On white people upholding a culture of white supremacy at SUNY New Paltz…

“We are made constantly and painfully aware of how little effort white women have made to understand and combat their racism, which requires among other things that they have a more than superficial comprehension of race, color, and Black history and culture. Eliminating racism in the white women’s movement is by definition work for white women to do, but we will continue to speak to and demand accountability on this issue” (CRC, 1977).

I am going to take a page (literally) from Resmaa Menakem and say outright that this post will resonate differently for different people. And that’s OK.

White readers will likely ignore it, get defensive, cry, and/or respond with outrage, because that’s what centuries of white privilege has trained them to do. I’m asking them to be conscious and curious about their own responses, to make room for a version of the story that does not center their experience or perspective.

Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx readers will likely recognize a version of their own experiences in my words because the story I’m about to share is far from unique. I’m asking them to take what they need (if anything) from my words, but please don’t let it sap your energies in the same way dealing with it has sapped mine.

SUNY New Paltz is a predominantly white institution with a profound culture of “tacit” white supremacy that inhabits each and every corner of the campus community. (The hashtag #AcademiaSoWhite comes to mind.) I’ve worked here since 2014 in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department; I am now tenured. In 2016, I created a network for faculty and staff who identify as people of color (POCN). Our purpose is to provide a space where we can rest, feel “safe,” and support one another. That said, white supremacy knocks at our door all the time. Sometimes we respond with a message meant as an intervention, a way to turn harm into a teaching moment; sometimes words are not enough and we organize an event. As the founder of that group—who often sends out those emails or event invites—I am no stranger to backlash emails, hate mail, cyberbullying, bridge burning, requests for unpaid intellectual and emotional labor, etc. I am also the person who receives emails in confidence from people of color (students, faculty, and staff) needing affirmation, back up, resources, and support.

SNP is also the home of “from the ground up” anti-racist practices such as the Black Lives Matter at School Collective and the Anti-Racist reading group. Efforts like these, attempting to change our campus culture, are sometimes supported by those with institutional power and other times resisted or simply ignored. The number one hindrance to our collective efforts, in my opinion, is the inability of our white community members to decenter their own white desires coupled with a social resistance to speak directly, call harm what it is, and take and/or demand real accountability.

Diversity and inclusion efforts to encourage conversations about race across our campus community over the last year, have predominantly taken the form of town halls that leave many students, faculty, and staff of color wondering: what was the point of that?

In our last POCN meeting, we reflected on our critiques of these town halls and asked ourselves: if we were going to encourage conversation about racism on campus, how would we go about it? Members shared a variety of ideas, but the one that resonated the most—a community check in—came from the director of one of our incredible programs for supporting (primarily) our students of color (we have three: EOP, SMP, and AC2). Following the model of our brilliant colleagues, we decided to facilitate a “community check in” for POC faculty and staff. The first concern was how to extend an invitation to this check in to everyone while making sure OUR voices were heard and centered. A key aspect of the community check in for the students was keeping faculty and staff, who were not moderating, in the space of the chat to ensure that student voices were centered. We adopted this model.

On Monday, I sent out an email invite for the check in that included this note to our white allies and accomplices:

Non-BIPOC members of our community are welcome to join, but asked to keep their participation in the chat. We are intentionally creating this space to center the voices and experiences of BIPOC and need our white allies/accomplices to respect the need for that space.”

On Tuesday, while I was attending the community check in for students, I received this email message:

For the purpose of this blog post it doesn’t matter who the message came from. Someone forwarded my message to a friend off campus and that person responded to me by accident(?).

Look, I know that everyone complains about work to their friends, but the content and the ideological presumptions behind the complaint is what matters. What’s most important is what this message makes wildly visible: the pervasive culture of white supremacy and specifically white entitlement on our campus, despite (or maybe because of?) our “diversity and inclusion” efforts.

This person, these people, are mad because they don’t have access to the CENTER of a space that we created for ourselves. Over the years, when the POCN has shared a critique of an event on campus—we are often told a version of: if this event doesn’t suit you, host your own. And we have. But the reality is that even when we do create our own spaces, white people feel entitled to those as well. We had no intention of silencing white allies. Our true accomplices in anti-racist work wouldn’t assert complaints like this in the first place.

If you want to know why people of color leave this institution, look no further than the sentiment of this email (“you can’t say anything? can’t make this stuff up!”). The notion that all space is their space and that it’s inconceivable that people of color would be the center of the conversation is eerily reminiscent of the “you will not replace us” belief system.

