Tag Archives: inspiration

I’m Good Luv, Enjoy: Navigating Other People’s Dreams While Reaching For Your Own

by Trayc Freeman

If you think it’s annoying to constantly have the “what’s next for you” conversation during undergrad and grad school, just wait until you start having the, “Oh no you should actually do _____!” conversations in the adult/professional world.

I found my research passion my very first semester of my master’s program when I took a class called Civil Rights and Education. After writing a paper on Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia during massive resistance, I was hooked on oral histories, and talking about the benefits of segregated education for Black students. That semester, I was presented with an opportunity to attend the ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) conference; The other two semesters flew by and it all contributed to seemingly showing me the career path I wanted to embark on. While I haven’t gotten to the path yet, I have a (somewhat) clear idea of how I’m going to get there.

The idea for this piece came to me as I sat in a conference on the recruitment and retention of minority librarians. With the few academic conferences I’ve been to prior to this one, I’ve always walked in feeling immediately that I was “home” and left out feeling renewed and re-energized; I’ve left ready to put in even more work! And while this conference was interesting, it didn’t give me that feeling. Fast forward to a week later, I was able to attend a good friend, and personal Sheroe’s, dissertation defense; being back in that space, even for a short while, gave me all of those feelings I mentioned earlier. That’s how I know where home is for me.

I’ve been working as an evening manager at a library for 2 years now and have never said to myself, “I think this is where I want to be for the long haul.” Yet, as of late I’ve had a lot of co-workers seemingly become convinced that I should get an MLS (Masters of Library Sciences) degree for no other reason (that’s been expressed to me) than, “well you’re doing the work anyways.” No one has explained what the degree track looks like and only one person, who actually wasn’t even a co-worker but a fellow conference goer, has told me how it could be even slightly beneficial to any of my interests and goals. When I tell these same people what I actually want to do, I’m rarely offered any resources or advice; I’m only reminded that I should really take advantage because my job would pay for library school.

Being a 2-time PhD reject, who’s about to go into admissions attempt number 3, I can say first hand just how much it sucks when you finally figure out where you want to go in life, only for the door to constantly be slammed in your face. It’s even worse when someone who’s trying to be helpful, whether it’s a co-worker, a friend or family member, tries to nail the door shut with their own ideas and suggestions for your life. The good news is that no matter how frustrating I find these conversations to be, I’ve also found them to be extremely valuable. Having to constantly, for lack of a better word, defend your education and career goals really causes you to sit down and fully think about what you’re trying to do. I’m sure we’ve all departed from at least one dream career we thought we had in life; for me that was being a singing lawyer (I was young and liked Ally McBeal, don’t judge me). But by having your choices constantly called into question, if for nothing but your sanity, you really sit down and ask yourself, “what is it about this that makes me want it so bad?” You also discover that not everyone’s dream for you is a bad deal; in fact, some of them are very logical and, for a few minutes, really will have you reconsidering your life. However, while logical, if you can’t see yourself fully immersed in that dream, you have to learn how to communicate that that’s not for you. I’ve learned this while dealing with several family members who think I should try out a teaching career (bless their souls).

The point of this entire piece was to say you should always follow your dreams first! I feel like that’s lowkey cliché, but I’ll say it anyways. With our personal dreams comes the eventual vision to carry them out. It also comes with unshakeable faith and resilience, and the ability to revamp our blueprints accordingly (I’ve revamped mine about 8500 times– I’m 26). Your dreams also come with an understanding that you may make others uncomfortable, especially when it comes to a career because they aren’t able to see the ideas and strategies that are all turning in your head. But it’s important to understand that most folks honestly just want what’s best for you even if their presentation does not come off that way. And if you change your dream, or at some point even take on the dream that someone else had for you, that’s cool too. So long as you worked to achieve what you want to do and didn’t just allow others to cast their dreams onto you because it makes it easier to deal with them (i.e. our parents). With that being said, I hope everyone who reads this finds and goes for their true dreams regardless. And, if in a few years I actually do decide to get an MLS and take on a career as a librarian, send me a link to this piece and laugh at myself for putting it off for so long.


