For 30 years of my life I have been afraid of heights.
However, that changed on one of my darkest nights.
I remember crying on that couch with a plan to end it all.
I was tired of being lied to,
exhausted from attempting to pour from a cup that was rusted through,
and was begging God for a sign that there are bright days ahead.
“Yes, but first you must take flight.
The sky is not the limit, it is just the view.
You are meant to soar and make an impact on the world.
Your fiery passion has the power to warm the coldest hearts.
Your wings gracefully flow in a humble way that inspires hope
in the most pessimistic of individuals.
You were born with a calling that you will soon fulfill.
You are a Phoenix but over the years you forgot.
So, I had to put you through this journey to remind you.
You are dead inside now but consider this your rebirth.
Take flight my Phoenix because you are now ready for
what I have been preparing you for.” – Tarrin Morgan II Founder & Content Creator of the #RealTalkSessionSeries
Tarrin Morgan II is a man of many talents and possess wisdom beyond his years. He is a tried and true student affairs professional that has been working in the higher education field for nine fulfilling years. “Students are not an interruption to our work, students are our work” is Tarrin’s professional philosophy which is backed with his actions of putting students first, advocating for them at all times, and his reputation of exceeding expectations of students and colleagues. In addition to being an educator, he has been doing videography for over 10 years. He has interned for Emmis Communications (specifically with radio station, Hot 97), done multiple videos for Morgan State University, and does freelance work such as weddings, commercials for businesses, etc.
Tarrin originally created the Real Talk Session Series to address the issues that students and staff of color face at a private higher education institution in New Jersey. The Real Talk Session Series was birthed on November 15, 2017 when he held a conversation surrounding race, gender, and leadership with award-winning researcher, political commentator, and professor, Dr. Wendy Osefo. The Real Talk Session Series evolved into what it is today when Tarrin faced an extremely tough battle with depression and anxiety all throughout 2018. He was able to turn a negative situation into positive as well as figure out a way to fuse his passions of education and videography in his own unique way in efforts to maximize his positive impact on the world.
Tarrin holds a Masters degree in Higher Education Administration from Morgan State University (Baltimore, Maryland), a Masters degree in Administrative Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University (Teaneck, New Jersey), and a Bachelors degree in Communication with a minor in Sociology from William Paterson University (Wayne, New Jersey). He aspires to obtain his Doctorate degree in Education in the near future.
“This is one of the reasons I stopped saving people’s numbers in my phone…”
Bare with me because I’m sure I’m about to tug on some heart strings. If your heart strings are tugged, more than likely, you’ve experienced the things I’ll be writing about at some point in time or even right now.
The topic of relationships is one I sort of teeter-tot around when I write. This is mainly because I’ve been scared to be honest with myself and writing it down would make it real. But it is real. I was watching Yvonne Orji’s TED Talk called, “The Wait is Sexy” that was released in 2017. I know I’m about a year and a half late on watching this but I’m glad I did. Her “idea worth spreading” was her story about being a virgin as an adult Black woman. Obviously, that’s not my story, but what she discussed towards the end of her talk resonated with me. She left us with 5 main points that you should be ready to wait for when it comes to a relationship. Those points were:
Wait for someone who sees you, for you, and loves you regardless
Wait on the one who sees value in what you value
Wait on purpose and not on fear
Wait on the one who makes you a priority
Wait on the one who meets your standards
I’m not eem gonna lie, I felt some type of way because my own heart strings were pulled when I listened to her explain the points. The reason I decided to write this piece was to hopefully encourage single Black women who find themselves giving more than they receive when dating, to have a safe space to process. Many of the things I’m going to cover are personal experiences and things I’ve talked about with my Black women friends – most who are single but also a couple that are married. Some of the points were hard for me to come to terms with once I finally allowed myself to reflect on my past relationships or guys I currently “talk to” or “text with”, rather. Nonetheless, Yvonne’s points clearly communicate things that I’ve neglected in my experience with men. So, here goes…
It’s almost been two years since my last relationship ended and this has been the longest I’ve ever gone without being in a relationship since I was 18-years-old. Now, at age 29, dating is very hard, in my opinion. Yvonne address this slightly, in her 3rd point about waiting on purpose and not fear. She briefly said that we have fear that we may be single because the ratio of Black women to Black men in America is disproportionate due to mass incarceration and there are differences on educational levels. This very well could be a fear for most Black women. It’s sort of one of my fears. I do believe there is a shortage because of our prison system and the numbers get even smaller when I think about men who have have the same number of degrees or at least one degree as I do. The world is big but depending on your situation or geographical location, you may not find a Black man that has a degree and if he does, more than likely he’s engaged or already married. Every serious relationship I’ve been in, I’ve been the one with a degree or two and my partners only had high school educations. Now, I value a person’s hustle and I totally agree that college access and a desire for a post-secondary degree is not in everyone’s future, so dating someone who did not have a degree didn’t bother me too much when I was in my early 20s. It started to get more difficult when I was trying to explain something and my partner was unable to connect with what I was saying. Or when I wanted to help my partner do something but was nervous to do it because I didn’t want him to think that I was smarter than he was because I had more educational experience. It started to get a little overwhelming sometimes.
Point 4, wait on the one who makes you a priority, I think struck me the hardest out of all 5 points. I don’t think there’s been a time where I’ve fully felt as if I was a priority for any guy I’ve dated or have talked to or are talking to now. I’ve never received the same energy back from guys that I put in. I’m always the one asking how things are going without the person asking me it in return. Or I’ve noticed that guys have only tried to make me a priority when they’ve come to the decision that they may want to sleep with me. I’m a grown woman who has lots of things going for herself but guys will literally meet me, ask me for my number, text for a brief moment and pretend like their interested, and then nothing for some weeks, and then he come out the blue saying he miss me. It’s getting old and one of the reasons I stopped saving people’s numbers in my phone. I’m now smart enough to sense when the conversation isn’t going anywhere after the first few minutes of us communicating. Anywho, many of my friends that talk to me about their situations with men, all have similar stories. They feel as if the guys they are interested in aren’t making them a priority but they continue to let him back into their lives. I still don’t know what we do this.
