Year 3: Lessons from a PhD Candidate

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Me, 2020


I decided to take a hiatus from the blog during my second year of the PhD program. The summer before, I experienced loss after loss in my family and fell behind in school. Grief is difficult to work through. Some days you feel okay, some days not okay, but I wanted to continue with my blog. I missed y’all and thank you for the warm welcome back. 


 

I am officially a PhD Candidate. Last May, I passed my comprehensive exams, both oral and written. Now I am focusing on my dissertation project on Geraldine Louise Wilson and a few digital projects. During my first year as a graduate student, I wrote a blog post entitled—#BlkGradLife: Lessons From a PhD Student, Now, two years later, I provide further insight into life as a PhD Candidate.

Initially, I gave five pieces of advice—(1) Stay on top of your reading, (2) Talk to your advisors, (3) Continue to have a social life, (4) Stay in touch with your family, and (5) Talk with other students. Would I still stick to this advice now, yes, but with a few more additions.

Create a work schedule. At the moment I am juggling digital projects, writing a journal article, dissertation prospectus, and fellowship applications, and classes. Outside of school, I am pursuing other community projects. What am I saying—I have a lot on my plate. In order to balance everything, I had to create a work schedule and a writing schedule to stay on task. Ideally, I want to work/write for at least four hours a day. I do not find an 8-hour work day productive. At the moment, I work on research and outside writing items from Mondays to Wednesday. I spend Thursdays and Fridays simply writing. As for the weekends and evenings. . .well that goes into the next piece of advice.

Take the weekends off (if you can)/and weekday evenings. When I go home, I cannot do work. It comes to the point where it is quite impossible for me to complete work at home. My house is my space, my sanctuary, the place where I can lounge, not a place where I want to be stressed out doing work. It creates a nice balance and a time to turn off from school. My writing goal—a chapter per semester (summer included).

Check-In with your Advisor. Let your advisor know what is going on this semester. What are your goals? Writing schedule? What are you applying to? Also I had to replace an advisor, which was difficult to do…I also still have to have that conversation.

Do community work. Do more work, I know right? But being at a large research institution that has abused the poor and Brown/Black members of its community, I cannot simply attend and not care about the community I’ve now lived in for three years. So yes volunteer with a non-profit (that does good work), invest in the youth, support local activists, and support local organizations.

Find your crew! When I came into graduate school, I was the only woman and non-white person in my cohort. They were cool people, but not my people. So I begin to build my community outside of my cohort, program, and university. Folks who could encourage me, laugh with me, and just keep me motivated throughout the program. This year, I definitely have a strong crew of Black women who make the program 10x greater. We root for one another and push for one another. It is truly a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

Day 3: Albany, GA and Montgomery

It was my goal to blog once a day on the bus tour; however, each day was HEAVY and by the time we made it to our next hotel exhaustion set in. The tour officially ended on June 18th, but I made an effort to journal and keep notes each day. The next series of posts will be my journal entries and research questions I was left with each day. 


 

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My journal became my camera.

That morning our itinerary stated the following:
8:30 am Depart from Hotel
8:45 am Charles Sherrod Civil Rights Park
9:00 am Ms Rutha Harris | Albany Civil Rights Institute
11:30 am Lunch at Cater’s Grill
12:30 pm Montgomery Sites | Holt Street Baptist Church | First Baptist Church | Alabama State Capitol Building | Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church|
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church | Dexter Parsonage | Carr Home

Our first stop was the Charles Sherrod Civil Rights Park, named after a key leader in the Albany Civil Rights Movement. It featured four large stone plaques in a water feature. Various stones/bricks surrounded the plaque holding the names Freedom leaders and quotes.

Following our visit here, we went to our first museum of the day–the Albany Civil Rights Institute. I enjoyed learning more about the local people of the movement, those whose names failed to make it in our history books/lessons during Black History Month. I always reminded myself that this was a movement led by many, not a famous few.

We had the option of entering the museum through the ‘white’ entrance or ‘colored’ entrance. I waited for the moment when our tour guide said proceed and walked my Black self through the white entrance. Again, this was a museum documenting the local Albany Civil Rights Movement; therefore, I wanted to take the time to educate myself on this city’s civil rights struggle. I remember writing the name of Elza “Goldie” Jackson, a local librarian at Albany State College, fired for her involvement in civil rights. Dr. William Anderson, president of the Albany Civil Rights Movement, and his wife Nora Anderson. Danny Lyons, a 21 year old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), photographer of the movement.

Upon finishing our tour, the group continued to the neighboring Mt. Zion First Baptist Church. SNCC Freedom Singer, Rutha Harris, sat at the podium. Now, this was my second time meeting Harris. I had the honor years ago of having lunch with her when she spoke at my alma mater. I asked politely if she was singing the “Dog Song” to which she responded, “Of course”. She began with the freedom song, “Oh, Freedom” and shared a bit of her story and involvement in the movement. Harris shared the soundtrack of the movement and made us sing and clap along (which was really hard for some people in our group). God bless those who cannot clap on beat. “Without music,” she stated, “there would be no Civil Rights Movement.” Her work continues today as she teaches a new generation of Freedom Singers. The first video is the last snippet of “Oh Freedom” and the next is a bit of the “Dog Song”.