If you want to know why students of color feel unsafe and unsupported in their classrooms and/or in their departments, look no further than the sentiment of this email. One of these people works here, but this one person is not the issue: it’s the culture of our institution.

If you want to know why the culture of white supremacy will not die at SUNY New Paltz, start with really simple everyday things like noticing who is actually taking the time to learn about racism or to engage communities outside of their own. Anyone with a modicum of connection to people of color would know what the acronym BIPOC stands for, and for those who want to be actively anti-racist the move is to educate yourself as you are a member of a learning institution that serves and employs Black Indigenous People of Color.

I’m sure there will be backlash from this post. It will likely cause more harm. It will likely make working at SUNY New Paltz that much more difficult for people of color who have the energy to engage it. I’m really glad the POCN and the BLMS collective have a check in scheduled for tomorrow, because I, for one, will need it.

Subcultural #HERStory matters.

Subcultural #HERStory matters. I thought I’d share just a slice of the #graffitigrrl herstory I share in my book for Women’s History Month.

The first all-grrl graffiti crew in the US was called “Ladies of the Arts,” started by Lady PInk around 1980 in NYC. About a decade later, ClawMoney and Miss17 took the scene as PMS.

The first international all-grrl graffiti crew was founded in 2003, the Stick Up Girlz Crew hailed from #NewZealand, #Spain, #Portugal, #Japan,
and #Australia. Members were Fluro, Oche, Lady Diva, Sax, Eire Gata, Rafi, Shiro, and Spice.

Other all-grrl crews include: Altona Female Crew of Germany (1997), Bandit Queenz of Australia (1999), Crazis Crew of Chile (2000), Girls on Top of England (2000), Bitches in Control of the Netherlands (2003), and Transgressão Para Mulheres of Brazil in 2004

In 2005, an unknown #graffitigrrl launched the now defunct but at the time wildly popular website GraffGirlz.com, the first website by grrlz for grrlz and about grrlz.

Also in 2005, Foxy Lady of the Netherlands launched the ezine “Catfight,” which she described as “filled head to toe with the meanest cleanest female graff and streetworks that we could get our hands on.”

In 2008, Joske of Australia launched the first Ladie Killerz Paint Jam and it still annually!

Also in 2008, a graffiti grrl magazine hit the scene called “Chicks on Powertrips” out of Australia. These grrlz are the ones who gave me my favorite sticker AND inspired my book’s dedication.

In 2016, Sany of the Puff Crew in the Czech Republic premiered the
first #documentary film exclusively about #graffitigrrlz in the film festival
circuit: “Girl Power” (http://www.girlpowermovie.com/EN) You can watch the trailer here.

Also in 2016, @GraffitiHerstory took to Instagram and you should follow them! The first post was a picture of oldschool #graffitigrrl Charmin65 of the Ex Vandals!

There is SO MUCH MORE #herstory in my book, Graffiti Grrlz: performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora (@NYUpress 2018) and you can take advantage of the #WomensHistoryMonth discount code they are running! “WMN19-FM” will get you 35% off! https://nyupress.org/books/9781479895939

“Graffiti Grrlz” Book Reading/Signing at Bluestockings 9/14 7PM

On September 14th at 7 PM at Bluestockings, Dr. Jessica Pabón-Colón will join NYC-based graffiti writer Claw Money to discuss Pabón-Colón‘s new book, Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip-Hop Diaspora (NYU Press 2018).

Graffiti Grrlz is the first significant interrogation into the gender politics of the art form and culture of graffiti. Pabón-Colón, an interdisciplinary Latina feminist performance studies scholar, interviewed over 100 women artists in 23 countries to make a compelling case that graffiti subculture is a place where feminists come into their own.

Throughout Graffiti Grrlz, the author convincingly advances both feminism and graffiti as positive and vital social and political forces. Pabón-Colón’s work is a rich tribute to the grrls whose voices are too often silenced and a gift to all of us who love graffiti, perhaps the most significant art movement of our time.

