Authentic lecturing

In my true innovative fashion, I decided to deliver a lecture on autoethnography.

Why? Because this approach allows me to capture and analyse my emotional response to situations and events. Plus, I’m interested in this approach and I wanted to introduce this research method to my students.

Autoethnography incorporates the personal (auto) the cultural (ethno) while describing and analysing (graphy) a phenomenon. I applied an autoethnographic approach during my PhD journey as a means of self-reflection. My first autoethnographic publication entitled Reflections of a black woman practitioner-researcher was published in the Qualitative Research in Psychology Journal, February 2018. It was a special edition and by chance, I came across the journal’s advert seeking abstract submissions. It’s important to understand your purpose and to grasp opportunities when they arise. I will explain why.

I can recall fond memories of my numerous conversations with my supervisor Dr Gail Lewis about the use of poetry in qualitative research. While she would remind me to focus on my academic writing, I was determined to incorporate poetry in my research as data.

At the time autoethnography was not widely recognised as a methodology. I guess because it challenges canonical ways of doing research. My supervisor, in advising me to remain within the traditional academic writing style, which follows a particular tone, using formal and objective language, was fulfilling her duties to ensure my thesis was at the appropriate standard, but she encouraged me to investigate the application of autoethnography in qualitative research. I am forever grateful for her approach to guiding me. I respected her because she was direct, culturally aware and racially yoked. Even now three years after being awarded my Doctorate, when I write I remember her advice.

For those who me personally, it is no surprise that I remained steadfast in wanting to incorporate autoethnography into my study and I was determined to find a way. I had to investigate the validity of the approach and teach myself about the application of this method in qualitative research. The true essence of being a Ph.D. researcher. My tenacious attitude paid off. I incorporated autoethnography by including a self-reflective chapter within a psychosocial framework. I also begin every chapter of my thesis with one stanza of a poem, which I had to justify, but in doing so, I felt empowered because I taught myself about autoethnography.

Through my lecturing, I aim to instill in my undergraduates a hunger to explore and analyse what they are being taught. I encourage them to be independent learners and researchers. I want them to question concepts and theories, think about their application and how they can be used to analyse their own work-based practice.

Ethnography, in my opinion, is a perfect tool to help undergraduates to apply reflective practice techniques.  My aim in writing this post is to raise the profile of this methodological approach. What I enjoyed about delivering the autoethnographic session was drawing on my own work, the article I referred to earlier and contents from my book entitled Black women prison employees: The intersectionality of gender and race.  By using my own work I was inspiring my students. This is the main reason why I chose to complete my Ph.D. and decided to lecture part-time. My purpose is to make a difference in higher education and inspire others to do the same. But most importantly, having the autonomy and confidence to be authentically BLACK and WOMAN!

Keep going!

After an intense week of pushing my way through the challenges of systemic racism, racial micro-aggressions, ignorance, and white patriarchal superiority.  I received the following endorsements from women who have read my book and thesis.  These comments reminded me of the reason why I undertook the audacious task of completing a PhD and publishing my research in a readable format.

My advice to those who are afraid to try.  Tired of the challenges and barriers and want to give up.  Keep going.  We need more black women academics producing knowledge through research across different disciplines.

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At times you become so engrossed in the day job, projects, family life, surviving the challenges of racial micro-aggressions, systemic racism and everyday challenges that result from the intersection of race and gender, etc.  You end up literally falling into autopilot mode and forget to take a moment to just ‘stop’!

The last three weeks have been difficult.  My credibility and integrity have been brought into question.  Like my many black mothers and sisters who have gone before me, and black women of this era who encounter barriers, challenges, and even ridicule because of their activism, their work ethics, even their intelligence.  I adorned myself with the masquerade of ‘strong black woman’ and continued, to carry on.  Not even my close associates, people I come into contact with daily, are aware of my current struggle.

I share this because of the affirmation I received this evening as ran through the South Downs.  I decided to be accompanied by DJ Proclaimer gospel reggae takeover show, playing in my ears.  I don’t usually listen to music when I run in the Downs, that’s what makes this run even more profound because DJ Proclaimer’s motivational words, backed up with Christian teachings and several songs spoke directly to me and my current situation.

One specific song resonated with me, Judith Gayle’s song I’m approved’. This song played when I reached the top of a peak in the South Downs.  I had to raise my hands and skank.  The ecstatic feeling of running up a South Downs hill and reaching the top without stopping, and knowing I have accomplished my Doctorate, published my thesis with a reputable academic publisher, and achieved my goal, which was to make black women as gendered racialised subjects visible in prison occupational literature, deserved a moment of acknowledgment and needed to be put into perspective in relation to my current ordeal.  The words:

I am approved, when man says disapprove, God says I approve.  You are approved when man says disapprove, God says I approve”  

I came to the realisation, that it really does not matter what others may or may not think about me, because what I have achieved, no one can take that away from me.  And if I choose to ‘stop’ for a moment, then I will because I have nothing to prove.  My reputation and research speak for themselves.  I’m human, not superwoman.  So today, I remove the mask of the strong black woman.

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