And we need to be clear with ourselves about what our dreams are. How are we defining success within our dreams? Ultimately, success must be defined for ourselves, then we can begin to narrow down what our dreams are about to be balanced. Then the question of quitting isn’t ‘when it will happen,’ but ‘when it will not happen.’ The answer is when we create balance and focus on managing our time to be the most efficient. In this part, what really resonated with me was how to be efficient.

When I think about the dreams of mine that I have given up on, me quitting has usually been because they seemed too difficult or too far out of reach. I don’t have the time, money, networks, etc. But to be efficient with your time and to make your dreams manageable, Kristy said: outsource everything else.  We all have a pretty clear idea of our strengths and weaknesses, but our weaknesses can be outsourced. I think that one of the reasons that my #leftyplanner now exists for my own personal use, is because I unknowingly was doing this for the first time. Kristy saying it was not only an affirmation, but it made sense 100%.

I outsourced my blog header by DM’ing and emailing someone’s whose artwork I liked on Instagram. I outsourced the portions on InDesign of my planner that were too complicated for me to do. And look at them now.

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I won’t continue going through all of the speakers like this, but I did want to share Kristy’s advice, because it can probably help someone else who is currently stuck at their dream. DO NOT QUIT IT!

After Kristy, Kevin Crowell—CEO of Simple Stories and Carpe Diem—spoke about him and his family’s story, and how they got into the world of planning. Afterwards, everyone went off to the first workshops of PlannerCon. I did not sign up for a workshop in session #1, so I just went to my room to relax for a bit, and then went back down after the first workshops ended.

In the main ballroom, before session #2 began, we got to hear from a panel which included Kayla Banda of Oh Hello Co., Angel Elizabeth of Pen Gems, Irene Kwong of Simply Glided, and Melissa Dunfer of Posh Pieces. The discussant—as we would say at an academic conference—was Alex Banda, Kayla’s Husband, of Oh Hello Co. They all gave their stories about what they were doing before they started their businesses, whether or not and from whom did they get support from, and what they love about the planner community.

Everything that they noted about the planner community is true, and I really witnessed it this weekend in the most profound way—via my #soloyolo buddy and others that I met having been friends on Instagram for literally less than a week! The planner community is:

  1. “Fellowship and a really community” – M. Dunfer
  2. “Encouraging. You get encouragement from the people that you meet…reached out to those within the community first starting and they were responsive” – I. Kwong
  3. “Non-judging, yet FULL of difference…made some of [her] best friends” – A. Elizabeth
  4. “So much deeper than just planners—people are supportive. Everyone is trying to be their own boss and no one is doing mean business.” – K. Banda

This understanding of the planner community was consistent throughout the entire weekend. At the end, the aforementioned panel also gave advice to those wanting to start:

  1. “Find a mentor for feedback and for advice. ASK. It never hurts and it’s hard to find a mentor” – M. Dunfer
  2. LISTEN to your heart and find your voice and let it be your own unique voice. Tap into your creative voice” – I. Kwong
  3. KEEP GOING. Especially because this is a very social media run world, don’t be deterred. Keep pushing forward. Keep going.” – A. Elizabeth
  4. “Know that it is important to say YES alot. You never know who is going to become that mentor to help you get to the next level. And it may not just be those within the planner world.” – K. Banda

Workshop session #2 then started. I took the Beginning Lettering class with SAKURA, which lasted a little more than the 90-minute advertised time, but I absolutely loved it! After just one lettering class, I was able to write and decorate my name like this! Admittedly, this got me excited for my other classes since it was amazing, but all the other workshops after this one, were a let-down.

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After the second session of workshops ended, the 2018 PlannerCon parties were announced. 2019 PlannerCon was confirmed as the last one which will be had in San Francisco at the Hyatt. They will be moving to a bigger space for future PlannerCons due to the amount of people who would like to come, but tickets are sold out quickly. Although I did not write down the exact dates—they should be available on PlannerCons facebook however—here are the upcoming meetings location:

July– Salt Lake City

August– Cleveland

September– Charlotte

October– San Diego

November– Honolulu

And, they also added a new type of ticket to their yearly conventions and party meet-ups: VIP. It costs $100 more than regular admission tickets to PlannerCon and the PlannerCon parties, however, they say that it gives you the ability to meet and eat with the speakers, more workshops, and generally, more stuff. There are no refunds or transfers on their tickets. I did not get a ticket for a future party, since so much can change and also, none of them take place in any of the East Coast cities I would be willing to go to.