When I accepted my first job out of graduate school, it was at a school about thirty minutes away from my hometown. I did this because I was trying to make things work with my boyfriend at the time who was back home. I had finally given up on job searching out of state because I knew he didn’t want me to go because he couldn’t come with me, one of the main reasons was because he had a child. He knew he couldn’t take his child with us because how would his child’s mother see her kid? I remember him calling me selfish for wanting to move out of state knowing he had a child. I felt guilty so I stayed close to home so we could be together. We ended up breaking up like four months later. I made him and his situation a priority over what I desired to do to advance my career.
Same thing happened with my second job. I took my second job because it was in the same city as my next boyfriend. I wanted to live in the same city because I felt like he was the one. Again, I made someone else a priority over myself. He didn’t ask me to move there, I assumed that moving would make us closer and I later found out I was more invested than he was. Annddd that was my last relationship…two years ago :).
I think that we don’t spend enough time making ourselves a priority when we’re single. We spend so much time dwelling in our singleness and slight envy for others who are in seemingly happy relationships. It’s been instilled in us that our purpose in life is to find a man (I’m speaking from the perspective of a heterosexual woman) and that if we don’t have a man by a certain age that means nobody wants us or we’ve done something wrong. We have to move away from that mindset and love ourselves first. Do you know who you are without that man? What’s your value outside of him? If it’s tough for you to answer those questions, that probably means you truly don’t know. You have to do some self reflection. During this time of being single, I recently realized that I want more than just sporadic text messages here and there or guys only being interested in me for the physical and nothing past that. Now, that I’m getting all of this down, I guess I’ve been working on making myself a priority longer than I thought. I met this guy this summer when I was interviewing for jobs around the country and I was instantly into him. Long story short, I decided to accept a job in Florida and not in the state he lived in. I took the Florida job for many reasons but I knew that if I took the job where he lived, part of me would have been doing it just so I could see what was up with him. A job that I felt was right for me was my priority at the time. I found it here in Florida :). Figure out your worth and value and I truly believe that the one is going to come who is going to make you his priority.
Wait on the one who meets your standards, is point 5. Social media has disgusting way of trying to make Black women feel guilty about having expectations. I’m one who has felt like I sacrificed many of the things that I desired in partner. Why do we feel as if we have to lower our standards for someone when we are the actual prize to be won and valued? For Black women with degrees, we’re told we’re too picky because there’s certain things we won’t budge on. Society places the blame on us for our singleness. Yvonne said that sometimes when people can’t meet your standards, they try to diminish them, “you’re still single because your standards are too high”. I see nothing wrong with recognizing what you’re willing to accept and not accept. And no longer should we feel guilty about it.
I think what I’m trying to say is always keep yourself first, stop trying to do wife-like things for someone who texts you every three weeks, and know the value you hold.
Today, January 10, 2019 marks the one year anniversary of the launch of this blog, formally known as, AdjustYoCrown. This past year with this blog has been filled with mixed emotions. Most of the writing I’ve done for this has been in the privacy of my own place and on a corner of the couch with my legs tucked under each other and a glass or three of wine. Each time putting various energy levels into the pictures I tried to paint with my words. Every post conjured up a variety of emotions for me. Sometimes, I left a piece feeling refreshed and relaxed, other times I left not satisfied. And although I knew I felt those ways, I never could operationalize exactly what I meant. As I type this, I still cannot describe it. I just know the feeling when it happens. Nevertheless, writing for the blog was a leap of courage I did not know I had. I mean, who was I to think that I could write about my stories as ways to offer advice for others. On the flip side of that, I was really going to be sharing some very personal stories about myself. Things that only those close to me knew about…and other things they didn’t know about me. I was terrified.
I remember the night before I launched, January 9, 2018, I opened up my blog for a couple hours to allow my sorority sisters to go read some of the first things I wrote and to look around. I wanted their feedback. At first, I wasn’t sure if anyone saw the groupme message that I wrote with the link to adjustyocrown.com. I told them I was launching my blog the very next day and wanted to know their thoughts. Soon, comments started flooding the groupme. They gave me positive feedback, told me how great of a writer I was, and that they loved the stories I wrote. Some were surprised that the first stories were as deep as they were. I wrote about my miscarriage and my experience with sexual assault. Some of them even decided to not write in the group but to send me personalized text messages with their feedback. All of it was empowering and they urged me to keep writing. I don’t think they know but that was much of the amo I needed to stop being afraid to release it. I cried that night and called my dad who also gave me some encouraging words.
As the year went on, I gained a larger following. More people would message me about something I wrote and want to talk further or tell me how much they liked it. There were people who I didn’t even think read my blog would randomly see me in person and be like “Hey! I read your blog about xyz and it was so good!” It was a really affirming feeling. My blog made me feel like I had a voice when most of my life I felt unheard and unseen. This was my way of leaving my mark somewhere and hopefully on someone. My blog was for me to heal but it soon became a space were others could heal too.
So, of course a name change was not something I wanted to do, but something I had to do. I’m going to tell you why I HAD to do it, but then I’m going to tell you why I “had” to do it – the “look on the bright-side” reason. Well, I’ve been brainstorming ideas to make my blog more known and stand out for my one year anniversary. Without spoiling the ideas I had (I’m waiting to finalize some things before I say anything) I was researching how to trademark AdjustYoCrown. In the midst of my search, I found out that the name (spelled differently) was being used for a non-profit that offered a multitude of services. At that point, I was upset because I was really tied to my original blog name. I mean, that name was attached to all of the previous things that I wrote and all of the feelings I described at the beginning of this post. And yes, me being me, I cry at everything, so I’m balling crying texting my parents and a few of my friends. I did not want to change my name. But I knew I HAD to. I have too much integrity to be aware of something like that and decide to ignore it and move forward with my plans. Nah, that’s not me. I played around with many names and sent them to two of my friends who offered me some feedback. I wasn’t feeling any of the new ideas I came up with or the ones my friends did. The names didn’t click. It wasn’t until the next night when I chose The Crowned Series. The Crowned Series encompasses all of the components of “adjusting your crown” but now sends a bigger message. A series is something that continues with new lessons and new storylines and new cliffhangers. It is something that you expect to keep getting better with time. This blog is a place where perfect strangers are getting a glimpse into my life and the thoughts I have about various topics. But, the thing about my blog is, there is no series finale coming any time soon. I see my blog lasting as long as Law and Order SVU. 0_o That show been on for hella seasons. You get the point.
