Sunday, November 21, 2010

Voices of Our Foremothers

            Sunny Marie Birney wrote “Voices of our Foremothers”, in which she opens up about growing up in an adopted home raised by two Euro-American parents. Growing up, Birney cites that the people that had the most amount of influence on her were her Black female teachers. Birney particularly cites her three Black female professors who inspired her to become the educator and person that she is today. Birney talks about learning from Black teachers who understood that education was more about just understanding the subject, but more out defining and expanding the mind and the heart of the student. Birney goes on to discuss the foremothers in terms of Black women and education. These foremothers include Emma Wilson, Lucy Laney and Mary McLeod Bethune. Wilson founded the Mayesville Industrial Institute, which built its students on academic, cultural and spiritual lessons. Bethune attended this institute as a child and would return after graduating college to become an assistant to Emma Wilson. Bethune later went on to accept a teaching position at Lucy Laney’s Haines Institute. Bethune created her own educational institution, known today as Bethune-Cookman, a historically black institution. The foremothers had a passion for education and built fine institutions for the Black community. Birney ends her essay by speaking about the future of the Black community and education. Birney left the educational system in Lorain, Ohio as an inspiration for her students and went on to create the educational consulting group Yetu Shule Multicultural Enterprises that tutors, teaches and develops nonprofit programs for community based organizations.
            I agree with Birney’s point of view that students learn more from teachers that care seeing as I am the same way. I enjoy the research and analyzation of our foremothers. However, in recent research for my argumentative paper, I don’t agree with the fact that Birney said that Black teachers teach by comforting and becoming mothers to their students. I feel as though saying that brings the Black female back to the stereotype of “Mammy” and I think as a human race we need to move forward from that view.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Response to Black and On Welfare: What You Don't Know About Single Parent Women

       Women should be tough, tender,laugh as much as possible,and live long lives. The Struggle for      equality continues unabated and the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory – Maya Angelou 1993

Sandra Golden opens with a descriptive account of her first experience with the welfare office in her county. As a 20 year old, pregnant,scared and unemployed black women Golden sought assistance from the County Department of Human Services, a department she believed was created to help people in her situation. She then goes on to say that she left the welfare office feeling humanized and humiliated. She felt mentally abused by the caseworker's insensitivity, and her self esteem was damaged by the caseworker's discriminatory attitude. Her caseworker never inquired about her educational or employment background and it appeared that the assumption was that recipients of welfare were unmotivated, unskilled, uneducated or undereducated, and mainly responsible for raising fatherless children. Despite her caseworkers false beliefs Golden actually had over 2 years of banking experience and had completed 2 years of college course work.This is yet another example of the dominating systems such as welfare that do not recognize black women's social literacy skills.A black single parent female utilizes special literacy skills to negotiate within a social context that marginalizes and disenfranchises groups based on gender, race, education, and class.The welfare system places little value on home, family, and community literacy and primary recognizes academic literacy. Welfare is a means to an improved quality of life,not the means to barely fulfilling existence.  Although there is not much research on black women's learning in the home, managing a household requires skills in time management, budgeting, conflict resolution, facilitating and creating learning environments, and home maintenance. A woman's ability to realize her own ideal of mothering and nurturing is usually crafted by the other variables that work, family relations, and social interactions create in her life. We as a people need to take more time and care in the ways we address the issues that concern others around us.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Literacy Lessons Learned in the South

The essay, Lessons From Down Under: Reflections on Meanings of Literacy and Knowledge From an African-American Female Growing Up in Rural Alabama by Bessie House-Soremekun talks about the literacy lessons Bessie learned from her close knit family in Alabama.  She talks off talking about how for African Americans oral tradition has always been important because that was the main source of communication for blacks during the time period of slavery. Bessie then elaborates on the history of the Civil Rights movement and the impacts it had on African American especially in the south.
            The essay talks about how the movement was born in Alabama and how “The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-59 marks a watershed in the modern are of America’s Civil Rights years” (p. 58).  This was important because even though the civil rights movement was started in the south after laws were passed to stop the laws set up by “separate but equal”, this did not apply to the southern states.  The civil rights movement was meant to establish a equal playing field for every American, but in the south unspoken laws were set up to hinder blacks from becoming or from being seen as equals.