Workshop session #3 then commenced. I signed up for the Meal and Budget Planning with the Erin Condren Team, despite reviews from the prior year which rated this workshop poorly. The line was long and it took us a long while to get into our workshop room. We were probably the only workshop in session #3 which did not start on time. I was really excited for the workshop nonetheless due to my experience with the SAKURA workshop but was let down. It was less meal and budget planning, and more previewing all of the E.C. petite type planners, with a mini workbook of all the types given to get you interested in buying those products.

I was expecting practical meal and budgeting advice.

After that, we ordered a quick dinner to get ready for the Plan-A-Thon hosted by Erin Condren! She told her story and it was very interesting and motivating. Her and her team also gave out a freebie (pictured below with other freebies I had gotten on Saturday, including some free swaps…I ran out of network cards before the Plan-A-Thon).

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In the E.C. workshop and during her talk, she emphasized that they listen to their customers which made me willing to approach her afterwards to show her my #leftyplanner. Prior to my own planner, I was an E.C. gyal e-mailing her team—with positive responses—for left-handed binding. It never happened, but E.C. is still someone who inspires me, and I got to show her my book and get it signed by her! She even wrote “Love for Lefties,” in her iconic writing.

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Hearing Kristy Dickerson speak earlier, as well as my love for Erin Condren, I wrote down that after PC2018, my dream is to pursue the possibility of maybe becoming the Erin Condren for left-handers (haha). I’m not sure how I would go about doing that, but I am going to vigorously try. On Sunday, I may have figured out how…

On Saturday I ended up visitng more PC Vendors, which inevitably led to more purchases:

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I then retired early.

-Sincerely, Tawm

P.S. I think that my fave seller at PlannerCon 2018 was InkbyJeng. Although I never heard of her/them prior to, I really liked their simple designs and functional products:

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PlannerCon 2018, San Francisco Weekend: Day 1

Posted on 2018-03-05

Initially, this was going to be one post about my entire weekend at PlannerCon 2018. However, I am heeding my mom’s advice and will stop making excessively long blog posts, in favor of shorter ones. You can read Saturday and Sunday’s post up on my blog in the read next section.


Friday, March 2

At 6:30AM on Friday I called a Lyft to drive me to Miami International Airport. By 8:40AM I was well on my way to San Francisco to attend PlannerCon 2018.

After landing, I met up with someone I was speaking to in the PlannerCon Social group, to go and see the Golden Gate Bridge together. We were both #soloyolo travelers who had never been to Cali before!

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Initially, it was supposed to rain all Friday— but the rain literally stopped when our Lyft put us off by Crissy Field Center to see the Golden Gate Bridge. The rain did start again after we got into our Lyft to head back to the hotel– which was funny. We literally spent 1 hour and 30 minutes exploring near Crissy Field and Fort Point, so it’s like the rain Gods intentionally made us get great views of the bridge, rain-free, on Friday.

We ended up walking maybe 2 miles from Crissy Field to Fort Point, since the Crissy Field views of the Bridge are a bit more landscapish:

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And at Fort Point you’re much closer to the bridge:

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From Fort Point we took a Lyft back to the hotel for PlannerCon early registration. To say that THE LINE WAS LONG— would be an understatement. It did move pretty quickly, but the line was not expected at all. I was thinking “early registration” meant almost no one would be there— but, I guess since we’re all planners, we all had the same idea.

After registration, I received my swag bag full of free goodies:

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And from browsing through vendor booths, I also received some free goodies:

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…But not everything was free, on Friday, I ended up purchasing these items near the Golden Gate Bridge (with the exception of the hiking and biking trail map, and stamps):

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And these items from PlannerCon 2018 vendors:

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I then took some general photos of what shopping looked at on Friday night…it was packed! Especially in the main ballroom, the second floor shopping (last photo), not so much:

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I then went to the hotel’s restaurant to eat dinner before the Night of Stars started— my first meal on Friday was dinner—a burger with “lamb bacon,” which was a delicious first for me.

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Although I did get a ticket to meet Erin Condren at her booth on Friday after my registration, I did not wait in line to meet her. Hunger was calling. However, I did get to meet her on Saturday….

-Sincerely, Tawm

 

[FYI: if you see yourself in any of my broader photos of booths/audiences and would like to be blurred, please contact me– using the contact form on this blog, an instagram DM, or a Facebook message to Sincerely, Tawm– and I will blur you out! Please provide the name of the post and the order than the photo is in, thank you.]

