Friday, October 17, 2008

Contemplating My Non-Traditional Time

Though this semester was supposed to be a little less stressful in order to have more time to work on my thesis, I’ve managed to incorporate History Society meetings, a fitness class three days a week, Sigma Tau Delta, and a hour between classes, twice a week, for elliptical and treadmill. My victory for the last few weeks though is that I have managed to stay consistent in my workouts. (And I’ve even lost a few inches and a few pounds!)

But, I sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud. Classmates and colleagues seem to think I have it all together, but as a non-traditional student I have to work really hard to maintain some kind of orderliness in my life. And let me tell you, even though I invested in a really good planner this semester and keep my vacuum cleaner in a visible spot, the truth is, I’m not that good when it comes to organization; that is, organizing my time, activities, studies, etc. I’m more spontaneous, and I tend to handle things as they come; is that bad? I work on class assignments according to what’s due next. And if I can get in a little house cleaning, do a couple loads of laundry, cook a meal, I feel like I’ve had a productive day. But then there are those little jobs I’ve been meaning to get to, but just haven’t had the time, like taking all my photos out of old shoe boxes and buying some of those cute little photo storage boxes to file them in.

In a recent lecture on How to Write a Research Paper, there were two words that stood out for me: Time Management. Does that mean scheduling everything? Does it include learning that in the middle of your thesis that your hard drive is dying? Does that include having to wait a half hour before someone takes an hour and a half to install a new hard drive? Does Time Management include standing in those long lines at Wal-Mart to buy a frozen dinner when you don’t have time to cook? How about chatting with your spouse about how his day at work went? How about when the garage door opener stops working?
Alas, this is the life of a non-traditional student.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

The Opening of Perry Studios Prompts Some Old Questions

The opening of the Tyler Perry Studios here in Atlanta reminds me of the central debate during the Harlem Renaissance of “Art vs. Propaganda,” and how among black readers and writers, there is still a bit of a conflict surrounding what some think is real literature and “urban fiction”. During the Harlem Renaissance, “a flowering of black culture which included literature, music, painting, sculpture and politics,” there was much discussion of what African Americans should project in their art and literature. The W.E.B. DuBois camp (which included the likes of James Weldon Johnson) felt that “all art is propaganda,” and should reflect the best part of our community and uplift the race (see "Criteria of Negro Art"). The Alain Locke camp (which included Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston) believed that we “must choose art and put aside propaganda,” and “choose the role of” not only “group expression,” but “free individualistic expression” as well. We’ve all heard about Richard Wright’s discontent with Zora Neale Hurston’s (and James Baldwin’s) work. He criticized her and Baldwin for not dealing with race or “the Negro problem” in their work.

So in 2008, as writers and readers, what should we be dealing with? Some might argue that during the Renaissance, when Negros were becoming new (see "The New Negro " by Alain Locke), there was a need to portray an image of ourselves that we could hold before the world as proof of our competence and desire to live equally among the human race, (mostly white America). Some might say that we shouldn’t air our dirty laundry, or show the ugly side of black life, (even today, when you’d think that the Oprah’s, Condoleezza’s and the Baracks would be proof enough of our possibilities).

I think that we are still becoming new; not so much to the world as to ourselves. And while I don’t have a problem with Omar Tyree or Zane getting paid to do what they do, I’m hoping that in my lifetime, black writers who are motivated by a true desire to master the craft of writing, building a strong literary foundation, and adhering to the standards of traditional, classic literature will encourage readers to elevate their reading expectations and experience through their work. [And, while I am more likely to see an August Wilson play than any production starring “Medea,” I applaud Perry for his determination, his success, and on being the first to build a black-owned and operated film empire.]

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