The PhD Pipe Dream?

I stood in the doorway of my auntie Loretta’s small kitchen. She sat at her oval kitchen table sipping a cup of black coffee.

I want to get my PhD. I want to be Dr. Stevens, I told her.

She smiled. With that sign of encouragement, I unloaded this dream. She patiently listened. I was 11 years old.

My life after that point took many twists and turns. I traded being a history professor at a university to being an archivist. Two master degrees later, a mountain of student debt + a lingering dislike for reading, I buried that PhD dream.

At a MARAC conference in 2014, I was part of a social media panel. I presented on my job’s use of Facebook, what worked, what didn’t, and our internal process of creating content. I was in my element. The audience listened, laughed, and tweeted. It was surreal to see my words tweeted out.

After the panel, several people swarmed the table to talk to me and the panelists. I was prepared to pack up my bag and go. I didn’t expect that people wanted to talk to me. Me?

The last person was an professor from the University of Maryland. He chatted about my presentation. I answered his questions. As our conversation winded down, he handed me his card and asked,

“Have you ever thought about getting your PhD?”

I must have been taken aback because he followed up with compliments about the positive, forward-thinking contributions I could make to the archives field. 

To have someone see me shining and say you should (and can) shine brighter. Here is one way to make that possible.

I walked away from the exchange, in the simplest terms, shook. The experience revived that long forgotten dream. For several days, I thought about his words. Did some research on the information studies program. I saw the possibilities but I also saw the obstacles.

With what money?
How could I do this and work full-time?
Do I want to do this?

A still small voice said, “But this was your dream.”

Clearly, I didn’t do it. I can’t shake this dream. Every few years, like clockwork, it floats up to the top of my brain. This nagging dream. Most of the time, I’m not even thinking about it or seeking direction.

It’s like a career rubik’s cube. I’m trying to figure it out. Get all the colors on the right side so I can settle once and for all: To get a PhD or not.

The obstacles are still the same.

The opinions of others are evenly split. Some say do it because they’ve known how long I’ve carried this dream. Some say don’t because of the work (and debt) involved.

This most recent time, new questions popped up.

Let’s say you get it, what do you plan to do with it?
Are you going to teach at a university?
Are you saying your Masters aren't enough?

What would you right your dissertation on? Outreach? Social justice?

And a few new observations:

A PhD doesn’t guarantee more money (hell, still waiting on my two masters + experience to pay off).

Nothing is holding you back from doing the work you'd like to explore through your dissertation.

I don't know. Inevitably, I always come back to I don't know. I put the rubik's cube down and get back to the business of working but every now and then my brain picks it back up. I think the reason why this dream has returned at this particular time is I don't know what the future holds. I have no plan. The ambition is still there but the dream is in flux. I'm a goal-oriented person without a goal.

One the one hand, it is freeing. On the other, late at night, it's low key scary. 

What are you doing, Ashley?

What are you doing?

 

A Day In the Life: A frigid day in January

I start my morning by being late to work. Just a little. Like 10 minutes. At my job, we have two historic house museums but they are on opposite sides of town. Technically, they are in neighboring cities that sit outside of Detroit. On the day that I’m going to the west side location, I realize that I left important paperwork + my laptop charger at the east side location.

FML.

I give my boss a heads up and leave ridiculously early to avoid being late.

I end up being late anyway. So, I do what any person who is late does. I don’t rush myself and I pick up coffee for my coworkers at Starbucks.

I get to the historic house. Snow is falling fast. I’m loaded down with stuff: my purse, lunch bag, laptop, and bag full of books. (I promised myself I would read at lunch) Oh yeah, and coffee. I load up my stuff unevenly on my person and start trudging to the house. I have to stop about halfway to reshift everything.

God bless the security person who saw me lumbering toward the house. They opened the door so I wouldn’t have to stop, unload everything, and swipe my key card.

Cut to I’m now settled, warm, and sipping coffee as I have my first meeting of the day.

We’re renovating our storage facility. I have a ton of questions but underneath each question is the building excitement. I’ve been a part of records moves and I know the headache involved but that doesn’t deter me. What excites me is the idea of designing an archival storage space.

Who me? I think to myself: How did I get so luck?

Meeting is over and now I shift gears. Time to tackle the emails. I generally answer the easiest ones first. The harder ones OR the ones I procrastinate on come last. Always.

Check up on the status of my purchase orders. I register for and book travel for the Midwest Archives Conference in Chicago. I go over the conference program again. That excitement builds again. So many helpful sessions on a professional and personal level. I wish, for a moment, that it was already March and I was in Chicago.

But, its January and I’m in Dearborn.

Now I turn my attention to the records. Specifically, the administrative records of the house archives. The process is similar to what is being executed in the house archives of the other house. Pull back together the scattered administrative records. You won’t believe where you find finding aids, donor files, accession records, and other archives-related correspondence.

The challenge at this house is that its changed hands several times over the years. So records are literally scattered all over this small room. I find binders. I find stray folders, I find unfoldered paperwork. It’s a headache and a half, time consuming, and it requires use of my whole brain to troubleshoot, but the collections - what we have & how it came to be at the house - start to make sense.

This project, at this house, comes in fits and starts. Partly because I only come to this location once a week and the archival needs aren’t so pressing. Admittedly, I look forward to this weekly visit because I’m an archivist again. At the other house, my archivist tackles that collection. I juggle multiple hats: administrator, pseudo-librarian and records manager.

At this house, I’m an archivist. Putting the puzzle back together. Opening drawers, cabinets, checking stacks of paper, leaving no stone unturned.

About mid-morning, I have my first archives rant. Not like a crazy person. More of a “what were they doing?,” shakes fist in the air, kind of rant. All archivists have this moment. All of us.

I break for lunch. I grab my lunch bag, my bag o’ books, and turn on the classical music on my iPhone. I alternate between three books I’m reading in 15 minute increments:

Lunch is over and I’m back at it. This time I’ve moved to foldering and/or refoldering the administrative records and placing them in neat little stacks. We’ve (my archivist and I) devised a filing system for these disorganized records. Bringing order to chaos.

I chat with coworkers for a spell. Return to the records only to stop and go more thoroughly though our oral history files. This ends up turning into a mini-side project.

Late afternoon rant. More of a “I’m losing steam and why isn’t this over yet” moment.

My head is hurting from a day spent thinking and trying to make sense of past recordkeeping practices or lack thereof. I take a moment to jot down what needs to be accomplished next time and what supplies to bring or order. Luckily for me, this is a special week. I’ll be back for a second visit.

I check my email again. Respond to a couple.

I glance outside to see the snow is really coming down. Snow + headache = no supermarket visit. Instead, I pick up dinner from my favorite Chinese restaurant and head home.

Thaddeus, aka my fat man, is waiting for me.

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Depression, Thy Name is Me

Depression. I spent years running away from this word. Admitting it is tough.

I am no stranger to it or therapy. My first acquaintance with therapy was following my mother’s death in 2005. My mother had fallen ill toward the end of my sophomore year. I left school before final exams. My world went from learning biology, American government to spending days in the hospital at my mother’s bedside. Some professors let me out of taking my exams because I was a good student. Others still made me sit for them. So I left my mother’s bedside to sit and take a test where I didn’t know any of the content. Meanwhile my brain was counting down the hours until I would be back on the road, driving an hour and a half, to be back with my mom.

She passed over summer break. In June to be exact.

Now, I found myself back at school in August gearing up for classes as a junior. Only those closest to me knew what happened.  How do you go back to your life before? How can you be that person again? My mother’s absence was acutely felt on my 21st birthday in October. Only four months ago, I had a mom. Now I didn’t.

 My mom and I at my high school graduation in 2003. This was the last picture we took together. In 2005, she died after a short battle with breast cancer. It was her second battle with breast cancer. The first time occurred in 1995 when I was 10 years old.

My mom and I at my high school graduation in 2003. This was the last picture we took together. In 2005, she died after a short battle with breast cancer. It was her second battle with breast cancer. The first time occurred in 1995 when I was 10 years old.

I knew something was wrong. A friend recommended therapy and I reluctantly agreed. For a year, I attended therapy as part of on-campus services. It helped usher me through that first painful year of grieving.

Thing is I didn’t tell anyone. I kept my therapy sessions a secret. Only five years ago in 2013 did I tell my family about it. Many of them were shocked.

