Developing Grit in Our Students

I have been thinking more about what will help students succeed in education and life. I often get introspective around finals time when students come to me desperate for grades, or, rather, desperate for an A. Inevitably around this time as well, students start hustling trying to do any and everything to improve grades if they are failing. I always think that if they showed half of this initiative earlier on then they would not feel as if they have to come and hustle on the back end.

The problem, as I see it, is that these” hustling” students haven’t developed “grit”: the ability to persevere for a long term goal. As much as I am invested and am passionate about the digital humanities, this crisis of instant gratification caused by our rapid technology hasn’t helped these students become better students. I think in many ways it is up to us as educators to develop character first before other sorts of pedagogy. We need to help students know what to do in times of adversity. I have realized for young black men that the best thing that they can do in college is to develop a yoga practice. Yoga, as quiet as it’s kept, is hard. Men often underestimate its challenge and are always surprised when they start shaking in a pose. However, sticking in a pose will help them know that even when they are taken by surprise by a challenge, they can overcome it. I always feel mean when I tell college kids that life is hard. But it is hard. They only need to understand that just because something is hard it doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing. Moreover, it is only by doing what is hard that people will have any sense of accomplishment.

So, for all of my students wondering what to do if their semester didn’t end the way that they wanted it to, remember to keep on pushing and stay strong in the pose.


Excerpt of My Latest “Work”

I have so many writing projects going at once that at times it is difficult to feel productive. Since this is a summer that I am devoting to writing, and not just writing but finishing projects, I decided to publish some essays in journals and publish my creative writing in other places. These are things that I think that I need to release into the universe in order to feel like I can work on a book of essays entitled What I Learned From White Girls that I got a grant for nearly 4 years ago to complete. (Hello, can you say that I am not good at deadlines?) The following is an excerpt of a novella entitled Work that I plan to publish as an ebook on iTunes and Amazon by the end of the year.

Work is about the modern black woman’s dilemma of how to be yourself and still exist in the white corporate world. More than that, it is about the broken promise that the North offered many blacks coming out of the rural South at the turn of the Century. It sounds heavy, but I hope it is funny. Here is piece from the first chapter:


Brooklyn, The Planet Earth, The Year of Our Lord, 2006

I was fired. Me. Fired. I don’t know how it happened. Well that is not really true. I knew how it happened, but I didn’t really see it coming. I hated my job, but I loved the life that it afforded me. I loved living in Brooklyn. I loved that so many of the friends that I had met in college seemed to have gravitated to the Big Apple and reconstituted themselves into an exclusive clique of black urban professionals. I loved shopping in Manhattan. I lived for the parties and relished the feeling of having “made it” that New York gives you.

It seems that my life was determined by the objects and fringe benefits that I was able to acquire because of my job—the expense account, the book parties, the fashion shows—but not by the job itself. The activity that consumed most of my waking hours was purely incidental. The exhilaration I felt every morning after the train ride into the city and first tasting my daily café mocha faded as soon as I stepped into the lobby of Laura Rubenstein Advertising and Public Relations. As soon as I hit the revolving glass door and spied the elevator that would whisk me up to the 15th floor (I used to pray for an elevator malfunction, anything to avoid work) and my cramped and disorganized desk, I felt a cloud of despair descend all around me.

I looked good. This again is one of the nice things about living in New York, access to some of the world’s best spas and ample opportunity to indulge my addiction to French cosmetics and skin care products. Usually I couldn’t be happy about how good I looked in whatever black ensemble that I happened to have on, because I knew that no one who really mattered would see me. Unless I was meeting one of my girlfriends for lunch—then I would take special care with my appearance—the way I looked was only for my benefit. What made my days bearable was the fact that I often arranged to lunch with my friends. Everyday, if duties didn’t demand otherwise. I was the only black woman, black person that is, at my firm. I needed to see my girlfriends during the day to keep me grounded, to keep me sane. Being the only is enough to drive you crazy. I don’t know how Jackie Robinson did it. Maybe he met his homeboys after his baseball games and chuckled with them about “the ways of white folk.”

Continue reading

Writing in a Digital Age

How many of us use the speech to text function on the iPad or our computers? I am really amazed at the fact that this is a wonderful technology that it seems that I rarely use. I decided to write this post today on my iPad using my voice. I think one of the problems is that as writers we think that we should only write using our hands or by typing on the keyboard. But we are in the digital age and, as we continue to think of what it means to do the digital humanities, we need to think about other means of composing.

As someone who has given a lot of talks and speeches, I know that a lot of what I talk about isn’t written down beforehand. I know the work and creativity that go in to making those speeches and presentations. Speech is a different kind of writing and with all of these new technologies it’s something we need to consider. How are we going to integrate voice into our writing lives? Try today to leave your self voice notes, if you have an apple or android phone. Explore programs like Dragon Dictation for your PC. Also, I think that speech recognition has gotten amazingly good and you can also use these technologies to have the iPad, for example, read aloud to us.

Here are some keys to using voice on Apple devices (because these are the devices I am most familiar with):

1. Speak your punctuation. Read your sentence and then add,.;!, etc. This way you don’t have to worry about actually putting in the punctuation.

2. Use the microphone button anytime you have the keyboard present. Use Siri to ask your questions in a Google search, for example. For things like the WordPress app, when the keyboard comes up simply only use the microphone function. Speak your tweets.


