From My Clothes to My Pedagogy: They Almost Walked Off With All My Stuff

(I can claim credit for neither clause of the title of this post. The former was stated by a friend and colleague during a discussion about preservation of self in academia; the latter is of course referencing a well-known poem by Ntozake Shange. The poem, in its entirety, follows in italics.)

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
this is mine/this aint yr stuff/
now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self

I’ve hit a point, in my 3rd year in my position as Assistant Professor of Social and Political Issues in Education where I feel like I am fighting for myself. For the past 6 months I’ve watched others encroach on my intellectual property and steal. Yes, they asked, but still…in  my subjugated position as “Assistant” Professor and “Junior” Faculty, a request made of me is more like a demand. All I want is for them to put me back and let me hang out in my own self.

somebody almost walked off wit alla my stuff
& didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin
i was late for my solo conversation
or two sizes to small for my own tacky skirts
what can anybody do wit somethin of no value on
a open market/ did you getta dime for my things/
hey man/ where are you goin wid alla my stuff/
to ohh & ahh abt/ daddy/ i gotta mainline number
from my own shit/ now wontcha put me back/ & let
me play this duet/ wit silver ring in my nose/

Your email ‘requests’ for my syllabi, my readings, my classroom activities. For the synopses of my past and future ideas. For all of this, I wonder—where are you going with all of my stuff?

Because it is my stuff. Borne of me. My passions, my ideas, my interactions with life. Mine. Why do you feel entitled to me?

honest to god/ somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff/
& i didnt bring anythin but the kick & sway of it
the perfect ass for my man & none of it is theirs
this is mine/ juanita sims/ that’s my name
now give me my stuff/ i see ya hidin my laugh/ & how i
sit wif my legs open sometimes/ to give my crotch
some sunlight/ & there goes my love my toes my chewed
up finger nails/ niggah/ wif the curls in yr hair/
mr. louisiana hot link/ i want my stuff back/
my rhytums & my voice/ open my mouth/ & let me talk ya
outta/ throwin my shit in the sewar/ this is some delicate
leg & whimsical kiss/ i gotta have to give to my choice/
without you runnin off wit alla my shit/
now you cant have me less i give me away/ & i waz
doin all that/ til ya run off on a good thing/

For real though. Why do I have to fight for what is mine? If I were a man or white or better yet, a white man, you would never have the audacity to ask for my things. What’s worse is that you can’t do with them what I can do with them. You might as well throw them in the sewer. Disposable.  Of no value. None of it is theirs. This is mine.

who is this you left me wit/ some simple bitch
widda bad attitude/ i wants my things/
i want my arm wit the hot iron scar/ & my leg wit the
flea bite/ i want my calloused feet & quik language back
in my mouth/ fried plantains/ pineapple pear juice/
sun-ra & joseph & jules/ i want my own things/ how i lived them/
& give me my memories/ how i waz when i waz there/
you cant have them or do nothin wit them/
stealin my shit from me/ dont make it yrs/ makes it stolen/

Yes, I want my things. They are mine. You think you can leave me with your leftovers after I’ve prepared the meal you’re eating. Stealing my shit from me doesn’t make it yours; it makes it stolen. Inauthentic. Inorganic. Wrong. They know.

somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff/ & i waz standin
there/ lookin at myself/ the whole time
& it waznt a spirit took my stuff/ waz a man whose
ego walked round like Rodan’s shadow/ waz a man faster
n my innocence/ waz a lover/ i made too much
room for/ almost run off wit alla my stuff/
& i didnt know i’d give it up so quik/ & the one runnin wit it/
don’t know he got it/ & i’m shoutin this is mine/ & he dont
know he got it/ my stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure
of the year/ did you know somebody almost got away wit me/

To add insult to injury you think it’s okay to do this. You think it’s perfectly acceptable to take what I earned, what I created, and call it yours. Sometimes I don’t think you know you have it. But I am shouting, THIS IS MINE! My named treasure. Followed by three letters. I almost let it go.

me in a plastic bag under their arm/ me
danglin on a string of personal carelessness/ i’m spattered wit
mud & city rain/ & no i didnt get a chance to take a douche/
hey man/ this is not your perogative/ i gotta have me in my
pocket/ to get round like a good woman shd/ & make the poem
in the pot or the chicken in the dance/ what i got to do/
i gotta get my stuff to do it to/

I stopped. Not again. Once because I didn’t know any better. Twice because I trusted you. But now I have me in my pocket and I know what I have to do.

why dont ya find yr own things/ & leave this package
of me for my destiny/ what ya got to get from me/
i’ll give it to ya/ yeh/ i’ll give it to ya/
round 5:00 in the winter/ when the sky is blue-red/
& Dew City is gettin pressed/ if it’s really my stuff/
ya gotta give it to me/ if ya really want it/ i’m
the only one/ can handle it

You almost walked away with all of my stuff.

Then you couldn’t.

iconic black women

Sex and the City, Femininity & My Womanhood


I’m a woman. A professor. A scholar.

I’m an academic who is a woman.

A woman academic.

I am not a feminist personally nor professionally.

But I am feminine.

I came of age in the Sex and the City era, identifying with Miranda’s work ethic, Samantha’s sexual freedom, Charlotte’s romanticism and Carrie’s passion for footwear. They convinced me that women can have it all—a lucrative career, a steamy sex life, a fancy apartment in a major city and a happily ever after topped off with a black diamond ring and a size 2 figure. I remember watching the series during my sophomore year of college and thinking ‘man, these women are desperate for a man! All they do is talk about dating and men.’  I felt bad for them. I pitied them. Somewhere along the way I felt as though they’d lost their sense of purpose irrespective of men.

Despite my rejection of their traditional femininity, I did what it took to get what they had. I got an Ivy League degree (just like Miranda), made a plan for my future (that did not include Charlotte’s baby name), dated, had fun, and am now starting my own business (a la Samantha). I don’t make anywhere near what attorneys make, but I am also not living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t live in a fancy apartment in a big city, but I am about to buy a house in a city with a decent cost of living. I certainly don’t have no-strings-attached sex with a different guy every weekend, but I date. I hold on to the hope of a happily ever after while acknowledging that I may be the sole lead in that movie.

In my late twenties I’ve learned enough to know that a rent controlled apartment and 35k worth of shoes cannot be had by writing a weekly column in a local newspaper. The 18 year old know-it-all who turned her nose up at women embracing their unique type of womanness has learned not to reject the part of me that likes wearing high heels, blazers and red lipstick.


The woman who wears her natural hair in a puff and always sits with her legs crossed at the knee is just a part of me as is the woman who asks the college president to justify why the budget cannot accommodate need-blind admissions. I’ve learned to take pleasure in doing what society has labeled ‘girly’ things. I spend way too long picking out my outfits and matching jewelry and shoes. I read self-help books about relationships and dating. I hang out with my girls once a week where the topic of conversation is 65% about the most recent guys we’ve dated. I daydream about what it would be like to introduce my new guy to my friends and family. I seek reassurance that yes, this guy is actually into me and no, he is not a straight-gay man, just a gay-straight man.

I re-watch SATC (because I of course own the series and the movies on DVD) with a new eye. Where I used to mock, I empathize; where I used to be confused, I understand; where I used to laugh, I cry. No, my life is not and never will be an award-winning HBO series, but it is my life. A result of my choices to accept and be who I am. I am grateful to Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte and Carrie for providing a model of womanhood that nurtures all facets of femininity—however I define that.