Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Diversity and Integration: Sticks, Stones AND Words CAN Hurt Me (PHOTOS)

The buzzword for the hour...for the year...for the decade...since the 70's...has failed. That word is DIVERSITY.

Like the word INTEGRATION, a word that has been falsely promised since the 1950's, the word "diversity" is flung around people of color like a bandaid made to look like a lifeboat. These words are neither a band aid nor a lifeboat. The false implementation of both "diversity" and "integration" begins with the definition of the words. Once the true definition of the word is articulated, it becomes clear, sadly clear, that we've never had one and we shouldn't want the other.


Since the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, the idea of "separate but equal" plagued the American south as a working social construct to keep the races from mixing. The "separate but equal" mandate, or the Jim Crow South, was not a society of equality for black people. Black citizens had ALL of the separation and NONE of the equality. The Civil Rights Movement was born. It was created on the mission of INTEGRATION. But what IS integration?

The signs hanging over drinking fountains were but one example of the clear, cut and dry, rule of the south: "Whites Only" and "Coloreds Only". Despite what the signs suggested, white people were permitted to go anywhere they chose to go. Black people were not. So began the fight to balance the scale and change the "whites only" spaces into places everyone would be permitted to go. Here's the flaw: the power of change was still in the hands of the white establishment because NO ONE was fighting for the integration of black spaces. During the Civil Rights Movement, we had black owned businesses. We had black run schools. We had establishments that depended on a black community eager to "integrate". Once the Civil Right Act was passed in 1964, declaring all public spaces open to all people, black southerns sent their children to white schools; shopped in white stores and ate at white lunch counters.  White children, however, weren't sent to black schools; white people were not patrons of black businesses; and while on occasion ate of our ribs, greens, fried chicken and sweet potato pie, they did not value our arts be they culinary, fine or performing, leaving many of the black institutions to close their doors.

America did NOT integrate. It DE-SEGREGATED. Black and white life did not mix equally and balanced in the America. Black existence mixed into a white social construct and this is why we are having the problems of today: Black Americans are permitted to move a little more freely in a "Whites Only" society. Integration turned out to be a black person, moving into a new apartment of all white walls where upon moving in, they were told they can not change the color of the walls, nor can they break them down. If at anytime they feel constricted or limited by the boundaries of these walls, not a matter. They wanted this and this is now where they live. The walls will always be up and the walls will always be white. 

TRUE integration would have been the equal shift on both sides into both ways of life. TRUE integration would have been the allocation of resources and funds to build on the black establishments so whites could integrate into the black culture as well as the reverse. Then VALUE would have been realized and preserved in both the black and white societal construct.  But that never happened. 

If we look at the images from the 1950's-1970's, the young people screaming "Niggers Go Home" and "Stop Integration" are now adults...the elders.

They are now presidents and principals of schools, colleges, and universities. They are politicians and community leaders. They are police officers and business owners. Some of these people have come to see the value of equality among the races but many have not. Black lives became mixed into the social construct of white people, but white lives did not integrate into the lives of black people.

We did not integrate. We de-segregated.


So...de-segregation took place in America, giving millions of black people the hope that life in America will be better. What wasn't taken into account was the purposed discrimination demonstrated by white citizens who did not agree with the changing times. 

The 1970's and 80's saw an increase in black attendance in predominately white colleges and universities (currently referred to as PWI's) as historically black colleges and universities (HBCU's) were looked upon as relics of a segregated American past. A TRUE integration would have been a balance of evolution for both PWI's and HBCU's...but there was no wave of white folks attending Howard or Hampton in the same way they attended Harvard. Like the businesses forced to close their doors as a result of de-segregation, many HBCU's fell victim to low attendance and apathy in the years after the Civil Rights Movement. Going to school with white kids in THEIR institutions gave an entire generation of young black people the idea that they could content and compete in the work force and politics as well. When the reality that white cis men still ran the show set in (i.e. qualified people of color were overlooked for promotion or after a job interview resulted in a less qualified white man getting the job) legislation was put into place to attempt to "level the playing field": Affirmative Action.

According to Merriam- Webster dictionary, Affirmative Action is "the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, etc. It is an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women; an effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons." When researching further, the term "positive discrimination" helped define Affirmative Action in the dictionary AND on Google...