The reason I “had” to change my name was because of what my friends share with me. It’s my one year anniversary, a name change came at the right time. New year, new name. New opportunities. I was on the phone with my friend Nathan and I was telling him what was going on because I had questions about trademarking and he said something the resonated with me. I don’t remember what he said verbatim but to paraphrase he said something along the lines of, “You can take the adjustyocrown name away but that doesn’t erase the content. That doesn’t take away from the people who follow your blog and what they’ve got out of it…” Something like that he said. Basically, AdjustYoCrown was just a name but my writing/blog in general is irreplaceable. He was right. So, I “had” to change it. That was the bright side of the name change. I’m eager to see the growth of my blog in 2019. This name change is just one of many ways that I hope to spice my blog up this year.
Cheers to more lessons, more growth, and more writing in 2019
To be very honest, if I didn’t need social media to help promote my blog, I wouldn’t be on it anymore. There’s no perfect word to describe social media. But I’m still going to be sharing this same piece on all of my social media platforms right after I post this. However, I do know that social media is an infectious disease that billions of people all around the world posses. I’m one of the sick ones of us. I, too, have the illness that loves to scroll up on Instagram and like a few pictures, compare myself to a celebrity who doesn’t have to worry about paying their next bill, or go creep on people’s pages for no reason. I, too, click through 200 snapchat stories in 15 minutes and also watch only 5 of them for real. And I, too, have taken many-a-snapchat videos rapping or singing in my car with my seatbelt on. So, I get how sick the world is.
Social media has been the root of all evil since conception. I remember being bullied on social media growing up and also being a bully on social media growing up. It’s only gotten worse. Social media brought us murders on Facebook Live and the murder of people’s self-esteem in the comment sections. Random hair pages following you on IG. Social media brought us “sliding in the DMs” and exposing people. I’m not going to say that social media has been all bad. SM has given us movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. It was a new way for the world to interact with each other. SM gave us Princess Cardi B and Jess Hilarious. And we can’t forget one of our first social media friends, Tom, from MySpace.
But how many of us could really do away with social media for an extended period of time? I know one person who went an entire year without it. I think the longest I’ve gone was a month. Like a disease, social media has spread into our lives in more ways than one. At work, we are either on social media for leisure or we’re on social media for work related activities. Our companies rely heavily on social media to reach diverse markets for their products or programs. We rely heavily on seeing what other people have going on because we’re bored at our desk. (I just stopped here to get on IG – see what I mean). We’ve passed this disease down to our youth. We have kids dying to get social media accounts or sneaking behind their parents backs and having them. I’ve seen kids cry because their parents said “no” to having an instagram. It’s that serious.
How do we get healthy? I honestly don’t think any amount of “break” from social media is going to heal us. I think that would take a full commitment to deleting all of your social media accounts forever. Like I said, though, social media is everywhere and if your job requires you to post on social media, there’s no escaping it. I do think there are ways to treat the infection over time:
If you can’t get away from social media because of work, when you’re not at work, stay off of it. Give your brain time to reprogram and focus on other ways for you to be productive.
If you are on vacation, only use your phone to text or call people. Take pictures with your regular camera instead of IG or snapchat. Or bring a polaroid camera since those are back in style now. Wait some months to post your photos on your pages when you decide to get back.
Delete the apps off your phone. This way, you won’t be too tempted. Plus, we all know Facebook operates to it fullest trash potential on the Safari browser. The app is better.
If you’re going to stay on social media, limit the amount of time you stay on it. Don’t snap the whole night out with your friends. Do a few snaps if you must then live in the rest of the moment for the evening. Spend real time with them while you are all alive to enjoy each other’s presence.
Try not to project someone else’s life story onto yourself. This is something that I battle with all the time. You can compare all you want to, but another person’s life will never be yours. The sooner we start to accept this, the sooner we can start healing from the inside out.
Everyone who smiling, ain’t happy. That’s all that needs to be said there.
Social media remedies may be different for you. Do what you think is best to aid in your healing process. I know I am going to find ways to get better about my social media usage this year. I encourage you to do the same.
Annie Blanc, Esq., 27, is a native of Miami, (Dade County) Florida and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Annie currently lives in Altamonte Springs, Florida. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2013 with a bachelors of arts degree in criminal justice. In high school, she was enrolled in a Dual Enrollment program that allowed her to transfer in college credits from Miami-Dade College. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Annie then went on to law school at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, GA and later transferred to Florida A & M University’s College of Law. She graduate from Florida A & M in 2017 with her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. She is currently a Dependency Attorney for a government agency that was created by the Florida Governor to alleviate the overwhelming caseload handled throughout the state regarding certain legal issues. These offices are broken down into districts and she works for the office located in Central Florida. As an attorney, she handles Dependency and Guardianship matters for the agency. She represents parents in legal actions brought on by the Department of Children and Families and she also represents incapacitated persons by making sure their interests are protected from those seeking to make permanent life decisions for them. One fun fact about Annie is she is currently on a fitness journey. She’s lost a total of 40 pounds in her process. Another fact is she loves to dance. She says, “Performing puts me in a different space, which is needed for the type of work I do.”
Talk about what you do as a Dependency Attorney? As a Dependency Attorney, I represent parents in legal actions brought on by the Department of Children and Families. I ensure that their due process rights are protected and that my clients get the services they need to keep their families together.
