I did not post for June, as you may have noticed, and that reflects how thoroughly overwhelmed I felt at the time. I was wrapping up classes and working on final essays, and really trying to finish up too many things at once, especially without meds. I did manage to finally refill my meds, but it happened just before finals, and I ended up scrambling to finish what I could. Not the best showing I’ve ever given for a term, to be honest. I did present my preliminary research findings in May, though, and you can see the poster I made for the Undergraduate Student Research Symposium here.
As always, things are wild in my life right now—I had a super busy week, presented a poster at my university’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, and then got horribly ill and missed almost an entire week of classes. More about that in my upcoming June GHDR Review Post, though; this post is about something else that happened in among all of that.
So, at the recommendation of a friend, I was invited to apply to be a student speaker for this year’s PSU Multicultural Graduation. The theme of this year’s graduation event is From Resilience to Revolution, something I definitely feel qualified to speak on. I wrote a speech, recorded myself reading it, and sent in the application, but in the end I wasn’t chosen. The student who was chosen is a brilliant young man doing very important research, and I am as excited for him as I am disappointed not to be chosen. But I decided to share the speech I would have given with all of you. So, without further ado, here it is:
I’d like to start by reading a poem I wrote in honor of my mother.
stand in the doorways
of sleeping children’s bedrooms
smiles faint on their lips
pride-full and wondering
I made this
with my bare hands
I cradled this life into being
ain’t that a heck of a thing?
See, our mamas taught us well
these single women working
for our best possible future
looking to tomorrow
where there may yet be nourishment
bread for hungry mouths
books for hungry minds
labour transformed by love
to sustain life.
And we came up
protected by ancestors
these warrior women’s work
paved our way towards freedom
so now we come to a place
where we must also take up
this precious mantle
the latest generation
preparing to push the next
towards the mountaintop.
Hello, my name is Tessara Dudley, I am so grateful to be speaking to you tonight. And I want to say this: we made it; because of our parents, our aunties and uncles, our friends, cousins, partners, mentors, our own indomitable spirits, we are here. Tonight, we stand at the end of one road, preparing to embark on a whole new journey. Some of us, myself included, never thought we would reach this moment. This place, this institution, was not meant for us, but we have taken it and made it ours. We have carved out this beautiful space, together. We are making room for justice through our very presence.
For some of us, it’s been a hard road. We’ve been challenged, not by new knowledge and robust intellectual debate, but by the pressures of systemic discrimination and inequity. Some of us have faced microaggressions, struggled to feed ourselves and our families, or experienced loss of health and happiness. It has taken hard work, but we are here celebrating together. Our ability to find and build community is among our greatest strengths.
2 years ago, I didn’t know if I would make it to graduation. After the police violence in Ferguson, I stressed myself sick, swinging between 3 and 13 hours of sleep a night, going and going until I couldn’t anymore. My professors were very understanding, and I got through fall term with Bs, but I spent a month seriously thinking of dropping out. I kept hearing the criticism of academics and academia: we’re too isolated, we don’t do anything to make our communities better, our work isn’t connected to the “real” world. As I saw images of children and disabled people being tear-gassed, it became harder and harder to feel like my work here mattered. I had a deep internal crisis that year. Two things kept me going: the love of my family and friends, and the amazing, affirming support of my professors. Without my professors in Black Studies and the advocacy of the Disability Resource Center, I wouldn’t be on this stage today and, again, I’m so thankful for the collective work that has gotten me here.
Together, we have persevered, and we are not conquered. But is survival enough? What of those who could not be here tonight to cross this stage and be honored by this loving community? What of those who follow us? We are resilient, but there’s more to life than pushing through adversity. How do we build on the work of those who came before us? How do we push our communities into creating a truly equitable society? How do we live our authentic truths in a world that tells people who look like us they have no worth?
We have built a vibrant, inclusive community, but we need to keep pressing outward. There are so many people who want to be here and are prevented by institutional barriers. Racism, gender bias, disablism, classism, documentation requirements, and other barriers keep out students who could benefit from post-secondary education, students who could use that education to benefit their communities, and whose experiences and perspectives would greatly benefit this university. Instead of scarcity, we can adopt an attitude of abundance: our accomplishments are not diminished by the expansion of this space, but are instead enhanced.
If I had left back in 2014, I know I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on now. I wouldn’t have been able to take the history class that busted my world open, and I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to spend a wonderful semester at the University of Ghana, and I wouldn’t have been chosen for this year’s McNair Scholar cohort. I wouldn’t now be preparing to go to grad school, or following my dream of becoming a teacher and researcher. Without the strength and courage I found through this community, I wouldn’t be whole.
No matter where we go after this night, it is time to take this same spirit into our workplaces, our community organizations, and our future academic departments. Wherever we go, we can bring revolutionary insight and bold action. We can press the edges further and further outwards. We can enlarge the circle to make room for the voices being left out.