...and that's problematic as 'positive discrimination' is an oxymoron. Discrimination is not ever positive, and yet this is how the need to balance opportunity for a successful life in America has been seen through the eyes of cis white men who feel their position of power has been infringed upon. They feel THEY are now being discriminated against and loosing opportunity in the name of equality...and DIVERSITY.

In an effort to make sure a company or school were compliant with the mandate of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, gender and a list of other attributes, quotas were established and "DIVERSITY" was born. These institutions were then able to say, "we have a diverse staff" or "we have a diverse student body" because in a school of 20,000 students enrolled, 5% are black. That's 1000 black people at a school where 20x that number are white. That's "diverse" but no where near "balance" or "equal".

"Diversity" defines the minimal inclusion of the oppressed so the oppressor can say he did his part, but not lose his position of power and privilege. "Diversity" SHOULD be a great thing. The mixing of a variety of equal parts should bring about a dynamic exchange and co-existence. But we have seen time and time again, Americans do not exist that way. "Diversity" has come to mean that in a manner that seems forced, white spaces must include the minimal amount of black/latino/asian presence as to not be identified as an EXCLUSIVELY white space...or cis male spaces that tolerate a minimal amount of cis women/gay/lesbian/transgender presence. "Diversity", within a racial context as it exist in schools and work places today, has come to represent exerting the least effort to resolving racial discrimination issues by maintaining a quota rather than implementing infrastructure changes that creates balance. ‪"Diversity‬" does not mean equal. "Diversity" does not mean balance. You can have a "diverse" staff of managers but will they be paid the same wage for the same work? You can have a "diverse" student body at a school, but will they receive the same experience, same access to leadership and resources? You can have a diverse collective of neighborhoods in your city, but will they all be afforded the same financial resources, the same protection by (or even from) the police, will their schools have a balance of resources so that no matter where a child goes to school, they will have an equal opportunity for success..no matter who they are?  Black Americans do not want "DIVERSITY". We want CHANGE.


What we are seeing all over America, most recently at the University of Missouri, is a younger generation of Black Americans understanding  "integration" and "diversity" are matters of semantic and not matters of practice for equality nor justice.  The moment the school's former president, Timothy Wolfe, said he wanted to implement "diversity and inclusion" programs, they knew he had to go. The problems at the University of Missouri, like at most, if not all PWI's...America in general...is that diversity and inclusion training/programs aren't designed to address balance and equality. They are designed to address tolerance. Young Black Americans are demonstrating that their presences in ANY space will not be simply "tolerated". You "tolerate" an inconvenience. Black lives are not an inconvenience on America. The lives of Black Americans will be respected. The lives of Black Americans will be honored. The lives of Black American youths in schools will be a reflection of their scholarship and not a mere math equation. THIS is what is meant by #BlackLivesMatter. The value of Black Lives is more than the treatment of Black Lives in America.

Black America once fought for Integration...lost...and were "de-segregated".
Black America once fought for Diversity...lost...and were "tolerated".
Black America is now fighting for a new America. As these young people call upon each other using the tools at their disposal (social media outlets), participating in old school marches and walk out and new school cyber calls to action and hashtag activism; to create the change they want to see in the country they call home. The change is coming.
A change in politics.
A change in economics.
A change in education.
A change in power.
A change in America.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Saturday night was AWESOME!! I launched my first TwitterChat and as it turns out, it was the first Black Superhero Twitter Chat to date...AND...it was AWESOME!! It's just the beginning! We are going to host these discussions on ways and means to produce and support more films, television and web series that depict ourselves heroic!

Below you will find all of the Questions from the Chat. Click on the image and you'll have access to the responses to that particular question. Let's continue the conversation until the "doing" gets done!

Thank you to Michelle A. Dowell-Vest and www.AGurlzGuide.org for promoting the Chat with their segment: #MyFavoriteHashtag!

