Thanksgiving Thanks (day 18): Honoring My Mom’s Legacy of Cultural Capital

daughter and momA stream-of-consciousness because that’s how I flow blog without regard to the scholarship on this topic (I can take time off form being an academic right?).

I’m always reflective in November. Even before my mom passed away. It happens to be the month in which so many people I care for were born, including my mom and son.  My mom left me a great legacy. There’s stuff, but what is most meaningful is the non-tangible.  These past couple of weeks I have been particularly reflective on the legacy of cultural capital she left me.

I teach a class on cultural competence.  That class is about human service workers being able to work effectively and compassionately with people of different social identities (race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation, etc., etc., etc.).  There is a different type of cultural competence that I’ve been reflecting on lately.  The first snow has fallen on Loon Mountain and folks are going skiing….

In undergraduate and again in our doctoral program I read Bourdieu’s work along with some post modern takes on cultural capital.  The term is broad, vague, ill-defined, not ethnically relevant, maybe even unnecessary, except when you realize it is necessary…I am sure that in proper society no one goes around speaking of their cultural capital, but we know it when we see it.  I’ve been particularly reflective about ethnic-specific and regional differences in cultural capital.  I’m not ready to write a thesis about this, but I am aware of that in my travels around the country, living in different regions and being blessed enough to have friends from different backgrounds, I’ve noticed that we each have cultural capital in different ways.  And even with our country’s growing diversity I am struck that we still revert to a WASP standard of cultural capital (orchestra outings, certain types of art, music, skiing, apple picking, specific books, etc.).

When and how does cultural capital become diversified? I know that in the African American community there are organizations that have been formed in an attempt to inculcate children with some forms of cultural capital. And while depending on the region of these by-invitation-only groups a child may get the typical reproduced messages about cultural capital with some sprinkling of ethnic-specific cultural capital (i.e. sharing of some art by famous black artists and musicians). But for the most part the cultural capital being instilled and passed on is still lodged in the WASP world. It’s o.k. and it’s not o.k. Every ethnic and racial group has much to contribute to the mickle bag (a term one of my eccentric high school English teacher used ad nausem…I think she made the term up!) of what can be considered to be part of the cultural capital suitcase. I’m sure someone has written an article (or two) about this; and maybe I’ll go look it up…but my point is that some of our parents do an amazing job of providing some elements of cultural capital (which we then hopefully build upon for ourselves) and I’d like the scholars, theorists and pundits to consider adding futbol (soccer), and Gordon Parks, and hair braiding, and making tamales, and…you get me right? Cultural capital should be culturally competent & relevant.

For me, I am thankful that my mom laid a foundation in our multi-cultural, multi-value, multi-activity house and elsewhere that allows me to move with some ease within and between cultures with my well-packed cultural capital suitcase. It’s that ability to code switch (a show on NPR now) that really makes me a culturally competent individual with capital. And I’m thankful. Thank you mommy! I’m hoping to reproduce some culturally relevant capital with our son. Here’s hoping I can build upon my mom’s legacy and also hoping I don’t drive our son crazy in doing so!


Re-Blog: Black Sororities and Violence Against Women Awareness (Day 12 of Honoring my Mom)

Many people and organizations are weighing in on the issue of domestic violence. New voices have surfaced since the elevator video tape of Ray Rice was shown on the media outlets.  It’s not a new issue, just new fervor given who got caught on tape and the organization for which he works. I had not heard any news from the HBCUS or historically black sororities.  My former professor shared this blog on her FB page and I’m compelled to share this blog by one of her current students Felecia Commodore. If you belong to a historically black sorority, leave a comment with your thoughts on Felecika’s original blog post.

by Felecia Commodore

Why I share this as a way to honor my mom:  While she was a woman who often broke with the conventions of her generation, she was also private and stoic (not a virtue I admire) – My mom never spoke of that event so many decades ago. I was frightened and she kept me safe. She and my grandma were fierce and what I did not understand then I understand now. She did make it clear to me that I should never be a victim. I understood. DV is not my major platform but I am definitely a voice against domestic violence and in my role as a social worker, wife, and mom I do what I can to pass on information and educate others. Despite her own silence, I think my mom would encourage others to speak up.

Day 1 of 75 to honor my mom

Today was convocation. The official beginning of the academic year. It’s full of activity, a little fan fare,  some crazed last minute prep. It’s also the first day I’ve seen most of my colleagues since my mom passed away earlier this summer. I started the morning meditating and praying and asking for God to give me a few ounces of my mom’s calm demeanor, political savvyness, and great teaching skills. She never seemed nervous in front of her class, despite the fact that she was essentially an introvert. I also never saw her use any notes, and she taught before the invention of the Internet and power point. She spoke with ease and authority. Her students hung on her every word. She was always well prepared. She returned papers on time with lots of constructive feedback. She was a master teacher. She rarely if ever worked at home, she wisely used her time and did almost all her prep, grading, etc at her on-campus office. She also didn’t have convocation or tons of meetings.  She taught at a community college and spent the majority of her time focused on students and their learning. She was student centered before it was a cliché term. She had fun teaching and spoke of her job with joy and pride.

I usually make resolutions at the beginning of each acaddmic yeaf becausd it’s always a new beginning for me. I’m pledging to:
1. Be proud of what I do.
2. Enjoy what I do.
3. Be prepared so I can be calm.
4. Focus on my students and their learning.
5. Not procrastinate, use time wisely and bring as little work home as possible.
6. Rely on my notes less.
7. No promises about a clean desk…apologies to my office mate!

I hope she’s looking down and feeling proud as I begin my 10th year of full time teaching.