my thoughts on kiely williams, and “spectacular”

28 Apr


most days
the only thing
i stand for
is pro-girl.
and her

that means
(i’m fighting

as i mentioned to my friends in a facebook conversation about kiely’s newest video, “spectacular” our problems (which are not new) are much bigger than kiely. yet, somehow after browsing the internet and catching up on the (disapproving) responses to the video – and after submitting my own jaded response, i became sort of defensive of kiely. it seemed like we were yelling at her, and talking past her. and this made me sad. because our first responses seemed to take for granted that we knew kiely (and who/what kiely represents). more than that, our responses presumed we had the answers, presumed our right was the right. we had an idea of what is best for us, and kiely’s video (and kiely, then) did not reflect that. but instead of engaging her, we chastised her first. and this, i believe, might serve to silence rather than encourage the dialogue we truly want.

i’m beginning to notice that a number of “social justice” oriented projects are driven by a pursuit of a particular truth (excuse my loose use of the term). such that the tools that are fostered, are nurtured in faith that participants will arrive at the right values, instead of joining the journey of consciousness building (in general). in other words, for this sort of initiative, the point is to expose problems (and individuals’ participation in them) toward accomplishing the task of fixing. listening to, and understanding, each other are peripheral – almost as if by way of our own assumptions, observations, and experiences, we know enough already. more than anything, this projects onto people what their problems are.  whether we are ever provided the space to first be ourselves (and see ourselves) in ways that allow us to scrutinize anything is never really a priority.

it is this distinction that (i think) separates ruth nicole brown’s Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT) from other programs (i should note that brown goes so far as to suggest her engagements do not constitute a program, but a lifestyle – and i am diggin that so far). i have been reading brown’s black girlhood celebration: toward a hip-hop feminist pedagogy (check it out here:, and it is truly impacting the way i think about my own work in the fields of education and women’s studies (and now, girls studies).

as a solhot participant, brown does not set out to “fix” people, or to illuminate each of the ways her students are participatory in self-deprecating behaviors. certainly it is important to her that she remain part of a process that helps to make “things” better, and people healthier. but for brown, while she is not without opinion or critique, healthier seems less like “anti-this and that” and appears more like visible, celebrated, conscious, and self-observant. in the process of dialogue and meeting students where they are, brown seems to create a constructive space for reflection.

her primary goal, as it seems to me, is to help build a space wherein young people can be. what she seems to have learned is that in the process of developing this space with students, and engaging in it, students organically arrive at (and/or recognize) their own truths. they develop their own set of values about which they become intentional. and even if a student does arrive at a shared (read: dominant) truth claim, it is not because a hierarchy of values, ideas, or lifestyles were promoted over others, but because students were provided the opportunity to be, and think, and question from where they were.

we don’t want to walk on eggshells to help make people comfortable. yet, we do need them to be open. if we are truly serious about impacting social consciousness and building a community – supporting one another, growing and evolving, educators must step down from pedestals. somehow we have to learn how to prevent our critiques from shadowing over those things we can celebrate (and put that in reverse). more than that, we have to learn how to talk to one another in ways that make both critique and celebration possible.

i don’t want to romanticize the parts of us that could ultimately destroy us. i only want us to cultivate spaces and communities where we can be ourselves and build together. because we all have our stuff.

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