"When obstacles are insurmountable, we to look to super human figures as hopeful, extraordinary versions of our human self. Superheroes are our partners in fantasy and give us permission to imagine ourselves able to accomplish that which seems impossible. ~ Teresa Dowell-Vest, Author, Filmmaker, Educator
This week’s edition of ‪#‎MyFavoriteHashtag‬ is not an account of this week’s Twitter happenings, but an invitation to be part of a conversation about challenging an industry fixated on a singular representation of Superheros.
Tonight, July 11th at 8:30 – 10:00 pm est, join Terésa Dowell-Vest the writer and creator of Genesis, the story of a family of Black Superheroes in a conversation about how it is time to…‪#‎RedefineHero‬"

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

The FIRST Black Superhero Twitter Chat - Tonight at 8:30pm EST! #ReDefineHero

I'm am super excited to host my first Twitter Chat tonight!

This Twitter Chat will invite people to discuss the void of Black Superhero films in the movie industry and the implications of that absence. Please join us on Twitter tonight at 8:30pm, use the hashtag #ReDefineHero to ensure everyone's voices are heard. ALSO, we are hacking this year's Comic Con in San Diego with this chat so include #SDCC in your post so the filmmakers and VC's at the conference can hear our voices as well!

 Come back here on Monday, July 13th where we will post ALL of the questions from the chat and engagement from the participants!

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Friday, July 3, 2015

"Frederick Douglass Was A Blogger"

"Frederick Douglass Was A Blogger"
Lesbians Who Tech Summit 2015
San Francisco, California

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The American Griot: The Walter Fisher "Narrative Paradigm" and the African-African Storyteller

From "The African American Theatre Producer as the African American Griot"

by Terésa Dowell-Vest 
(California State University, Long Beach. Long Beach, CA, 1997)

Storytelling is perhaps one of the oldest forms of communication. Stories are told and performed for many reasons, serving many purposes, but none more important than to educate and to inform. Donald and Karyn Rybacki state in their book Communication Criticism: Approaches and Genres, "Before organized education systems, before written language, the values and rules of tribal or communal life were transmitted to children and reinforced for adults through narratives."1 This was, and still is, the primary objective of the African griot.

What Is The Griot?

A griot is a storyteller, a historian, and an educator. Senegalese griot D'jimo Kouyate describes the griot as one who offers to those willing to learn an oral history, cultural information, descriptions of social obligations, and ancestral wisdom and knowledge essential to the preservation of one's knowledge of one's African heritage.2 Walter Fisher's "Narrative Paradigm" can offer an analytical view of the art and social need for storytelling.

Walter Fisher's Narrative Paradigm

Walter Fisher, University of South Carolina Professor of Communication Arts and Science, developed a rhetorical device based on the idea that human beings are storytellers by nature. In explaining his theory, Fisher declares in his book Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value and Action (1987) that "narration is a type of human interaction -- an activity, an art, a genre, or a mode of expression."3 When asked to give his definition of the term "narration," Fisher offered the following definition:

When I use the term "narration," I do not mean a fictive composition whose propositions may be true or false and have no necessary relationship to the message of that composition. By "narration," I mean symbolic actions -- words and/or deeds -- that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create, or interpret them. Narration has relevance to real as well as fictive creations, to stories of living and to stories of the imagination.4

Fisher adds that the "Narrative Paradigm" is based on two separate traditional themes of rhetoric: the argumentative, persuasive theme and the literary, aesthetic theme.5 Fisher further asserts five factors which construct the "Narrative Paradigm": nature, belief and behaviors, culture, rationality, and choice.6 Together, these premises create a model of communication arriving at two conclusions: (a) regardless of the relationship between people or the forum in which we communicate, humans communicate in narrative, and (b) humans communicate with one another for a "good reason." Fisher continues that his human communication paradigm "seeks to account for how people come to adopt stories that guide behavior."7 This is the main premise that defines the duty of the African griot and the further, how we use social media outlets today.


Walter Fisher's first premise acknowledges humans as storytellers by nature, an innate characteristic that does not have to be taught.8 He includes in this premise that humans are symbol-using animals:

Symbols are created and communicated ultimately as stories meant to give order to human experience and to induce others to dwell in them in order to establish ways of living in common, in intellectual and spiritual communities in which there is confrontation for the story that constitutes one's life. One's life is a story that participates in the stories of those who have lived, who live now, and who will live in the future."9

We live; therefore, we offer episodes of a huge, life-size story. Because we share in dialogue or various types of symbolic communicative exchanges, we are in a huge drama or play. We are the storytellers of our own stories and the stories of others.

