By Joycelyn Moody, JMoody's Musings
Last Sunday I met a radiant sister Black professor who teaches at another university in town (I’ll call her “A” to protect her anonymity). A thrilling oddity in San Antonio (seventh largest US city), where the population of African Americans has remained a constant 4% since I moved here over a decade ago. Sister professor, possibly a new friend. Unlike me, though, this other professor is also an Associate Dean. That position adds a whole other level of stress.
Still, Dean A cast a pleasant, vibrant demeanor. When she mentioned having served her institution for over 20 years, my research background and the many, many conversations I’ve had with other women of color in the academy kicked in: she’s undoubtedly suffered from the toxicity of injustices and “interlocking systems of oppression” that relentlessly plague academic sisters. Our conversation proved me correct, unfortunately.
My first inclination as a way to sustain connection with Dean A., to help her cultivate a wider network of not only Black academic women’s support but also minoritized educators of all ethnicities, and to envision her having the extraordinary experience I’d had recently among WellAcademic retreat participants: I invited her to attend our 2019 retreats for women of color faculty.
More than anything, what Roxanne and I want for those we encounter—as WellAcademic coaching clients, as retreat participants, as newsletter subscribers, as readers of our blog posts, in on-campus workshops—is to share our unique strengths and gifts as feminist scholars of the African diaspora. As our mission statement announces, we have dedicated our own professional lives to providing others, especially academic women of color, with enriched productivity through reduced life stress.
Meeting Dean A last weekend, I immediately imagined her as an ideal WellAcademic retreat participant, someone who’d almost certainly experience some of what I had in early October 2018.
When Roxanne and I held our first retreat on Bald Mountain at Elohee, I performed two roles: (1) WellAcademic coach and (2) retreat participant. In preparation, 14 retreat participants signed up for 20 to 40 minutes of private coaching with me. At Elohee, heart after heart opened to mine in trust, humbling me. I’ve flattered myself a creative thinker, tactically intuiting when to go deep and rapid fire versus when to work more contemplatively and long-view. Moreover, I’ve savored my research into self-improvement, rereading and applying it through Black feminist theoretical lens.
During my WellAcademic coaching sessions, I felt rejuvenated by the individual connection with clients seeking to regain their paths. At the same time, I gained a new solemnity, a serenity, about my skills while coaching clients. With them, I was experiencing both dynamic personal growth through the incremental “Breakthrough Sessions” Roxanne had crafted for us—then gently led us through—and developing the precious intimate group bond emerging in our sister circles.
We’d accepted Roxanne’s call to Elohee for insight and renewal, for sisterhood and rejuvenation. Having participated in numerous workshops with my astounding business partner before, I knew the other participants and I would inevitably have an extraordinary experience. Whatever the others expected, my own expectations were truly exceeded. The difference lay in the fact of community: while Roxanne was our indisputable fulcrum, magic lay in our collectivity.
I doubt many of us anticipated the powerful experience we’d create together.
Almost each retreat participant arrived with trepidation about WellAcademic’s deliberate timing at institutional midterms. Most divulged the challenge of permitting herself to break away for her own revitalization just when others feel free to demand more from us—make-up midterms at students’ convenience, belated committee meetings on chairs’ timetables, and so on. Even retreat participants “on leave” arrived almost panting, as if we’d run the distances from Cincinnati, Madison, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Miami, doubled over by the demands we make on ourselves and we face (or face down) from others who claim power over us.
I’ll close with two short lists.
What I expected:
What I gained/Hadn’t imagined receiving:
Until next time,