It’s hard being black, a woman, and a Christian and battling depression. Sometimes it seems like these identifiers work against each other.

Black people don’t do therapy.

You’re just being emotional.

Pray on it. God will guide you.

But I wasn’t being emotional, I was acutely aware that something wasn’t right. Why didn’t I care about the things I use to? Why did it feel like I was going through the motions? I was doing those things and saying the right stuff because I wanted the appearance that everything was fine.

It wasn’t.

I prayed. The more I prayed, the further I felt from God. The further I felt from God, the frustration and the hopelessness ratcheted up. So I prayed some more and the cycle started again.

Then I stopped praying.

I tried to rally. That’s what we do as black women, right? The world doesn’t have time for us to be broken, tired, or sad. It’s expected that we will get back up. I rallied by doing the things that I loved but I didn’t love doing them. I did them so people wouldn’t know that something was wrong. I tried. I tried so hard to love them again but I couldn’t. On the outside, I kept busy. Doing this. Doing that. But when I got home and it was just me the guard dropped and I lay in bed doing nothing. Binge watching tv shows and movies.

For two years, since about 2015, I’ve battled this depression. It’s taken me in 2018 to begin to see it as depression. It wasn’t me feeling “off.” It wasn’t something I imagined.

The hard part is I spent so many years pretending to be okay, forcing myself to look like I’m okay, that I don’t know how not to do that. I still push myself to do. Sign up for this activity. Get involved in this organization. Meanwhile, inside, I’m sinking in quicksand wanting it to all be over. To go home and just be instead of do.

 Depression doesn't look like one particular thing. Here I am having an amazing career moment at the Texas Legislature in March 2017. No one knew that after that momentary high, in the quiet of my home, those feelings of doubt, sadness, and existential crisis returned. For months, I took sleeping pills to sleep as long and as deeply as possible because I didn't want to get up. Depression robbed me of my ability to sleep well so I compensated by taking pills.

Depression doesn't look like one particular thing. Here I am having an amazing career moment at the Texas Legislature in March 2017. No one knew that after that momentary high, in the quiet of my home, those feelings of doubt, sadness, and existential crisis returned. For months, I took sleeping pills to sleep as long and as deeply as possible because I didn't want to get up. Depression robbed me of my ability to sleep well so I compensated by taking pills.

My first major breakthrough came at the tale end of 2017 when it became clear to me, startling so, that I wasn’t okay. It wasn’t my circumstances. It wasn’t someone’s fault. It was me.

I had a problem.

I sought out a therapist and while its still early I’m making some headway. Much like my mother’s passing, I was grieving another sorrow. Rather than deal with it, I pushed it down. The hopelessness, the doubt, the existential ennui started and made a home in my heart and mind.

I’m tired. It still tires me to think of the work that’s a head of me. To learn how to manage this. To see the light in the darkness if only for a moment.

But I’m hopeful I’ll stand in the light again.

From the Vault: Adele and John

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From the Vault is a new series where I share my stories I've written. As originally conceived, many of them are incomplete. They range in size from flash fiction to novellas. I owe it to them to see the light of day rather than sitting in a dusty notebook or on my Google Drive. Enjoy.

###     

Adele awoke drenched in sweat. The remnants of the nightmare faded fast. Her heart thumped in her ears.

            “John,” she called out. Nothing. She heard the distant sound of a lawn mower. Everything clicked into place. Saturday. John. The lawn mower.

            She sat up. The pillow, the bedsheets, her tank top stained in sweat. A flicker of a thought fluttered in her mind but the overwhelming desire to shower pushed it away.

            The cool water on her warm body was calming. As she added coconut scented shampoo to her hair, she mulled over the day. When she finished, she decided coffee first then help John with the backyard. Rake the leaves.

            She waited for the coffee pot to percolate as she watched John from the patio doors. He was sweaty. Clearly he had been mowing for some time. She waved to get his attention.

            He paused, noticeably pulling the earbuds from his ears. She held up a mug. He mimed OK and motioned to the strip of grass he was on.

            She retreated to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and stirred in the hazelnut creamer. The swirling colors, the undulating hole in the middle of where she stirred. The thought bubbled up.

            She left the undrunk coffee, sprinted up the stairs, burst into her room, and flung open the closet door. She searched for the box from Summerview.

            The hairs on her arm stood up. Her heart dropped. A whoosh of wind. She was awash in blue light.

***

            John turned off the mower, eager for a fresh cup of coffee. The pulsing beats of techno music blasted in his ears. He reached for the patio door handle. A jolt of static electricity shocked him. The air in the house was hot and thick.

            “Del, did you turn off the a/c?”

            He pulled the earbuds out. The house seemed to hum. The sound of rushing air and a crashing upstairs drew his attention upstairs. Standing outside Del’s room, blue light flickered from underneath the door. The doorknob vibrated.

            He turned the knob only for it to be wrenched from his grasp.

            A beautiful blue swirling, shimmering portal no wider than three meters illuminated the room. The force of the wind it sucked in lifted him off his feet. His mind could barely comprehend it. He slammed against the footboard of the bed.

            Adele tenuously clutched on to the closet door know. Her body lifted clean off the ground. The portal pulled at her.

            It was real, he thought. Everything she said was real.

            “Give me your hand,” he shouted. He reached out to her. She shook her head. He tried to move closer only to find each attempt slow going and exhausting because of the force of the wind.

            The closet door bolts rattled under the strain. He locked eyes with her. She looked at him and then the portal. He could see her mind thinking.

            There was so much he wanted to say. When she looked at him again he said,

            “I love you.”

            The corners of her mouth flicked upward in a slight smile.

            She let go. Within seconds, she was pulled in to the portal. It was over.

            She was gone.

Because of my Deep Space Nine rewatch...

… I have a greater appreciation for Nog’s journey

Nog started out the series as a troublemaker. He and his eventual best friend, Jake Sisko, didn’t get along at first. He was constantly in trouble with Odo. Quark always yelled at him. Part of his transformation was due to his friendship with Jake. He gained a vocal supporter. After all, Jake was the one who sacrificed his time after school to tutor Nog so he wouldn’t fall behind. Also through his relationship with Jake, he got an example of a strong, male figure (sorry, Rom) in Benjamin Sisko. It was this quiet respect and admiration for the Captain that Nog boldly declared his intent to join Starfleet.

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The show doesn’t make a big deal about it but his decision was pretty historic. Nog was the first ever (I mean, ever) Ferengi to join Starfleet. With reluctant support from Sisko, Nog set about proving himself. Nog transformed in a major way. Starfleet gave him the direction and purpose that the young Ferengi had been missing. In a pivotal character moment, Nog admitted to Captain Sisko that he didn’t want to end up like his father, Rom. According to Nog, his father was a brilliant engineer but by Ferengi standards he was a failure. Rom didn’t have the lobes for business and couldn’t earn profit. Nog didn’t want that to be his life.

Interestingly, Nog’s decision to break away from traditional Ferengi norms inspired his father. Rom signs up to be part of the station maintenance crew working under Chief O’Brien. He quickly proves his worth as a capable and efficient worker. Also, it was Rom that had the bright idea to make self-replicating mines that kept the Dominion fleet from coming through the wormhole during the Dominion War.

The two episode arc in season 7 where Nog gets injured, loses his leg, and overcome his fear of serving in Starfleet is a masterpiece. 

To see Nog go from troublemaker to a Starfleet Ensign was truly inspiring. Nog found his place and excelled.

…I actually like Klingons

I wouldn’t say I hated Klingons going in but they didn’t hold any interest for me. I didn’t get why people would dress as them at comic cons or speak the language. My entry point for liking Klingons came through Jadzia Dax and General Martok. Jadzia was an outsider who appreciated the culture. She showed me what was beautiful and special about it. General Martok is just a cool ass dude. I love him. I can’t even say it’s one specific thing. Like Captain Sisko, he is one of the few leaders I’d follow into battle. I can think of no higher honor.

I will refrain from expanding on it but I don’t get Worf. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Dorn. I bumped into him at a Star Trek convention and heard him speak. Dorn is funny, charismatic, and a phenomenal storyteller. Worf is dull. Just dull.