How did you become interested in this role?In reality, this type of law was not my first choice. My office handles criminal matters as well and that’s what I originally applied for. My boss, however, gave me a chance when no one would at the time so I was gracious to take the opportunity as it’s office policy to start new attorneys in Dependency.
What inspired you to begin studying law? Wow. Where do I begin? I come from an area of Miami that was not the richest so to speak. There was a lot of activity that my parents tried to shelter me from, being that I was Haitian, the youngest of four and the only girl. But sadly, they couldn’t keep the world and everyone in it from showing me its true colors. In my lifetime, I have seen and endured a lot. AND I MEAN A LOT. By the age of twelve, I found myself wanting to save people and to keep bad things from happening to them so they wouldn’t have to suffer because I was so sure the concept of suffering was something that could be changed. For me that meant changing the environment and changing the way society worked for people…My People. And what better way to start than with the criminal justice system and the law.
What pressures, if any, do you believe you face as a Black female attorney?As a black female attorney, I often feel as if I have something to prove. I mean, African Americans make up about 5 percent of the attorney population here in the United States. Black female attorneys make up even less than that. When I walk into a courtroom, when I’m speaking to a client, or when I’m sitting at my desk prepping an argument for a motion hearing I am representing every black woman who ever got a chance to step foot in this country. That’s because when they see me, they see you, they see my mother, they see Cyntoia Brown. I acknowledge it. I understand it. Most importantly, I am not ashamed of it. Why? Because I try my best to represent the black woman in a light that screams “WE ARE IT”.
What are some challenges and triumphs that come with your line of work? Some of the challenges I face usually come from being probably one of the few people who truly understand what clients have been through and how they perceive the world. It can get frustrating attimes because I can’t force people to see that the world just doesn’t hand a life free of problems. Some people are just born into situations that is damn near impossible to get of, hence why we have situations that are bred from cycles. This can get frustrating when it seems as if the State is condemning your client for something you know stemmed from centuries of generational curses.
My triumphs, however, come from the same fact that I am one of the few people who truly understands. Because of this I feel like I connect with my clients on another level. I am able to advocate for them from their prospective but in way aligns with the law because I went to school to speak legalese. This is what makes it all worth it.
Why is it important for Black people to understand law, politics, and policies?It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for Black people to understand law, politics, and policies because these three concepts determine our very existence in this country as a people. Everything that has affected us culturally, from slavery to integration in public places to the stand your ground era, has been deep rooted in law, politics, and policies. We as a people need to pay close attention to what makes this society function, as we do not want to be on the losing side of history again, when we have the opportunity to actually mold them to our benefit. Many people have this misconception that we don’t need to understand these concepts because “it doesn’t work for us”. But the gag is, it can work for us. Only if we understand how to make it work.
What advice do you have for young, Black people who may want to become a lawyer? Do it! We are in dire need of more black attorneys, so I am here for it all! There is nothing that can stand in your way. Your thoughts create your reality so if you believe that you have what it takes, then you have what it takes. This is coming from a Haitian American girl who grew up in a part of Miami where the palm trees and sandy beaches were not part of her reality.
Do you see yourself working in this area of law long term or do you have other career goals? If you have other goals, how will you take what you’ve been doing in this role to your next position?No. Not at all. I’m the type of person who believes that purpose is comprised of a series of life tasks that are meant to be conquered. There is nothing earthly that should take hundred percent of your life’s work. I plan on influencing society in a number of ways and this chapter of my life will push me forward and carry me through the next.
Anything else you want readers to know? YES! Follow my Instagram blog page @legallyinspired2. I have a few projects coming out this year and I would love for everyone to be a part of this journey with me ! Looking forward to this new year already
! Thank you for letting me apart of this HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
Follow Annie on Instagram at @she_inspires2 and @legallyinspired2
“Strong enough to bare the children, then get back to business”. – Beyoncé
Lynn is one of my classmates in my PhD program. She’s one of the most thoughtful and kind people I’ve ever met. Lynn is like a breath of fresh air. She is intelligent, inquisitive, beautiful, and someone I look up to with the utmost respect. I feel blessed to have met her in this program. She is someone I consider a friend but also a mentor. I would sit in class and listen to Lynn add a comment to a discussion we were having and would be in awe at how it seemed as if her thoughts came together so easily. Although, Lynn talked about her mental health being impacted during this process, I’ve only seen her “not herself” one time during a summer session. That moment made me feel more connected to her than ever. I saw that Lynn was not superwoman but just a woman. A woman who also has struggles and unanswered questions. About a year later, Lynn and her husband welcomed a baby boy into their family. Lynn now had an extra responsibility outside of working full-time (and job searching at one point) and school. After Lynn gave birth, she was unable to come to class one weekend and so she Skyped in so she didn’t miss out. I would have said “forget class” and solely would have focused on spending time with my child. But Lynn was determined. Another thing that made me admire her. She could have easily ignored class and her assignments while on maternity leave but I believe she knew that that would have set her back from the graduation goal she set for herself.
I asked three of my classmates if I could ask them a few questions about their doctoral journey. Lynn sent her questions over and my other two classmates needed time for their mental health because comprehensive exams were very overwhelming. I completely understood and was surprised Lynn was able to type responses to my questions. Hell, I was surprised I started back writing for my blog so soon. Understand, that I gave Lynn a limited amount of words to write so her responses may not be the full picture on her experiences. I limited the sentence length because at the time, I thought I was going to have all three classmates participate. I didn’t want to go back and ask her to write anymore after that. Having another Black woman’s perspective on this journey is critical. Sure, I told you about my experience in the previous post, but mostly everything on my blog is from my perspective. I wanted someone else to share their stories to offer another look into the doctoral journey as a Black woman. Lynn’s thoughts are below.
In 4 to 7 sentences, what was the doctoral journey like for you?