To revolutionize the world, we cannot let fear stand in our way. Change is hard, and sometimes it’s scary, but as Audre Lorde said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Being afraid and doing what must be done anyway is the bravest act of all.
None of us are free until we are all free. Our communities are not whole until we all are present, able to be our whole selves and build the future together.
There’s been a whirlwind of activity here. I make frequent promises to myself that I will stop saying yes to every possible opportunity or commitment that comes my way, but I fail to uphold that more than I succeed. This is partially because I usually manage to pull things together, even if it’s stressful and difficult—and it usually is both. I feel deeply blessed to have spent another year on the Queer Students of Color Conference organizing committee, and I’m so grateful for the beauty and joy and connection of the weekend, and I’m really glad it’s over now. Juggling 17 credits’s worth of reading and writing, while helping plan a 3-day conference, conducting archival research, singing in a choir, and taking a sight-reading class was a lot to manage.
Classes proceed apace, with only a few hiccoughs, mostly based on a terrible insurance snafu leading to an indefinite delay in refilling my meds, combined with ongoing sleep schedule issues. I’m hoping to rally post-conference, and get back out in front of work.
I glutened myself this past weekend, so I’m in recovery/detox mode: joint aches, headaches, back pain, ultra fatigued… It’s the worst—I was in too much pain to fall asleep Saturday night, tossing and turning for hours, and struggled to sleep the next night as well. If last year is any indication, I’ll be recovering at least the rest of this week, and possibly longer, which is gonna make the start of term way harder that it would otherwise have been.
Yesterday was the first day of classes. So far, my classes look great, though I’m a bit worried about being able to balance the workload. I know I complain about it every year, but spring break is just not long enough! I really wish they would shift the spring term out a week and give us two weeks of break. The end of last term was hard, and I spent the break catching up on work that’s been left by the wayside during the term, and now I’m dealing with health issues from gluten. I’m already feeling a little burnt out, and the term has just started. I’d appreciate any well wishes or woo you want to send into the universe on my behalf, because I cannot afford to drop the ball this term: I’m running out of financial aid, and this is my second to last term.
I registered for graduation (they charge $30 to register, plus a $2 processing fee!), signed up for commencement, and ordered my regalia. I also signed up for the pre-commencement Lavender Graduation ceremony (through the Queer Resource Center) and the Multicultural Graduation (through the Multicultural Resource Centers and ethnic identity studies departments), so I can get the kente and rainbow stoles to wear to commencement. It feels a little silly, since I won’t actually have finished all my courses and graduated until end of summer, but I’ve been assured that several people will be quite grumpy with me if they don’t get the chance to cheer and take pictures of me walking, so I’m doing it. Trying not to stress too much about it—it’s not for a couple of months, anyway. For now, I’m just focusing on finishing these classes. Wish me luck!
This month’s resolution review is below the cut; reading it, you may notice that I spent a lot of money on tools to increase my chances of succeeding this term, along with the funds I spent on graduation and commencement stuff. Because I’m at the end of my financial aid, money’s tight this term; if you can, please donate to help me cover food and protect my health so I can finish up my bachelor’s degree and apply to graduate programs. I have a research stipend over the summer and I’ll be looking for a job after I finish up, but I need to focus on school and research now, so I can get into a strong, fully-funded program in my field. To help out, you can donate through https://cash.me/$tdudleypdx, or you can buy my poetry album. I really appreciate the support—thanks.
This term has been a roller-coaster. You’ll notice that this post is a little late, and that’s because of all the papers I’m writing. I’ve been considering posting them up online somewhere so you all can check out the work I’m doing, if you’re interested, but I’m not sure where to do that. (If you have any thoughts on a good platform for that, drop me a comment!) Anyway, I’ve been learning lots of stuff, and it’s been fascinating, but I really wish I had a time-turner—there’s so much I need to do, and not enough time!
Just like that, I blew right past Feb 2nd. Schoolwork and life balance got messy last week, and I got caught up in writing papers and reading for class and practicing for choir and planning my research and…
Well, better late than never, I suppose. This is my third year, and if this resolution system has taught me anything it’s that I can be flexible about post dates to prioritize my health and wellbeing. So, without further ado, the goals:
Practice self-care and express self-compassion: always a priority, and too easy to neglect; maybe some day I won’t need to include it in my resolutions, but for this year, it stays. Activities associated with this are reading and writing poetry, building a meditation practice, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and cooking meals ahead to heat-and-eat when I’m busy or low energy. I’ve been using the Pacifica app and the Calm app for the last 3 weeks, and will be trying to keep up with that—so far, they’ve helped me reframe frustrations at home, give my body space for rest during the day, and get to sleep at night.