            Bessie also talks about the literacy lessons she learned throughout her lifetime of education.  She was raised in a middle class family where education was very important.  Her family valued formal school literacy as well as informal literacy.  She learned in achieved numerous things in school, but she also had to learn how the south worked during the 60’s and 70’s.  She began to notice how her grandmother was being disrespected by whites because they referred to her by her first name, while her grandmother always referred to the white people as “Mr. or Mrs.”.  Looking back on these situations she realized that her grandmother “made sure that I understood this form of literacy was part of the unwritten ruled in the segregated south of my country” (64).  She knew how important education was and power one gained by being educated.  She told herself that she was going to obtain a PhD because it was the highest form of education a person could have.
            Overall I really enjoyed this essay because it showed that even though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa parks and other African Americans tried to fight for everyone to be equal by having freedom riots, sit-ins, and freedom rides the south never really obtained true freedom.  Instead the white authority set up unspoken laws that still separated blacks from whites.  Whites still wanted to have a higher authority than the black people in the south and this was their way of accomplishing it.  This reading opened my eyes to the fact that there is a difference between the north and south.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Life As a Welfare Brat

In Star Parker’s excerpt from “Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats”, Parker opens up her story by talking about being on the Oprah Winfrey show. While on Oprah, she discussed the issue of welfare with two women, Linda and Dellamarie who felt that they were entitled to welfare. Parker attacks the two women and says other wise and that because they’re single mothers doesn’t mean that the government needs to give them aid in terms of finances. Parker “piggy-backs” off her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show and goes on to talk about her experience on the welfare system in California.
            Parker lived a life of promiscuity in Los Angeles and was involved in drug abuse. Parker, who comes from a middle class family moved to Los Angeles and discovered a life of freedom and welfare. Even though it was instilled in her as a young child that welfare was  a “no-no”, Parker didn’t care and went on welfare after receiving the first of five abortions. Parker continues her story with various anecdotes from her drug abuse, the birth of her daughter, discovering God and finally getting off welfare. Parker decides to get off welfare after going to a sermon in which the Pastor quoted “God is your source” (Price 39). The four letters from Pastor Pierce’s sermon inspired Parker to change her life in order to change her daughter’s life for the better.
            I enjoyed this passage by Star Parker. I agreed with what she was saying about the two women who felt that welfare was an entitlement.  I believe that if a person is on welfare and they don’t have any physical or mental health disability, they should be out searching for jobs. The welfare program isn’t meant to be a comfortable style of living. It’s only there as momentary relief aid. The United States has a lot of issues going on right now with the oil spill, healthcare and global issues such as the earthquake in Haiti and human trafficking all over the world. Welfare although a big deal, helps a lot of Americans who don’t need it and that money could be used for other projects or forms of relief. I think as American citizens, we should be trying to better ourselves and help stimulate the economy instead of taking advantage of the government and the benefits that are actually meant for the needy.

Work Cited

Parker, Star. (Selected Chapters) Pimps, Whores, and Welfare Brats. New York: Pocket Books, 1997.  21.0ct.2010. Web.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Teachings of the Cotton Field

In Lillie Gayle Smith’s Unearthing Hidden Literacy: Seven Lessons I Learned in a Cotton Field, Smith talks about the valuable lessons she learned by working in the cotton field at her aunt’s house.  It was not until she entered a “Black Women’s Literacy” class that she noticed she had gained so much in life from working on the cotton field.  Smith states, “having picked cotton was something I wanted to forget, not extrapolate lessons from” (Smith 37), she was afraid to share it because she didn’t believe it had any relevance to who she was in life.  As she began to talk to her professors and classmates about her experiences, she learned that she actually learned of important lessons from picking cotton, like money management.  She even began to put money in a bank account because her mother doubled every dollar she made.  At that time she believed things like that were “important grownup activities” (Smith 46), but in the long run it actually helped her out because when she entered the sixth grade she had to purchase her own school books.
            By Smith thinking back on her childhood she began to discover her own literacy and connect her past with her present.  In her “Black Women’s Literacy” class she was challenged to think back and see how her ancestors picked cotton without a choice and how they went through multiple struggles to give her opportunities.  She also learned that in order to be willing to share her experience she needed a professor and community that “respected and validated knowledge acquired beyond the walls of the academy” (Smith 38), meaning that the environment needs to be welcoming to need ideas and viewpoints.  Smith experienced the opposite of this when she was enrolled in a male professor’s class, who praised the male students, but never the female students.  The female students began to get tired off this so they dropped the course showing a form “of resistance to an educational setting” (Smith 39).
            Smith learned a so much from picking cotton which contributed to her literacy.  She began to the impact those days had on the decisions she made in her life.  She began to have a better appreciation of those days, therefore having a better appreciation of who she is today.   By her taking that class she rediscovers who she is and continues to grow for the better.
Work Cited:
Smith, Lillie Gayle. “Unearthing Hidden Literacy: Seven Lessons I Learned in a Cotton Field.” Readers of the Quilt: Essays on Being Black, Female, and Literate. Ed: JoAnne Kilgour Dowdy. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc, 2005. 41. Print