…I like Ezri Dax

I know some superfans were crushed to see Jadzia Dax go. Hell, I teared up to because I loved her but I loved Ezri from the beginning. It was great to see a character who was unsure of themselves while dealing with some internal baggage. She’s a great contrast to Jadzia as she didn’t have any interest in being joined but found it thrust upon her. Moreover, she didn’t really have anyone to guide her through the process. She had to bumble her way through it like the rest of us, amirite?

…Bashir is still bae

My crush/thirst for Bashir remains strong. He started out the series as a poorly drawn, inconsistent character. It was mid-season two and definitely in season three that solidified his character. He became the doctor I remembered and began to crush on as a kid. That crush remained intact by series’ end.

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…I finally get Kira and Odo’s relationship

Y’all this was one of the biggest relationships I struggled with. I didn’t see it or understand it as a kid. I was firmly TeamVedekBareil for Kira and TeamLuxannaTroi for Odo. Those love interests fit better to me than Kira & Odo. It was hard to see because the show didn’t really tackle the growing romance head on. In the few times they did, it felt out of place. The turning point for me was season six, specifically His way (S5E20). It really got to root of what was Odo’s problem. That kiss between them was fire. Then I was like yep, I ship this relationship now.

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…I truly get the weight Sisko felt of being the Emissary

I didn’t get it until now that it was a pretty big deal for Sisko to be the Emissary. A prophet to the people of Bajor. He was so integral to the Prophets that they engineered his birth. Sarah, Ben’s real mother, was inhabited by a Prophet in order for her to meet and marry Joseph Sisko so they could conceive Ben. That was like WHOA. WHOA. It also explains why it wasn’t so easy for him to walk away from it. He felt this unconscious pull back to the Prophets. I get that now.

…I dig the male/female platonic relationships

Most these relationships pivot around Sisko. I always knew Ben and Jadzia had a special relationship. He affectionately referred to her as ‘Old Man.’ It didn’t really hit home to me how important this relationship was until the season 7 opener. Ben’s best friend had died and the Prophets had abandoned him and Bajor. He didn’t know what to do but he knew he couldn’t do it at Deep Space Nine. He retreated back to Earth to work at his father’s New Orleans restaurant. It was in a darkened alley while scrubbing clams that he admits it. He was lost AND he missed his best friend.

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Y’all, I teared up for him. I have a friend who is at that level and I cannot imagine life without her. I refuse to even go there mentally because I know I would have a breakdown.

It’s only minutes later that the new Dax host finds Sisko. Ezri tells him that she doesn’t know what to do and that she, like him, feels lost. One thing she knew was that she had to find Sisko. He was her constant and she was his.

I tweeted out:

I really love Sisko and Dax’s relationship. Even though the host has changed, they’ve found their way back to each other at a time when they need the other the most. #ds9 #startrek

I already loved this relationship. His growing relationship with Ezri pushed it into the stratosphere.

One unexpected relationship was Kira and Sisko. Admittedly, it didn’t get nearly as much development. One scene that always stuck out to me took place on the Defiant. Sisko suffered a head injury and it was Kira’s job to keep him away. In a very rare moment between the two of them, Kira admitted why she keeps Sisko at a distance despite how long they’ve worked together. He is the Emissary. How can you be friends with someone who you regard as a spiritual leader? I like that later in the episode, after his recovery, Sisko invites her to a baseball game. Figuratively, he extends an olive branch. To see her face light up was amazing. Through out the rest of the series they have these little moments that harken back to the fact they too have a friendship.

I love it. All of it.

From the Vault: Eleanora Pinto

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From the Vault is a new series where I share my stories I've written. As originally conceived, many of them are incomplete. They range in size from flash fiction to novellas. I owe it to them to see the light of day rather than sitting in a dusty notebook or on my Google Drive. Enjoy.

###

Out of habit, Elenora Pinto pulled the sun-warmed binoculars to her face.  Atop the cerulean dunes stood a regal red-skinned warrior.  His gray warrior’s tunic billowed in the wind, his hoffa firm in hand.

“My shadow,” she said with a mix of wonder and resignation.  A soft kick from her belly brought her attention back to her swollen frame.

“Two more months and you’ll meet him,” she said as she placed her hand on her right side, the source of the kick.  She looked up at the sky.  The sun, by her estimate, approached its zenith.  Her collection kit and its tools splayed out before her.

“Fuck this.” A sharper kick in her right side came.

“Sorry,” she said to her belly.  The doctors warned her that Geniasian children were self-aware in utero.  She had not believed him until she drew nearer to pahn’lay, the birthing time.  The kicks grew sharper, sensitive to her feelings and words.  That is also when her shadow returned.  A warrior’s responsibility to be near his pa’alay.  She fingered her gold wedding band.

“Are you returning?”

She jumped at the baritone voice from behind her.  She meet Jonay’s gaze.  The gray hood of his warrior’s tunic was up.  She looked back in the direction from whence he came.  Her eyes could see nothing.  No movement.

“How long?” she asked.  She packed up her equipment quicker.  She glanced back up at him.  His dark lavendar eyes had been looking at the gold band she still wore.  Feeling embarrassed more so for him, she pulled on her gloves as casually as possible.  

“Soon,” he said.  His usual baritone slightly high.  Snapping her kit shut, she pulled her own green hood up.  He moved closer, his hand extended.  She hesitated before taking.  Despite the heat, his hand was cool to the touch.  Would my child be cold to the touch like you, she wondered.  He held her hand for several moments.  Her heart started to pound in her chest.  He released his soft grip and moved toward the jym’la.  Or, as Elenora thought of it one of the go karts from a movie her father showed her as a child.  About some guy name Max in the desert.  

She climbed into the tight driver’s seat, clutching her belly as she did.  Jonay stood in the back observing the movements of the coming sandstorm.

“The storm will be here in,” he paused.

“ten minutes of your time.” The familiar word sounded foreign to her ears as Genaisians had a tendency of emphasizing a hard ‘u’ sound in minutes.  Shifting the jym’la in gear, she drove as fast as she could to the research station.  She focused on the dipping dunes ahead and trying to find the straightest and quickest path.  Even at the fastest speed possible, she knew they would not make it before the sandstorm hit.  She felt a soft nudge on her left side.  She liked to think it was the baby’s way of saying it was going to be okay.

“I sure hope so, little one.”

The sandstorm moved in fast.  Faster than Elenora’s buggy could out run it.  The steady green light of the gps winked at her from the dashboard, a calm reassurance she was heading in the right direction.  She glanced up at Jonay.  He stood facing the coming storm, a true Genaisian warrior.  They like to see death coming.  She chided herself for the thought.  They wouldn’t die out here.  

Would they?

The storm picked up in strength.  Quickly outpacing and eventually surpassing the buggy.  The green light taking longer and longer pauses between winks.  Elenora tightened her grip on the steering will and pressed the gas pedal down further.  But, she could no longer see the light.  It stopped blinking moments later.  Keep heading north west, she told herself.  Keep heading north west.

“It won’t go any further,” Elenora screamed over the roar of the sandstorm.  She looked up in the general direction of where she knew Jonay stood but she could not see him.  The blue swirling, writhing sand blotted out his shape.  She pressed on the pedal and the buggy vibrated and then shook violently before going silent.  Maybe he felt that at least, she thought.  

“Jonay,” she called out.  Nothing was her answer.  No audible response. No touch to indicate he was there.  Had he abandoned her, she thought.  The little one in her belly had gone silent as well.  No kicking.

Her hood kept out most of the sand but fine silt began to seep in. She shifted her leg and felt sand move around her calf.  Her heart leaped.  Sitting still any longer and she would be buried alive.  

“At least I would be with Aaron,” she mumbled.  Out of habit, she looked around for her shadow despite the fact she could not see.  Jonay did not like to her to talk of Aaron.  Her time before.  But how could she not.  He was her husband.  She felt a tiny pain in her heart, as if someone took a needle and pierced it.  At this, the little one poked her.  In spite of her sadness, she smiled.

She groped her way to the front of the buggy.  The direction they were headed.

“Last gps reading. Five maybe 10 minutes ago? 10 miles from station. How fast was I going?” she thought aloud.  She gripped onto the front of the buggy.  Her heart pounded in her chest. Her breathe quickened.  

“Jonay,” she called again.  Nothing but the howl.  One reached out into the swirling blue sand.  The other still gripped the buggy.  

“C’mon Elenora,” she whispered.  She took a deep breathe and let go.  

###

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this little space adventure set not-too-far into the future.