Ask for support and use my resources: I tend to get wrapped up in my head and anxious about asking for help when I need it. I also struggle to remember that there are resources available to make things manageable for me, both accommodations I am entitled to through the Disability Resource Center on campus, and as a student of the university. This will be especially vital this year, because I am taking 15 credits this term, 17 next term, and then completing original history research and submitting an article for publication in a peer-reviewed journal—lots of knowledge and new experiences coming my way! Things to focus on in this area include asking my faculty mentor for assistance and feedback, emailing professors and teaching fellows with my questions, utilizing faculty office hours, keep in contact with previous professors for research and grad school app support, and study and connect with other students in McNair and my classes.
Build discipline and be creatively strategic: I experience a lot of resistance in completing my work, often starting with perfectionism, stalling from overwhelm, stressing myself into a corner, and then powering through to finish my work at the last second, sleep-deprived and panicky. This is not a healthy, happy, or effective system. I need to find ways to start early, sustain effort, squish my perfectionist urge, and produce work on time. I need to think creatively about problems when they first come up, and not give in to procrastination. Focus areas here are things like creating reward systems, finding or making accountability structures, setting reminders, breaking big things up into small doable chunks, tracking and managing sources/data, and streamlining workflows for timely completion. Lots of weird process stuff that will (hopefully) help prepare me for grad school and the life of an academic researcher.
So, those are my 2017 Resolutions! With luck (and discipline) this year looks to be an amazing and expansive one for me, and I hope these resolutions help me make the most of every opportunity. By the last review of the year, I will be done with my undergrad, have at least one published research article, and will be sending applications into grad schools across (and maybe beyond!) the US.
Resolution Review posts should go up on 3 March, 4 April, 5 May, 6 June, 7 July, 8 August, 9 September, 10 October, 11 November, and 12 December, and will show up under the GHDR 2017 tag. If you want to see those as they come out, just click the button under Follow Blog via Email to subscribe!
Over to you: what are your resolutions for the year? Do any of mine speak to you? If you don’t formally set resolutions, what are you hoping to achieve this year?
Happy Sunday, everyone. January’s almost over, and that means it’s resolution time! Well, almost: for the 3rd year in a row, I’ll be using Groundhog Day Resolutions to keep myself focused and accountable to my priorities and goals. (You can see all my past Groundhog Day Resolutions posts here.)
For those who don’t know about it, Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR) are a system created by Dave Seah to track work done and insights realized in a few focus areas over the course of a year. It’s a great system that helps my ADHD brain a lot, and serves as a good record of effort and discovery. The basics of GHDR are to set 3 focus areas, define them, think about the kind of work that is measurable proof of effort in each area, track tasks done, write reflections and insights, and blog a review each month. Goals are set on Groundhog Day, the 2nd of February, and then a GHDR Review post goes up (ideally) on the 3rd of March, the 4th of April, the 5th of May, and so on, with the last post going out on 12 December.
This means that, in less than a week, I’ll be setting 3 big areas of focus in my life, thinking of actionable items and desired outcomes for each, and posting about it here on the blog. I’ve been percolating a few ideas for focus areas since late December, and now I have to narrow it down to 3. Here’s what I have so far:
self-care & self-compassion: this has been on the list the last two years, and will almost definitely stay on this year
possible self-care subgoals: build a meditation practice, build healthy habits, read more for fun
learning new things: another goal from last year, but it ended up not quite suiting my needs or fulfilling the vision I had for it; if it stays on, it will definitely be overhauled
building discipline, aka finish what I start: big things happening in my life this year, starting with McNair and ending with grad school applications next winter, so this will be an important component of my life this year… but should it be a GHDR? more thought needed
ask for help/utilize the resources I have: I have wonderful supportive community and lots of folks willing to help when I need it or who have ideas and resources they could share when I’m stuck, but I’m bad at asking for help when I need it
sharing my journey: I’ve been playing with the idea of creating a category here on the site titled ADHD2PhD to collect resources, share my thoughts and process, and create some community around grad school for folks with ADHD; I plan to blog about it a lot this year, and this seemed like a fun little idea
creating sustainable communities/creative community building: I’ve been getting more and more reclusive over the last two years, and I have so much on my plate that this won’t likely change much, so I need to think about how to keep in touch with folks, how to support and be supported by community, and how to fit my life into the larger picture; the US is a bit of a mess right now, and that will impact my life and my loved ones, for example, so I need to be ready for that
seek collaborations: some of the work I do is all me, but I do love sharing work and collaborating on projects, and I would love to do some small, fun things with other folks this year to decompress
Some of these are a little redundant, and none of them are in their final form yet, obviously, but thinking about it is helping me clarify what I want out of my life and how I want to feel. By this Thursday I will narrow the list and write my first GHDR post of the 2017 cycle. I love the first and last posts of each cycle: the February post is shiny and new, with all the excitement and vision I have for the year, while the December post helps me stop and take stock of all the amazing things I accomplished and the things I learned about myself and the world around me.