Trayc D. Freeman is a “Double Hoo” from the University of Virginia, earning a Bachelors in African American Studies in 2015, and a Masters of Education in Educational Psychology (with a Social Foundations concentration) in 2016.  She currently works at the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, but hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D, focusing on Black education, more specifically, the benefits of segregated education for Black students. From there she’d like to go on to academia, becoming a professor and historian of Black education. In the meantime she runs her own Black history blog, and is working to add an “Executive Producer” notch on her belt, working with UVA graduate and professional track athlete Jordan Lavender on her up-and-coming bi-weekly Youtube vlog “#DoItLikeJLav.”

Fade to Black: Take 2, Food for Art

No, y’all, I have not started grad school yet. But I’m still a Black Girl and they gave me a column, so…read on!

I’ve come to realize that my artistic practice is HEAVILY dependent on reading. I like to think my writing style is similar to improvisational jazz or freestyle rap—words and images sort of just flow out of me with no rhyme or reason…until all of a sudden they do. If you know music, you know improv and freestyle take skill. You don’t just start off spitting ten minutes of off the dome lyrics like Black Thought. That takes mad skill. Yes, you’ve gotta practice. But you’ve also got to consume a lot of ideas and cadences in order to have enough “stuff” inside of you to regurgitate in an innovative way. Let’s call it artistic vomit (or maybe not…that was kinda gross). The same goes for me. I hit my dry spells and notice distinct differences in my work when I’m not reading or taking African-American Studies classes. When I feed myself intellectually, my art makes connections that my brain doesn’t realize until 2 weeks into editing or rehearsing. Since I figured that might be a good place to be before beginning my NYU journey; ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my [SPOILER FREE!] summer reading list:

Citizen // Claudia Rankine

I told myself that I was going to take a writing break this summer (to rest up before grad school/the rest of my life). If you know me, you know that I pretty much suck at resting because I can’t keep my brain still. This summer, you can thank Citizen for my accidental creative frenzy. I had this beautiful moment where I was sitting on the porch, looking at an orange Kansas sky, just reading because I finally had time. Suddenly, I was taking notes and pausing to imagine; and before I knew it, I was at my laptop typing up ideas for new projects. I felt free. That, my friends, is the mark of a good read in my book (Ha. Ha. see what I did there?). Citizen is essentially a long form poem. Its nonlinear structure uses lyricism, narrative, and imagery to create a collage about what personhood means for Black bodies in America. Because this is how my brain works, I can’t help but compare it to Kahlil Joseph’s short films or Kendrick Lamar’s albums. It’s a hyper-visceral, non-linear reading experience. Rankin’s poetic chops are un-freaking-deniable, but let us not forget how fine-tuned her critical analysis skills are, too. My favorite chapter was on the Queen of Everything Magical and Black, Her Royal Highness Serena “Slay Me With A Racket” Williams. It’s not a long book, but will absolutely go down as one of the most important contemporary texts I’ve read thus far.

Swing Time // Zadie Smith

This novel tells the story of two London dancers: an unnamed biracial Jamaican and her friend Tracey. While one of them reluctantly takes a transatlantic journey, the other follows her dreams of stardom.  When I first read the back cover in the 57th Street Bookstore in Chicago, “Black,” “dance,” and “bodies” were enough to catch my attention. I’d heard really great things about Smith’s White Teeth, so I was pretty excited to start my summer reading with Swing Time. I’ve gotta say, though, I was kind of disappointed. It began with some very nostalgic moments that reminded me of my childhood as a little Black girl in ballet class, and tackled issues of celebrity and colonialism.  While there were some really lovely, vivid moments in the text, I kept waiting for the whole story to come together, you know? I kept turning pages and reading sentences thinking “okay, THIS is why she chose to tell this story; THIS is going to make these 300 pages worth my time.” That moment never came. It’s not that the story was confusing—I think Smith did a great job of articulating the mundane in enlightening ways; I just never found the “why”. Why now, why these characters, why this structure? There was so much bubbling under the surface, I just needed a single sentence, or even a single word that would make this experience satisfying. I wanted this novel to dance in the same way that its characters do, and while there are sparks of that, I didn’t feel Zadie Smith’s soul.

