Routledge published Building Mentorship Networks to Support Black Women last month. It features a chapter that was written by a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley titled “#BlackWomxnHealing: An intergenerational Space of Creative Communal Care for Round the Way Blackgirls in Academia.”
The author of this chapter, Reelaviolette Botts-Ward, taught a class at Merritt Community College in the fall 2021 semester that also focused on this idea. Her course was titled “black womxn + radical media,” and the third page of the syllabus features a “safe space disclaimer” which states:
“WE WILL UNAPOLOGETICALLY CENTER BLACK WOMXN,
ALL BLACK WOMXN – QUEER AND TRANS BLACK WOMXN,
HOOD BLACK WOMEN, RATCHET BLACK WOMXN,
HYPER SEXUAL BLACK WOMEN, ASEXUAL BLACK WOMEN,
BLACK WOMXN SEX WORKERS, & ALL THE IN BETWEEN.
If you do not feel that you can respect this,
I strongly suggest you unenroll now.”
Merritt is located in Oakland, California.
Botts-Ward is “a homegirl, an artist, and a nontraditional community curator,” according to her website. She is currently a doctoral candidate in African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and “curates exhibitions, courses, healing circles and research for and by Black womxn.”
In the second week of the course, students were expected to “post an IG [instagram] story of your favorite Black womxn in media, w/ a numbered list of your top three reasons why she is your fave.” Botts-Ward also requested that the students tag “@blackwomxnhealing” and “#blackwomxnradicalmedia.”
Multiple modules in the class syllabus mention posting on Instagram as part of the assignments due for that week. Week three was a post about “how social media impacts Black womxn” and week five was about celebrating “Black womxn’s disrespectability.”
The theme for week six of this course was “hypersexuality, asexuality, + all the in between,” and the assigned videos included an Instagram live and a Youtube video about Cardi B’s song “WAP.” There were several assigned social media accounts for that week including “@blackgirlblissofficial,” “@theestallion,” “@iamcardib,” and “@lizzobeeating.”
“Trigger warning: These profiles may contain nudity,” the syllabus states.
Botts-Ward also assigned the album Heaux Tales by Jazmine Sullivan. The songs on this album explore the “subjects of love, heartbreak, and, of course, hoing,” according to an article that she assigned along with the album.
Botts-Ward has authored multiple publications including “Mourning My Inner[blackgirl]child,” and her recent chapter on “Black womxn healing” in the book Building Mentorship Networks to Support Black Women.
Botts-Ward’s chapter argues that “Round the Way Blackgirls – those whose presence disrupts norms of professional assimilation – teach all Black womxn across the academic spectrum how to get more free.”
The book’s description continues, “Centering Round the Way Blackgirls who are nontraditional undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff, this chapter explores intergenerational modalities of communal care that unapologetically invite Black womxn out of university defined roles and into authentic self expression, creative vulnerability and collective healing.”
This book is part of a larger series from Routledge, which also includes the titles Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty: Perspectives and Lessons from Higher Education, and Black Feminist Epistemology, Research, and Praxis: Narratives in and through the Academy.
Campus Reform has reached out to all parties mentioned above and this article will be updated accordingly.