big CLIT energy

Last Fall semester, my writing students, all English majors, & I were discussing Barbara Jordan’s 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address. In classical rhetoricalBarbara Jordan fashion, Jordan begins her speech w/an ethical appeal that explains to & convinces her audience that her presence as keynote speaker signals a radical shift in not only the ideals that the Democratic Party holds, but in the notion that every American citizen has a right to The American Dream. Responding to Langston Hughes’ “Harlem,” Jordan says, “[H]ere I am. And I feel — I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.” My students dug it; they appreciated Jordan’s whole speech: her articulate voice, her unwavering confidence, & her intellectual content. And according to them, her introduction truly “hooks” the reader & convinces her/him that Jordan is both a credible speaker & human being–a Black woman not to be messed with, for, as she in third person proclaims, “I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.”

In this current #metoo, #blackgirlsrock, #blackgirlmagic era we are currently in, my predominantly female classroom seemed to witness in the audacious Barbara Jordan the ancestral spirit that inspires Tarana Burke, Maxine Waters, Michelle Obama, &, if they let her in, will inspirit each of them as well. And so, as one student attempted to express Jordan’s rhetorical genius, she kinda went “goo goo gah gah.” And I get it, cause not only was Barbara Jordan an eloquent orator, but she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, & the first African American as well as the first woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. However, what I didn’t get was why my student, while reaching for words to explain Jordan’s genius, exasperatingly said, “I mean, Dr. Bryant, she got that BDE.”

Me: She got that what?

Student: that BDE

Me: What the hell is BDE?

Entire Class: (giggles) Dr. Bryant, you don’t know what BDE is? (giggles)

Me: (Str8 faced) Um. Nope. What is it?

Entire Class: (giggles some more and pans the classroom looking for one brave spokesperson) Dr. Bryant, for real. You don’t know what BDE is?

Me: (exhales, rolls eyes, shifts position, lays papers down, and places hands on hips–arms akimbo) Will somebody just tell me what BDE is already?

Female Student: Okay. Okay. BDE means ‘big dick energy.’ 

Me: What tha? Are y’all serious right now?

And then the conversation ensued.

I asked my students–18 of them in total, including only two males–why in this 21st century world would they put a dick on Barbara Jordan. She is a woman, a BLACK WOMAN, I exclaimed. (And if flipping the student desk in front of me wouldn’t’ve appeared violently crazed, I would have.) Nonetheless, in a poorly constructed argument, or whatever, my students collectively claimed to masculinize Jordan because she was strong & assertive; she was powerful, they said, like, she had big balls. (Whispers in my head: “Yuck! They’ve given her testicles too.”) Yes, I said to them, out loud.

big clit energy button
“I got that big clit energy” buttons designed by Kendra N. Bryant for writing students, 2018

Barbara Jordan was strong & assertive & powerful, like a black woman. Expressing my own exasperation, I asked them–in our shared language & all–“How y’all gone minimize, erase, this black woman’s genius, her divine femininity, by givin her a dick? She got a clitoris!” And again, in a poorly constructed argument, my students tried to contend the rhythm of the phrase, “big dick energy,” after which I hyperbolically responded: “Clit, dick, clit, dick, clit, dick, clit, dick. So, why can’t she have “big clit energy,” I asked? Both are four letter, one syllable, rhyming words. Aaaaaaaand, Barbara Jordan IS A WOMAN!”

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Yo! The control & brainwashing of the white patriarchy is trill. Despite attending America’s largest HBCU during a time of the first African American First Lady, whose black woman magic (read: divinity) frightens many media personalities, of hashtag movements that make men more accountable for rape & molestation, while empowering women, & of the Women’s March, where women wore pink pussy hats, my North Carolina A&T undergraduate students, most of whom are majoring in English Education, had not been #woke to the white male supremacy evident in language (altho when I think of big dicks, I can see only black men–who white men castrated. Shoulder shrug. Yet, says bell hooks when discussing black feminism, our castrated black men (subconsciously) push the white male agenda, so in the black man’s move toward racial freedom & empowerment, he participates in maintaining white male patriarchy; the beat goes on, don’t it?)

But it doesn’t have to.

