Professional Black Girl: Video Series Celebrates ‘Everyday Excellence’ of Black Women

Professional Black Girl: Video Series Celebrates ‘Everyday Excellence’ of Black Women and Girls and explores the love language shared by black women, and how we twerk and work with unmatched professionalism. 

Episode 1



DURHAM, N.C. — Dr. Yaba Blay, renowned activist, cultural critic, and producer, launches Professional Black Girl, an original video series created to celebrate everyday Black womanhood, and to smash racist and “respectable” expectations of how they should “behave.”

Seventeen Black women and girls ranging in age from 2- to 52-years-old were interviewed for the series. Each episode features a candid discussion with personalities such as Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Rapsody; Joan Morgan, author of the Hip-Hop feminist classic When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost; and 13-year-old world traveler Nahimana Machen, sharing what it means to be a “Professional Black Girl.”

“‘Professional Black Girl’ looks like Taraji P. Henson at the 2015 Emmys jumping up to hug Viola Davis. It looks like Mary J. Blige and Taraji and Kerry Washington in that Apple commercial. It looks like me rolling up to a room full of people in Berlin to speak with my bamboo earrings on,” explains Tarana Burke, a non-profit consultant and fashion blogger featured in the series.

Limited edition Professional Black Girl merchandise, created in partnership with Philadelphia Printworks, is available now The first full episode, featuring Dr. Blay, will air September 9, 2016, with an episode airing each Friday onYouTube and until December 23, 2016.

The terminology that is often used to describe and define Black girls—such as bad, grown, fast, ghetto, and ratchet—are non-affirming and are words that are intended to kill the joy and magic within all Black girls,” says Dr. Blay. “We are professional code-switchers, hair-flippers, hip-shakers, and go-getters. We hold Ph.Ds and listen to trap music; we twerk and we work. We hold it down while lifting each other up, and we don’t have to justify or explain our reason for being. This is us.”

Follow #ProfessionalBlackGirl across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to celebrate and affirm the everyday excellence of Black women and girls.

For more information, or to interview Dr. Yaba Blay, please contact Shakirah Gittens at 718-687-6231 or by email at

September 9, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . #ProfessionalBlackGirl, African Americans, beauty, communication, persuasion, politics, teaching, professional writing, composition, cute, cuteness, design, digital literacy, ethos, fashion, feminism, feminity, gender, hair, media, play, politics, professionalism, race, rhetorics, sexual politics, style, technology, video, visual literacy, YouTube. Leave a comment.

Walking in the Dark: Blue Lights & Flashlights

Proud blogger and eldest son.

Proud blogger and eldest son.

Today I have guest post from my eldest child, Khembara. For longtime followers of, you should already know, my whole reason for this blog is because of them. So Dear Reader, without any further ado, I will spare you from yet more of my gushing. Enjoy!

I am a 23 year old black male. When I lived in Savannah, Georgia I lived in fear because overseer’s, the term for officer’s during slavery, would routinely stop me and harass me when I walked in the streets due to lack of government funding for sidewalks. They would say each time “there have been a lot of car break-ins in this area…” This also happened to me in Clemson, South Carolina where I was even more terrified. They would then proceed to frisk me and check for warrants, all while shining bright flashlights into my eyes. This happened on almost a weekly basis.  An NPR broadcast stated that one of police officers’ favorite weapons to use is the flashlight. Their first choice, of unfortunately, is the gun.

If there were sidewalks in Savannah, there were no street lights for me to see them, so I had to walk in the road. This caused me to always live in fear of bodily harm from police, cars, or street-level predators. There have been hundreds of thousands of police killings in America since slavery. I feel, as a young black man, this targeting of black people by institutional racist gangs of cops should be stopped. From my perspective, it’s the cops who act like domestic terrorists. Many cops are mentally unstable and need better evaluation to be held accountable for their careless actions. Too many police are a poison to the black community.

July 20, 2016. Tags: , . #BlackLivesMatter, children, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Movement, discrimination, masculinity, parenting, police, race, racism, rhetorics, spatial justice. Leave a comment.

Doodling To Keep From Crying

While Ben Carson rambled about Hillary Clinton being a disciple of Lucifer, I decided to make some digital art that focuses on bridging a progressive Democratic coalition that will defeat Donald Trump in November. I call her Viva Negrita Rosita. It’s a remix from the  NORML Women’s Alliance Foundation web page.

And since weed advocacy isn’t exactly my ministry, I added a top portion to her ‘fro and replaced a #BLM logo instead of the original cannabis leaf… Decriminalization of marijuana will be part of the DNC platform this election cycle. I’m looking forward to seeing how partisan Democrats will present their case next week. Anything has got to be better than this #RNCinCLE sh!tshow.

Whatevs. To each their own. In the meantime, I’m just doing what I can to keep up morale for the cause.

