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Week 10, or 15 Minutes of Fame and Other Victories

This week was a haze of victories.

This semester, in spite of the never ending feelings of exhaustion and stress, has been a haze of victories, too. It’s hard for me to see the stars for the trees sometimes, which is why I’m so grateful to have this blog. I have no shortage of falls and failures to write about but it gives me such great pleasure to recap successes. In this semester alone: I finished writing my Master’s Thesis; I successfully defended it; I attended two amazing conferences back to back; I went to Comicon for the first time; I ran my first (packed audience) Lemon Project Porch Talk; I joined a club; and I met some amazing scholars.

But this week was nothing short of amazing.

The whole thing started with the amazing feedback I got about my BGDGS post I wrote about the Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities Conference last week. (Sidenote: Moya Bailey made a storify of it. Check it out!) The conference participants circulated the review, getting some retweets by my own professor, and the director of Conferences and Communications at Omohundro even plugged my review. I was thrilled by the new wave of traffic I was getting on the blog.

It didn’t stop there, though. By Tuesday, I had already written, edited and submitted an entirely different and more professional review of the conference to the Junto, a blog on Early America. A scholar I follow (and greatly admire) on Twitter solicited a review for them, so I happily obliged, always willing to get a little more exposure for my work. I woke up Wednesday morning to even more traffic on my blog, as people were following the link from the Junto article to my site. People were really reading!

By 9 AM Wednesday morning, I’d already launched another winner: my cousin Leah’s new guest column, “She Got Game,” went up on the site. Leah’s article was also bringing in traffic, but beyond the stats, it’s exciting to have a new permanent writer on the site. Every time we talk, we’re bubbling with enthusiasm about what our next expansion move is going to be. (Obviously, stay tuned, we have projects in the works!)

My Junto piece was performing so well that on Thursday the director of HASTAC asked me if they could republish my piece on their site. With 15,000 followers, who was going to say no to that kind of exposure? It hasn’t gone up yet, but I can’t wait to see my piece circulate on yet another site. Then, I found out that article had racked up about 2,700 views, which is probably the most views I’ve ever gotten on a piece. (Some of my Black Girl Nerds content might’ve picked up some views, but I never found out.)

I think the best part of the week was just the amazing responses to my work that I got on Twitter:

(Making my professor proud! #EqualityLabFellows!)

(When you might be a resource for other grad students! My, oh my. Thanks, SMU Grad History!)

(Getting a shout out from my old stomping grounds…)

And my personal favorite, a shout out from Karin Wulf herself:

So many things were happening in this exchange that I had via Twitter with the Director of the Omohundro Institute (aka my former “Big Boss” as an apprentice). She not only linked to my Junto piece, but also to my personal blog, while calling me a “Scholar to Watch” and pointing to some of my earliest pieces on BGDGS about apprentice life. That means she reads my blog, y’all. She read my Omohundro pieces from last year. Wow.

I know not every week is going to be like this. I know that most weeks are not going to be like this. Still, I thought it was well worth documenting what a really nice week felt like, so I can always come back to it when I’m feeling run down.

Looking to the future, there are only a few weeks left in the semester (5 if you count Thanksgiving Break, 4 if you don’t) so it’s getting to be every grad student’s favorite time of year: Finals Season. Fortunately, I’ve got some fun final projects to look forward to that I definitely will share at the end of the semester. Let’s hope by the time the next post drops, I’ll have actually made some progress on my finals. And if not… all’s well that ends well.

Leah 1 – Grad School 0

When I graduated from Towson University in spring 2016, I had no intention of going to Grad School. I was the friend that thought I would go start my dream career fresh out of college. Boy, was I wrong!

See, I have dreams of helping to run my family’s production company. My mother, brother and I have always wanted to open our own business. My mom introduced us to the entertainment industry at a young age and both my brother and I have been fully amazed ever since. My mom and I are usually responsible for coordinating/planning family events so we felt it was only right that we go into business together.

So. Here we are. Present day. I’m halfway through my first graduate school course and I am so happy I made this decision. I attend University of Maryland University College online and I am getting my Master’s in Business Administration. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I work full time, as an event manager at a national park). I started classes early this month and let me tell you, it has not been easy. Getting back into the swing of things after not doing any school work for over a year was challenging. My first paper, which was the second assignment, really had me rethinking my decision of going back to school. I was pretty nervous about this paper, which is a first for me. As a communications major in undergrad, writing papers was pretty much second nature for me. I wrote papers almost weekly. But this one five-page paper in grad school shook my nerves. I sent this paper to three people to edit and get their feedback. To my surprise, all of them unanimously said they liked the paper and the content was interesting. This gave me a positive reality check but once I hit submit, I was so regretting seeing my grade.