 

Black Panther. A Review

Posted on 2018-02-26

On Friday, February 23rd I finally saw the movie Black Panther! I went with eight other graduate students to watch it at the AMC 18 Tamiami theatre at 6:20PM. 6:20PM was the only showing that had enough seats for all of us! We did have to get tickets prior to, because even though the movie had been out the weekend prior, it was still selling out quick.

Admittedly, I had wanted to see it on its opening weekend, however, although I was totally willing to avoid all of my responsibilities to see the movie on February 15th, my friends were not. I also had other concerns, particularly whether or not large gatherings to see, what could only be described as a BLACK movie, would spark outside violence. This especially true when other friends were telling one another to be careful in this present wave of open-racial violence.

Needless to say, I was finally able to see the movie TWO TIMES this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. I went and watched it again by myself on February 25th to gather my own thoughts and hopefully catch things that I missed the first time I saw it. For the second time, I watched it at CineBistro in Dolphin Mall.

My thoughts on the film [SPOILERS ahead]

The film was awesome. It was unlike any other Marvel film that I had ever seen, because it equally balanced out the action parts of the movie with providing deep back stories to the characters. The visuals in the movie, along with the colors were also quite intriguing. The costume designer and set designer did really great job! The film starts off with an adult telling a child the story of the fictional country Wakanda, located, yet hidden away, on the African continent. We are then taken to 1992 Oakland, California where racial tensions are high. A “woke” Sterling Brown plays N’Jobu, a Wakandian war dog (spy) that is also brother to the then King,  T’Chaka (played by John Kani). N’Jobu has grown to sympathize with and become a part of the Black Power and other revolutionary movements at the time.

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This opening scene, although quite short, sets up the dynamics of the movie for us. On the one hand we have this very powerful BLACK country that is isolated, yet still involved— through their war dogs and in the U.N.—with the rest of the world. And on the other hand, their involvement with the rest of the world raises these questions: what does their strength mean abroad for other Black people? & How will they use their strength abroad to empower oppressed Blacks?

in 1992, T’Chaka is against letting the world know about the powerful and technologically advanced Wakanda. Instead, he is fine with outsiders viewing Wakanda as another “Third World” African country. However, N’Jobu, who witnesses the violence and discrimination of other Blacks simply because of their color, wants the world to know— not for malicious purposes— about Wakanda’s strength, which he sees would help to contribute to the betterment of Blacks internationally. The latter is an altruistic stance, no doubt, and one that I whole-heartedly take. The question is then: by what means does he (N’Jobu) choose to go about accomplishing those goals. The movie, then becomes a question of means to an end for Black people (much like those who debate the “less radical” MLK and the “more radical” Malcom X. I put more/less radical in quotes, because it is quite laughable and sad that the means of Black self-determination has to be measured in that sense).

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the movie is highly political, yet set in a fictionalized universe. It is the narrative of the movie which is much more suited to reality. This also very much distinguishes it from the other films in the Marvel franchise.

To not veer too var form my review, I will breakdown the PROS and CONS of the film as I saw it. I would also just note that I had no “cons” about the film in the conventional sense, but I did see areas where the film could have improved or expanded upon.

Pros

1: First and foremost, I really liked that the movie treated Black kids as kids. In the early scenes, a young Erik (AKA Killmonger) played by Michael B. Jordan, looks up with his friends and sees something magical leaving. This is a classic trope in Marvel films whereby, kids are able to have an imagination sparked by something that kids can only explain as “magical.” I really enjoyed seeing this moment, which is rare in a movie theatre.

2: Unfortunately for Killmonger, shortly after that, he undoubtedly has to grow up quickly, as he would soon come to learn that the “magical” thing killed his father. His character rightfully comes from a place of anger. Growing up in America after his father N’Jobu is killed, Erik has the rightful anger for his people (Black/African-American). African-Americans have lost their native tongue thanks to slavery. He is “lost,” not because he is angry, but because he had to face the traumatic experience of colonization where he grew up in poverty and faced a discriminatory society. His visit to his ancestors when he becomes King, includes him not even being able to properly mourn his father. Undoubtedly due to all of the death around him which he had to witness in the 1990s due to the U.S. infiltrating drugs into Black communities, subsequently starting a war on drugs, and the hyper-criminalization of the black body. His dead father then simply becomes another statistic. However, Erik does not. Throughout the movie, from the opening scene, one gets to understand that he is furthering the mission of his father having grown up into what his father was only able to witness in adulthood.