But the stuff in between is vitally important, as well. It feels authentic to me, to share my process here; not just the highs, but the lows as well. My moments of failure and struggle are as important a part of who I am as my moments of triumph and strength. By checking in with my resolutions every month, I can recalibrate, figure out what needs to change, and let go of what can’t be carried forward. I can challenge myself and my community to grow. It’s an important time for reflection in my life, and I value it for that. It keeps me real.
I’ve been thinking about what I want my blog to be and do this year. I want to add more posts regularly, and build more community here, to make the blog less about just me and more about other folks. I want to include some guest blog posts, some more resources, and get others involved here. At the same time, GHDR posts are important for me, so they’ll remain an important part of this blog. The rest depends on time and energy—I’m excited to see what this year becomes.
See you Thursday!
How about you: do you have a process to keep track of progress and hold yourself accountable to your goals for the year? What works for you?
Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program, and I may receive a commission for purchases made through Amazon links in this post.
Hello, friends! Can you believe January’s already half gone? It’s weird to me, since Portland has been half-buried under snow for over a week. I was running all over getting ready for winter term to begin, and then I ended up stranded at home, waiting for the snow to melt. Portland doesn’t know how to deal with snow, so we ground unceremoniously to a halt about a week ago, and haven’t quite recovered yet.
Half of my classes were cancelled last week, but I’ve been working to get things off the ground and get myself organized for a successful term. I’ve got a new Leuchtturm1917 dot grid notebook + my Passion Planner, and with the two together, I’m ready to get on top of my life and my school work, so I can rule this term. These aren’t the only tools I use to keep on top of my work and my grades, but I’m saving “the Binder” to talk about in February. For this post, I’m gonna focus on the daily life stuff. Because I have ADHD, organization is something I can struggle with, and I’ve been working hard to build better habits for the past couple of years. I want to share how I stay organized and hear your favorite tips and tools!
First up: the schedule. This was the first week of classes:
Classes were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday, and had a late start Monday and Friday. I used that extra free time to get started on the reading, and get my planner and papers in order. (I also took my bestie to see Hidden Figures—so worth it— and, before getting snowed in, went to see my mom.) My planner currently has my class schedule and other obligations written in, and I’ve got a color coding system in place already. (I’m using the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens, which come in a handy carrying case, and I just keep them with my planner.) As the term goes along, I’ll use the focus boxes above each day to highlight the most important tasks, as well as take notes in the blank area below and prioritize life tasks in the to-do section.
I love the Passion Planner, because this sort of thing is built in. You set goals, set deadlines, and then there are places to slot those goals and their deadlines in where they need to go. Each week also includes a little gratitude box, inspirational quote, and mindfulness exercise, which feels really nice. I opted this year for the half-size planner, and I’m not sure I like it as much—I might need the room that the bigger planner has! But I’ve got ultra fine-point pens, so it may work out alright. The upside of the small size is that I can throw this into my purse on days I’m not taking a backpack out with me.
Now for the notebook! My bullet journal—bujo for short— is in a Leuchtturm1917 dot grid notebook in the A5 size. (If you don’t have any idea what a bullet journal is, here’s a link to the website that explains it all.) I use the multi-color Fineliners to make fun and creative spreads, but I also often default to a plain black pen, and that’s usually a Pilot G2 ultra fine point. I also cut and paste things in, when hand drawing something would be too tedious.
I created this habit and symptom tracker in excel, and I check it periodically throughout the day to record various things. The categories listed are either symptoms, healthy or unhealthy habits, or goals. It’s a good record for my own reference when talking with doctors and counsellors, and having it helps me be more mindful of my emotions and body. The spreadsheet includes separate sheets for each month of the year, with an extra sheet included for February during leap years. Click the link above or the picture to go to dropbox and download the file for your own use—feel free to edit it to suit your own needs!
This spread is the 20 month eagle eye view of the work I need to do to get from the middle of senior year (right now) to attending a graduate history program in autumn of 2018. It’s sparse now, but I’ll fill it in more in the next 6 months.
One of my worst habits is forgetting to eat when I’m feeling stressed out. Add that to all of my food sensitivities and allergies, and I can fall really easily into the “there’s nothing to eat in the house!” trap, and go out for food or buy carb-heavy snacks at the corner store. I made a spread with easy gluten-free and diabetic friendly snack and meal ideas that I can check out when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Having lists with these kinds of foods will help me make better choices for myself and keep my body well.
