Update! I know I was supposed to be resting, but what happened this weekend was so awesome on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin! Okay, let me preface..
During my life, I have accumulated quite a few academic crushes. For me, an academic crush generally evolves upon witnessing a brotha deliver a particularly mind-blowing academic and/or political lecture, speech, interview, debate, rally, rap, etc.; wherein I become totally enamored with said fella based on his overall brand of intellect, passion, and charisma.
Now, back when I was a lowly college student at Cal State a zillion and a half years ago, one of my professors brought in a crusty old videotape circa 1976, which featured a man named Dr. Ernie Smith.
(stay with me)
Dr. Smith earned his Doctorate in Linguistics, (click here for short biography) and was a participant on a panel of linguists from around the globe featured in this particular lecture. Right before my little impressionable eyes, this man broke down the concepts (and misconceptions) of dialects in the English language, the origin and historical development of Ebonics, and how the development of the language that people of slave descendants of African origin in the United States speak is linguistically proven to be based on the lingering grammatical concepts of West African languages (the Niger-Congo speech pattern, in particular) superimposed in the English language. Did I mention that when this brotha speaks, he is a raw ass mix of Cornel West and Malcolm X? Umm, yeah. Hence, a hardcore Academic Crush was born.
So, fast forward about fifteen years to Friday night, when I was sitting up ‘till 2 a..m. (supposed to be resting, mind you) doing research for an essay I am currently working on – the examination of speech patterns, dialects, and regional accents among black Americans today, and particularly the practice of code-switching and the concept of being bi-dialectical.
Then, fast forward again to Saturday afternoon, when I was chatting with some other sistas in the beauty shop while waiting for The Girl to get hair done, and the subject of “talking black” came up. Upon casually mentioning that this was a topic on which I was actively writing, one of the older sistas turned to me and said – “Well, sounds like you need to talk to one of my colleagues, Dr. Ernie Smith. Linguistics is his area of expertise…sharp brotha….he’s a good friend of mine.”
The conversation went on as follows:
Me: Did…you…say….Dr. Ernie Smith? *sputtering * THE Dr. Ernie Smith?
Elder Sis: Yes. (smiling) You know of him?
Me: (breaking out into a sweat) Dr. Ernie Smith, who made the global linguistic community bow down by refuting every wack theory about black folks here in America being inherently inferior due to their “peculiar” grammatical patterns and went on to prove how applying Eurocentric standards to an African/Afrocentric base language is essentially a bunch of crap? That Dr. Ernie Smith?
Elder Sis: Yes… *eyeing me with a mix of humor and suspicion*
Me: The Dr. Ernie Smith who…..
Elder Sis: Hold on. (chuckles) Why don’t I just get him on the phone for you, and you can talk to him about this..(whips out cell phone, begins dialing)
Me: You have Dr. Ernie Smith’s phone number??????
Elder Sis: (on phone) Uhh yes. Hey Ernie, how are you. Look, I have a young writer here, she’s doing an essay on Ebonics, and I think you two would have a lot to talk about, do you mind? Okay, here she is…(handing me phone)
Me: Ohmygod ohmygod….(taking phone) Uhhh… Dr. Smith?
Dr. Smith: What it be like, young sister descendant of African slaves who has been systematically brainwashed by European ideals, values, and standards of beauty here in the wilderness of North America - what can I do for you?
(Joke, joke, joke! He didn’t say that, really)
But, yes. I had the immense and unparalleled honor to listen, learn, and converse with Dr. Ernie Smith via cell phone for over an hour on Saturday, January 14th, 2006. And even though I was somewhat nervous and completely in awe that I was speaking with one of my bona fide academic crushes, I did get it together enough to listen and absorb and ask a few relevant key questions and take legible enough notes and generally speak and articulate like I had a quantifiable amount of sense. ‘Cause I’ma keep it real, it was sooo hard not to fall into groupie mode and be like “oooh Dr. Smith I luuved you ever since I seent you on that crusty old videotape from 1976…” lol But I was sharp enough to swap email addresses with him, and convince him to send me a copy of his dissertation on A Case for Bilingual and Bicultural Education for United States Slave Descendants of African Origin (1976) to use as reference material for my essay.
In addition - and this is way cool - as a result of our conversation, I have been invited to sit in as a guest at a lecture Dr. Smith will be giving at Pepperdine University next month. And, the elder sister who cellied up Dr. Smith for me is also a doctor in education psychology, and she was so down and so cool and she welcomed me with an open invite to her office whenever I wished and says she looks forward to receiving a copy of my book.
And best believe, I will be there in February, posted up with my completed paper to present to Dr. Smith, with my eyes, ears, mind, heart, and spirit open - and girlish academic crush (still) in tow.
All this makes me think of one of my favorite quotes:
Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
So hell yeah! Here’s proof that taking a small step in a certain direction just might bring you a step closer to what you want to create…in the most unexpected of ways!
(I’ll be sure to share my essay once it’s complete)
A few more of my academic/political crushes:
Khalid Muhammad (saw him lecture back in the '80's) He was kinda crazy. He's dead now.