You’re welcome!

si se puede afro chicana rosie

July 19, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . #BlackLivesMatter, #RNCinCLE, art, beauty, communication, persuasion, politics, teaching, professional writing, conventions, design, digital literacy, drawing, GOP, media, party politics, political campaign, politics, rhetorics, spectacle, TV, visual literacy, visual rhetoric, voting. Leave a comment.

Dear #BLM Allies

I make this post, intended specifically for my white FB friends, at the risk of disturbing your restful summer weekend. But there’s a message that’s been weighing heavily on my mind. 
I want to let you know how I appreciate your empathy during these tumultuous times. 

However, I must also tell you, your empathy is not enough because without action, your posts, likes and retweets are empty sentiment, based on your imagining what life would be like had you not been born with the privilege of your whiteness. For us black folk, though, notions about “race relations” and institutional bias are REAL—far more than the imagination. 

If you’re on Facebook, you can now know that we haven’t been making up stories about giving our kids “the talk” on what to do when they encounter law enforcement. No longer can you simply turn away, pretending that police discrimination is anecdotal, a persistent urban legend, a series of isolated incidents, or mere theatre in the racially paranoid mind of a criminal underclass. What you are witnessing is the everyday reality of living (and dying) while black in America. 

What we ask from you now are your actions, not just your “Likes” because we are tired of being the only ones who are forced to engage blatant racial politics so we can simply stay alive. 

The same way you can rescue a dog, you can also act humanely on behalf of POC by lending your power and energy to the cause for more justice and peace. Join your local movement, take part in a Black Lives Matter demonstration, push for civilian review boards to hold your city or town police departments accountable. Be present as citizen observers during police stops. Speak out when your white colleagues and neighbors seek to enforce covert displays of racially coded etiquette. Believe your black and brown friends when they tell you about their experiences of racial profiling and overt discrimination. 

Put your careers, your social and cultural capital, your financial resources, (and yes!) your ACTUAL bodies on the line. This is no different than what I’m forced to do—whether I want to or not. 
What can you do? Use your privilege of white skin for the one sure thing upon which it can always be relied: a human shield in times of social and political crisis. (Consider it an asset for a positive social good for someone else besides yourself, if you will). And then keep on doing it. Every. Single. Day.   

And yup! Stay woke because what we saw last week, happened again this week (even if it wasn’t a live viral video). And guess what? It will happen again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that… Until a critical mass of you, my white friends and allies, begin sharing some of the dirty work of honestly addressing racism and recognize your collective investment in whiteness as but a small sacrifice, “all lives” will never matter. 

THAT is what you can do.

July 14, 2016. rhetorics. 2 comments.

Racists Have a Dog in the Fight, Radicals Don’t.

Th.Ur.Di. Bløg!


Ok so… I don’t particularly have issues expressing my disdain for certain demographics of white culture. (Let me be frank here, racist white people.) I can explain and direct my logical and emotional conclusions to the source.

These racist white people I speak of can’t do the same. Why not? Because it will ALWAYS route back to the same source. THEIR ignorant ass racism.

I’m deliberate with whom I communicate this subject because emotions fly at an all time high when speaking about my actual Black life as if it’s a fucking anecdotal story.

Racist white people don’t realize that what they deny so vehemently, that they have nothing to do with the racism of their ancestors, contradicts the foundation of their white position right here in America today on Sunday March 13th, 2016.

Let’s clear the ambiguity. I’m not asking us to like each other or to “fix” this…

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May 10, 2016. rhetorics. Leave a comment.

Are We This? HB2 & NC Education

NC Lighthouse HB2How many billions of dollars is HB2 costing North Carolina? 

The far reaching ramifications of the North Carolina Legislature’s House Bill prohibitions against equal access to public accommodations for transgender people have seriously hit home for us here in Fayetteville.

Earlier today, the Fayetteville State University Police Department notified the FSU campus’ global email list that the U.S. Department of Justice won’t be holding a major revenue-generating class on our campus. The federal agency has canceled or “postponed” enrollments for “Law Enforcement and the Transgender Community” —originally scheduled for later this month.

UNC-FSU press

Press “Unrelease”

Because of Fayetteville State’s close proximity to Fort Bragg Army Base, this class would have provided important course credits for Criminal Justice students.

The announcement falls under the category of public information, which is why this news is being passed along to interested parties. According to the internally released memo—intended for public notice, “recent developments.… have caused significant scheduling conflicts with FSU.”

News regarding the economic consequences of HB2 at FSU was sent to all members of the faculty and staff as well as current and prospective students. The press release was sent from “FSU News” through its public relations office email. The notice was apparently deleted from the May 5th issue of the university’s online newsletter, FSU News. (The “404 error” message that pops up instead signals an unusual departure for institutional announcements of this kind.)