Baewatch: Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko

Ok fam, this post is a bit of a departure from my usual fare. Yes, I’m going to discuss Star Trek: Deep Space Nine but I’m letting my thirst for Captain Sisko shine.

You’ve been warned. Welcome to the thirst trap.

When I watched DS9 as a kid, nine years old to be exact, I was drawn to Benjamin Sisko. It was his blackness. I’ve talked previously about how blackness drew me to science fiction. Watching it as a 33 year old woman, I couldn’t help but notice Benjamin Sisko, the man. Here’s a couple of reasons why he is the ultimate thirst trap for all you science fiction nerds.

That Smile

Now true thirst cannot be complete without talking about the physical. (Guys, if this makes you uncomfortable, move along). Sisko is tall but what really clenches it is that he walks and moves with a quiet gravitas. He isn’t the “look at me” sort but when he is in the room everyone stands just a little straighter.

Sisko has a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts, north of the Wall in Game of Thrones. I mean, just look at it.

 I LOVE this middle period when he had the hair and the goatee. Some of the best Sisko-centric (and that smile) came during this all too brief period.

I LOVE this middle period when he had the hair and the goatee. Some of the best Sisko-centric (and that smile) came during this all too brief period.

I personally noted that about mid-season two until season four that smile comes out at least once an episode. When the show took a darker turn with the Dominion War, Sisko smiled less. In fact, he was notably absent for some of season four (a grave error!). But, that smile comes back in season seven when he finds his purpose again. Guys, when that drought ended and the heavens opened up to deliver that smile, I was through.

Devoted Father

Can’t nobody, I mean NOBODY, tell me that Sisko doesn’t love his son! There were so many heart wrenching episodes from season one when Jake fell ill with a seemingly incurable illness, to the alternate reality when he and Jake are separated through a tragic temporal shift, to Jake being possessed by a Pah-Wraith.

Not only that, the amount of affection coupled with discipline is a sight to behold. This is a man I would have a kid with!

A Master in the Kitchen

What I loved most in the show is how they showed Sisko’s love of cooking. He was always cooking whether it was for Jake, hanging with his fellow Starfleet officers, or wooing his main squeeze Kasidy Yates. He was happiest in the kitchen. Not only that, he was an adventurous cook adapting alien food into classic New Orleans cuisine.

His love of blackness

Although his race was not explicitly mentioned in the show, interestingly, Sisko made it clear he was a proud black man. He had African art and sculptures in his quarters. And, in one episode, he spent his vacation on Earth visiting…you guessed it: the motherland.

Also, he is a black man that loved woman but more specifically black women. I love that the show made all his love interest black women. That part made me very happy because black women typically aren’t the love interest in most shows today.

Y’all he loved Jennifer and then Kasidy with a fierceness that made even ya girl either tear up or stand up and shout like I was back in a black Baptist church on Communion Sunday.

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On that Starfleet grind

Sisko was damn good at his job. Full. Stop. No other explanation needed. So don’t @ me on Twitter.

A True Friend

He was a damn good friend. He called them on their bullshit and he had their back when shit went South. When Worf made that critical decision to save Jadzia versus go scoop up the Cardassian spy, Sisko reprimanded him as his superior officer. But, then he low key told Worf, “dude I get it. If it was Jennifer out there dying, I’d peace out on the mission too. Real talk, fam.”

Also, when Ezri Dax comes onboard after Jadzia Dax’s death, he doesn’t skip a beat. He is there for his friend. Sure the host may have changed but that’s still his ride-or-die friend.

Everyone needs a friend like that.

In conclusion

Sisko is the shit. I get that he is a great Captain, one the best and fully realized in the whole Star Trek franchise (again, don’t @ me). But let’s not forget, that man is sexy as hell on all front.

The thirst is real, my friends.

Peace and love.

 

Being a Black Archivist - Six Years in the Profession

(what I wish white colleagues knew even well-meaning ones)

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Advocating for me doesn't mean speaking for me.

Listen.

I am not your token to be put on display before black and/or minority audiences

Must you question everything I say? (especially when I don't see you do it to others)

I feel the collective white gaze on me all the time. 

Sometimes, I need a break from spaces dominated by white people.

You can  "get it" but still be part of the problem.

Listen.

I'm not antisocial or angry. I have a fucking job to do. That's my focus.

Can you not project your feelings on to me?

I don't care if you voted for Obama or like Michelle.

I am not your mule.

Sometimes, I DO need help.

Listen.

When talking with other POC coworkers, I (we) see you staring. And guess what? Sometimes we laugh because we know it makes you uncomfortable.

Stay in your lane especially when it has nothing to do with you.

Sometimes I'm quiet because it keeps me from yelling at you and your racism/sexism (any other ism)

Yeah, I did hear that racist comment our coworker made. (And I took note that you laughed at it, even if its a nervous laugh. A laugh is still a laugh.)

I see you roll your eyes when diversity and inclusiveness is mentioned

Listen.

I get tired of being "the only" at work.

I'm tired of smiling when really, if I could, I'd punch you in the face.

Sometimes I want to just be Ashley.

I'd like to not have to think about my tone and/or body language when talking to you. (because if I don't I'm "being mean" or "intimidating")

There are times I would be willing to give up the job if it meant I could call out all the bullshit. All of it.

Listen.

Some days I want to be carefree and unencumbered.

Some days I wanna cry.

Some days I want to fight the world.

Most days, I get up and try to live in a world trying to hold me down.

 

23 years later why Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Paradise still bugs the fuck out of me

According to the episode synopsis, Paradise (S2E15) of Deep Space Nine is as follows:

While surveying nearby star systems for M-Class planets, Sisko and O’Brien locate a planet that already supports a colony of humans.

I originally started my rewatch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as part of a bi-weekly blog for Black Girl Nerds. That project has fallen by the wayside but I continued watching old episodes out of nostalgia. DS9 was my first foray into the Star Trek universe. I remember seeing syndicated episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series but they didn’t stick in my mind. They captured my attention for the length of an episode but then I quickly forgot about it afterward.

Deep Space Nine captured my imagination.

The show premiered in 1993 when I was 9 years old. I vaguely remember my mother being excited to see it. It wasn’t until I saw Commander Benjamin Sisko, a black man, on screen that I actually sat down and watched the show. DS9 became a weekly bonding experience with my mother. We would watch it and then during commercial breaks discuss what happened. Then, after the episode was over, we would talk about it at length. I attribute by scifi nerdom and love of Star Trek to my mother. Sometimes when I hear of a new science fiction show or movie, I wonder if my mom would like it and, admittedly, I miss her because I want to talk to her about it. But, I digress.

During my rewatch, one image, one episode kept coming to mind. It was the sight of Sisko crawling into this sweatbox on this planet as punishment. I couldn’t remember the details surrounding it only that the image in my head stirred such strong emotions in me. Emotions that still existed some 23 years later.

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I remember being angry. Angry at the circumstances surrounding the punishment. Proud of Sisko for standing his ground. Lastly, I felt pity because of the physical toll the punishment took on this character I had grown to care about. That is what I remember.

Then, this past Friday, I reached that episode which originally aired on February 14, 1994. It was surreal watching an episode that I first saw at 9 years old versus being a 33 year old woman now. Unlike when I was younger where I waited a week in between, I am binge-watching so I’m easily watching 2-3 episodes in one sitting.

Seeing this episode as a child is a wholly different experience than watching it as an adult, especially now in 2017.

The first themes to grab me was the racial dynamic at play. While the colony was composed of people of different racial backgrounds, the main person in charge, dispensing the rules, was a white person, specifically a white woman. Her name was Alixus. Not only that, her antagonist to this status quo was a black man, Commander Benjamin Sisko.

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What struck me was how dehumanizing the whole experience was for Sisko.

Her treatment of him was an exercise in stripping him of his Starfleet prestige and breaking him down into a contributing member to “her colony.” For example, she initially called him Commander but quickly settled into call him Ben. This may be a trivial, but I strongly believe it was intentional. Her way of saying who you are doesn’t matter to who I want you to become. She often broke the touch barrier. Reaching out to invade Sisko’s personal space without asking. She demanded that he adhere to her rules partly knowing that as a Starfleet officer that aspects of the Prime Directive were at play. Non-interference is ideal but if there is an interaction and potential impact to keep it minimal. She couched her rebuttals in this language.