The doctoral journey has been challenging for me because of the sacrifice it has required regarding my time and mental energy. The academic rigor was frustrating at times because some of the coursework, particularly the material regarding organizational theory, was something I had never encountered and was difficult to comprehend.
During my first two years in the program, I was child free. The birth of my son in August 2017 was a tremendous blessing but it added another layer of difficulty to getting work done for the program.
In 9-12 sentences, did you feel as if the doctoral exam impacted your mental health? If so, how?
The comprehensive exam brought about high levels of anxiety, stress and mild depression for three and a half months. The amount of work that was required, the short amount of time that I had to do that work while working full time and taking care of a family, along with the pressure to pass on the first attempt was overwhelming. I also didn’t realize until I began writing the exam essay that completing the exam is a team sport. My husband and the rest of my family had to pitch in to take care of my son while I wrote. That made me sad because I didn’t mean for others to have to sacrifice their time so that I could achieve my goal. I also missed out on a lot of time with my son, which was difficult because he’s only going to be little for so long.
What advice do you have for other Black full-time professionals in doctoral programs or considering applying to programs? (No sentence limit)
My advice to those who are considering applying to a doctoral program is to think long and hard about whether you really need a Ph.D. There are Ed.D. programs that my friends have completed during the time that I have been pursuing the Ph.D. Some Ed.D. programs are two and half to three years long with the dissertation embedded into the coursework. Considering that the people you love will also be impacted by the length of time that it takes you to complete the doctorate, you should give shorter programs a lot of thought. I don’t regret the choice that I made. I like that my program has prepared me to be an academician. But others who don’t have a career in scholarly work in mind should take a look at other pathways to the doctorate.
To those already in a doctoral program, keep pushing! God is able to bring you through it if you let Him.
Thank you, Lynn, for being you, for being my rock. I love you very much.
Everyone in my cohort was older than me – some with families – and have had many years working in the field of higher education. I was just beginning my second year working professionally out of graduate school. I had very little experience working in a college setting or how the political aspects of our higher education system worked.
The purpose of this blog post is to tell a little of my doctoral program journey up until this point, the point after comprehensive exams and the starting line of the dissertation process. I thought it would be cool to do a brief interview with one of my classmates as well, Lynn. I will share her short interview in another post. I charged Lynn with offering another perspective on the exam journey and about the doctoral journey. Lynn has been a critical person for me. She is someone who has a beautiful spirit and has been an essential role model and friend during our time together in classes. This stage of our lives has not only challenged us more than we’ve probably been challenged but it grew us into stronger people.
I was juggling with the idea of applying for the program. Like many 25-year-olds I knew at the time, we were all trying to figure out what to do with our lives. I completed the application with hesitation to press submit. The guy I was in the early stages of dating at the time urged me to finally submit it. And I’ll be honest, I think I only did it because I wanted him to be proud of me more than I cared about bettering my career with a terminal degree. Nonetheless, after I was accepted, I enrolled in coursework. My program was a little different than traditional Ph.D program. Many of us did not live in the same city as the university. A couple of my classmates and I were the only ones who worked at the university at the time (I had three more jobs after during my time as a student. I only spent one year working at the university while enrolled in the program). Our department created the “cohort model” of the Ph.D. program to accommodate students like us and to try another approach to learning. The cohort model allowed students to come to campus the last weekend of every month for our two classes and the rest of our time would be spent working on assignments and having class online asynchronously. From first thought, you would think that it was easy. It was not. Yes, we only met once a month but the homework felt like we were in classes like a traditional program.
I remember the first night I had homework that included an exponential amount of reading, I cried. I cried because it was a lot to do in so little time but I also cried because I was mad at myself for taking graduate school for granted all those nights I barely read my assigned articles and book chapters. I didn’t have those skills ingrained so all of the literature my Ph.D. program provided blew me away.
That was three and a half years ago which seems like a lifetime. I don’t recognize that young woman anymore. I now know how to read for content and how to point out some research problems. But outside of the academic development, I learned a few other things in the process that I believe is important for Black people who are considering a terminal degree to keep in mind mixed with some raw feelings about the overall first part of this doctoral commitment. Having context of both is beneficial in the decision-making process of Ph.D. programs.
The Good, the Bad, and the Real Ugly.
Since my blog is all about transparency, I want to be as transparent as I can about my experience in my program. I’ll keep it brief, though, but still long enough to fully examine my emotions.
The Good: There are many good things that I am grateful for during this experience. I chose to highlight two. The first are the invaluable classmates I had and the lifelong friendships I gained. Out of those classmates and friendships, I also found my community. I genuinely love and respect every one of my classmates (as well as the ones who started with us and did not complete for personal reasons). I admired all of their minds and the way we could turn a quick discussion about deficit theory into a thirty to forty-five minute back and forth conversation that included personal stories and situations. Or we started getting sick of each other but turned that irritation back into a brief smile. These people were directors, assistant deans, teachers, administrations, you name it and all brought their lived experiences into each class.
Out of the larger cohort came my community. There were a group of us students of color in our cohort and to me, that was so important. To see other people who looked like me striving for the same degree I was blew me away. These individuals allowed me space to be vulnerable when I didn’t understand an assignment or when things were getting too stressful. They also gave me room to celebrate my accomplishments. I really took to this group when they felt comfortable enough with me to share some of their struggles and their dislikes/likes about assignments or the department. If it were not for these people, I would not have made it this far. They have been my support systems in more ways than one. Their love for me and our community extended past what we were doing in class. We truly cared about each other’s well-being and families. The doctoral journey is one that you cannot conquer alone. Many people have, but from my experience and in conversation with other Black doctoral students, having a community is extremely important for your overall mental health and persistence in a program. They have been my accountability partners and are one of the reasons I will finish strong. They have been part of my foundation and I hope to continue to make the proud. I am excited to share with you a brief look into Lynn’s experience in the next blog post.
