Collaborative Conversations in Black & White

Here we are, two midwestern women who met a few years ago at the beginning of many gripes and complaints of our doctoral program. Needless to say, one hurdle of academic coursework completed, many failed attempts of quitting, and several temper tantrums later, we have come upon an inseparable sistership.

She heart me and I heart her…aww!!!

We started conversations long ago on race and other -isms of the world but now, especially with the quarantining, social distancing, civil unrest and so many things we cannot name in one paragraph, we decided to let you hear about it!!!

Yes! Yes! Another freaking blog…and you are welcome!

Our Disclaimer: We are NOT the universal voice of the masses or the experts on everything Black…White…Female…Midwestern…blah, blah…you get the point. These are our personal experiences so that makes us the experts to that. 

Ha, ha deal with it!

This first blog is specifically about us and why these conversations are important in pushing the discussion forward on race relations here in the United States. 

So here you are, Collaborative Conversations in Black & White

Erin: Identity entered the conversation of my life early on, in 2nd grade, I gained an amount of weight I have never seemed to fully ‘recover’ from and because of this I was diagnosed with poly-cistic-ovarian syndrome at 8 years old. This, as an identifier, shaped me in negative and positive ways my entire life, but it made me aware of being ‘not quite what I was supposed to be’ in the eyes of society, which gave me an empathetic understanding of others. 

Angela: Race was never a primary factor in my identification as a child growing up on the southside of Chicago; it was just that I believed in a world beyond what my eyes could see. It is not that I was taught to be colorblind or to believe that race was a euphemism to who I was, but I was taught to not lead with race. You wanted to know about me without an accompanying visual, I would state…

“My name is Angela and I am the youngest of five children. I am such and such age – whatever it was at the time – I am a lover of music and the arts with an outgoing personality. I am a PK (pastor’s kid – affectionately or not so affectionately, depending upon who you ask within the religious circle) and am a lover of people and humor”.

Erin: I grew up in Oklahoma, in a middle-class suburban home, in a community neighborhood school. We didn’t have it all, but I didn't lack what I needed and what I had, I cherished. Mostly, my childhood can be described as a basic mostly boring midwestern experience with the exception that I come from a divided family. My parents separated when I was young and I became an only child with seven much older step siblings. I lived a life of back and forth. Every other Sunday was spent with my dad in church, feeling contemplative and questioning of the pastor’s sermons and being ignored by the youth students whom I never fully had time to get to know. On the rest of the Sundays I was free to dream, and move, and think in whatever ways I could imagine. Both types of Sundays helped make me, both were valuable in their own ways. 

As a latchkey kid, I remember spending entire days outside, mostly alone with my imagination, but other times gathering all the neighborhood kids to go on an adventure. My friend group was made up of anyone and everyone who lived nearby. The rest of my time was spent in a corner of my grandmother’s bookstore, reading whatever I could get my hands on – mostly Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. I was convinced I was Pippi Longstocking and Ramona Quimby, age 8. 

My education was informed and shaped by the books I read and the stories I experienced within those worlds. I was able to live in two worlds – one of books and thought and imaginative play, and another filled with real characters, friends, who opened their world and ideas to me.

Angela: One major thing I believe we share in common is the importance of education, whether formal or informal. 

My educational memories include my dad making me look up a word rather than spelling it for me, his reasoning being I’d always remember how to spell it. It was equality in cleaning, particularly in my mom making a monthly schedule for kitchen duty on weekends – to make certain that not only her girls washed dishes and swept and mopped the floor, but that her boys had their turn as well. The importance of education came through again and again as my parents monitored not only movies, but made it clear that even everyday television programs had to be conducive to my intellectual stimulation. I watched “321 Contact” for a dose of science; “Reading Rainbow” to keep up with my reading skills, “Square One” for math sharpness; “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” for geography awareness; “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” and “After School Specials” for emotional concerns and socialization skills; and for spirituality I watched “Superbook”, “Flying House”, and Davey & Goliath”, and “Gospel Bill” to show how to apply the spiritual concepts. 

Education was gathered in the lessons pointing to responsibility, commitment, accountability and moderation. It was the historical exposure to the story of King Henry II and his archbishop Becket, visits to the Buckingham Fountain as I waited until the city lit up at night, and lessons and kitchen experiments of world cuisines and tastings of traditional foods of the beyond “The South.” 

Erin/Angela: These fond memories of our youth are why we identify as educators, artists/philosophers and advocates of diversity and inclusion. In doing so, we see the world with our imagination and not with the limitations of our eyes. We are open to perspectives, dishes, and ideas from other ethnic groups, cultures and countries, and in collaboration and understanding. 

This, we believe, is how we move the US and us as individuals forward…we see the world with the eyes of a child, with open possibilities of learning from one another.

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