Her tone of voice was more abrasive with Sisko than O’Brien, especially when Sisko showed his defiance to her rules and rejecting that this way of life should become his. For example, he chose to stay in uniform than to put on the clothes of the other community members in spite of Alixus demands.

It is telling to me that Alixus never takes the time to understand Sisko. To get to know him. She spent more time dominating the conversation and pontificating her ideas. I bring this up because, at this point in the series, Sisko has been established as a strong but fair leader, a widower, and devoted father to his son Jake. Nowhere in this episode is Jake mentioned. It’s all part of the dehumanizing process. Alixus does not take the time to learn about Sisko. I wonder if that would have changed her behavior toward Sisko to know that he has a son. I firmly believed it wouldn’t have impacted her actions toward him.

Much of the above could have been dismissed as a warped sense of leadership until we get to “the box.” A person who committed a crime that negatively impacted the community was punished. That punishment was to be placed in “the box” for however long without food or water. The box was, from what I could tell, situated directly in the noonday sun.

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This is where the racial dynamic, the white supremacy of it all, pushes Alixus and her fixation on Sisko to another level. O’Brien, in his own way, tries to help cure a woman in the community using technology. Alixus deemed this a crime because that was time he could have spent contributing to the community. (So, saving a woman’s life isn’t helping the community? Um, ok.)

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At this point in the story, Sisko has been a little too “uppity” and non-conformist. So, she defers O’Brien’s punishment onto Sisko. The one prominent black person is being placed in a box as punishment by a white person. This 24th century punishment parallels 19th century punishment of enslaved peoples.

Add to this the statements of Alixus to Sisko to work in the fields, I was close to done y’all. That anger I experienced as a child all clicked into place. As much as I loved science as a kid I was also a big fan of history. So even if I didn’t have words for it, I understood on some level what was happening. The underlying racial tension. As a 33 year old black woman in 2017, I seethed with anger. This time I had the words.

All I could see was the trope of Alixus as the slave master and Sisko cast as the obstinate enslaved person. She was trying to break him into submission. Alixus even wielded her power to get another member of the community to seduce Sisko. She thought (incorrectly, of course) that by appealing to Sisko’s sexual desires would help him to conform but he saw through that. I was even more appalled that she sent the only visible woman of color to do it. That power dynamic with heavy racial overtones.

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Ultimately, Sisko didn’t break and I felt vindicated but I left deeply unsatisfied by the ending.

It turns out that Alixus engineered the group being stranded on the planet in order to live out her philosophies. She impacted the lives of a group of people, lied to them, and derived power from it. In the ten years they were stranded, people died y’all so this woman could get what she wanted. The show undermined this idea by saying that they had better lives because of her. The group accepts that premise and decides to stay. The whole thing was wrong and terribly unfair. In that sense, Alixus (and the show) had stripped these people of their own individual humanity.

They had families. They had friends. What of the anguish of their families not knowing that their loved ones were alive?

Alixus goes to face her punishment as the white savior/tragic hero that the show unintentionally (or intentionally) painted her. The people stay.

The last shot is of the two children born on the planet looking sadly, regretfully at the box. I pitied them. Where was their choice? Out of a group of 30 some odd adults they were the only children. What would happen to them when the adults died? Likely, it would be the two of them left stranded on a planet that they didn’t need to be stranded on in the first place.

#thatmanagerlife: Lessons Learned (thus far) from a new Manager

In a previous post, I referenced that I’m now a manager at my newest job. On Twitter, I created the hashtag #thatmanagerlife to share insights on the things I am learning as a manager. It’s one thing, as an employee in a non-managerial role, to be critical of management. It is quite another to be the manager.

Let me tell you: that ish ain’t easy.

Can you die from meetings?

The biggest adjustment from employee to manager is all the meetings and committees you are obligated to attend. And, unfortunately, you can’t opt out of them or send a proxy. (I really wish I could send a proxy) For example, I had a day devoted to meetings. I had one at 9 am that lasted 2 hours, another one at 2 pm that lasted 1 ½ hours, and a final one at 4 pm that lasted about 45 mins.  When you do the math, I spent 4 hrs and 15 minutes in meetings. Add that one hour lunch break and I was left with 2 hours and 45 minutes of actual work. Work that involved checking and answering emails, touching bases with my staff and getting project updates (we’ll call those mini-meetings).

Meeting burnout is real. I find that I look forward to those days when I have either no meetings OR two meetings at most during the day. I may be a manager but I’m also an archivist so I have processing work that needs to get done. I’m really having to step up my game in terms of time management but also setting “meetings” for getting my own work done.

For example, I actually set up a 4 hour meeting titled Institutional Records Meeting for the sole purpose of carving out that time to inventory and process collections. Makes it much easier to decline suggested meeting days and times when you say, “sorry, I have a meeting on that day and time.”

You gotta do what you gotta do. (Don’t take that tidbit and abuse it. Don’t be that person)

Keep the long game in mind and be strategic

I liken this aspect of being a manager to adopting the strategic mind of Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones, FTW!). The hard part of being a manager is sometimes, you have to make the short-term sacrifice for the long-term reward. These decisions may seem like managers take them lightly (and let’s be honest some managers do) but for the most part it’s hard.

It can be a decision you make for your department OR it can be a directive that comes down from on high. It is the latter I found that was hardest when I was an employee. I’m not privy to those conversations and found it difficult to swallow. Managers are the middle man. There really isn’t much they can do because they're the messenger.

There is no clear way to deal with it. I have seen managers not explain the reason behind a decision and be crucified for it by staff. I have seen managers explain exactly what happened but employees still direct their frustration on the manager. Hell, I have even been that employee myself.

To be a manager means to learn to be okay with not being liked

Let’s look at Tyrion for example. We all know how the Battle of Blackwater went down. Joffery punked out and was ready to flee. Tyrion stepped up and led the people. Tywin Lannister swooped in and won the battle but he was the one that got the credit. Tyrion was in the thick of it as a person in charge but got shortchanged when it came to the recognition.

Despite his impressive handling of the situation, he was still seen by Tywin as not a “real Lannister” and he was hated by the people. At his trial, he finally accepted the mantle of being hated by the people despite the fact he kept them relatively safe.

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Sometimes, as a manager, you can’t win AND please everyone. It comes with the territory. Taking another Game of Thrones example. Look at Jon Snow. He tried to do the right thing and made a decision to partner with the wildlings. This flew in the face of decades, nay centuries, of animosity between everyone and the freefolk but he saw the bigger threat. How did he get rewarded for it? Homeboy got ambushed AND shanked composed of people who mostly hated him but people who also liked him.

Learning that I can't please everyone was and be liked was the hardest lesson for me to learn in the last three years. Although I wasn’t a manager at the time, I hadn’t realized how much of my identity, professionally and personally, was wrapped up in being liked. A people pleaser. Being liked by people I admired and, yes, even liked by people I didn’t like nor respect. On some level, I wanted their approval.

It took getting knocked down and thrown under the bus a little too much for me to begin to do the work and untangle my identity from people’s approval. On some level, I will always care what people think but it won’t be the thing that guides me or my decision making.

Saying NO is the most powerful statement

I firmly believe if you can accept that people will not always like you as a manager saying no to things that are a waste of time, money, and resources is easier. This ties into being strategic as well.

Saying ‘no’ applies to the people below you and the people above you. Real talk: You can’t let these people run you and dictate your life. Admittedly, you have to learn when saying no is best, having a case to support that, but willing to drop it when those above you still decide to press forward with the course of action you are not 100% committed to do.

Also, I say this because some people are not accustomed to hearing no because they have been surrounded by yes people most of their professional and personal life.

***

Being a manager requires you to be more than you are. To learn new skills while fine tuning the skills and qualities that make you an amazing individual. I foresee a lot of falling down but I also see getting back up as a stronger person in my future.

 

 

The Arrogance (and Humiliation) of Dr. Julian Bashir, a DS9 Review

In The Passenger (S1E09), the first five minutes of the episode puts Dr. Bashir's arrogance front and center. Growing up, I don't remember Bashir being so arrogant but I too rolled my eyes along with Major Kira as she listened to him. Up to this point, the show depicts Bashir as arrogant, persistent (when attempting to woo Jadzia Dax), smart, and someone who knows how to spit game. Weren't ready for that last bit were you? There are at least two moments in past episodes where you see see how Bashir is a smooth operator. Spittin' some lines and getting the ladies.