I teach because I aim to remind students of their humanity–cause I want to reacquaint them to their divine selves. The classroom, altho institutionalized, is still a ripe space for cultivating a revolution. And so, that Fall day in 2018, I challenged my writing students to think about how they use language & how language uses them. Altho my teaching

Students wearing big clit energy buttons
Writing students at North Carolina A&T State University pose in their “I got that big clit energy” buttons, Fall 2018 (Photo: Kendra N. Bryant)

position requires me to enhance student reading & writing skills–usually by reinforcing a standard that marginalizes their native tongues, at the very least, I can invite my students into a liberatory literacy practice that incites them to interrogate language & to awaken themselves to the conditioning that prohibits them from exercising a critical consciousness that frees their mind. Barbara Jordan & I did just that; we invited our students into a deprogramming. And I can only hope that my students will pass on that big clit energy I carried into our class discussion to their friends & into their communities, thus keeping the movement moving.

 

13 reasons why NOT: season 2

It’s been approximately one year & a month since I actually sat to my computer to write a blog post. & here I am, at 8:35am, Wednesday morning, writing about got damn 13 Reasons Why: Season 2. There’s so much more to which I should be lending my writing attention–like Bill Cosby, illiteracy, & Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon. However, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why: Season 2 kept me up all night. I was literally tossing & turning into disturbing scenes I wish my memory had not captured. You see, 13 Reasons Why isn’t about high school bullying; it’s a show about sexual terrorism, down to the ASS class intended to reform student behavior & perception.

As a former high school teacher & current university instructor, 13 Reasons Why got me feelin a way, particularly re: how screenwriters, producers, & acto13 Reasons Why CASTrs/tress portray academic institutions, students (especially those of color), faculty members, & parents. Clearly, despite its closing “call for help” offering that appears at the end of each episode, 13 Reasons Why fails to make me believe that its creators are concerned w/student welfare. Instead, they–in Tyler Perry fashion–have inflated an American crisis, & in white male patriarchy décor, have assured the reigning terrorist unscathed freedom.

SPOILER ALERT: What follows are 13 criticisms–in no particular order or fashion–I have of 13 Reasons Why: Season 2. (I do have more, but IJS.) If you have not watched it yet, & plan to, stop reading now, cause I’m about to “spoil” this joint.