3: Related to my first and second pros, Erik is humanized in the film. He is not simply a villain, but the byproduct of being abandoned by his Wakandan (African) family in the homeland, and mistreated in his birth place. Killmonger was a physical embodiment of how colonizations affects the psyche of Black people globally, who can only one day dream of not being seen as less than, and having the means to “prove it.”

4: Those in Wakanda are also not blind as to what Killmonger portrays. I liked that although Wakanda was not colonized, they are not blinded by the realities of colonization and what it has done to the world. My two vivid memories of “colonized” and “colonizer” being used in the film, happens: (a)in the British Museum when Erik points out the racial micro-aggressions surrounding him (e.g. all of the artifacts in the museum as “stolen,” all the security guards watching him, and the tour guide eyeing him up and down); and (b) when Shuri (Princess of Wakanda), played by Letitia Wright, says “don’t frighten me colonizer.” In the first instance, Erik’s critique is one of circumstance and fact. In the second, Shuri’s proclamation comes from a place of power—having never been colonized.

5: The movie is also super relatable in its ability to subtly highlight things like micro-aggressions. This was important to me, since the movie was political and would have done itself a disservice by not reminding the audience that yes, the cast is Black. For instance, I remember saying “…and that’s white privilege” the first time I saw the movie, when Ulyssess Klaue (played by Andy Serkis) and his goons were able to go through the metal detectors, with weapons in Korea without hassle. Meanwhile, Okoye (played by Danai Gurira), Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o), and T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) would not have been able to do that. Luckily for them, Wakanda’s vibranium is undetected by metal detectors.

6: BLACK FEMALE POWER.

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Cons

1: Although not technically a con, I do wish that in the end the film showed Erik being buried. He would have been the only one that we would have been able to see what a burial looks like in Wakanda. I am also curious as to what T’Challa would’ve said at his burial. Especially since his last words were to essentially dump his body in the sea like his ancestors who jumped off the slave ships since they knew that “death is better than bondage.” I felt like that was a very powerful and important line, that should have been given some type of conclusion. I am also interested as to what the ancestors, especially T’Chaka, would have told him. I am also wondering whether or not he became an ancestor to be visited…

All in all, I do recommend the movie. The first time I saw it, I felt like I was concerned as to whether the other graduate students were liking it. Because of this, I  was wondering if it was “too long,” and  would have rated it a 7/10. After watching it by myself, it felt “too short,” probably due to what I see could have been a space for expansion. I would now give it a 9/10.

Sincerely, Tawm

[it’s presently hard to find stills of the movie that go with my post]

Why Guns in Schools to Prevent Mass Shootings Does Not Work

Posted on 2018-02-25

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Only in the U.S. could one propose more guns in schools to curb mass shootings.

I wish that I was kidding, but I’m not.

Early last week, I wrote a post about the Parkland shooting which occurred on Valentine’s day in Florida. After the massacre, 17 students and adults were left dead. In spite of their deaths, two days later, Florida legislatures tried to sneakily relax gun laws in the state by hiding it in an agricultural bill. Thankfully, that bill was put on hold once major Florida news outlets picked the story up.

I ended my post early last week stating:

What matters are those who died when they did not have to. What matters is recognizing the hurt and pain students (survivors), parents, and other loved ones—who had to prematurely bury someone– went through. What matters is recognizing that part of their mourning process, will include calls for stricter gun reforms, that should be adhered to. What matters is voting out politicians who will hear those cries, send thoughts and prayers, and do nothing because they’re beholden to the NRA.

Now, I want you to pay attention to the last two sentences of that post.

First, that part of the mourning process will include calls for stricter gun reforms—which is notably the most nonsensical and rational approach to take. And second, that we need to vote out politicians who will hear the mourning, simply send thoughts and prayer, and do nothing about the situation because they’re beholden to the NRA. Now I wish I was making this stuff up, but on Tuesday, February 20th the Florida House opened up with a prayer for those who died on the Valentine’s Day Massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Less than five minutes after that prayer, the Florida House Lawmakers “declined to open debate on a bill that would ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. The motion to debate the bill, introduced by a Democrat, required a two-thirds vote and failed. Thirty-six lawmakers supported it, while 71 voted no. Its merits were not considered.”

Do they not know what irony means? Apparently not, because a lot of Florida lawmakers have an A+ rating from the NRA and receive money from the association. Something that should be considered when one thinks about their voting choices.

