Embrace Your Inner Nerd

This past weekend I spent hours having fun. Not only was I having good time, but also over 300 students were in the same building having fun with me. Interestingly, there was no DJ, no food, nor were there any beverages. Saturday night you didn’t hear anybody blaming it on “the goose that had them feeling loose”; you heard them blaming it on Marx and Hegel. I know you’re probably thinking that we are a weird bunch of people. That is a fair assumption. However, we weren’t discussing Communism and the dialectic at a frat party. Our party was in the infamous A-level of the Regenstein Library.

During finals week at the University of Chicago you will find more students drinking red bull to stay awake than drinking beer. You will also find more kids with blood shot eyes because of a long night of studying, not partying. You are probably wondering why I actually think spending my Saturday night in the library is fun. One simple reason: I’m a nerd. There I said it.

No, no, no. I already see you judging me. I’m not the socially awkward, pocket protector-wearing guy who never sees the light of day because he’s drowning in a sea of physics problems. For the most part, I’m just a typical college student that works hard during the week and usually goes out on the weekends.  I enjoy dancing and attending social events. However, I also love learning. I’m fully aware that a lot of learning takes place outside of the ivory tower. Yet, I’m also fully aware that many of the things that I have learned in the ivory tower have expanded my horizons.

DWB: Dissertating While Blogging…

…has been increasingly difficult for me to do these last couple of weeks.  Seriously.  I looked up and it was March.  My dissertation has been haunting me so much I feel like I’m in some 21st century, black version of an Edgar Allan Poe novel.

I’m finishing up a blog on the US census that I hope to post this afternoon, but in the meantime, here are a few things.

1. I tweeted that I hoped Precious lost every Oscar it was nominated for.  It didn’t work out that way, but I will say it’s not really all that odd that Precious won several awards the same night that Sandra Bullock nabbed an Oscar.  Precious, The Blind Side, and Avatar is one helluva trifecta.

2. Speaking of the Oscars, is it okay for me to admit now that I found Gabby Sidibe during interviews nearly as obnoxious as I found those folks who insisted, insisted that they called her beautiful?  Saying it a whole bunch doesn’t convince me that you really mean it.  I’m just saying.

3. At the very least, Ben Roethlisberger is an idiot.

I hope to provide you with something meatier this afternoon, folks.  Thanks for your patience.


All Boxed In

Nannie gave me my first lessons–and anxieties–about race.  My great-grandmother was pretty damn light.  So much so that I remember being nervous during grandparents day at Weisser Park Elementary School.  Kids’ grandparents would show up sometime in the afternoon and sit in on our classes.  We’d introduce them to our fellow classmates and perform poetry or songs on our recorders–terrible renditions that only a grandparent would love.  I recall being simultaneously excited and lightweight shook at the thought of Nannie and Papa showing up to my class, and I knew it had everything to do with a very light-skinned black woman claiming to be kin to my little brown self.  I just knew that one of my white classmates would question how we were related.

Perhaps this anxiety stems from the one of two times in my life I can recall Nannie being visibly upset with me.  One ordinary afternoon, I was sitting on her lap and decided that there was no more perfect time to ask why her skin was white.  (Yes, that’s the term I used.)  Nannie got upset, and I knew then that what I said had hit a nerve so deep that I’d never get an answer from her.  I shut up about it, and never mentioned Nannie’s complexion to her again.  It was much later when I discovered what it meant to be “mixed” or “biracial” and the integral role blackness played in those designations, or one’s inability to be described as such.  I’m almost sure the issue was clarified in a school lunchroom when a classmate, technically mixed, offered the quick and dirty version of the one-drop rule.

What The F@%! Happened?!: LAURYN HILL

Over the next four weeks, I’ve decided to focus on some of my generations most-beloved Hip Hop/Soul artists that up and disappeared on our asses! Why did we love them, why did they fade into oblivion, and is there even a snowball’s chance in hell that they’ll come back to us one day? These are the questions I’ll attempt to answer for ya’ll.

So without further delay, let’s get into this week’s cry for help.

An obvious one….

Lauryn Hill

Women Her-story Month: Do You Have a Chosen Sister?

I speak as a – a sister of a sister. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on my birthday. And for over 30 years, Coretta Scott King and I have telephoned, or sent cards to each other, or flowers to each other, or met each other somewhere in the world.

We called ourselves “chosen sisters” and when we traveled to South Africa or to the Caribbean or when she came to visit me in North Carolina or in New York, we sat into the late evening hours, calling each other “girl.” It’s a black woman thing, you know. And even as we reached well into our 70th decade, we still said “girl.”

I pledge to you, my sister, I will never cease.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s remarks at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral

So, I was watching the Monique Show last night and Taraji P. Henson was one of her guests. What was interesting about the show was not that they both were Oscar nominated actresses, but that they were girlfriends. I mean Sistergirl girl friends. Sistahfriends whose on screen chemistry spoke of countless nights of belly laughs and Girl, let me tell you . . .” call and response, “I almost had to take my earrings off,” black girl stories. So, inspired by their on camera friendship and Women’s Her-story month, today I pay tribute to Sisterfriends without whom many black women including myself would go crazy on what seems like an ordinary day. Yes, black girl friendships are a blessing.

Dear Governor Paterson,

I was sad to see Spitzer go, but I was still excited about you in office. I didn’t know much about you, but I have to admit the black and blind thing made you kind of interesting. My thoughts–a man with that much handicap must be good or at least have some progressive ideas. Spitzer had ideas too, some that could have helped us avert the whole crazy Wall Street thing, but he also had hos. And we all know, hookers and politics don’t mix well.

So alas, it was your turn. And I was desperate for you to prove yourself. Even said “ha” to all the naysayers when you and your wife emerged to admit to extramarital affairs. Can’t get ’em now, I said as I was dumb to think the only things tripping up politicians were camera women and interns. Anyway, a blind black man and his cheating wife. This is gonna be good and for a short time–it was. You scored major points with your support of stem cell research and I heard gay people weeping when you proposed a gay marriage bill. You were hitting all the right buttons and then you started slipping. Getting crushed actually, by that big ass budget deficit. So you thought, let’s just charge four percent on everything from music downloads to sleeping outside (camping). Of course, there was the 18% soda tax aka the “obesity tax” that has yet to be approved.

Rhythm and Blackness

“She dances like a Black girl.”



Is there something distinct about the way in which we move or speak that is noticeably…Black? Before, I would have denied this. There’s no way you can identify movement or speech as distinctly Black. Right?


Know Your Rights

Tonight I attended a forum at my school about racial profiling. I heard various opinions about what people think it is, how to confront it, and what should be done if it happens. The theme of the night was sustaining the energy and outrage—when profiling does occur—so that change can be brought to the situation. The idea of using situations of profiling (or other situations of that bring shock to the multitudes) to create opportunities of mobilization makes sense to me. It also seems to be a pattern that once a couple weeks pass by, people tend to forget about a situation and the occasion to bring positive transformation gets lost. I saw this happen a week after the earthquake in Haiti hit. Or when I think back to Jena 6, how no one really cared about it after it became “old news.”

Overall, the lesson from the night, at least when it came to racial profiling when dealing with the police was knowing your rights. When I worked with the ACLU last Summer we would explain to people what their rights were when dealing with the police. Here are some tips to take into account is you are ever stopped by the police.

What to do if you’re stopped by the police

Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions. Don’t get into an argument with the police. Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you. Keep your hands where the police can see them. Don’t run. Don’t touch any police officer. Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent. Don’t complain on the scene or tell the police they’re wrong or that you’re going to file a complaint. Do not make any statements regarding the incident . You also should not lie to a police officer.