The unusual press “un-release” says the Law Enforcement classes are “postponed due to recent developments which have caused significant scheduling conflicts with [their] delivery.” The DOJ Director of the Office of Community Relations and Services “conveyed his personal apology for the postponement of the classes as well as for the short notice of the postponement.” The Fayetteville State University Police Department email goes on to express that the DOJ is:

“committed to providing this training for law enforcement professionals as well as other individuals who interact with members of the LGBT community… Both agencies are currently working to identify dates in the not too distant future which will allow for the scheduling and delivery of the classes.”

Senator Jeff Jackson HB2 Facebook Post (4/20/16)

Senator Jeff Jackson (NC Senate District 37) HB2 Facebook Post (4/20/16) HB2 Facebook Post (4/20/16)

The UNC system’s $4.5 billion loss due to the passage of HB2 is a conservative estimate of federal revenue forfeiture of Title IX funding, which is needed to effectively run the University of North Carolina’s seventeen campuses.

May 5, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . civic culture, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Movement, discrimination, gender, higher education, LGBT, police, politics, rhetorics. Leave a comment.

Colorful Coils

Pierre Jean-Louis is a multimedia artist based in New York and Philadelphia, who has built up quite a social media following as a result of his unique works. Jean-Louis paints mystical images of the universe and nature onto images of black women’s natural hair. His intricate works feature flowers, vines, and even an entire forest, all seamlessly woven into coils and kinks. Jean-Louis even invites his followers to tag him in their photos on Instagram so that he can consider their portraits as well.


April 29, 2016. rhetorics. Leave a comment.

The Embarassing Legacy of Clarence Thomas

2016 Winter TCA Portraits

Kerry Washington at the 2016 Winter Television Critics Association; Anita Hill at 2016 press tour in Pasadena, California. 

Watching ‘Confirmation’ with Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce, and Jeffrey Wright… good stuff.

Hold Paula Deen Accountable If You Care About Justice


Clarence "Sunshine" Thomas
Clarence “Long-Dong “ Thomas

In my last post I made an appeal to forgive Paula Deenfor her use of the word “nigger” because I was feeling a sense of charity given that my general attitude toward her was already one of low expectations. I glossed over key points also due, in part, to generate a post with brevity and levity. The mild sense of sympathy I felt, however, was countered by a generalized snark and outright cynicism that comes from living as an African American woman living in the South and being a frequent observer (and occasional target) of some individuals behaving like rude, misanthropes all up, in, and through the public sphere. Granted, Southerners are generally very polite people — profusely so, in fact. Southern hospitality is an ethos that most strive to uphold. Though let us not forget, by its very definition, hospitality is a…

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April 17, 2016. rhetorics. Leave a comment.

Colorful Student Pingbacks

brittany fb erykah badu

April 14, 2016. colors, digital literacy, education, gesture, hip-hop, media, rhetorics, school. Leave a comment.

Rhetorics and Ambiguity


As a black woman I rarely have the privilege of perceiving nakedness and lack of direction as “freeing”—quite the opposite. The point is not to evoke an essentialist stance, but to caution against the potential for a type of solipsism born of white heteronormative neoliberal paradigms. There’s good reason as to why black churchgoing women’s unique testimony involves being “clothed and in our right minds.”


Compelled to respond in the mode of cyberflâneus—as opposed to the flâneur, her masculine counterpart—the creative and critical endeavors I pursue seek and receive pleasure from visual, spatial, and tactile sensations, as the deliberate fashioning of online and real world personas across the darker parts of the rainbow. The constraints of respectability politics, of course, compel the performance of citizenship of the industrious and productive variety—in other words, that of a crafty black woman whose labor constantly threatens cooptation. Dwelling in this space as a woman otherwise, risks the designation of “digital streetwalker.” Feminine bodies, we’re told, must caution against following blind wanderlust, whether virtual or real.

Smart ways to use poetry in a street fight

Johan Deckmann (graphic artist)

Rhetoric is the battleground of ideas and budding composition teachers should be encouraged to recognize the stakes in such battles. Intradisciplinary contests between cultural studies and technical writing, now being fought over critical approaches to highly politicized issues, are actually a strong sign of the intellectual vitality of rhetoric and composition education. On either end of the spectrum, digital humanities needs to be applied creatively, as foundational to academic inquiry. 

I guess this is why I insist on playing with elements of rhetoric to resist, even antagonize, systemic instances of neoliberal misogynoir at times. At the same time I acknowledge my habits/impulses to respond productively in online spaces. A digital libertine, I am not for being rotten with the Protestant work ethic… and so I think of haiku headlines as another digital composing strategy.

April 13, 2016. art, Blackness, communication, persuasion, politics, teaching, professional writing, composition, design, digital literacy, education, feminism, information design, literacy, media, multimodal, poetry, rhetorics, school, teaching, visual literacy, White Studies, writing. Leave a comment.

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