I digress.

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What best way to undercut Bashir's arrogance and, hopefully, lead to a meaningful transformation as a character? Have this man's consciousness hijacked by an even more intelligent (and dastardly) individual named Rao Vantika who is willing to kill to stay alive. How well does the episode execute this? Not effectively I'm afraid. How can a man be transformed if he is unaware that he is a pawn in another player's game? There are no moments where we see Bashir puzzle out/explain away certain atypical behavior. Does he wake up and wonder how did he get somewhere while Vantika used his body to attack Quark? This is a route left unexplored.

Ultimately, the big reveal is underwhelming. I figured it was Bashir-turned-Vantika the minute he attacked Quark. Although we don't see him, there is no mistaking Bashir's whispered voice. Bashir has a distinct way of speaking that really can't be masked even if whispered. Perhaps it would have been more effective if Vantika spoke in his native Kobliad language. That would have given the reveal a lot more pop.

The episode attempts to conjure up some secondary conflict between Chief of Station Security Odo and the new Starfleet Security Chief Commander Pimmin. The tension exists all of five minutes before its resolved and Odo and Pimmin are okay. Why even bring this up then?

The episode is neatly tied up in 43 minutes and ends how it began about Bashir. He articulates humiliation but I couldn't help but wonder how are you really humiliated? This person did evil things unbeknownst to you. Or is it possible your arrogance to help a man that you were warned was extremely dangerous is what you bothers you. The emotional work wasn't there to lead to a substantive character transformation.

 

 

One Month In: A Retrospective on an Archives Career

Today, October 11th, marks my one-month anniversary in my new job in Michigan. This anniversary made me think back on my career thus far.

Six years. That is how long I have been in this archives game. In six years, I have held 4 jobs and all but one of them (this current one) in government. If you do the math, that averages about to 1.5 years at each job. Actually, my track record is more close to two years.

My first job was a one year processing gig out in a remote part of California. It was a culture shock. I hated it…for about the first 3-5 months I was there. I didn’t hate the job. I hated being so isolated. So far away. Most of my family was on the East Coast. To visit them was a costly, time sucker of a journey. I saw beautiful natural wonders and met some great folks but I resolved that I would never live on the west coast.

 27 year old me working on archives stuff at my processing job at Death Valley National Park.

27 year old me working on archives stuff at my processing job at Death Valley National Park.

My second job came about, I think, because of the first job. I used my time wisely and got my resume critiqued. I left that one year processing job with a well-written, tailored resume for federal government service. From 2012-2015, I worked for the National Archives at Philadelphia. For the bulk of that time, I loved that job. It was everything I had been working toward.

 Why hello? I didn't see you standing there. Pose for a picture? Sure! This is from my time as an archivist (technically archives tech) at NARA.

Why hello? I didn't see you standing there. Pose for a picture? Sure! This is from my time as an archivist (technically archives tech) at NARA.

I declared in graduate school that I would work for the National Archives and I did. From the west coast to the Northeast, I fell in love with Philadelphia. I made great friends there. I came into my own there. My archives career was firing on all cylinders. I attribute my current professional network (on Twitter and LinkedIn) to my time there.

2014 was when things started to change. A series of bureaucratic decisions removed the rose-colored glasses from my eyes and I was no longer in love with NARA. That’s what happens when you idealize something. It is earth-shattering when it reveals itself to be less than what you imagined.

I took stock of my life professionally and decided I needed a change. Leaving Philadelphia and the life I had developed was…painful. More painful than I cared to admit.

That was when I started to hate saying goodbye.

I like to think that I’m not done with Philadelphia, that we are taking a break for a few years. Who knows what the future holds?

I did an about face and embraced archival outreach. That led me to my third job. It’s funny. When you think you want something, get it, and then realize it’s not what you wanted. It’s demanding in a different kind of way.

 Oh that's just me hanging out in the Texas Senate floor showing senators a handwritten copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence as one does. 

Oh that's just me hanging out in the Texas Senate floor showing senators a handwritten copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence as one does. 

I’m a people-liking introvert but being “on” all the time was exhausting. Physically and emotionally exhausting. To be that outgoing person more than 50% of the time can grate even on the most social of introverts (or even ambiverts for that matter). I traded outreach for archives and I found I didn’t like the exchange.

I was at my best when I married the two: archives and outreach. To conduct outreach without the deep, cultivated, intuitive understanding of the archival collections felt odd. I felt like an imposter.

I changed courses.

That’s something that people don’t really talk about. We talk about career changes. Going from one career to an entirely different one. But there is something to be had about being in a career, exploring one facet of it only to realize, nope, that’s not for me. Then you have to shift gears.

After all, these are still people, institutions, etc that you will still interact with but you just changed your mind.

I’m fortunate to be in the profession that I’m in where I can do that. I can change courses and not burn bridges, especially if the course change is handled properly.

My course change led me to my fourth (and current) job. For the first time, I’m in a non-government job. I’m also back in the archives as an archivist but this time I’m a manager.

Say what now?

Six years ago, hell three years ago, I loathed the idea of being a manager. A supervisor. Getting pulled into the administrative pit that comes with being a manager. However, one thing my career has shown me is that, in order to change institutions, you have to be willing to adapt.

You have to be willing to lead instead of follow.

The jury is still out on my love of budgets and strategic planning but what is nice is having a seat at the table. To speak and have others listen. To make decisions, fight for them, and (sometimes) actually win them.

I don’t know what the future holds for me at this job, in Detroit, or wherever the wind takes me. All I do know is that I’m gearing up for greatness and I’m embracing it.

After all, I did say I wanted to be Archivist of the United States. ;)

 David Ferriero, current Archivist of the United States, and I at a NAGARA conference in Austin, Texas. You feel pretty cool (and humbled) when the AOTUS knows who you are before you can introduce yourself.

David Ferriero, current Archivist of the United States, and I at a NAGARA conference in Austin, Texas. You feel pretty cool (and humbled) when the AOTUS knows who you are before you can introduce yourself.

 

 

Deep Space Nine Review: Dax (S1E08)

Original Air date: February 14, 1993

This is the first Dax-centric episode so far and, I gotta say, Dax is one of the more interesting characters on Deep Space Nine, outside of Sisko. As I rewatched this episode as well as work on the write up, I realized that this is a very female-driven episode that incidientially aired on Valentine's Day. Not only that, there was the undercurrent of love throughout this episode.

Jadzia Dax is a Trill and host to the Dax symbiont. She is an intelligent, hardworking 27 year old woman. Unfortunately, she is being charged with a 30 year old murder. Correction, the previous host Curzon Dax is being charged but he is dead. The Dax symbiont is alive and well in Jadzia. So, that begs the question, is she morally and legally culpable of a crime she did not commit but a previous host did? That's the question being explored. 

Jadzia is one of three female figures the show pivots around. Let's discuss them further.

Jadzia Dax

The frustrating aspect of this entire episode is that Jadzia is passive. She doesn't say much to defend herself either publicly during the trial or in private with Sisko. I feel Sisko's frustration but for different reasons. He sees his old friend Curzon and not the woman before him. I see, instead, a woman who holds the answers to her own defense but not saying anything. Ultimately, I get her reasons for doing so (love - after all, it is Valentine's Day) but I'm upset that we don't get to learn from Jadzia what it means to be a host or Trill. Everything we learn, we learn from others and during the course of the trial. This is the one time, thus far in season 1, where Jadzia could express her intellect but her character is cut off at the knees.

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Enina Tandro

She is a widow to a "hero" and carrying the burden of two big secrets: her affair and her husband's betrayal. Unlike Jadzia, her silence is born out of societal expectation. This is her status: to carry on the memory of her dead husband in a country obsessed with glorifying him.  I can't help but think of the weight of that on her shoulders. How it must gnaw on her. Where Jadzia does not assert her power, Enina does. At the end of the episode, she decides to reveal the truth. Curzon did not murder her husband because he was in bed with her. *shocking* She reclaims to an extent who she is. Her story. She was in love with a man that was not her husband and she will no longer carry that secret. I found it interesting that she only revealed one of her bigger secrets. She is a tragic hero. She is falling on the proverbial sword and having her reputation sullied. Is it because in some way she wants to still protect her husband's memory OR, much more realistically, she knows her people don't want to hear it. To believe that the man they worshiped as a hero actually betrayed his people? I like to believe its the latter but I can't help but shake my head at what life will be like for her now that the secret is out.