This is why South Florida and all politicians must be held accountable. Especially when their position on certain issues goes against that of their constituents and the broader U.S. public.


Most heinously, these GOP lawmakers and supports are now supporting  measures which state, or suggest, that more guns should be allowed in schools, via teacher concealed-carry, to “prevent” mass shootings.

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To be fair, there are talks now, and support for, raising the gun buying age to 21—even in Florida—due to a tweet that Donald Trump sent out supporting the measure. However, this, in conjunction with the idea to arm teachers, is most notably the stupidest idea ever.

First, ever since Columbine, guns in school have increased and this has not prevented mass shootings! HELLO: There was an armed cop at Parkland, and a mass shooting still occurred! Apparently, he “froze” when the shooting happened according to local Florida news.  A trained cop froze! But somehow, we expect teachers to, no questions asked, kill a mass shooter that they may have taught or know from their communities.

Second, there’s the most obvious question: Is it impossible for a student to take a gun from a teacher? The answer is resoundingly NO.  Even if we are to raise the age to 21, you’re practically giving younger people access to guns still.

Third, should teachers really put their lives on the line to prevent mass shootings?  Outside of their minimal wages, we do not even supply teachers with enough teaching resources, and are somehow okay with giving them resources of destruction?!?!? Hence why the #ArmMeWith hashtag was started.

Finally, let’s imagine that teachers are armed. Are we really going to deny the fact that teachers can now commit a crime? Will the “defense” of fearing for one’s life still stand when a fed-up teacher shoots a student? To be honest, this really makes me scared for the black and brown students that are already disproportionately disciplined and viewed as threatening by teachers and society at large—even when they aren’t.

All of the ideas which do not include strict gun reform, do not make us safer in the long-term. And unfortunately, those ideas are what is winning over the voices of constituents and broader U.S. public.

 

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[Image: https://theeducatorsroom.com/armmewith-starts-movement-among-teachers/]

Finally, A (Healthy) Brunch Shop in South Florida!

Posted on 2018-02-25

For those that know me, brunch is my favorite meal to have on the weekends. It most likely has to do with the fact that I sleep in a lot longer on the weekends— with my preferred wake-up time being after 11am… although I do sometimes settle for 10am.

When I wake up around this time, I do not care how close it is to noon (or even if it is noon by the time I’m finished with my morning duties), but I want breakfast food as an option.

Nothing heavy, just my fruits, juice, and a pancake or waffle. Now, I live in “Miami,” and one may think that it should not be too hard for me to find brunch options—but it is. To be precise, I live west of Miami, and although still in the South Florida area, “breakfast” foods consist mostly of Cuban lunch and dinner foods.

…And Denny’s is not a legit brunch option.

My love of brunching does not exist outside of my want for HEALTHY brunching options. And sorry Denny’s, but your breakfast options are just as syrupy as those sketchy combined drinks.

Healthy brunching options exist galore in New York, D.C., and even at my college dining hall in Wisconsin. South Florida definitely needs to get its act together in the brunching arena. It is easier for me to go brunching in Mexico, Barbados, and Tobago, than it is in South Florida—no bueno.

But this morning, my cravings for a brunch were all to real. I went on Trip Advisor and found out about a (new) brunch place, not too far from me, called “Michi’s.”

IMG_0238Michi’s aim is to show you that eating healthy can taste really good. They pride themselves on being a “unique restaurant where you will find delicious and healthy cuisine with enough variety to delight everyone in your family with the choices.” They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks, happy-hour, and kid friendly choices. It was also founded by a woman named Michelle Posada that was born in Venezuela in 1993! She migrated to the U.S. at the age of 20 (most likely four years ago) and she is literally bossing it up (and is the same age as me)!

At Michi’s per my server’s recommendation I got the Loquito Icon smoothie (blueberry, vanilla whey, protein isolate, banana, and almond butter) where I chose my own base of Almond milk. And, per my own cravings, a Nutella Power Pancake (infused with Nutella and topped with blueberries, strawberries, banana, and more Nutella), which is not infused with Nutella inside despite the description.PicMonkey Collage

The food was amazing AND healthy. I really liked the smoothie and I loved my pancake. Together, both were filling. I also had a glass of water as well. In the end, I did not finish two bites of my pancake or 1/3 of my smoothie.

But, the drive and the food completely satisfied my brunch craving. I will be brunching at Michi’s again. The second time around, I am more inclined to try an omelette/egg dish.

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Sincerely, Tawm

p.s. I did do brunch by myself. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more things solo. 