On a day-to-day basis, the Daily Log of the bujo system helps keep me on track. Using this, I can track everything I need to do in a day in one place. It’s flexible enough for any purpose—from writing down reminders to noting down scheduled activities to brain-dumping whatever’s bugging me, I use the daily log for so many things. I have a key set up in the first page of the journal—stars indicate tasks to prioritize, for instance—and make the next day’s list shortly before bed time. The planner helps me keep track of future stuff, but the daily log is what I use the most, checking in with it several times a day. This thing runs my life, and is partially responsible for any productivity I achieve. It feels really satisfying to check stuff off my list as it gets done.
This one is a prioritization tool, for when I can’t seem to pick out what to work on first. When I’m struggling to keep on track, I use this one: the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, attributed to President Eisenhower. Every task I need to get done is measured on two factors, importance and urgency, and then placed accordingly into one of four quadrants, labelled “Urgent & Important,” “Urgent But Not Important,” “Important But Not Urgent,” and “Not Important & Not Urgent” respectively. I used to use an app on my laptop for this, but now I generally prefer to do it in my notebook, since I don’t always have my laptop with me. I use this one most often on the weekends, when my time is less regimented by external structures (no classes), but I still need to make sure certain things get done. Chores, fun tasks, boring tasks—if it needs to get done, I think about how each of the factors applies to it, and write it in the chart wherever it belongs. This can really help combat overwhelm and give me a place to start, which I sometimes need help with because of my ADHD.
And sometimes I just need to scribble. The plus side of a notebook is that I always have the option to just draw some doodles, practice my hand-lettering, and make a fun and inspiring message for myself. I can write poetry, journal, vent—whatever I want. It’s my notebook, and it becomes a record of my life as I fill it up with notes, lists, pictures, and so on. This quote is to remind me that I’m where I need to be, and that taking longer to complete my degree doesn’t mean anything about my worth. This June will be the 10th anniversary of my high school graduation, and I’m battling self esteem issues over how long it’s taking to get my bachelor’s degree. This quote says taking lomger is okay, that taking longer means I’m more ready and mature and experienced than I might otberwise be, and that may help me succeed in grad school.
So, there you have it: my BuJo + Planner system for staying on top of the things I need to do to succeed at school, managing my physical and mental health, and planning my future. The follow-up post next month will cover the schoolwork-specific binder system I started using last January and talk about how it’s helped me stay on top of things and pull in all A’s and B’s in the last 3 terms. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how you stay organized—leave a comment and let me know!
And another year ends. Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to 2017 since I got the news about being chosen for the McNair Program, which is likely a sign that I’m a huge nerd. Luckily, y’all already knew that, right?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since my last blog post, what with packing all of my stuff up and flying halfway around the world, swapping my summer wear for winter stuff, and figuring out my housing situation. I got an email from the school about maxing out my credits and losing my financial aid, and had to submit a petition to have my max enrollment pushed up, so that I can take these last few terms and complete the McNair program. I had a bit of a panic over it, but am very glad to say that it’s all been sorted out now.
Aside from the amazing opportunity that the McNair program offers in preparing for graduate school, I’m also excited for 2017 because I will finally be graduating, G-d willing. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten really tired of being an undergraduate student. I feel as though upper division courses, and graduate level courses especially, are more academically rigorous, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been feeling frustrated and disappointed in lower division classes this past couple of years, wanting more out of them.
Along with this frustration, I also struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I’m glad to finally have solid goals and clarity on what I want to do with my life, long-term, but I struggle to avoid the trap plaguing many folks my age: the sense that I should have already been done with this part. I took a couple years off to work, and then changed my major a couple of times, and I’m finally going to be finished, which is a huge relief, but I still feel like I should be further along in life. Probably related to my ongoing battle with impostor syndrome; I am well aware that I will always be the first person to downplay my accomplishments. I’ve been working on combating this with various lists and such in my bullet journal, and I have two separate blog posts planned for next year to show y’all some of the tools I’ve been using; I hope you’ll check out those posts when they come out.
Overall, despite the losses and struggles I’ve faced this year, 2016 hasn’t been unkind to me. I don’t know how or why, but it felt less terrible and hard than 2015, and much less so than 2014. Perhaps it’s because I am used to my disability now, and have taken steps to protect and care for myself. Perhaps it’s the amazing healing I did in Ghana, and getting outside the US for a time. Perhaps it’s because I have a tangible set of goals for the next 12 months, and I know that I’ll be closing one chapter—my undergrad career—and preparing to open another in whichever graduate program accepts me.
Whatever the reason, I want to thank you, my beautiful community, for being there with and for me, throughout the year. I feel truly blessed to have you all in my life, and I wish for us all a 2017 at least as good as 2016 was to me. I wish you as loving and supportive a community as I have found. I wish us all the strength to accept grace from others, and to give grace to ourselves and our loved ones. I wish healing for the hurts and protection from the hateful. I wish us creative success and emotional uplift. I wish us peace and joy and a better world.