The second thing I am grateful for is the learning. I learned how to really use theory and research to develop an argument. I think that is how I passed my comprehensive exams. Our professors continued to tell us that we have to make an argument and convince our readers that what we were saying was grounded in research and convincing. I admit, I doubted my abilities to do this all the way up to exam time, during the exam writing process, and after I submitted it. How was I supposed to know what would convince my readers that Black women professionals who work in higher education were worth studying? My advice to anyone considering a doc program is to really engross yourself in the learning of it all. Ask questions when you don’t understand. That magnifies your thinking and will stretch it further than you’ve experienced before.
The Bad: The bad part of my doctoral experience was the lack of feedback we received in the program. We had a few professors who would read our papers and provide really good feedback for improvement but we also had others who did not provide any or very minimal feedback. We had no way in knowing what we did well and what we needed to improve on for the next time. This was something that frustrated many of us. Part of the learning process for us was knowing where we needed to grow in our writing and research. So, going into the comprehensive exam, we were praying that we were writing at a level that would send us to that next phase of dissertation. As students, we could have taken more initiative and asked for the feedback from previous classes but we didn’t ask. Well, let me speak for myself. I did not ask. In order to improve your writing, you have to be willing to put in that extra effort to do so. I remember spring 2017 semester I received a ‘B’ in one of my classes. That was was the only ‘B’ I got in the whole program. I was pissed because I wrote that paper exactly like the instructions said and yet, I still got a ‘B’ in the course. I think I did email the professor and asked for feedback about why I did not get an ‘A’ on that paper. I never heard back. I think that is what confirmed for me that I wasn’t going to ask anymore.
The Real Ugly: Don’t let me pretend as if my mental health was not effected during the coursework and comprehensive exam journey, because I experienced a mental shake that I never thought possible. People often tell you to do things to help you destress during this time but no matter how many workouts I did, how many self-care mental breaks I took, how many vacations I went on, I was still stressed. The thought of an article that I had to read or a discussion post that I had to reply to was always in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about everything I had to do. I found myself having random episodes of panic attacks (outside of the ones I had for my anxiety) and breakdowns of me balling crying at any random time. On top of that, things in my personal life started to take tremendous unexpected turns. My boyfriend and I at the time broke up and then I found out about the other woman he had. I changed jobs and experienced discrimination everyday, I faced lots of financial roadblocks while I watched my closest friends get promotions and watch their salaries increase. It was hard juggling all of that at once. Then, when I lost that job, I had to quickly move back home with my parents and I felt shame that I wasn’t working anymore. So, not only was I still in school with no source of income, I had to get back out on the job search market. If you know anything about job searching in higher education, you know that it is a long process. You have to impress so many people that you almost start to lose yourself in the process. You’re filling out hundreds of applications, going over interview questions, praying that you’re good enough, flying across the country for weeks at a time to do on campus interviews…just to be told no or not receive any notification at all. I’ll admit, out of the many times I wanted to quit my Ph.D. work, this past summer was the one where I almost said ‘I’m done.’ It was too much going on and I couldn’t handle it. But somehow I made it. God and my support systems really covered me. When I didn’t know what else to do, I had them to talk to and cry on.
The comprehensive exam process was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. Especially, moving across the country to Florida when I got a new job. My move happened right when exams started so I had to try to learn my job and focus on writing an exam. Needless to say, ya’ girl was overwhelmed. I noticed myself eating tremendous amounts of sweets and foods for no reason other than to make myself feel better. It was only making me more down. But I kept eating. I stopped wanting to leave my apartment unless it had to do with me going to work. It was bad. I found myself sitting in front of my laptop trying to figure out what words to type sometimes and ultimately would just shut my laptop. I couldn’t write. I didn’t want to write. I even stopped writing for this blog during that time. I maybe wrote 1 or 2 posts in a 4 month time period. I would go weeks without writing or doing anything for that exam and that did nothing but give me more anxiety because as the deadline approached, I had nowhere to run. I had to write. Luckily, my new supervisor was very supportive of me finishing my exam and provided me some days off so I could focus solely on writing. I highly recommend if you work full-time, to chat with your supervisor about this journey. If they are not on board with supporting you and the things you need, I would say wait to start. There are going to be times where you need to focus on an assignment by taking off work and if your boss isn’t on board with that, it is going to be difficult. Also, think about if you have children. Many of my classmates had to juggle work, school, children, and everything outside of that. Communicate with your supervisor about everything you have going on. Hopefully, your supervisor is genuinely invested in your professional development because during normal conversations or one-on-one meetings, they should be asking you about your program and how things are going. All of the supervisors I’ve had (except the one in the last job) were all vested in me in my doctoral process.
Everyone’s journey is going to be different. My classmates all have varying feelings about their process. I hope these tips help you make a sound decision about your next steps in your educational endeavors. Also, please make sure you research each program you think you want to apply to. See if you can talk to some current students and professors before you apply to get an idea of what will be your experience. Make sure they are honest with you. You don’t want to apply to a program and then get in there and realize you were sold a dream.
Please check out Lynn’s short post next to read what she had to say about her experience.
I enjoy watching the Red Table talks. They’ve been very open on domestic abuse, drug use, and overall hard conversations. However, with the two segments on race, specifically between white and black women, I can say that something is missing from the conversation. I understand the intention behind bringing women of color and white women together to try and bridge gaps between the societal separation, however the language being used at the table is missing some depth and in some cases, facts, about the our ownership in the systems that drive these relationships. There are deep rooted reasons behind the divide in the first place and those reasons should be addressed alongside the lived experiences of both block women and white women. However without further inspection into the systematic divide, the lived experiences only seem like surface level conversations. – Tiara Cash, 2018
(Shout out to my dear friend/Soror, Cash $chmoney$for the quote!)
I love Red Table Talk. If you don’t know what Red Table Talk is, please do yourself a great service, log into Facebook, and head over to the Facebook Watch icon and search Red Table Talk (RTT). RTT is hosted by Jada Pinkett-Smith, her daughter Willow, and her mother, Adrienne. They have various discussions about various topics that highlight Black women’s intersectional identities. Topics have ranged from drug abuse, to mending old relationships, to most recently, conversations about race.