NRA + GOP: Thoughts & Prayers Do Not Stop Gun Massacres in the U.S.

Posted on 2018-02-19

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[Image: https://www.today.com/news/florida-divided-over-gun-laws-parkland-rallies-protest-after-school-t123375]

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked in to his old high school in Parkland, Florida and massacred 17 students, teachers, and adults. As with many cases of mass shootings in the U.S., many people were quick to send their “thoughts and prayers.” Republicans and their supported decried “politicizing” the issue—or in other words, bringing up gun reform and control in light of the 18th mass shooting in the U.S. for the year. Unsurprisingly, most politicians in South Florida are beholden to the National Rifle Association (NRA), receiving large sums of money from the association. Needless to say, despite the massacre hitting home, most South Florida representatives were in the “not politicizing” camp.

However, let me be very clear: the South Florida shooting did not have to happen. If Cruz—someone that has been reported to the FBI prior to the massacre—were subject to stricter background checks, 17 people would not be dead right now. No one would be injured right now. The U.S. has a gun problem and policy change is what is needed. If thoughts and prayers have not worked each time an incident like this happens—something else needs to happen. And that something else does not include having “more legal guns in schools” via arming teachers, because over half of these mass shootings are committed using LEGAL guns.

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In South Florida, we need to hold our legislators and congressmen—like Marco Rubio who receive NRA funding, accountable. They are in the pockets of the NRA and exacerbate the mass shooting phenomenon— unique to the U.S.— by not acting on tougher and stricter gun laws. To make matters worse, less than one day after the Parkland massacre, politicians in Florida, were trying to vote to make gun laws in the state more relaxed. Because no one would agree to this, they tried to sneak it into an agricultural bill. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated— especially when people’s lives are on the line.

Although I can go on a rant about how Cruz was wrongfully linked to a white nationalist group that conducts paramilitary experiments, or to the fact that Cruz was a racist— none of that matters. What matters are those who died when they did not have to. What matters is recognizing the hurt and pain students (survivors), parents, and other loved ones—who had to prematurely bury someone– went through. What matters is recognizing that part of their mourning process, will include calls for stricter gun reforms, that should be adhered to. What matters is voting out politicians who will hear those cries, send thoughts and prayers, and do nothing because they’re beholden to the NRA.

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[Image: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/parkland-florida-school-shooting_us_5a849439e4b0774f31d19627?ncid=fcbklnkukhpmg00000001]

Volunteering in Little Haiti: Democracy Lives in US— and is under attack.

Posted on 2018-02-11

IMG_9098So, as part of blogging my politics as a graduate student, I think it’s also nice to—every once in awhile—also post about some of the fun things that I get to do in grad school. Something fun that I was able to partake in on February 8th, 2018 as a volunteer— was the “Democracy Lives in Miami” event. Going in, I was unsure of what volunteering would entail, but the event sounded interesting and would give MALOKA (a grad student organization) some CSO points. I volunteered my time from 5 PM to 8:30 PM—mostly signing people up who didn’t initially RSVP to the event, to the event, so that they could attend. I also got to walk around Little Haiti a bit—something that I’ve always wanted to do as a Miami “resident,” which was fun. I also agreed to volunteer in this instance, due to the location.

 

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I also got to watch the event for about an hour after sign-ups and registration ended. It was a panel of concerned citizens—all from different walks of life and party affiliations—who all felt that our Democracy was under threat. It reminded me of how subtle things like fascism can occur—especially in light of negligence by the broader public and academia—under people’s noses. The panelists names are on the pamphlet and each are easily google-able, but essentially we heard the stores of an African American who lived through Jim Crow and knew MLK. A Haitian immigrant whose parents died before she was 15. A rabbi who was 13 in 1942. A daughter of immigrant parents who organizes, mostly women of color housekeepers and nannies, in Miami. A Cuban immigrant who served in the military as a paratrooper and is now a judge (who also enlightened us to the fact that Jimmi Hendrix was also a paratrooper).

I do think that this usually happens as a series, so although this video is a bit older, you can get a gist of the event and why it is held:

Overall, this was an interesting panel with interesting perspectives. I also happened to volunteer at the event in the afternoon after I read about how Donald Trump has ramped up drone strikes by over 200% killing more innocents than Obama did in all 8 years; and also how he wants to have a military parade—apparently for himself—on U.S. soil.

Democracy lives in all of us, and is under attack it seems, every generation. We are the ones that must keep it in check.

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