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Judge Renora

Although a minor character, Judge Renora, the Bajoran arbitrator holds a lot of power. She is the lone voice that will decide if Jadzia is culpable for murder and can be extradited back to Klaestron IV. Unlike Jadzia and Enina, Renora is a different sort of woman. First, she is much older than those two characters and that gives her a kind of "I don't give a fuck" attitude when it comes to the pontificating and grandstanding during the trial. Present her with the basic facts, your defense, your rebuttal and let's keep it moving. Even with Enina sweeping in to reveal the truth, its up to Renora to still cast a judgement. 

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Overall, I thought this was a good episode. It is the first one out of the season I distinctly remember from my childhood.. When I saw it was next up, I settled in for a good show.

 

 

The Future is Black: Musings on the origin of my SciFi/Fantasy love

My first introduction to science fiction & fantasy came from the library and Star Wars. During my childhood, whole Saturdays were spent at the library. One day, I ventured over to the adult section (seriously, they had their own room) and peeped their VHS collection. I flipped through and saw Star Wars. I wasn't familiar with it so I rented all three movies. I consumed them in one day. In one sitting.

My love of scifi would have ended right there. 

Then my mom introduced me to Star Trek universe, Commander-then-Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Seeing a black person in space and in charge was mind-boggling. Someone who has the same skin tone as me in space. From there, my mom introduced me to The Original Series and the lovely Lieutenant Uhura. My world was shaken. These were my people. To this day, I ride for Star Trek all day. Every day.

 2014 will forever be known as the year I met Nichelle Nichols. Beautiful spirit who I was absolutely speechless to meet. 

2014 will forever be known as the year I met Nichelle Nichols. Beautiful spirit who I was absolutely speechless to meet. 

Rather than pontificate, I want to provide a list of the black characters that got me hooked on shows that, frankly, I wouldn't have watched otherwise. It was seeing black faces, black women especially, that gave me a glimpse of black people in science fiction & fantasy.

Storm from X-Men

Storm could fly. She was wise. She could control the motherfucking weather! I got hooked on to her because of the cartoon show but then quickly branched out into the comic books. I even had the four limited edition Storm comic books (before my dad threw them away). She was the reason I even got into comic books. At least twice a month, I would hit up the comic book store in the mall to buy whatever X-Men comic book I could get. 

Aisha from The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

Aisha was my girl. She was a badass and rocked those braids like the queen that she was. Admittedly, I was in to the Yellow Ranger with Trini (RIP __) but I kept up with the show when they introduced Aisha. I even went and saw the movie when it came out. And real talk, can't NOBODY tell me that Aisha and Zack (the Black Ranger) didn't have a thing going on. 

Vanessa from Space Above and Beyond

Vanessa was smart with a little dash of shyness. I could relate to her because I was her minus the degree in nuclear physics and petite frame. I was known as the smart kid in class but also the one that was occasionally overlooked. I would have loved to see a romantic relationship develop for Vanessa during the show but alas that didn't happen.

Gina Torres in pretty much everything (Firefly, Hercules: The Legendary Adventures, Cleopatra 2525)

I mean, have you seen Gina Torres? Have you seen her act? What is not to love. She stays playing the badass. What made her such a stand out for me, in Firefly and Hercules, is that she was a woman in love. She was cherished. She was coveted by one man. Just seeing a black woman in a relationship nourished my spirit.

Kendra Young from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I watched Buffy but I didn't really sit up and pay attention until Kendra was introduced as a slayer. It still bugs the hell out of me that she got taken out so quickly on the show. She really could have been something. *shakes fist at Joss Whedon*

Martha Jones from Doctor Who

*sigh* I'm happy and not happy about Martha Jones. First, she exposed me to the wonderful universe of Doctor Who which, to be honest, was barely a blip on my radar. Second, she was the rebound for the Doctor after he lost Rose. Rather than be the brilliant M.D. that she was her love for the Doctor was a one-sided affair. If I saw that open mouthed lip quiver one more time, I was ready to go off. 

Bill Potts from Doctor Who

Bill reinvigorated my love of the Whoverse after the Clara years. I'm not #TeamClara so there was a significant wane in my Doctor Who interest. When I found out that Bill would be queer and black, I was there for it. Bill was quirky and loved her deceased mom dearly. These were things I could relate to.

Raquel from Crazyheads

First, how can you not love Susan Wokomoa? Seriously. I was browsing on Netflix for something to watch and came across this show. I ended up watching it one sitting. I literally stopped everything I was doing that Saturday to watch all the episodes. Raquel was vulnerable, powerful, offbeat, and sarcastic.

Naomi from The Expanse

I started watching for Naomi and stayed Krisjen (my girl), the amazing story, and production value. My love of Naomi ebbed and flowed but its due in part because she is presented as a flawed individual. I may not always agree with her decisions but she is 100% the reason I even gave this show a chance.

I'm sure I'm leaving others off the list but as you can see my love of science fiction is rooted in blackness, specifically black women. 

MECCAcon & Doris, a space western comic book

After two plus years of writer's block, the fog was lifted and I was ready to right again. My next foray into the writing world: an untitled space western staring an all-black, all-female cast. If we go by buzzwords: afrofuturistic feminist space western. Imagine my surprise to learn about an upcoming comic book convention hosted at the Detroit Public Library.

On Saturday, September 16, I checked out the Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and the Arts (aka MECCAcon). It was great to see so many black creatives in one space. One person in particular I was glad to meet was Matt Thornton. 

Like me, Thornton was working on a space western comic book titled Doris. With the little cash I had (he wasn't set up for credit card, yet), I purchased it for $5.

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The quality of the comic book feels top notch. I remember when comic books were flimsier but Thornton's has a slight weight to it. It's printed on better quality paper. A slight gloss to the pages really makes the colors pop on the page.

From the showdown in the saloon to the gunslinger-esque character that is Chief Inspector Stonewall, Thornton's comic book felt like I was reading a western. The titular character Doris is a combination bad ass and caring individual. Y'know the beginnings of a three-dimensional person which tends to be lacking for black characters, especially black women in mainstream pop culture and the arts.

My only gripe is that Doris is too short. Thornton piqued my interest and now I want to know more. This world that Thornton sketches out is fascinating. Animals that we take for granted are walking, talking people.

  • How are ducks and bears walking around?
  • What exactly did Stonewall see in the underground bunker?
  • How will Doris and Pau get out alive?
  • Will Doris ever finish her story? The one she was so keen on sharing at the beginning.

The questions are there now I just have to wait for Thornton to deliver on them. 

(As of September 25, Thornton's website emskriptarts.com is currently down but he can be reached via email at emskriptarts@gmail.com if you'd like your own copy of Doris.)

 

Deep Space Nine Review: Q-Less (S1E06)

Original Air Date: February 7, 1993

In this sixth installment, we are settling into life on Deep Space Nine. However, we are quickly reminded that this series is set within a larger Star Trek universe. It coexists in the same timeline as Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is exemplified in the presence of Vash, an archeologist and profiteer, and Q, an omnipotent and godlike being. It is Chief Miles O’Brien that connects the dots for viewers that may not be familiar these TNG characters.

Vash and Q.jpg

During the episode, Vash is interested in selling some Gamma Quadrant artifacts and ending her relationship/travels with Q. She is in a unique position as she is one of the first known explorer of the Gamma Quadrant. She spent significant time there because of her travels with Q. It’s never explicitly stated but we can surmise that they had a semi-romantic relationship. At the same time, mysterious power drains threaten the station. It is easy to point the blame at Q as the mastermind behind the drains, even Captain Sisko jumps to the conclusion. As life support systems are being compromised, it is discovered that a seemingly benign artifact is instead a sentient being from the Gamma Quadrant.

Now, let’s talk about Q. He represents the brazen arrogance that is toxic white male privilege. The way he talks to and treats people drips with condescension and disdain. People exist to entertain him and keep him company as long as he requires it. Vash bears the brunt of this toxic white male privilege as he goes to such lengths as inflicting her momentarily with a debilitating disease to persuade her to stay with him. It may be downplayed a bit but this is a toxic, abusive relationship with an all-powerful being. Think about it, he entices her with the promises of visiting wonderful, exotic worlds. But, woe to her if she decides to leave him! How is that not abusive? To her credit, Vash insists, demands, and ignores Q’s antics to the best of her ability. To that I say, you go girl! Stay away from your abuser.