“Oh Freedom”


“The Dog Song”

After a morning of history and singing, we moved to lunch at a famous local spot. Now this is where I entered pet peeve #298395, Northerners interactions with Southern cuisine beyond fried chicken. At one point I hit my mother’s favorite response when I asked what something was, “It is food and you gonna eat it and not complain.” I had to explain okra, collards, hot water cornbread, and pig feet.

As far as Montgomery sites, rain ruined the rest of our day and these sites where visited on Day 4.

Thanks for being patience with my post although the trip was a month ago. I will write up the next days as soon as possible.

Until the next post,

Christina

Research Questions/Thoughts: Harris listed another member of the original SNCC Freedom Singers–Bertha Gober–who she lost contact with. I will try to search for her whereabouts. 

Also curious about reading more into respectability politics and HBCUs during the Civil Rights Movement. Many students and faculty members supported the movement; however, faced severe consequences for their involvement. 

New Year, New Changes

Happy Belated New Year and Holidays,

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A few selected members of my family, cousin and siblings

First and foremost, welcome to my new followers! Thank you for the likes, follows, and comments. Surpassing 7,000 views is exciting. Cannot wait to see what this new year of writing and research brings!

Second, I apologize for the lack of post in the past weeks, moving, finals, and the holidays. I traveled away from Boston for two weeks to spend time home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It was warm and full of some well needed relaxation. During this time, I took a break from research and social media focusing on applications and being with my siblings. Yes, you read it right, applications. I am currently looking for a second part-time job for some extra money to save for future travel adventures (ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL), an internship with the African American Museum of Boston, and graduate schools. Yes, again, you read it right, graduate school applications. It is a new year and there is a lot of unexpected changes.

Graduate School

I am officially a graduate school drop-out, but that sounds extremely negative. I am transferring, seeking to pursue my studies elsewhere, in other words I have left Simmons. I realized by October that Simmons was not the place for me. I am not putting down the school, it is a great university with a prestigious academic reputation, but there were no scholars who focused on African American history and a lack of diversity. Coming from Messiah College, where I focused so much on diversity affairs, it felt strange being at Simmons and with no one to actually mentor me in my area of history, I knew it was not the place for me. Originally, I thought there were at least two professors in this field at Simmons who focused on my area of history; however, one only focuses on the Atlantic slave trade and the other professor only holds an interest in black history. So, I am back to square one. I will be applying to three to four schools, including a PhD program at the USC!!! Amazing schools with amazing programs.

NYU Columbia USC

There were a few more schools on the list that were removed. Graduate school application fees are expensive…

Boston and Other Shenanigans

If you remember, I moved to Boston back in August and I am not going to lie, adjusting to this city was harder than I expected it to be. I was not homesick, yet I knew I would not be in the city for long. My objective—get your degree and leave. Just because you do not like the city does not mean you compromise your education, unless your education proves to be something other than you imagined. The people are nice, the transportation systems are not bad, but this cold culture and cold weather. I am simply not a lover of Boston. I have my friends and I have grown comfortable with the city, although this cold is testing me, but I plan on leaving in August. Where? It all depends on where I am accepted, but I know this is my final year in Boston. I need my sweet tea, Krispy Kreme, but most importantly I want to return back to the South. I have been in the Northeast for way too long.

Boston came two moves, yes I moved twice since August. I am enjoying my new place and my roommates. Lesson learned about using Craiglist and recommendation from friends. The move, or rather I should say the need to move came during finals. I was able to find a place within two days before returning home, thank you Lord. So when I left I would return to my new place and start this new year. I finished the semester with A’s in all my classes and said farewell to Simmons. I was going to continue taking a few classes, but graduate school credit does not tend to transfer, it was expensive, and there were no classes that would help me in African American history. Hopefully an internship will serve as an academic venue. Other than that, I will continue to write, do research, and fill my day with yoga and reading.

Lifestyle Improvements, New Year Resolutions

  1. Write more…one blog a week and journal daily: I always tell myself whether it is work, academic writing, or anything in life–do what you love. I love to write and this blog has granted me the ability to allow my research to reach greater audiences. Through multiple friendships from this blog and college, a friend launched her business creating tea-stained page journals for tea-stained women and men. She is an incredible, powerful, fearless woman. As a result of her daily musings and journals, I have been encouraged to write more and to share my journey, my own daily musings, even if they are only for me. I cannot wait to look back and read what I thought or said throughout the years. I also hope she will customize a journal for me featuring Rachel Flowers on the front, but I must write through a couple of journals first before I purchase a new one. One I picked up in Russia, the other in Northern Ireland.

More information of Vagabroad Journals is here. You can purchase journals here .

  1. Read More…This will not be a hard one. I love to read, but I want to be a more well-rounded reader. I tend to stick to books written by African Americans or pertaining to African American history. I need to read outside of my comfort zone. Slowly, but surely I will; therefore, I will try to read a classic novel once a month starting with William Faulkner.
  2. Eat more….healthy food: Going home, we always talk about those who passed away and I neglected to realize the correlation between my relatives’ deaths and heart disease. Many have died from heart attacks at relatively young ages and dealing with chest pain myself, I need to be cautious of what I eat and work out more. I walk daily; however, I have used that excuse to justify not exercising, so I will start up some paid yoga classes as oppose to yoga in front of a Netflix movie.

Those are my three main lifestyle improvements others include going out a couple of times a week, meet new people, try something new, sleep well, travel, save money, eat out less, remove old baggage, and keep in touch with old friends.

Hope your New Year has started well! Looking forward in resuming my research!

Until the next post,

Christina