Eloquent Rage // Brittney Cooper

Cooper begins by telling the story of her feminist awakening, and goes on to explain the ways in which this new lens has informed every crevice of her life. This book is smart. Cooper is smart. But this book isn’t academic in the traditional sense. Yes, she is absolutely making well researched and thorough arguments…but it feels like you’re hearing all of this from your “woke” auntie instead of your professor. It’s mad real. While I couldn’t agree with all of Cooper’s arguments, I understand why this book is important and enlightening. What I found really successful was her ability to expound upon the struggles that I feel every. single. day. as a Black girl, and validate them with academic prowess. Her analysis was broad and thorough—she cited everything from Beyonce, to scripture, to Michelle Obama, to DuBois. I vibe with this because she takes the many things that she’s been feeding her Black Girl Mind with and uses them to make sense of and condemn violence that I’ve come to see as normal—being at the bottom of the dating totem pole and being the token Black girl, for example. If nothing else, Eloquent Rage has given me new awareness of what it means to navigate the world with my Black Girl body. Chapters of this text, particularly the ones about police brutality, Michelle Obama, and Cooper’s relationship to white feminism, also informed my own work this summer. Oh, did I mention how I LOVE the way she capitalizes Black Girl every single time? Yeah, that’s about to be a thing in every script I write from here on out.

Long Division // Keise Laymon

During my last semester of undergrad I wanted—more than anything in this entire world—to take a class called The Black Voice, with UVA’s new hip-hop professor A.D. Carson. I signed up and went to the first class. Unfortunately for this artist, I had to drop the class because I was shooting two films and putting up a play. But I kept all of the books and am determined to get through the entire syllabus. Long Division was first up and I’ve gotta say… It’s wonderful. And I mean that literally—filled with wonder. Laymon is somehow able to lead us through a story that simultaneously feels deeply familiar and otherworldly. It’s one of those novels where I can’t say much without giving it away (yes, it’s one of those!). But what you should know is that it follows a teenager in Mississippi as he discovers the power of his own voice—the power of words. Maybe we can call this book science-fiction, but it feels too…real to be put in that category. Maybe afrofuturism? Or maybe just intensely imaginative. I think my favorite thing about this book is the descriptive language. Perhaps there are some TMI moments, but through the voice of our protagonist, City, Laymon lyrically articulates the mind of a really smart, but really suppressed, rural teenage boy. I found myself wanting to enter that world time and time again.

Telepathologies // Cortney Lamar Charleston 

I picked up this book while I was in Chicago shooting my Emmett Till film; an eerie and beautifully appropriate scenario. Telepathologies is a collection of poetry that explores what it means to walk in fear and danger as a Black person in America. You know when you’ve been listening to a song and for the first time hear a lyric in a different way. You rewind and you say to yourself (or, in my case, very loudly) “BARZZZ.” That was pretty much my entire experience in reading these poems.

I read, watch, and write a lot of stuff about death (…maybe we should unpack that)—it’s been my way of mourning and trying to make sense of lost Black life. But these poems felt fresh. They felt raw. They felt delicate. They felt intentional. As I read, there were so many moments when I thought I’d figured out Charleston’s style and mode of thinking, but then he’d take me for a turn and I’d have to stop, breathe, and ponder. I’d come out of my trance with a billion questions, yet I’d still just want to sit and keep rereading the same line that made me stop in the first place. A new perspective on the familiar. That is what I need from a poet; that is what I desperately come to the art form searching for, and Charleston delivered. I recently found his twitter (after realizing that there’s no “u” in his first name)…so he can look forward to tweets about how badly I want to make his poems into films.

There you have it! I didn’t meet all of my reading goals this summer, but I have We Were Eight Years In Power// Coates and Meridian// Walker in my camera bag, and lots of train rides from theatre conferences to film festivals. I’ve got a stack of books ready to ship to my new place in New York, five more that I found at this delightful outdoor used bookstore in Connecticut (check out Book Barn, y’all!), and at least two years worth of subway rides in my future. Needless to say, I’ve got plenty of artistic fuel ready to take me through this next phase.

P.S. If I had to make a playlist with all of these books in mind:

Swing Time—Chameleon x Leah Smith

Citizen—Rollcall For Those Absent x Ambrose Akinmusire

Eloquent Rage—Blk Girl Soldier x Jamila Woods

Long Division—Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik x OutKast

Telepathologies—FEAR. x Kendrick Lamar