A few days later, I got the notification that my professor submitted her grades for the paper. I waited until I got home from work to check the results. To my surprise, I received “Exceeds Performance Requirements” (which is an A but we don’t get grades since it’s a foundation course). I was extremely excited! I realized that all the stressing and pressure I put on myself was probably not necessary because I know the skills are already there. *toots on horn*

This first month of grad school gave me a reality check and restored my academic confidence. Despite taking classes online, I am doing a kick ass job if I do say so myself. I happily jumped back into the school spirit, because the journey is only beginning… The Game Ain’t Over Yet!


I am the fabulous Leah Franklin. I’m a Spring 2016 Towson graduate and am currently working on my MBA online at University of Maryland University College. I love planning events, so I much that I do it full time. When I’m not planning, I’m at the beach, in the mall or quoting ‘Love & Basketball.’ My hobbies include adult coloring, dancing and cooking.

Week 9: #RMDHatWM, or Hacking the System

Let’s be brutally honest for a second: I was exhausted leading up to the Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities Conference (#RMDHatWM). Just last week, I spent three days conferencing at my alma mater, UVA; I went to Hampton Comicon; and I had two papers and presentations due (one of which I only found out about one week in advance, but I digress). All I wanted Thursday after class was my dog, a cup of tea and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on repeat. But after hearing about the conference through the Equality Lab last fall, after my teacher moved our class time to accommodate the opening roundtable, and after remembering that I had volunteered to help–I went anyway.

I’m so glad I did.

Liz Losh, my professor, the director of the Equality Lab, and William & Mary’s first official digital humanist, put together an amazing series of roundtables, talks and events featuring some of the coolest scholars I’ve ever met. I was first struck by the fact that the opening and closing keynote speakers were both Black women and they were the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic. Thanks to Liz’s prodding, I ended up with a semi-working relationship with the closing keynote, P. Gabrielle Foreman, whom I came to deeply admire. Situated at the intersections of Literature, History and Black Studies, I was in awe of the way she seamlessly utilized Langston Hughes poetry and historical archive as a lens through which we might understanding her work digital archiving, organizing and activist work through the Colored Conventions Project. As a baby grad student working at the intersections of similar scholarship, it was amazing to have a Black woman model a methodology based not on limitations of the Academy but on the truth she was seeking to tell.

The same can be said for Jessica Marie Johnson. Her work transcended space and time as if those principles never existed anyway. In her talk, she moved us from Puerto Rico to New Orleans, cited Black Code Studies and New Orleans folklore, utilized audio to contextualize the sound of Black screams and pain as well as animated videos featuring everyone’s favorite song, “Formation.” I’ve never seen how someone’s mind can move so fast, folding together layers into a cohesive and extensively cited project.

Overall, this conference was valuable because I got to see diverse scholars address issues I’ve been grappling with the whole semester. They asked: How does this lead to transformative action? Where is our scholarship situated? What tools can DH offer us in our goals to dismantle systems of oppression?

The answers I got, for the first time, were satisfying. There is no one way to do DH, therefore there is no one solution. The goal should not necessarily be to find a solution, but to engage in a process with your work that is ethical, intentional, and empathetic. This will lead to transformative work because if you are engaging in such a way and constantly returning to questions of power, privilege and access, you will cite ethically (CITE BLACK WOMEN. GIVE US CREDIT FOR OUR WORK!), you will have reciprocally beneficial relationships with community partners, and you will build infrastructures to encourage this kind of work.

The time that I was able to spend with incredibly brilliant scholars was equally valuable. From advancing Professor Foreman’s slides for her keynote to getting hugs from Jessica Marie Johnson and Marcia Chatelain–I even got to spend a few priceless moments with Jessica, Marcia and Tacuma Peters at the end of the conference. I was so excited to meet them: Black scholars thriving in their fields, and they were also happy to meet me–another face in the crowd, a baby scholar on the come up. They fueled me with stories about how grad school was great (or not), how being a professor was great (or… not), and how to value each phase in my journey through the Academy. They told me not to downplay my work: finishing my Masters is a big deal. They told me to take advantage of my freedom as a graduate student. And they also gave me cards and contact information, which was stunning and so appreciated. I left the conference feeling loved, supported and newly secure in my roles as scholar, activist and creator.

We hack the system by writing ourselves in, creating archives for ourselves and citing POC, WOC, queer authors, indigenous scholars. We do it by working together, valuing the work of everybody–and I mean everybody–involved, and creating communities and infrastructure both digitally and physically. We hack the system by caring for each other and lifting as we climb.

This is how we hack the system. This is how we hack ourselves into the system.

This conference was just what I needed. I needed a model for how to be a caring participant of society as I move through the Academy and thankfully I got an entire room full.

This is how we hack the system.

In honor of modeling the amazing citation practices I saw at #RMDHatWM, I want to take a moment to shout out people that I learned from this conference, and whose ideas greatly inspired this synthesization of three days worth of rigorous intellectual work:

Gabrielle Foreman

Jessica Marie Johnson

Liz Losh

Angel Davis Nieves

Marisa Parham

Amanda Phillips

Kelli Moore

Fiona Barnett

Jacqueline Wernimont

Roopika Risam

Samantha Callaghan

Alexis Lothian

Catherine Steele