—StreetArt NYC

Graffiti Grrlz will change the way we think about women’s involvement in Hip Hop culture and the way we think about feminist movements. Graffiti Grrlz gives us a part of the story we didn’t know we were waiting for and we didn’t know how much we needed. Powerful stuff, the prose takes shape like a fly graffiti backdrop and paints a picture that perfectly captures the work these women put in. Graffiti Grrlz is groundbreaking and game-changing scholarship that answers the question, where my grrlz at, with a powerful and provocative right here. This is a must read for anyone interested in Hip Hop Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

—Gwendolyn D. Pough, Author of Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere

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Why I use Digital Pedagogies: a not-quite manifesto on teaching in the age of digital feminist movement.

I was invited to speak about my digital pedagogies on a roundtable at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s Performance Studies pre-conference on “Radical Pedagogy: In and Beyond the Classroom.” We had a great time and a really productive discussion (especially in relation to privacy and safety) that you can witness partially on the #ATHEActIV Twitter hashtag. In the spirit of sharing, I wanted to post part of what I spoke about here, mostly unedited. I hope you enjoy and mostly I hope you join me in engaging students online.


I don’t necessarily consider myself a scholar of digital pedagogy (though my WGSS colleagues refer to me as “digital girl”). I’m more of a practitioner by curiosity and necessity who tries things out, sometimes fails, and sometimes finds something productive. But Gywnn, [the session organizer] gave me a prompt—that my part “could be a kind of manifesto”—that allowed me to write about my practices in my most favorite thinking/writing form: bullet points.

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Before I get to my not-quite manifesto on why I use digital pedagogies, I want to provide some context in the form of three quotes:

“A new wave of feminism is here, and its most powerful weapon is the hashtag.” —Nisha Chittal, How Social Media is Changing the Feminist Movement

“If education is meant to help students learn life skills, and if feminist education is geared toward combating injustice and exploitation, and if the ability to use social media well is becoming an important life skill and feminist skill […], then social media literacy should be more explicitly taught in the feminist classroom.”—Tracy Hawkins, Can You Tweet That? (2016: 154-55)

“Technologies are the master’s tools and yet they will never be just that, any more than [we] are the master’s tool.” —la paperson, A Third University Is Possible (2017:21).

For better or for worse, feminist ideologies, representations, and actions are now widely circulated online and my job is to prepare students to be leaders of our collective feminist future. I firmly believe that we must train our students to wield the tools in the digital sphere as weapons for revolutionary decolonial social justice projects. Thus,  I use digital pedagogies:

  • to expand the personal is the political is the pedagogical into the digital
  • to deconstruct “ivory tower” disciplinary ideas about epistemologies—who owns them, how they’re produced, where they belong, and what we can do with them
  • to transmit experience and understanding beyond the walls of the classroom to a general public
  • to train my students in social media literacy skills so they can be public intellectuals translating academese to a non-academic reader/listener/spectator
  • to ensure my students engage the world outside of their world
  • to encourage creativity in the process of knowledge production, comprehension, and analysis
  • to give students the tools they need to articulate their critical feminist position better in conversation
  • to build the online community of radical queer anti-racist feminists who challenge mainstream white feminist rhetoric
  • to challenge my students to use digital technologies for social justice and selfies

On Women and Deviance

IMG_3770.jpgLast Friday I had the great pleasure of appearing on the local news station Radio Kingston with Hillary Harvey (host of the program The Source) and Allison McKim (my colleague who teaches at Bard College). In this segment, we talk about “women and deviance” in relation to #policing #mothers #breastfeeding #graffiti #recovery #agency #power #decency #mentalhealth #institutions #respectability all in about 35 minutes!

 

I would love to have this transcribed! One day…

 

My First Book Review!

I love all these milestones!

MY FIRST BOOK REVIEW IS HERE! Penned by Chi Chi of Scratched Vinyl, a Hip Hop Journalism blog.

“While this is an academic text that requires Pabon-Colon to break down and relay ideas about feminism, community, and art, she manages to do so in a way that is easy to understand…While there has been some attempts over the years to document graffiti in general, there hasn’t been any significant interrogation into the gender politics of the art form or culture until now.” Check it out here!

A Collective Response to Racism in Academia

A collective of women, gender non-binary, and Indigenous faculty of color across institutions and disciplines wrote a response to the recent Chronicle of Higher Education survey on racism in academia.

Here is the link to our letter.

View at Medium.com

We ask that if you are on twitter, please share your thoughts/retweet/etc and tag Chronicle editors @mgriley @lmcmillen @ssmallwd using the hashtags #RacismInAcademia and
#AcademiaSoWhite