Here ends my second year of Groundhog Day Resolutions. I feel like I’ve learned so much and done so much this year! In 3 days, I’ll be hopping on a plane to return to the US, and I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near ready. I wish so much I could stay here in Ghana. At the same time, I am very ready to finish my last three terms as a PSU undergrad, and graduate.
Three terms, what? Yep, I’m doing summer, too, because of some really amazing, brilliant news: I was chosen for the 2016 cohort of the McNair Scholars Program! Over the next two terms, I’ll learn skills and make connections that will help me get into a good graduate program and succeed in whatever program I go to. Over summer, I’ll complete a research project and write a journal article to submit for publication. I’m so relieved I got in, and so excited to start!
Getting into the McNair program makes going back a little less scary, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hugging so many people that I’ve missed the last few months. I also look forward to a more varied diet (lots of gluten here, not a lot of gluten-free), though I will miss fresh mango and pineapple.
I didn’t get to travel after my exams, because I couldn’t get the funds together. I also missed my last payment for my payment plan, and now have a registration hold and $100 late fee. If you can help me cover this last $341 of my tuition and fees, and pay for food and toiletries here and during my travels, please donate on Crowdrise.
I like books. If you follow this blog, you know that. (Also, if you follow me on Tumblr or Instagram, or if you spend any amount of time with me in person.) Since the holidays are coming up, I wanted to share a list of 10 books (okay, 11) I read this year that I recommend. Many of them are poetry books, but there’s memoir, fiction, and history in here, too.
Do yourself a favor and pick these up. If you’ll be travelling to visit folks, these would make great plane, bus, or train reading. Is there a reader in your life that you’re shopping for? These would also make great gifts. I’m just saying you should buy, beg, or borrow these books. You won’t regret it.
Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program, and I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
These are scary, comforting, thrilling, painful, and so much. John Lewis’s graphic memoir trilogy is a love letter to the Civil Rights Movement, a reflection on the youth of a lifelong activist and advocate. Though I haven’t read the 3rd one yet, I am fully confident that it would also belong on this list. Recommended for organizers, graphic art fans, students of history, memoir lovers, and people who need a little strength in their lives today. Get them at Amazon: March: Book One & March: Book Two
This novel in stories circles around the titular character, each chapter told by a different character in his community. This book encompasses the terror of Haiti under Papa Doc Duvalier and the uncertainty of a New York Haitian neighborhood. The threads of shared experience bind the characters together: 1960s Haiti echoes in their lives, even (perhaps especially) those who seek to escape it the most. A brilliant read. Recommended for immigrants, the children of immigrants, diasporan people, and anyone looking for a deep read. Buy the book here: The Dew Breaker
My GoodReads Review: Asghar plays with space and form in ways that challenge the reader. Some pieces are physically difficult to decipher, structure lending itself to complex meanings and resisting the simple. Many of the poems are hard to read in content rather than form, and the combination of pieces works well. The occasional levity, such as that created by “Medusa Apologizes” rounds out this thoughtful, lovingly produced collection. Definitely recommended!Recommended for survivors, victims, heartbroken lovers, and resilient women.
This collection of poems is beautiful and painful. Drawing on community experiences, cultural history, and myths, Reyes examines and affirms the lives of Filipina Americans, refusing to shy away from the painful even as she embraces the beautiful. Though the foundations are sometimes horrifying, the concept one takes away is resistance, a history of struggle and strength embodied every day. Recommended for Pinay, feminists, new Americans, survivors, and defiantly monstrous women.
I reviewed this, along with Snyder-Camp’s other 2016 release, Wintering, for Mom Egg Review—click here to read that review. The Gunnywolf uses the mythical figure of the gunnywolf to reflect on race in the United States, and the author’s own place in racial justice movements of today. Recommended for poets, fans of folk tales, white allies, and anyone feeling out a new existence in a post-Ferguson world. Snag a copy: The Gunnywolf
Beyonce loves Warsan Shire, and you should too. This is an amazing and heartfelt collection of poems, definitely among the best I’ve read this year. Recommended for poets, immigrants, the children of immigrants, and lovers of beautiful difficult things. Buy a copy here: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (Mouthmark)
This was a hard read, but a very important one. HeLa cells have been at the heart of much scientific progress, but this book tells the little-known story of the woman behind the cells. The author takes us through the struggles of a family and the medical community that has so often failed them, managing nevertheless to highlight the humanity of both. Recommended for scientists, activists, fans of memoir and history, and anyone willing to look unflinchingly at the legacy of scientific racism. Get a copy: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
This was a really interesting read. I met Aaron Dixon in 2013 when he came to speak at my university about his time organizing with the Panthers. He was a really calm presence, and a sweet and humble guy. His memoir is a great read, and really gives insight to the history of the Party. Recommended for revolutionaries, memoir fans, BPP fans, and readers interested in US organizing history. Pick up a copy here: My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain
I’m actually still reading this one, but it’s been great so far. I’m about 2/3 of the way through it. It’s fun and funny, while also being very informative—I’m not really a scholar of European history, and reading this has actually filled in some gaps for me regarding French history. Recommended for the lay historian, Francophiles, literature nerds, and anyone who loves adventure stories. Pick it up here: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
The holiday season is hard for a lot of folks. With the recent push to #BoycottBlackFriday, I wanted to provide a list of places folks can spend their money and know the funds go directly to supporting marginalized communities. Some of these are fundraisers, and some are small, individually-run businesses that could use a boost this holiday season. These are all queer and trans, Black, Indigenous and people of color, sick and disabled, or otherwise marginalized people. Some don’t have family support. Some have children to support. Some struggle to work due to health issues. All of them need help.