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If we add the race dynamic, I cannot help but draw parallels with Sisko’s encounter with Q versus Picard’s in The Next Generation. Picard is ever the statesman. He tries through negotiations, communication, and understanding to get Q to be better than he is. If Q represents toxic white male privilege, Picard represents the more paternalistic, benevolent form. It does not mean that Q does not aggravate him rather Picard takes a more diplomatic approach whenever possible. Sisko, as a black man, is having none of it. None of it. His irritation with Q is immediate. When the opportunity presents itself, when Q manipulates reality on the promenade, Sisko seizes the moment and socks Q right in the jaw. That right jab will get ‘em every time. The first words Q utters is “Picard never hit me.” Right there, the line is drawn in the sand: Sisko is not Picard. He ain’t even trying to be. Whereas Picard as the benevolent white male that he is tries to find common ground with Q, Sisko, as that punch indicated, is not the one. He punched Q as if to say:

Not today Satan.jpg

I couldn’t help but be satisfied. That moment sealed for me why I’ve always liked and admired Captain Benjamin Sisko. He is not a man to be trifled with or manipulated. He is most sincerely not Jean-Luc Picard. That moment, out of any thus far, sealed for me that Sisko is a different kind of captain. He is the type of captain you don’t want to push around because he will push back.

The Promised Land?

The Promised Land?

The books of Isaiah and Joshua pivot around this idea of the promised land. This future time when things will be different. Both are filled with hope. Hope in God that He’s got the children of Israel even when they mess up.

Their reality, on the other hand, is different. In Isaiah’s case, Israel is doing everything but honoring God. They rely on other nations to protect them. Eventually, they will experience Babylonian captivity in which they will be taken far from their homeland, enslaved, and scattered. In Joshua, the children of Israel come out of 40 years in the wilderness. God sets before them the task to reclaim the land. The occupied land.

It’s interesting I read these books (finished Isaiah and five chapters into Joshua) at this point in my life. I have the hope of a brighter day. The future time in which the things God has placed in my heart will come to pass. But, my reality is far different. I don’t feel any closer to the things I’ve long desired and prayed for.

And yet, God tells me they are mine to have if only I believe.

Belief is hard, y’all. Real hard. Any Christian that tells you otherwise is full of shit.

What ends up happen is that I allow the obstacles, the challenges, the future hope to become bigger than God. The underlying thread in all of this: my life, Isaiah, and Joshua is faith in God. God can and will do the impossible for your sake but, most importantly, for his glory.

In all that I encounter, do I call on him when things are going bad?

Or, when things are going well?

Am I remembering him in the middle of my struggles and triumphs?

That’s the question that all who profess to believe should be asking ourselves. Can I trust in God when my circumstances, while not terrible, say otherwise? Are contrary to what I think they should be or God declared they would be?

Would Moses and the Israelites left Egypt if they had known beforehand that they would travel in the wilderness for 40 years or that the majority of them would not experience it? That’s the rub. I think if we are really honest with ourselves if God told me exactly what was ahead of me, the troubles I would face, the people I would love and leave, I know I wouldn’t have the strength to walk his path.

But, when I’ve trusted in him and did the scary thing, I have known such peace and joy. Joy when I experience the sweetness of God. That feeling of total and complete satisfaction even if momentarily (that human doubt creeps up with a quickness).

You will reach the promised land, my friend.

Only believe.

 

Intentional Unemployment: Deciding to leave and face the unknown

It wasn't one thing.

One central cause that led to me deciding to leave my job, leave Austin, and come back to Georgia. One thing was clear: I wasn't happy. And, I hadn't been happy for quite some time.

This writing isn't where I'm going to unpack why I left but rather document when I knew it was time, what this choice looked like, and what it means now about one month out.

When I knew

Before I dive in, I'll offer this post as some explanation of the general mood I was in. When I knew came in late May. A Sunday. I hopped on Twitter shortly after waking up to catch up on what I had missed. I came across a Twitter thread from Jarrett Drake (@jmddrake). Now, Jarrett and I have never met. We only know of each other through Twitter. However, he quickly became one of the archivists I admired.

He tweeted two things that resonated with me. First:

"All this to say: sometimes what hold us back is an item (or a person, or job) that we've convinced ourselves we need."

My heart pounded in my chest. I remember sitting up. Feeling like someone had exposed the essential struggle within myself. Did I really need the things I needed?

Then he tweeted later on in the thread:

"Ditch that car. Ditch that person. Ditch that job. Get ya freedom papers. Get ya Legsus. Get ya SEPTA bus tokens. Get ya walking shoes."

Freedom, Freedom from these prevailing feelings. This ennui. This angst. I was scared.

I sent a text to my friend. My best friend. My mirror. The one person I can trust to keep it 100, 100% of the time. I told her the one thing I buried deep within myself.

I texted simply: I want to quit my job and leave Austin.

Now to text Stephanie means you might wait days for a response. She leads a busy life. I had accepted this fact. However, on this day, on this Sunday morning, she responded within five minutes.

"It makes sense to me."

What happened next was a flurry of text messages and a cold dose of reality from Stephanie. Failing and struggling is a possibility if I do this but she reminded me of something.

"What I'm saying is you'll live and you will thrive."

She pointed to all the times I've struggled. Struggle, especially financial, was not a foreign concept to me. If anything, that struggle shaped me into the strong, ambitious person she knows and loves.

After our exchange, I was feeling everything: angsty, fearful, and also relief. I had finally admitted out loud the thing I spent some time emotionally burying.

I prayed at that moment. I laid my heart completely bare. I told Him that I wanted to go.

"So go," He replied back.

What this choice looked like

Just because I was resolved to this course of action, doesn't mean it was without fear. Stephanie gave me a simple directive: don't tell others. Why you might ask? Because well-meaning people can undermine, intentionally or unintentionally, the things you resolve to do. 

For a time, I did. What happened, however, is that anxiousness walked with me. It felt as if there was a giant sign over my head that flashed:

ASHLEY HAS A SECRET. ASHLEY IS QUITTING HER JOB!

It led to a fitful night sleep. Jumpiness around the people I cared about. Being guarded. I talked myself out of it. I talked myself back into it. But then, I would remember that moment of peace when I had initially decided. I held on to that. It wasn't an aberration. It was freedom.

I broke down and told a friend. And then I told another. 

All of them. Every last one of them responded positively. Confirmation, as I saw it, from the God that this was the right decision.

But when? When would I actually do it? When would I put in my notice? The time, conveniently, presented itself. The anxiety ratcheted up. I prayed like I haven't prayed in a long time. Give me the words to say. Don't let me chicken out.

Then the day arrived.

It was the calmest I've ever been up to this point in my life. No jitters. No pounding heart. No flop sweat. No dry mouth. My boss correctly guessed before I said the words. What followed was one of the best, most honest conversations I've had with a boss. I really couldn't have asked for a better moment.

That is when it became real. I was doing this. This was a path I had chosen.

What it means now

That is still being determined. It's weird to be a lady of leisure again, which ironically is happening almost five years when I first was a lady of leisure on the job hunt

I'm back in Georgia spending time with my family, occupying my time with reading and nephew duty.

One thing I know for sure is that there is more on the horizon. New places to explore. New people to meet. Georgia may be home but its not where I'll say. 

God didn't bring me this far just to peace out on me now.

Trust and believe.

 

 

On My Shelf: Racism

I’d like to thank #Slatespeak for making me realize the problem in the church. I expressed my feelings/frustrations on this topic on this post. I put out the call for some literature delving into this topic when an archivist friend at a religious archive recommended this book. (see below).

The first chapter alone had me feeling all sorts of things. All. The. Things. I look forward to sharing my thoughts further once I finish reading it.

I’m exploring the idea of doing seasonal reading. By that I mean, dedicating a season to reading a certain genre, author, or topic. For fall, I want to read bell hooks. I read Teaching to Transgress a couple of months ago and I remember thinking “I love this woman.” I want to read as much of her writing as possible.

A friend gifted me with a Barnes & Nobles gift card that led to this purchase. I was originally looking for a different book by bell hooks but I decided to read the Introduction to get a sense of the content. True to form, hooks sucked me right in. I guess you could say I decided to read it hook (😉) , line, and sinker.