What's Beyonce Week?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Image by Lauren Harris of Afro Girl Talks

Mrs. Bowser, what's Beyonce Week?

I had to answer that question about a dozen times last week because the completely ridiculous, yet completely awesome image you see above was posted in the center of the dry erase board in my classroom.

The students in my English classes were disappointed that it wasn't Beyonce Week for them, but for the students in my elective Women and the Media.

This class is something I describe as Journalism 101 meets Women's Studies. In the class I teach students the basics of journalism but we also spend a great deal of time discussing feminism and representations of women in the media.

And we talk about Beyonce because, well, the students in the class really, really love Queen Bey and their teacher happens to adore her just as much.

So last week was Beyonce Week.

We read and discussed articles from feminist publications that debated whether or not Beyonce should be a feminist icon. Is her sexy persona anti-feminist? Did she set back the women's movement by naming her tour The Mrs. Carter Show?  These are some of the questions we tackled.

We also watched and discussed some of Bey's most popular videos and segments of her documentary Life Is But a Dream.

When I announced my plans to have a Beyonce Week my students were elated, of course. While their excitement delighted me I was a bit worried. I wanted this week to be more than just an excuse to watch pop music videos in class. I wanted my students to really get something out of these five days.

But I had no reason to worry.

Sure, there was some goofing off (like the day the image above came to be), but the week turned out to be incredibly moving and meaningful.

We had powerful discussions on black female sexuality, what it truly means to be a feminist, and how being feminist and feminine is not a contradiction. And best of all we had a great talk about sisterhood.

In the documentary Life Is But a Dream Beyonce says, "I love my husband, but there is nothing like having a conversation with a woman who understands you. I grow so much from those conversations. I need my sisters."

This statement really resonated with some of the girls in the class and even the sole brave boy who's enrolled in the elective. One student shared that she too feels this way about having conversations with other women and that these talks are so powerful and have such a great impact on her life that they feel spiritual.

I've had similar experiences so when my student made this statement I literally got chills and I could sense other girls in the room did too.

One student shared that thinking about sisterhood has urged her to be more open with her female friends and to work on building a closer relationship with her mom.

And so as Beyonce Week came to a close I realized that this week was about much more than a pop star and whether or not she should be considered a feminist icon. This week was about young women embracing sisterhood and realizing that if women work together one day girls might really run the world.

How GirlTrek is helping me boldly go after my goals

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Feb. 12, 2012 I ran a half-marathon. And I ran 13.1 miles mostly because so many people had told me I couldn't. 

I have a connective tissue disease that causes my joints to be in a great deal of pain most days, even from just walking or sitting. So imagine how tough running can be on my body. Nonetheless, I refused to take no for an answer. I found a new doctor, one who's also a runner and thus understood my obsession and could offer helpful advice. I wasn't going to let this disease or the naysayers in my life tell me I couldn't check off this item on my bucket list. And in February of 2012 I did. 

Then I wanted to do it again. 

But as I tried to train for Birmingham's 2013 Mercedes Half-Marathon it wasn't just family members and friends objecting. My body was objecting too. The pain that I'd learned to live with became more intense and some days nearly unbearable. 

I didn't let this keep me from being active. I still exercised daily, but running was just too much. I put my running shoes on the shelf for a few months and recently tried to get back into the swing of things. My knees, my ankles, and my hips just weren't having it. I began to wonder if this meant I'd never cross a finish line again. 

Then I discovered GirlTrek. 

GirlTrek is a national nonprofit organization striving to inspire black women and girls to live healthy lives simply by walking. GirlTrek launched two years ago and through social media campaigns has grown to include over 17,200 women who are logging their walks online. 

There's a chapter of GirlTrek here in my hometown of Birmingham and I started attending some of their walking sessions for my mom -- I want her to be more active for the sake of her health. Little did I know GirlTrek would end up being an even bigger help for me. 

First, GirlTrek inspired my latest story for WBHM, Birmingham's NPR station. 

But GirlTrek also inspired me to reconsider my goal of completing another half-marathon. What if, I asked myself while on a solo trek at my favorite walking trail, I walked a half-marathon? This certainly isn't unheard of, but for some reason it had never crossed my mind. 

And so I decided that I will complete another half-marathon, even if I have to walk the entire race. 

One of the things I find so empowering about GirlTrek is its mantra: “When black women walk, things change.”

As the GirlTrek website declares, “Things changed when Harriet Tubman walked. Things changed when boycotters in Montgomery walked. When we walk, things WILL change.”
Now that I'm taking this new approach to one of my goals I've been wondering if I need to do the same with other aspirations as well. What would happen if I, if we, thought outside the box more and got more creative about how we will achieve our dreams?
I think I know what would happen: things would change; we would change and then we'd change the world.