Now, those who know me, know I love a good conversation about race. I love hearing others’ opinions about how race plays a role in just about everything that goes on in this country. Our country was founded on the basis of racism. When the second season of RTT premiered a number of weeks ago, I was ready. I loved season one so I knew season 2 was going to be just as good. After the first episode, they previewed clips from the upcoming shows that season and the two that caught my attention the most were the episodes that featured Jane Elliot, a white woman, well-known for her work with children in the mid-1900s about how segregation worked in America, and Ellen Pompeo, a white woman, the star of one of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy (I feel like there were hella commas in that sentence but…oh well).
I purposely mentioned that they were both white women because it is important in this context. Jada asked them on the show because she believed that they were white women who “get it” and are advocates for the rights of all people in this country, but specifically, advocates for people of color. The RTT episode with Jane, was not my first time hearing about her work with teaching white people about their privilege in America and how white people socially control just about everything. I admired Jane’s work, but I also had my reservations about it. We will get into that a bit later. Ellen, has been monumental in the movement for equal pay, women’s rights, and the rights of people of color. She is a woman who I admire and believe that she truly means what she says.
On the episode with Jane, Jada, Adrienne, and Willow discuss the relationship between white women and Black women in America. Jada was curious to know why white and Black women are basically arch nemesis. Adrienne shared stories about growing up during the era of segregation and why she still holds anger towards white people. Jada agreed. She recalled an experience she had in Virginia with the police. Pain has been passed down through generations from the way whiteness has impacted their lives.
Here’s where I felt the conversation went from pretty decent to sort of missing the mark. When Jada said she was surprised that white women and Black women have issues because white women know the struggle of being oppressed because they are women. Jada missed a mark here because while white women are oppressed in a patriarchal system, they still benefit from white privilege. This is a privilege that Black women are unable to possess. Black women hold two dually oppressed identities: being Black (race) and being a woman (gender). Their oppression is at the intersection of racism and sexism. This is why white women have the power to oppress Black women.
Another mark that was missed was when the women brought out one of their white female producers. The producer went on to talk about how she’s never been in an experience to know when she had privilege and when a Black woman didn’t have privilege. She said that no one had ever checked her on it before. Then she said she doesn’t know what to do about racism and that she tries to be Black women’s friend. At that moment, one of the hosts could have said multiple things but here’s two:
Fixing racism isn’t about going out and being Black women’s friend.
A starting point is being an active bystander and if you hear someone say something racist or offensive towards people of color, talk to them about why what they said was hurtful.
I know I heard myself screaming “GO READ A BOOK!” “Open up the news and read about police brutality!” These were simple steps to figuring out “what to do” about racism. You have to educate yourself and make yourself comfortable being uncomfortable. Talking and learning about racism is very uncomfortable.
The last mark missed was when Jane came out talkin’ ’bout some, “there is no race but the human race”. Okay, yes, race is a social construct. This means that race is not a biological thing. People created races. So, while yes, Jane is absolutely correct, but to yell that statement that loud without more context, does nothing for the purpose of the conversation. What I mean is, this is a time for Jane to follow that statement up by saying something like, “Although we are all one race, we cannot ignore that socially, race exists and we have to acknowledge that people of color in this country have experienced traumatic events and have endured systems of dominance since colonization.” Jane’s “color blind” rhetoric is one of the reasons why some white people can’t see their privilege. When you say or imply that you don’t see color, you ignore the unique experiences that people of color have faced and you really don’t see them. Their color is part of who they are and the world treats you very differently when your melanin is poppin’. I know the episodes aren’t long enough to go into much detail but key pieces like that have to be aired so people don’t get the wrong idea. With Jane being the “expert” in the space, that was her role to ensure those things were mentioned.
Nonetheless, I was eager to watch the next episode with Ellen Pompeo. I knew Ellen was going give the people the real talk about race. I felt like she was a white woman who was down with the movement for Black rights. I believe she is down. I enjoyed her appearance and I had a couple moments where I felt myself making a face that probably read, “huh?” I cringed when Ellen was telling the story about how when she was growing up, she was curious to know why white people didn’t like Black people so much. She became friends with them because she wanted to know more about them. Then she said that she would invite her Black friends over to swim in the pool so when her dad got home, she was see if he would get mad. “You know, when he came home, see a pool full of Black boys…cuz ya know, when you’re a teenager, you have to rebel a little”. That statement right there had me like “EXCUSE ME?! Soooo, you exploiting Black boys for entertainment….?” But, that was 30 years ago and I’m sure Ellen has evolved and was telling that story to probably show her growth. After I processed that to myself, I moved on with the video.
The conversation continues and Ellen moves on to talk about “reverse racism”…you know what? I’m still processing this segment so, I actually can’t form a full opinion yet.
Lastly, I think the conversation about interracial marriage had a potential to go another route. Jada prefaced that conversation with a quick history lesson about Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who were in love and secretly got married in the 1960s. They were arrested and jailed because interracial marriage was illegal. Their case went to the Supreme Court and they won changing history and changing the law. This was a cute touch. I think they could have went further back in history and had a conversation about slavery and the institution of the marriage. But also how white people sexually objectified and abused Black bodies. One of the reasons why people have an issue with interracial marriage stems from pieces of that history. Again, all that would have been too much for a short episode.
I would be remiss if I did not speak to Black women as well. Black women, we have to ensure that we take time to not automatically assume that white women are around to harm us. We need to be open to getting to know them and learn about their cultural as well. The key to better communication is learning how to talk across cultural differences and see diverse perspectives.
I say all of that to say that we have to continue to have these conversations and check each other. Feel free to check me if you disagree. That’s the beauty of learning. When you bring multiple ideas and ways of knowing to the table it brings out more opportunity for growth and conversation. These two RTT episodes definitely made me want to continue to the growth.
