Presenting a plethora of beautiful (and beautifully written – the two, it seems, go together fluidly here) images and analyses of Black rhetorical excellence, Adam Banks uses Digital Griots to craft and perform several exigent and fleshy calls for a re-vision of both African American literacy studies and digital humanities. An intimate piece of all of these calls is Banks’ prioritization of spaces that refuse to suffocate Blackness (the call itself is performed as a survival technology of sorts in all the texts we’ve read for this term thus far. No coincidence that these calls to Stop Shooting Us aren’t generally presented – quite the opposite – in composition classrooms dominated by whiteness).
In attempt at homage to both Banks’ rhythmic and fluid writing and to my colleague Seth Grave’s technologically poetic introduction to Banks’ text by remixing his notes of the text, the rest of this post will attempt to (perhaps poetically, or perhaps simply badly) remix Banks’ concerns and arguments with attention to constructions and affective experiences of dis/ability in composition classrooms. Queerness and womanness will, too, inflect this remix, because though all of these identities wove themselves in and out of Digital Griots, their more explicit, more persistent, presence can perhaps thicken the already bodily readings Banks graces us with.
(My whiteness, of course, will inflect all of these readings, so they must, by nature, be read as incomplete, as even, perhaps, appropriative with the hope that they will be themselves remixed, re-visioned, through frameworks of color that I do not inhabit.)
My students ooohing and exclaiming (pro-claiming) when someone throws shade
glancing at me furtively to see if my whitegirlprofessorness will be mad that they dared raise their voices in something other than
A voice that sounds like mine
Is bad, diss your friend when they’re not around, without saying it, suck your teeth and
roll your eyes when that white kid be talkin some shit about people need to stop playing the race card,
microsoft word dissin me when it insists on adding ‘g’s to the end of words, when I type out a quote from Banks, some of his most beautiful writing, his rhythmic end to his fabulous book, Word automatically adding ‘g’s to the Words, Banks tellin us we need to be
“building assignments that invite students not only to work across modalities but also to link those multiple modalities, individual assignments, and assignment cycles and in critical examination of the power relations and material conditions inscribed in technological tools, networks, and discourses. Practically, it means working to increase meaningful, transformative access to digital technologies for people on their own terms. It means mix, remix, mixtape. Access and transformation. Healing, celebration, self-examination, and critique. Community. Flow, layering, rupture. Innovation, vision, quality, tradition. Afrodigitzed. Word.”
WORD doesn’t lose its techno-mind until the end, until transformative (UNDERLINE IN RED SQUIGGLES), mixtape (THAT’S NOT A REAL THING, PUT A BLOODY ZIGZAG UNDER IT), and then that sea of green,
all that green because when Banks starts writin rather than
Word won’t have it. Word shuts that shit down.
or tries to,
with its squiggly underlines,
with its digital policing that “NEUTRALLY” tell my students they’re wrong even when their whitegirlteacher, surprise surprise, tells them it’s cool, write how you wanna write, write how you wanna sound, write how you want to communicate.
Except how you want to communicate is determined by…
sometimes I have students who can’t speak above a whisper,
Because if they do, they’ll have to shout.
oftentimes, though I am not dis/abled in the same way as these students may be, my bipolarness makes me feel that way, makes me
my students, I think, just think I’m energetic, enthusiastic.
I am allowed my energy, my enthusiasm.
I am a youngwhitegirlteacher.
I can speakwritetalkbouncearoundbesilentbelowkeybeLOUDbeactivebeinjuredcommunicate
However I want, need, need to want.
I have the authority.
most of my CUNY students, in one way or another, or others,
Word says no. Word
Wrong to write “fragments.” Add your ‘g’s to everything.
so it’s hard to say yes.
dis/respect, dis/tasteful, dis/tant (sometimes the words don’t split
I can’t think of a slash without thinking of slash fanfiction, without thinking of femslash, without thinking of the late-night hours as a teenager, logging onto DIAL-UP (that scratch, scratchscreetchscratch sound like salvation’s on its way, as long as no one else in the apartment hears it), furtively copy-pasting all the lesbian shit I could find (on Star Trek: Voyager, mostly; this was before I knew about The L Word, before I knew… anything), throwing it on a Word Perfect doc so it would look like homework, deleting the words that gave me life – that gave me orgasms – as I read.
slash between dis and ability because it scratches the word
it is the scratch(ing) (v. and n.) of the knowledge that the word
is supposed to hold
Slash between dis and ability because Banks wants us to call attention to the simultaneous independent and dependent integrations of DJing as writing, of writing as DJing, of
Knowing tradition, wrapping it around you like a
(I can’t not think of Meredith Grey’s widow shawl)
immersed in tradition and knowing, because of history, because of affirmations of culture, because
“the learners’ identities are not under constant threat or outright attack; instead, the space [of DJing] is one where their humanity and ability are taken for granted, even while the expectations of rhetorical excellence and agility are always high. Furthermore, there is room for a balance between individual identity and participation in broader communities”
Unlike in classrooms.
unlike in classrooms.
Unlike in classrooms, where you learn a tradition that is not
yours, that, in fact,
seeks constantly to destroy yours,
so how can you switch it up, how can you remix, how can you scratchwithoutwoundingyourself
With the edges of the
that allows us to connect
one or the other, but
skill, unskill, one of my students said “they think we’re uneducated”, “they think it means we’re not intelligent”
“They” being me, people with bodies like mine, white supremacy, which is the
shawl I can’t get rid of, but will never suffocate me
Unintelligent for speaking different tongues, for laying down different rhymes
(different from the dominant)
Unintelligent, slow, disabled without the
“retarded” without the
independence and dependence,
so strongly a part of DJing, community and individual contribution melding, melding,
Shaping each other.
like my best friend on the couch who needs me to get up and
adjust his pillows
and empty his blood-bile drains
because his body’s been cut open, he is
independence and dependence in a loop, another
In/dependence, inside dependence, what might digital griots be like
when people can’t physically hear, when people can’t be in clubs because of
flashing lights or toomanypeopleImightstarthyperventilating
What then of in/dependence
when dis/ability is equated with POC students
because whiteness determines smartness and smartness
determines tracking, determines ability, determines
What is acceptable to put on your
when affective whiteness makes the rules
I am allowed my outbursts, I am allowed to be extra
but my students of color are not
(they know, of course)
because for them to be extra is for them to be excess(ed),
to be inappropriate, to be
Threatening, and therefore to be segregated,
as disabled (no /)
and what of students who do identify
with dis/abilities, how might
dis/abled digitization work with POC digitization to
a key seems to lie in how affective whiteness
what if access is a process, is socialized, is understood as
Negotiations (I keep thinking of Clexa on The 100 and those damn fanfictions
lesbian sex with THAT THRONE)
Access is not to be achieved
not to be acquired
because access to tech, to digitization,
Is more than having classrooms equipped with
(Dial-Up tone, google, wipe sweat.
copy, open Word Perfect, paste,
Delete as I read.
Repeat as needed.
Repeat as permitted [though none of it is
Fanfiction as survival technology. Because they dis/able
trauma – AND WITH QUEER SEX – so much better than
white straight cis able-passing men ever do.
Dial-Up tone, google, wipe sweat.
copy, open Word Perfect, paste,
Delete as I read.
Repeat as needed.