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  1. So these high school kids are testifying re: their relationship w/Hannah, the main character who commits suicide & leaves behind 13 audio recordings that detail her interactions w/her classmates–which she claims led to her suicide. (However, we Hannah Bakerfind out this season, that Hannah, herself, was a bully in her former school. Really?)Anyway, in all of these kids’ storytelling & lying, they admit to throwing & attending unmonitored parties, having ALOT of casual (unprotected) sex, & consuming drugs & alcohol, yet none of the parents address these behaviors, at all. I don’t get it. But, the school & its “colored” employees are put on trial?
  2. Each of the students of color is so got damn stereotypically casted, & they each–w/the exception of Tony Padilla, the stereotypical Puerto Rican who fights his way thru the system–& happens to be a Fonzie homosexual–is absolutely voiceless & attached to the fear that prohibits them from being their independent selves. 13 Reasons Why MarcusHow does Black Marcus, the student body president & son of a preacher & rising politician become subservient to a spoiled white boy he knows rapes women? & why is Zach Dempsey the cowardly Asian afraid to speak up to his mother, especially since his father’s passing has deemed him “the man of the household,” which is culturally relevant? He’s so afraid to speak up in the world, he can’t even have a peer conversation w/Clay about the baseball team’s Clubhouse shenanigans, so instead, anonymously leaves pictures of their crimes for Clay to discover. & got damn Black (or mixed) Nina Jones–a track star, of course–who can’t keep it real 13 Reasons Why Asianw/mixed race Jessica, who relates more to being a White girl than she does to her Black self–w/the exception of her attempts at kinky, curly hair. Why does Nina have to be the chick who destroys the only evidence that could’ve prosecuted raping ass Bryce, & why is Jess the mixed race girl who accompanies Alex to the Spring Dance, but publicly fucks Justin in the boy’s locker room (during the Spring Dance)?! Oh, & the shy, timid Courtney Crimsen, another cowardly Asian who’s so afraid to be a lesbian–altho her two White dads are gay–she throws Hannah under the bus versus outing herself in a 21st century that rarely gives a shit. Of course, by the season’s end, Courtney’s happily & boldly dating a Black girl. I can’t take it (altho I watched each episode). Those students of color have lost themselves in a white patriarchy that makes them sleepwalk toward an American Dream. #staywoke is absolutely lost on their asses.
  3. Um, so Kevin Porter, (aka Antwone Fisher) had to be the Black Mammy figure, huh? The fall guy? The slave driven by the White head coach and White principal–both of whom never stood trial? He had to be the one who carried the burdens, broke down in court, & blamed himself for a White girl’s suicide? Stop it, already.13 Reasons Why Kevin Porter.jpg
  4. Are there really high school coaches in this world who give their teenage players access to on-campus sex hubs? Who give their student players permission to abuse girls?
  5. Wayment. So, Bryce damn near admits to his mother that he raped Hannah, & all she does is tell him he is a stranger in their home? So this seemingly self-assured woman basically crumbles under her son’s aggression? So, she’s like a White matriarch who kinda believes in feminism & motherhood, but not for real for real; it’s a man’s world?
  6. How come none of the parents ever communicate w/one another? This show gives high schoolers adult responsibility & leverage, which is why they fumble around, making a mess of their entire lives. The teenagers, albeit all messed up, have a more communal spirit than their parents.
  7. In no 21st century America would a Clay Jensen be able to coerce a hopeless Tyler Down, strapped w/a machine gun & two glocks, from shooting up a student body whose members sodomized him w/a broomstick in the school’s boy’s bathroom. That, AFTER Clay Jensen himself distributed nude pictures of Tyler thruout the school house, & boys clowned him for orgasming all over himself after an arousing kiss in the movie theatre w/Mackenzie, Cyrus’s sister. So, White, self-reflective, 13 Reasons Why Tylerghost-seeing Clay gets to be the Saviour, huh?
  8. But Clay also gets a Toyota Prius after reiterating to his parents that he will not openly communicate w/them. He is allowed to continue driving it after hiding heroine addicted Justin Foley in his bedroom aaaaaaand taking files from his mother’s computer & making them available online to the whole wide world. That. Shit. Cray.
  9. What’s also crazy & absolutely unfathomable is Clay & the others’ discovering the box of photos that would criminalize Bryce & their failure to make copies of the pictures & to hand them over to the police–or at least to Clay’s lawyering mother! & of course the pictures get stolen, cause Clay does not have the wherewithal to not drive around w/the box of photos sitting on his back seat. Exactly how was he helping Hannah?
  10. So, in what academic institution would athletes & other student body members get into a fight in the hallway & not only are there no security guards around–ever, actually–but the coach begins to fight the counselor? Then, the fighting students are placed together in ONE classroom, damn near sitting on top of each other, while a sleeping BLACK man!!!!!!! is assigned to watch them!?? WTF?!? This same sleeping BLACK teacher, allows Clay Christ to get up out of his seat, check his cell phone, make an oral declaration to his classmates, & then leave his supposed punishment w/two other fighting students. & none of those involved in the fight were suspended nor did parents who saw visible scratches & bruises on their children’s faces confer w/school officials. Yea. Okay.
  11. 13 Reasons Why TonyHow is Tony driving a classic red Mustang?
  12. & what happened to Sherri Holland (the Black return student I purposely omit from #2)? Why isn’t she at the Spring Dance, belonging to/the community of “outcast” students she helped? She is the ride-or-die character who places herself in compromising situations for the cause. She does it #fortheculture, yet disappears.
  13. Finally, & I have left this criticism for last because it was the most upsetting & disturbing, the sodomizing of Tyler Down (the proud ASShole) was absolutely unnecessary–& I mean that re: fictional characters & actual screenwriters. Why did the audience–much of whom are middle & teenaged high schoolers–have to witness such savagery & hatefulness? The bullying was brutal enuf–as was last season’s hot tub rape & Alex’s failed suicide attempt–but to write in sodomy as the sforzando of bullying was revolting & absolutely careless.

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Will I watch 13 Reasons Why: Season 3? Probably. The media frenzy, if you will, that 13 Reasons Why has conjured makes not tuning into it difficult. More so, while I can’t tune into every song, television show, or linguistic style w/which my students are consumed–& don’t want to–I think 13 Reasons Why is that one popular culture thing that I should be attuned to so that I am able to mindfully discuss w/my students (& nieces) bullying, gun violence, group think, & the like as portrayed in the Netflix series.

Ain’t no doubt, 13 Reasons Why inspires necessary conversations, which is why it–& any other artistic endeavor at conveying real life situations–should not be banned. But do I prefer artists avoid capitalizing upon students’ current crises? Of course. I hope, however, my watching & writing about 13 Reasons Why enables me to bring students into a more conscious viewing & understanding of themselves & others, which I trust 13 Reasons Why ultimately aimed to do.