Category Archives: Ima Read

When You Can’t Do Teach- Teaching the Erotic

“S and I was snap-chatting all weekend about how Professor Chester’s knows soooo much about us.” –Student

I made my students write biomythographies. We read Audre Lorde’s Zami, since she is the prototype. Students were resistant, they always are when they have to talk about themselves. Be vulnerable. We did free writes in the days leading up to the assignment. Overall, I was pleased with the work they put in. The student was right, I know a lot about them now.

When you can’t do teach.

Reading their words made me reflect on the honesty of my writing. My ability to be vulnerable. Reading Zami always pushes me to interrogate my identity, the feeling was even stronger coupled with these 18-22-year-olds grappling with who they are and who they want to be.

This week we are reading another favorite of mine, The Summer We Got Free (one of the perks of my job I get to force people to read my favorite books with me).

The opening lines…

“Ava did not remember the taste of butter. It had been seventeen years since she had last moaned at the melt of hot-buttered cornbread on her tongue. She was not bothered in the least about it, because she did not know that she did not remember. At breakfast, when she dropped a square of butter on grits, or on yams at dinner, and laid a spoonful of either on her tongue, she believed what she tasted was butter. She did not know that she was only tasting milkfat and salt, the things that make up butter, which, of course, is not the same thing. She certainly did not know that the taste of butter was a thing that had once made her moan. Ava did not remember what it was to moan” – Mia McKenzie, The Summer We Got Free

I love the beginning. Its sets the book up beautifully. Beyond that, it resonated with me. I mean it has been almost 5 years since I tasted “real” butter. The funny thing about taking certain things out of your diet you tend to forget the taste. I remember the feeling I got eating things like pork chops (I wrote poetry about it) or macaroni and cheese…but I don’t remember the taste. I eat “vegan” pizza and enjoy it. It is my normal, now it is what pizza should taste like to me. I don’t really remember how cheese taste, yet in the back of my mind I know I am missing something.

Watching other people eat pizza, they seem almost orgasmic. I enjoy pizza but it in no way borders on a erotic experience.

I remember rolling on my bathroom floor after stuffed crust pizza first came out, moaning “My tummy gonna explode.” Moments before I stuffed slice after slice in my mouth.  Unable to control myself from the buttery cheesy crust.

I enjoy pizza now in nice moderation. Stopping before I am even fully full.

In The Summer We Got Free, Ava’s awakening in the book exemplifies the erotic that Lorde speaks of in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”

“During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.

I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.” -Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic

I am teaching my students to see and understand the erotic as empowering, as a life force, as affirmation, as power.

Theoretically I understand the intense power of the erotic. Someone once told me, that I am good in theory but not so good in practice. I am a preacher who can preach beautifully about the pitfalls of sin and the power of deliverance, yet am unable to find that deliverance in my life.

When you can’t do teach.

When I am honest about myself, I know that the power of the erotic that Lorde speak of is absent from my life. The creative life-force that color one’s life…that empowers one to change is barely visible.

I get glimpses of it and its power. Those glimpses have inspired me to write over the few last week’s more than I have in months. It inspired me to create a practice. To open myself up and embrace vulnerabilities. I feel it. I can see it changing me.

However, the pellet that is the erotic is constrained. Only really moving or coloring certain aspects of my life. The key to accomplish the change needed to demand more from myself and those around me is to let those aspects of color paint my whole life. But rather than “evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives” I am here unable to find the words to return two emails and one voicemail. To try something new and claim my happiness in a different way.

When you can’t do teach.

As a child growing up in the church often pastors would say that the “word” they were giving was for themselves.

As a professor sometimes the lessons I craft are for myself. So I am hoping that my pedagogy can help both me and my students get a bit freer and embrace our erotic as power.

But until I can do it, I will teach the good news of Lorde and Black Feminism.

When was the last time butter (or anything) made you moan?



Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Academia, Ima Read, Learning bout Tab!


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Ima Read: The Summer We Got Free

I feel like no one knows how I spend my days and people rarely know where I am located. I have no interest in shedding light on any of these things. But I thought I might share something I like- that is also G-rated.

For the most part, I do what I want. But I rarely read what I want. There are always a million books I have to read or should be reading. This makes very little time for the things I want to read. Like novels! I normally use summer/winter breaks to read the things I want. Anyway lately I been reading lots of stuff I normally wouldn’t have the time to read.

The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie was a surprisingly enjoyable read. I know who Mia McKenzie is through Black Girl Dangerous, her stuff is always being shared on social media. Often times we share very similar opinions- like our stance on Obama. Mia is pretty damn queer. She won a Lambda Literary award for the book, which is like the Pulitzer for gay people.  So I expected a very gay novel or at least one very focused on sexuality. Which in some ways it was, but it was so much more. I am more than a little fascinated by religion and the ways it indoctrinates us at a young age. While the book follows several characters. I was particularly drawn to Ava. The book fluctuates between 1959 and 1976 so we are able to see her as a child and also as an adult. As an adult she is rather apathetic, lives a mundane married life in her parents’ home. As the novel progress we learn and understand that this far from the person she once was. As a child she lit up rooms, was well liked, challenging, opinionated, basically- she was free. This freedom greatly intimidated many adults around including her father and the church’s pastor- she was dangerous because they could not control her. She thought for herself. As I read the book I couldn’t help but think about my own self and the freedom I possessed as a child. If anyone knew me as a child, they know I was more than a handful. My mother was talking to me today about my “issues” in school growing up. She had more parent teaching meetings for me, than any of my other siblings combined. She said at the end of my 3rd grade year my teacher admitted to her how intimidated she was by me. I find it a bit ridiculous that an adult would be intimidated by a child, but it was something that was true more often than not in my experience growing up. This book made me think about all the ways that I was free as a child as well as the ways that I am no longer free.

Even before I read the book, I was drawn to the title The Summer We Got Free. The thought of liberation is so exhilarating yet also daunting. While I have already been trying to make this my freedom summer, this book inspired me to work that much harder to get free. To reclaim the light that I had as a little girl. The amazing thing about being free is you know and understand your freedom means nothing unless you are actively engaged in getting others free.

I also really enjoyed that Mia set the book in Philly- her hometown. My old stomping grounds. Philly can be a magical place. I did a lot of growing there.

I think I just did a book review. Allison don’t be surprise if I send you a copy. Alison G. can’t wait to discuss this book with you.

While I am currently reading several things, the next book I am really hyped to read is Buck by M. K Asante. I have had both of his parents as professors and Maya Angelou sings the book’s praises. A good portion of the book takes place in Philly (pattern?)…It drops next Tuesday and Atira has already agreed to read it with me. Who else is down?


Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Ima Read


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