Unearthing Hidden Literacy: Seven lessons I Learned in a Cotton Field

Lillie Gayle Smith grew up with a job most would consider a slave’s duty. She picked cotton in her aunt’s field for money while growing up. Smith never realized the significance picking cotton would have in her life until she took a class called, “Black Women’s Literacy”. While in the class, she reflected back on her childhood and the lessons she learned while working the fields. One of the important lessons Smith learned was money management. For every dollar Smith earned, her mother would also pay her a dollar. Smith would put some of the money away into a bank account, and the rest she would spend on toys, clothes, and items of that nature. However, when she was older, she realized she needed to be more responsible with her money so she would take the money she earned and buy her own textbooks for school.
Smith’s reflections on her childhood helped her discover her own literacy even more. She thought back about her ancestors who would pick cotton without choice, and the different struggles they had to go through. In her class “Black Women’s Literacy”, Smith was challenged to think back and remember where she learned what she knew. They were asked to question what they knew and think about views that disagree with their own. Smith’s class explained the history of women’s resistance and the disagreement they have had with men. Smith’s story about the male professor who favored the other males in the classes instead of the females is a great example of a women’s resistance. Some of the females in the class did not feel they were being respected, so instead of fighting the same battle that has been fought for years, they simply dropped the course. Some may feel that these women were giving up. But in reality they thought by boycotting a class it would create a bigger impact.
Smith’s literacy throughout her life is very much attributed to her days of picking cotton. She realized the impact it had on her and the decisions she made it life later on, but still appreciated what she learned. The class she took definitely helped her rediscover her past and made her gratitude even stronger. 

Works Cited
Smith, Lillie Gayle."Unearthing Hidden Literacy:Seven Lessons I learned in a Cotton Field." Readers of the Quilt: Essays on Being Black, Female, and Literate. Ed: JoAnne Kilgour Dowdy.  Cresskill, New Jersey:Hampton Press, Inc, 2005. 41. Print

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Black Women and Literacy in Feature Films

“ Movies provide an opportunity to witness the everyday experiences of literate black women within certain sociocultural contexts.” (Dowdy 164)

In the chapter of Black Women and Literacy in Feature Film, Dowdy explores the roles and views of black women in nine feature films. All of these films are either starring Lynn Whitfield, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Alfre Woodard or Whoopi Goldberg. Each of the central black characters in the films are all facing a conflict and they don’t show the advancement of black women.  The women, long after the film is over are viewed as uneducated and worthless to society. Three out of the nine films deal with addictions and although it juices the plot up, the storylines portray black women in negative stereotypes. In the movies  “Music from the Heart”, “ Sarafina”, and  “Wit”, the black women have a social status in terms of education. However, their opinions are always trumped by a higher power and they end up stuck in their harsh realities.
I agree with Dowdy’s point of view in the chapter. It’s very true that a majority of films starring black women must show the black women being put down by some sort of higher power. In an industry where there aren’t many black women represented, I think that there need to be more positive roles for black women. Although these roles, may sound boring, it’s a lot more beneficial for the young black girl searching for a role model on the big screen. These films depicting the weak or drug addict black female are only pushing the stereotype associated with being a black woman. In order to change the views and stereotypes of black women, there should be more movies uplifting black women and breaking down the stereotype.  Although it won’t happen overnight, positive black women in films will help breakdown the stereotype associated with black women in the long run.

Work Cited

Dowdy, Joanne. Readers of the Quilt. “ Black Women and Literacy in Feature Films.”
            2005. Hampton Press. Pp. 163-182