I have spent six days away at two different events. The first was a three-day yoga workshop taught by my teacher, Richard Freeman, and the second was a seminar on inclusive pedagogical practices for college courses. Both required a certain courage to attend, more required stamina, and attentiveness. Both were exhausting and marvelous and revealing. To go straight from three days of thoughtful spiritually guided yoga to three days of intellectual rigor is a cultural shock. One was integration of body and heart and mind, while the other is mind and heart alone, with rigorous conversation.
If I could, I would attend yoga four days a week with my teacher, if not six. A course on inclusivity is a different animal, but if a rest were built-in to the offering, it too would be a welcome practice. In reality, yoga and inclusivity are both life-long, daily practices.
Still, at one point in the seminar, when we were asked to write some of our reflections down, I wanted the presenters to hand out color markers and blank pieces of paper so we could visually illustrate our thoughts. As I continued with the exercise, I wondered what that meant, and doodled a little surreptitiously, but the answer is clear: one aches for creative intervention in multi-disciplines. One wants crayons and charcoals.
To work with themes diversity is hard work; acknowledging the biases, the small internalizations of privilege and lack, and work towards change requires time. How would Ntozake Shange put it? Being a woman of color IS NEVER redundant in a world of academia. There are simply not enough of us, yet. The problem is often the teachers of color are asked to teach color, a situation that can cause weariness. [This is a rewrite of my original post because I did not make sense on the page of what I wanted to say. Thank you, Sandra, for pointing me in the right direction. ] What Shange had her character in her play For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf really said was “I cldn’t stand being colored and sorry at the same time–it seems so redundant in the modern world.”One wants at some point to stretch the mind [out from under the norm] with finger paint, activate the imagination, and let out a large, loud sigh.
I find I am as always when I involve myself in discussions of diversity in academics to be interested, alert, and far too revealing. A professor by natures protects herself so she can be who she also is outside the class. I tend to cultivate a reserve that can lead if I am not careful to sadness. What one wants to do is integrate oneself, and also get the work of inclusion and, say, creative writing in class, done.
On the way back to the Cape, I braked hard for a fox running across the highway, and watched it run to safety in the woods. Spring colors at twilight were on full misty display, the dunes, flowers and water saturated and rich. Imagine peach, yellow-gold, greens and blues in a hundred hues placed next to one another, forming something ethereal and real. Inclusive. Yogic. More, always.
- Teacher Series: Richard Freeman (theweeklyjo.wordpress.com)
Beautiful and incisive, Indira. Best xx
Thank you, M.
I am so glad you mentioned the Shange quotation. I had her phrase in my mind, with the weariness implied, in the way i sometimes get weary of doing the work of inclusion as a woman of color. Shange was talking about the lack of freedom to express sorrow.
These seminars always leave me hopeful and charged up, but the reality of the hard work involved is there, too.
I think you are very right: artists risk exposure, find love. I wonder if I tend to put on a self-protective mask so much so that I risk my work being what it might be.
So, this next year, let us not hold back on our writing!
Thanks as always,
Thanks so much Indira for that expansion. I now perfectly understand having walked that walk for decades, appearing strong, comfortable, everything is A-OK, but it was not, that long ago, before women of any hue were so prevalent. It’s a slippery slope and the public discourse today tells me we’ve made strides, but there’s still a way to go. I would like to think the success of your books gives you “permission” to be. Like people are probably looking for more of you, in a welcoming way?
And yes, I’ve to find a way to come out from the shadows.
Intriguing post I’m still pondering to understand. What does the Shange quote really mean since I’m also a woman of color? Professors protecting themselves in class for the outside? (These are rhetorical questions, not calling for a response).
A friend and I were commenting on Oprah, maybe because of a comment she made recently with her cohort Dr. Phil about being the same person all the time. Something I relate to and strive to do. Or maybe I don’t strive that much! But then, even before her comment, I was aware that part of her incredible appeal to the world is she is always “what you see is what you get”.
Is not that what successful artists do, let it all out, risk exposure, find love? I don’t know, still holding back with my writing.
But thanks. Also for the link to WeeklyJo!