I am asking in the spirit of community wellness and loving kindness: if you have the funds, please donate to these people and groups. rather than spend money this holiday season at the mega-corporations, make a conscious, ethical choice to support people from marginalized communities who don’t have the same resources. Your support could save someone’s life. It could enable them to eat, to stay housed, to get necessary medical care
Charities and organizations are at the end of the list, with individuals at the top.
Aaminah Shakur: “I am an Indigenous/Black Queer Crip artist/poet/culture critic and full time student in an art history program whose work is about challenging the canon and bringing forward the lives/work of forgotten Queer & Crip POC artists.”
Shop: mkt.com/shakur-arts Paypal: paypal.me/shakurarts
Allison: “Allison means so much to me. She is a wonderful fat trans lesbian who I have had the pleasure of getting to know this year. Living in the south as a disabled fat trans woman she is VERY isolated bc of these intersections. She deserves support.”
Charities and Organizations
Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is an organization dedicated to the return of lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to the stewardship of the Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone indigenous peoples. It is an indigenous women-led effort: “guided by the belief that land is the foundation that can bring us together, Sogorea Te calls on us all to heal from the legacies of colonialism and genocide, to remember different ways of living, and to do the work that our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do.”
Paypal email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daughters Rising: “I work for a preventative anti-sex trafficking/women’s empowerment project for Burmese refugee/ indigenous girls here in Thailand. We need funding for college scholarships and small business start-up grants.”
Standing Rock: support the water protectors defending their land and sacred sites from the Dakota Access Pipeline, who are facing violence from pipeline workers, security, and police, while camping outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures.
Just one month left here in Ghana. I’ve been trying to take it easy, especially since next week is the last week of classes, and then I have revision week and final exams. I have reading to go through, and prep for a last minute exam in one of my classes — the professor was gone and then things were pushed back, and so on, so we’re taking the 2nd midterm during our last class, and then we have a final in that class on the Sunday of revision week. It seems silly to me, but what can you do?
There’s been a bit of a stir here, since my last post: there was a big fight in my dorm after a white student used a racial slur against a Black student and spat on another Black student. It was all international students, and we ended up having a big forum with the International Programs office to talk about the incident and what would happen next. It was pretty stressful for a while, but life has mostly moved on. Now, however, a lot of folks are feeling very upset and lost after the US election results. (I wrote a piece on Medium about my own feelings towards the election, which you can read here.) There’s a lot of disappointment and frustration, and some fear. The US still impacts so much of our lives here, and soon we’ll be headed back. Honestly, I have pretty mixed feelings about it. (More on that here.) I wish I could stay longer.
Since my exams are all frontloaded, I’m planning to spend the last two weeks I’m here travelling, funds allowing. I’d like to visit Kumasi, Mole, and the Volta Region, and I’m not sure how realistic that is, but I’m going to try to do at least one. If you can help me cover the last $341 of my tuition and fees, pay for food and toiletries, and support me in visiting other parts of Ghana before I have to leave, please donate on Crowdrise. I’ve received so much support, and I’m so grateful for everyone helping me. This has been an amazing experience — thank you.
I’ve been feeling a little melancholy this weekend. It’s a combination of things like feeling as though I’m a boring person for not going out and travelling around Ghana more, worrying that I might be missing out on a lot of fun of travelling by focusing on studying, worrying about how little time is left in the semester, and feeling shamed by dudes here regarding my reticence to befriend men. That last is one I’m fighting with myself over: the way some of the guys have treated me is actually not okay, and they’re not entitled to my friendship or time. Still, I feel like I’m being rude or something. A guy flagged me down to chat the other day, and asked for my room number (but not my name, which is kind of rude). He said he saw me and liked my personality (which is just ????) so he wanted to be my friend — which is the exact same way a few other guys have approached me, and definitely does not make me want to be friends with them. One of the guys who cleans the hostel here has more than once tried to talk me into buying him food (order me, actually), despite the fact that we rarely talk much and don’t really know each other. Plus, there are a couple guys who’ve straight up proposed to me within minutes of meeting me. Some people have told me this is a joke, and some people have told me that it’s not, that they actually hope to marry an American for citizenship. Honestly, these dudes are exhausting me, and making me want to stay in my room.
