Recently, my fabulous co organizer Mari Vangen and I took a trip down South to visit some campus groups, attend the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference and the Toni Cade Bambara Scholar Activist Conference, and eat a few Cook Out trays in between it all. Here’s my recap on everything we did!
University of SC-Columbia
Our first stop was the University of South Carolina-Columbia where we met with the Feminist Collective! We got to talk shop with them about the campus climate at USC-C and we faciliated a Get Out Her Vote training for them to help get their creative juices flowing about events they can do to turn out the feminist vote! And our lovely host Nina took us to a tasty BBQ spot called Southern Belly where we chatted about life, sipped sweet tea and chowed down on pork. All in all, a very good day.
Winthrop University-SEWSA 2016
After our time in Columbia, we headed on up to Rock Hill to hang out at Winthrop University , where the 40th anniversary of the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference was being held. The Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference was one of the first conferences I attended as an undergrad, and it was really great to be able to go back to connect with other folks! We tabled at the conference and handed out buttons, stickers and got to have a lot of really engaging awesome discussions! I met students from all over the Southeast. SEWSA can feel like a big family reunion and I felt right at home. That night, we got to see the women of the Catawba tribe of North Carolina perform traditional dances accompanied by traditional drums and songs from the men of the tribe. I loved the intention behind inviting the Catawba Tribe to perform at the plenary-we often neglect to give honor to those who occupied the lands before our universities, offices and college towns were erected. The acknowledgement that we are unceded land, the honoring of the people whose lands we now occupy and reformatting the space like that is a practice we should all adopt, and is something that sticks out to me weeks later. Later in the evening, we had the pleasure of meeting up with Cassidy Ellis of the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa’s Feminist Caucus at Cook-Out for a Cook Out tray and to talk about her presentation, Feminist Caucus and her next steps. I also got the pleasure of watching Mari enjoy her very first Cook-Out tray. It was a proud moment to introduce this Midwesterner to the best combo deal in the South-I mean, where else can you get chicken nuggets AND hushpuppies as a side??? And the best milkshakes that have ever been spun for under five dollars? Cook-Out. That’s where.
Atlanta, Georgia-Spelman College
After a four hour drive, we finally touched in Hotlanta! Atlanta has always been one of my most favorite places to visit in the south, and getting to go back was one of the many highlights of the trip for me. Our first stop was the Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center, where we met up with with Dana Pride Jones who gave us an amazing tour of the cetnter, introduced us to the college archivist Holly (who introduced me to my new favorite hashtag: #ArchiveDat), and showed us the Spelman College Art Museum, where the opening plenary for the 15th annual Toni Cade Bambara Scholar Activist Conference was held that night. The opening plenary was beautiful-students performed original dance pieces, solidarity statements and we received a keynote from “Able” Mable Thomas. Toni Cade Bambara’s granddaughter read an original piece she wrote about why she needs black feminism and I found out that the founder of SisterReach, Dazon Dixon Diallo, Juvenile, Toni Cade Bambara and myself are all Arians! On the second day of the conference, we tabled for Feminist Campus, gave out more dope swag and attended panels, as well as hosting our Get Out Her Vote workshop! My favorite part of the presentations was the panel “The Wild Archives: Encounters with Toni Cade Bambara and Other Lives that Matter”. I loved hearing from black women doing archival work, historical preservation and who were humanizing scholars who tend to be superhumanized-we traveled through their heartbreak, their accomplishments, their fights with other scholars and ultimately, their humanity was brought to life through their papers. Something that really stuck out to me over our time at the Toni Cade was the fact that it is the only conference named for a black woman in the country, which frustrates me when I think about all of the brilliance black women have brought to our world, our classrooms, and our very existence. Black women have carried this country on our backs, it has been built by and profited relentlessly off of our labor and to think that we only have one conference named in a black woman’s honor is stressful. However, spending a day and a half surrounded by brilliant beautiful black women was just what I needed-I felt so warm and happy seeing what folks had been working on, talking and learning from everyone. It was an honor to be invited to the space.
On Sunday, we had a light day-Mari was really really REALLY excited to go to the Georgia Aquarium. We got up and spent a day walking around looking at the penguins, fish and tiger sharks! We also watched the dolphin show, stopped through the gift shop and watched a fish almost eat a sea snake. Slightly traumatizing but as they sang in the Lion King, it’s the circle of life-until an aquarium worker comes into your tank and yanks the sea snake out of your mouth. That night, we got dinner with Joy and Euphoria, two members of the Spelman College FMLA. We talked about everything from Euphoria’s love of diners, to Joy’s appreciation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and their dreams and hopes for their futures. It was really great to get to meet the both of them and to hang out for a bit!
I’m still coming down from the euphoric energy I felt being back in the South-although I work and live in D.C. now, I’ll always be a Southern magnolia, sweet tea sippin, Petey Pablo blastin, North Carolina belle. Being back in the South, meeting these amazing students, community members, faculty and staff members, and to talk with them was just the energy boost I needed. The South is strong, and as the South goes, so goes the nation. I was reminded of this during the week we spend in South Carolina and Georgia-don’t sleep on the South, y’all! And if you’re ever down that way, don’t forget to get a Cook-Out tray (and definitely spend the extra dollar to get a fancy shake.)
Until next time,