[This post and related podcast episode were finalized prior to the COVID-19 outbreak]
I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color. These go up on Wednesday. This one is particularly special because it is by Dr. Joycelyn Moody, who is the co-founder, along with Dr. Roxanne Donovan, of WellAcademic – and we just had the chance to talk to Dr. Donovan on our podcast episode that just dropped yesterday! So please do read this post and listen to that episode in tandem!
Also: PLEASE submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration! I want to hear from you! Email me proposals or drafts at email@example.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.
Today’s post is by Joycelyn Moody, PhD. Dr. Moody is WellAcademic Co-founder; experienced coach, mentor and workshop leader; and Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature and Professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
My university is going to remote learning in response to Covid-19, like many/most of yours. I have five workdays to change my face-to-face, highly interactive graduate seminar to an online-only format. Having never taught an online class in any way, shape, or form, the shift is going to require mindboggling effort and time, even as I take advice to lower my standards.
This additional teaching labor sits alongside my complicated feelings about the isolation required to meet social distancing calls to mitigate rapid spread of Covid-19. Frankly, I’m gonna miss seeing my grad students and my gym trainer, not to mention the few precious friends I meet for talk and hugs.
As I grapple with these messy emotions around disconnection, I find my mind drifting back to a certain mountain, to the Elohee Retreat Center, the location of WellAcademic’s Women of Color Faculty Retreats. Even with my beloved partner Lorraine beside me during this coronavirus craziness, I can’t help time traveling to remind myself of the healing, transformative, compassionate sisterlove I’ve invariably experienced among the women I’ve met there. I’m clinging to Roxanne’s brilliant teachings and ancient wisdom. My memories are holding me through this difficult moment. More than simply nostalgic for my sisters, I feel resilient, fortified by them even now. I know my memories will sustain me through the challenges to come.
I share below part of what I wrote after our first WellAcademic retreat because the hope the words held for me seem needed now more than ever. They illustrate the bonds and lessons that are possible in environments where our full humanity is recognized and valued.
Twenty-five women of color faculty and I accepted Roxanne’s call to Elohee’s Bald Mountain for insight and renewal, for sisterhood and rejuvenation. Having participated in numerous workshops with my astounding business partner before, I knew the other participants and I would inevitably have an extraordinary experience. Whatever the others expected, my own expectations were truly exceeded. The difference lay in the fact of community: while Roxanne was our indisputable fulcrum, magic lay in our collectivity.
I doubt many of us anticipated the powerful experience we’d create together.
Almost each retreat participant arrived with trepidation about WellAcademic’s deliberate timing at institutional midterms. Most divulged the challenge of permitting herself to break away for her own revitalization just when others feel free to demand more from us—make-up midterms at students’ convenience, belated committee meetings on chairs’ timetables, and so on. Even retreat participants “on leave” arrived almost panting, as if we’d run the distances from Cincinnati, Madison, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Miami, doubled over by the demands we make on ourselves and we face (or face down) from others who claim power over us.
Perhaps these two short lists capture our transition.
What I expected:
- Loving reunion with Roxanne Donovan, one of my closest friends and also my business partner
- Committed service to the 14 women I’d pledged to coach individually
- Natural beauty transitioning from summer into fall
- Nutritious, delicious food
- Solitude: no WiFi, a break from schoolwork, a break from infuriating global news
- Reunion with my Kennesaw State sisters
- A chance to meet Roxanne’s only biological sister
- And more than this.
What I gained/Hadn’t imagined receiving:
- A community of minoritized academic sisters expressing the same sense of success, insight, stimulation, curiosity, seclusion, need, grief, fatigue, and hope I feel from day to day
- Deep fortification— cellular memories, science-based exercises, journaling, workbook sheets, photography, clean mountain water and air
- A bed I first mistook for clouds
- In-person meeting with the retreat participant with whom I shared the same coach when I was first a client
- One sister, aged 50, lifting her arms over her head to illustrate reclaiming victory over her physical body after setting her own terms as a Black feminist professor and administrator
- Two shooting stars with Roxanne, coming five minutes apart after the “Firelight Sister Circle,” on a tiny swing uphill of Eucalyptus cabin
- And much, more than this, besides.