I don’t really have much patience for anything. I don’t like my time and money wasted, I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen next, and I don’t like to not be in control. Check me out. I feel like most of my life I wanted everything to work out the way I thought it should and that if it didn’t happen right away then it wasn’t going to happen at all. Here’s a few examples of what I’m saying.
I wanted a cell phone when I was 14. My parents kept telling me no. I wasn’t being patient and automatically assumed I was never going to get one. Then they show up the July before my freshman year of high school with a silver flat back Nokia phone and I was elated, lol.
In grad school, I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, so I gave up because I believed I couldn’t do it. One day, I stopped worrying and finally saw it come off.
The job search I went through this summer reallllllly stretched my patience to the very edge of a cliff. I started doubting God and myself and believed I wasn’t going to get a job. I was trying to rush application processes and spoke negativity into the air…basically blocking my blessings because there’s power in the tongue. And what you speak out will manifest itself in your life. Once I started to restore my faith, I stumbled across the best job that I could ask for at this time in my life.
So, as you can see, my patience = lacking. But in June, I decided to hop on a journey that I never thought I would actually do. I decided to lock my hair. Now, I knew growing up and much of my adult life that I liked to change my hair up too much to ever lock it. I also didn’t want to do anything too drastic too my hair because I didn’t want to feel like I was taking away a piece of my femininity. Nonetheless, I stared at my reflection in the mirror for days after I took down my last sew-in. My hair was thick and had grown a lot. I was too overwhelmed with job searching to actually have the patience to “deal” with my natural hair. Any person with natural hair that has really tight coils, understands what I mean when I saw “deal” with it. The detangling, washing/conditioning/or cowashing, oiling, the leave-in conditioner, etc. then styling, then hoping your twist out is dry for the next morning, just to end up putting it in a puff at the end of all the madness. I definitely did not have the time for all that. I chatted with a few of my friends who had locs to get some advice on how to begin. I asked them questions like, “Should I get them professionally done?” “Should I do them myself?” “What gel do I use?” “Should I interlock them or palm roll?” I mean, the questions were endless. I would ask the same questions to different people just to hear multiple perspectives. I opted on doing them myself because I was unemployed and job searching and didn’t want to spend money that wasn’t going towards necessities plus I wanted to challenge myself to start my own. Instead of parting my hair and rolling each loc, I decided to two-strand twist my hair as if I was twisting it for a twistout. It took my about three hours to finally finish. All of my locs were different sizes and my parts were disproportionate but they were mine.
But soon after, I was getting impatient. I wanted December to get here so I could know what my hair was going to look like finally locked. Even after I got a job and moved, my original twists were still very distinctive and I didn’t see any signs of my hair locking. I was frustrated. But a few weeks ago. I was playing with my hair in the mirror like I normally do before I oil my scalp and there it was. I saw my first fully locked loc on the lower right side of my hair. That’s when I knew it was going to be uphill from there.
This is maybe one of the most difficult things to do for someone like me who doesn’t have much patience. It is taking a lot out of me but the possibility of becoming better from this experience is so clear right now. After I saw the first one, started paying my hair more attention. I massaged my scalp and used a different blend of oils. I soon noticed that all of my twists were now in the locking stage. I still have a ways to go before they are fully locked but my progress is showing. I’m even not rushing the growth of them now. I’ve now accepted my hair and recognize its going to do what it wants.
Lastly, this experience has bonded me to my hair. I know that may sound crazy but I’ve built a sort of spiritual connection with my girls (my locs). All 99 of them (one of my besties counted them for me one day). My girls just be doing their own things.
I do still wear my wigs. And people keep asking me, “why don’t you just wear your locs all the time?” or they would say, “embrace them at every stage, this is part of the journey”. At first, I was wearing my wigs because I wasn’t embracing them fully. Now, I wear them because I want to and I actually really like weave. When I’m ready to stop, I will. But probably not.
This story really makes me upset. Yet again we see our unjust justice system has failed another woman of color who chose survival over being sexually mistreated. This is yet a prime example of how the safety of a woman is of minimal concern to the court system. Ms. Brown has been incarcerated for almost a decade for murdering a man who purchased her as a sex slave and made her fear for her safety, when she was 16-years-old. She made a choice to protect herself and the system failed to protect her.
Now, the first time this story became news to me was late last year when I saw it circulating around social media. I was unaware that Ms. Brown was already serving a life sentence and her supporters and attorneys were fighting her length of her incarceration. If my understanding of the facts of the case were right, then they were arguing that Ms. Brown’s sentence was excessive because it was unlawful to give a minor a life sentence for a crime. News recently broke that Ms. Brown will not be released from jail and that she must serve 51 years of her sentence before she is eligible for release.
I could be totally off here but this story is also an example of the credibility of a woman of color was called into question. It’s as if this ruling is saying that the mistreatment of Black and brown female bodies is invalid, like we are just supposed to accept abuse because that’s what we deserve. That if she would have just continued to be be sexually abused she would not be in prison.
We live in a country where statistically, Black and Latino/Hispanic people are incarcerated higher than white people. According to the NAACP’s website, 32% of the children arrested in 2014 were Black. You didn’t need me to tell you that though, this is not a new topic. Prisons were designed to find a new way for slavery after Emancipation.
I feel as if this ruling is a slap in the face for the fight for social justice. I’m not saying that giving up the fight for social justice, that will always continue, I’m saying that its situations like these that gives us a constant reminder about why we must continue. The five judges that unanimously ruled in favor of Ms. Brown serving 51-years, I wonder if they have daughters. Or little grandchildren. I wonder if they had to make the same decision on their lives like they did Ms. Brown, if they would feel the same. If their daughters or granddaughters had to make the same decision Ms. Brown had to make at 16-years-old, if they would unanimously vote to keep them behind bars for 51 years.
I’m just going to end this by saying that Cyntoia Brown is a SHero and we must not let her name get lost in a sea of hashtags. Let her continue to remind you that there is still tremendous work that needs to be done in country and in our unjustified justice system.