Beliefs and Behaviors

The second premises of the model states, "Beliefs and behaviors are based on good reason." What qualifies as "good reason" is subjective and is found in different forms.10 The reason for "good reason's" subjectivity and variance in form is realized in the following statement:

A good reason is good if it is tied to a value, and a value is reasonable if it is tied to a reason. Given this view, there is no way to distinguish the merits of competing good reasons.11

Fisher's definition of a "good reason" is the most ambiguous of all his terms and definitions. Defining a "good reason" and its origin can be as confusing and inconclusive as "the chicken and the egg" argument. "Good reason" is subjective and is based on two main factors that vary with every individual: culture and rationality.


Our individual culture helps us to determine what is "good reason." Walter Fisher asserts that it is our history, biography, character, and the structure of our native language that influences what we perceive "good reason" to be.12 Narration takes place in two forms: "recounting" and "accounting for" human choice and action.13 "Recounting," Fisher stated, "takes such forms as history, biography, or autobiography. 'Accounting for' takes such forms as theoretical explanation or argument."14 "Recounting" is telling what happened; "accounting for" is telling why it happened.

"Recounting" and "accounting for" can be expressed in everyday conversation as well as poetry, prose, and drama. They make up the stories we tell ourselves and each other to establish a meaningful life.15 The stories we select to live by, however, are not randomly discovered via our imagination. All of the narrative choices we make are inherently influenced by the environment in which they are nurtured. Reasoning is dictated by our culture.


The rationality of any story depends on whether or not it "rings true," whether it is consistent with other stories.16 Narratives and actions must pass two tests: the test of coherence and the test of fidelity.17

Fisher explains narrative rationality as "a system for determining whether or not one should accept a story, whether or not a story is trustworthy and reliable as a guide to belief and action."18 There is a test of coherence: "Does the story or action 'hang together' and exist free of contradictions?"19 There is also a test of fidelity: "Is the story or action truthful and logical?"20


The final step of the "Narrative Paradigm" states that we choose among stories to determine which ones offer us "good reasons."21 Fisher clearly acknowledges that "some stories are better than others, more coherent, more 'true' to the way people and the world are."22 Fisher concludes his thesis with the statements:

Narration is meaningful for persons in particular and in general, across communities as well as cultures, across time and place. Narrations enable us to understand our own lives in terms of narratives.23

History records no community, uncivilized or civilized, without key storymakers /storytellers, whether sanctioned by God, a "gift," heritage, power, intelligence, or election. Narration implies, however, that the "people" judge the stories that are told for and about them and that they have a rational capacity to make such judgements. To apply a narrative paradigm to communication is to hold, along with Aristotle, that "people" have a natural tendency to prefer what they perceive as the true and the just. The narrative paradigm does not deny that the "people" can be wrong. Nor does the theory behind the narrative paradigm deny the existence and desirability of genius in individuals or the capacity of "people" to formulate and adopt new stories that better account for lives or the mystery of life itself.24

1Donald Rybacki and Karyn Rybacki, Communication Criticism: Approaches and Genres (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1991), 107.

2D'jimo Kouyate, "The Role of the Griot" in Talk That Talk, ed. Marian E. Barnes and Linda Goss (New York: Simon and Schuster Touchstone Publishing Company, 1989), 179.

3Walter Fisher, Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1987), 62.

4Ibid., 58.


6Ibid., 64.

7Ibid., 87.


9Ibid., 64.

10Ibid., 63.

11Ibid., 64.

12Ibid., 107

13Ibid., 64.

14Ibid., 62.



17Ibid., 64.

18Ibid., 88.




22Ibid., 64.

23Ibid., 68.

24Ibid., 65-66.
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About #SC4SC

Welcome to the "From the Drinking Gourd to #BlackTwitter: Social Communication for Social Change" Blog! This the public forum for the course, "From the Drinking Gourd to #BlackTwitter: Social Communication for Social Change." This course is designed to explore the power of social media, examine the history of social communication and participate in the social change as it is exist in the world today. While there will be exercises and projects for the students to complete privately in class, this blog will serve as the bridge between the study of theory IN the place and the essence of practice BEYOND the class. The standard hashtag for this project is #SC4SC. Feel free to participate and engage! Let's communicate for change! TDV

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