3. Turn on voice that will allow the iPad or computer to read any text back to you.
See this article

New Year’s Eve and What I Learned About Having The “Bad Kind” of Cancer

Another essay that I recently uncovered:

I have never liked New Year’s Eve. Every time that I tried to do something big for this pseudo-holiday I was continually disappointed. In 2004, I had an anti-New Year’s Eve. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to go to any parties and that I refused to participate in making resolutions which I knew, from experience, that I wouldn’t keep. No rushing around in a desperate search to find someone to bring the new year in with, when I knew, also from experience—very painful experience–that the person wouldn’t be around for the next 364 days. All this smacked me as a way of trying to control life, when the only thing that I was sure of at the beginning of 2004 was that this year would bring me things that I didn’t plan and could not control. I guess that this sounds cynical, but I had this revelation while sitting in the bedroom that I had grown up in as a teenager. I had moved home to my mother’s house and to this room four months before, because my mother–in her long struggle with a form of bone marrow cancer—seemed to be getting worse and not better. She needed help and I was exhausted from trying to help her while living a five-hour drive away in Alabama. So I took leave from my job as an English professor at Auburn University and moved back home to my old room in my childhood house. Continue reading

Writing becomes your temple and you just move in and make sure everything flows and the right divinites are in effect. —Paul D. Miller, Rhythm Science

The God of Broken Things and the Jack-Leg Man

I’ve learned a lot from watching the show Hoarders. I’ve learned that people can stop caring about themselves and their surroundings based on sudden decisions and events. One moment life is fine and then you get divorced, lose your job, have a fight with your mother, or receive a bad review and it seems like even the simplest things are no longer worth doing. At first it can start slowly, you drop newspaper on the floor and tell yourself that you will clean it up later or you come in with bags of the latest fashions and put them in the corner of your living room by the couch and say that once you lose some weight you will put those clothes in the closet. You let your kitchen fill up with dirty dishes and used food wrappers to the point where none of the appliances are usable. Maybe that is okay, you tell yourself. You like to eat out anyway so it makes it all good. However, the truth is that once you stop embracing immediacy and daily-ness, you begin to hate yourself. Once you wait to do the thing you need to do, that pause makes you insecure, it brings in questions of whether or not you deserve a clean house or good health or space to move around in.

Confession: my mother was a hoarder, but not like the hoarders on the show where they keep their conditions unsanitary and allow trash to litter every inch of usable space. She was a collector of things, mostly paper–loved to save newspapers, magazines, paperback books, legal journals and files from old cases. She loved ideas, so she would stack her books neatly in piles on her bedroom floor–piles that reached more than halfway to the ceiling. She also loved things for the kitchen. However, because she was my grandmother’s daughter, she had a Nazi-like sense of duty to cleaning. Everything had to be done without delay, the dishes had to be washed immediately and not left in the sink when we were finished with them, clothes came hot out of the dryer and folded. We could not leave things lying all around the house. She would immediately put our stuff on the step, which was our cue to put it up in our rooms. I cannot even begin to describe her obsession with keeping a neat yard. However, if something broke often it would stay broken, or she would talk about getting things fixed eventually–a time which never came. Sometimes she would call the “jack-leg” man to fix things like air-conditioners or cars. Being “jack-leg” meant that these fix-it men had no license, training, or shop, but they could fix things just enough so that they would work for the next few months until they broke again. This made me learn lessons about daily-ness and immediacy.

So knowing this, what is the result? I still have the belief that you put something up or back in the place that it belongs immediately after using it. I can’t stand dishes in the sink. I refuse to use laundry baskets because I am afraid it will encourage me to leave my clothes lying around. I wonder why everyone doesn’t stand and fold clothes as you take them out of the dryer like I do. I clean a little everyday. However, I don’t write daily. I don’t workout daily. I tell myself that I will start eating better tomorrow. I have elevated procrastination to a high art when it comes to dealing with my finances. All of this makes me sad, ashamed, disappointed, and tired. The only true thing is daily-ness and immediacy. So today I am back to writing 30 minutes a day. I will also work out for thirty minutes and not think about tomorrow. It is not that I strive to be perfect, it is just that I am tired of worshipping at the altar of the god of broken things. No “jack-leg” man is coming for me, and for that I’m actually grateful.

Hoarding: Buried Alive

A video by the Very Smart Brothers about what distinguishes bougie black girls from other black women.

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

― Howard Thurman


The story that you don’t know is more powerful than the one you do. All I have is a picture of when and where someone lived and died. The rest, if there is a rest, is hearsay. The gaps in the history –unsearchable by google.

Blog at

Gullah Gone

A Documentary Film

Critical Dispatches

Reports from my somewhat unusual life

In Reverie Blog

Inspiring Thoughtfulness and Celebrating the Practice of Teaching and Learning.

Jubilo! The Emancipation Century

African Americans in the 19th Century: Slavery, Resistance, Abolition, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and the Nadir

Maroon Reflections

Dr. Samuel T. Livingston's Record on life, culture and politics in the African Diaspora and world.

Blackboard Learn 9.0 @Morehouse College

Video and Text Tutorials for Morehouse Faculty Members

Book Hub, Inc.

The Total Book Experience


Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. ~ Alice Walker

Damyanti Biswas

For lovers of reading, crime writing, crime fiction

Davey D-Hip Hop Culture-Hip Hop Politics

The World from a Hip Hop Perspective

fat vegan baby

a lifestyle blog, inspired by my life.