I actually feel guilty for spending so much time alone in my room, which is probably pretty irrational — it’s my right to do what I want with my time. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m “wasting” this opportunity. Many of the other students arrange trips every weekend and go out every other night, and — even though trying to do homework on trips stresses me out and I don’t actually really like drinking or hanging out at bars — I feel like that’s something I should be doing to get “the most” out of my time here. (Now that I’ve written that out, it actually sounds even sillier than it does in my head.) I’m enjoying my time here, and I have made friends with some Ghanaian students and with some women who work in the Night Market and one of my TAs. I’ve learned how to navigate an entirely different university, and I’ve been on tours, and gone to beaches, and those experiences aren’t less valuable for having been planned by my study abroad program.
I do wish I could stay, though. There’s so much I’d like to see, but I don’t have time to do it, since I have classes and homework. I’d love to go back to Kakum National Park to just sit in the forest for a while. I’d love to go to the Volta region and visit the falls there. I’d love to tour the palace and explore Kumasi. I just don’t have the time (or money, frankly) to do it. There’s one month until final exams start, and then I’m going back to the US. If I had more money, I’d stay 2 extra weeks here, after the semester ends. I will come back some day, though, and do all the things I wish I could do now.
Another reason I wish I could stay has to do with my health. Studies indicate that discrimination can strongly impactphysical and mental health. Fibromyalgia is exacerbated by stress, leading to a rise in symptoms; this is why a lot of medical advice for treating fibro boils down to stress management. While living in Oregon, I find that periods of less stress lead to reduced symptoms, but I still need to keep my cane with me, as well as carrying “the kit” — a bag of health management tools for controlling fibromyalgia and diabetes symptoms. I can walk longer without getting tired, and I use my cane occasionally to help with my balance. Exposure to chemical scents, too much loud noise, a stressful event, or another trigger can render me unable to function within 20 minutes. During last fall term, I didn’t use my cane for the first two weeks of class, but soon found myself experiencing greater stress and needing to use my cane every day. In contrast, within 3 weeks of landing in Ghana, I stopped needing my cane at all. In fact, during the last 2 months (September and October), I can only recall needing my cane 4 days, even though I have had serious trouble finding scentless hand soap, and frequently encounter people wearing a lot of perfume. Living here the last 2 months has been almost like not having fibromyalgia; I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a nice feeling. In light of this, I’m honestly a little afraid of returning. I miss my friends and family, but at the same time I’m scared of going back to being in that much pain, being that tired, all the time.
Still, I have to go back to finish my degree and graduate. I know I have a beautiful, giving, loving community waiting for me, that I have friends and family who care for me and will listen to me rant and cry and reminisce and so much more, who will give me hugs and feed me and remind me that I have good things in my life back in the US. I can come back some day, and I can visit other places. I can go on with my life, and I will.
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my time here, even if it’s mostly spent at my dorm, in my room: studying, reading, and recharging.
P.S.: I feel super self-conscious about always asking for money, but I still need to raise funds to cover school costs, food, and toiletries. Please donate to my Crowdrise, if you can, and share the link on social media to help me cover the next month and a half here in Ghana.
I can hardly believe the term is half over! Midterms this week and next, and a bit of melancholy about the time slipping away. Also struggling with motivation, and remembering why I don’t take many 300 level courses nowadays. It may seem contradictory, but the less challenging a course is the less motivation I can muster to study for it. I’m trying to make it easier to study, but I have trouble focusing in my room, and it’s hard to find a secure, comfortable spot to study: the chairs are really hard to sit in for long, and I can’t get up and go to the bathroom, etc., and leave my stuff out unless I’m studying in my room. This is an issue I’ve struggled with for a long time, though, and probably will keep struggling with for years to come. That’s life. I planned a couple pretty successful study groups with folks for the midterm I had this morning, and I think they really helped me and the other students out, so yay for that!
I’m feeling some anxiety about the university charges. The deadline to opt out of insurance for the term was Sunday, but it wouldn’t let me, and I’m thinking it’s because I’m not in the country right now, but it still makes me nervous about them charging me $900 I can’t afford right now. Additionally, my student account reflects that I paid my installment when it was due on Thursday, but it hasn’t come out of my bank account yet, and I hate when they do that. I get paranoid something else I forgot about will go through and then it will bounce or overdraw me and then the school will freak out. Poverty is basically the worst, and so stressful. On that note: I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise) to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). Please give and share, if you can.
The university here is very different than I’m used to. I’m struggling a bit to adjust, honestly, but there’s good and bad in it. Dance class is my favorite, and I really like my Twi instructor and my history professors, but some of my classes are causing a lot of difficulties for me. More on that in the review post, below the cut.