Welcome to our ICONversations, a series where you will hear iconic Black feminist anthropologists answer five questions about their intellectual projects and growth, what their work has meant to them, and the imprints they want to leave on the world.
Listen to our candid ICONversation with Dr. Yolanda T. Moses, the professor and mentor who is truly about that Black feminist life. We had an inspiring conversation with Dr. Moses, learning about how she models change and lives her principles. In her words: “Praxis is where I experience the change I want to see.” Dr. Moses was the first woman President of CUNY City College in New York, served as Associate Vice Chancellor, Diversity and Inclusion at UC Riverside, and continues to strategically collaborate to tackle structures of inequity in higher education.
Other Places to Find Dr. Moses:
We’re taking a break, so we’ll see you next month!
Zora’s Daughters Podcast: Season Three, Episode 13
Co-Hosts: Alyssa A. James and Brendane A. Tynes
Guest: Yolanda T. Moses
Title: ICONversations, Part IV: Yolanda T. Moses
Total Length: 00:57:45
[0:00:00] Yolanda: So, practice for me is where I experience the change I want to see.
[0:00:40] Alyssa: Hey everyone, welcome back to Zora’s Daughters, the podcast where we share Black feminist perspectives and close-read pop culture and other social topics that affect Black folks. I’m Alyssa, and I use she/her/hers pronouns.
[00:00:54] Brendane: Hey y’all, I’m Brendane, and I use she/her/hers pronouns. So, today we have part four of our series called ICONversations, where we ask Black feminist anthropologists five questions about their lives and careers. We had the esteemed honor of speaking with Dr. Yolanda Moses, which was deeply motivating, and I’m not going to lie. It got me thinking I might actually be able to do a little something with the academic girlies, but we’ll see.
Dr. Moses is a professor of anthropology at the University of California Riverside and former associate vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion. Dr. Moses’s research focuses on the broad question of the origins of social inequality, exploring gender and class disparities in the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. More recently, her research has focused on issues of diversity and change in universities and colleges in the United States, India, Europe, and South Africa. She is the co-author of the book How Real is Race? A Sourcebook on Race, Culture, and Biology published in 2007. She has worked on several national higher education projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. In 2003 she became the first woman president of City University of New York City College (whoop, whoop)
[0:02:30] AJ: Aye!
[0:02:30] BT: She previously served as chair of the board of the American Association of Colleges and Universities—president of the American Anthropological Association, and president of the American Association for Higher Education. What hasn’t she done in the academy is the question.
[0:02:49] AJ: What, and wow! This was such a great conversation. I found it inspiring that she lives her values and principles. You mentioned while we were talking that some of the initiatives she started are still benefiting the lives of Black anthropology students. I appreciate that she took on these positions of power, not for her ego but to materially improve the lives of her students and those who would come after her. She models change instead of just talking about it. She is still doing this. I saw a video of her in November giving her support for the students striking at UC.
She was out there taking down all of the arguments that the administration was making. She was like, I used to be an administrator, I know what is going on, and this is what the administration should be doing. Because we know that there is a lot of faculty who would not dang to get mixed up in the first-world problems of students because, of course, “at least you have stipends.”
On a more personal note, I was really, –you all will hear her talk about this, but I was loving her grandmother’s sweater because I had on my godmother’s sweater, so I like that little ode to kinship, and it came up even earlier because it turns out you all might be—there’s a chance you’re related.
That totally wouldn’t surprise me. She reminded me a little bit of you. The way she described anthropology and her choice of words around coalition, collaboration, and solidarity. I was like, do you all share a brain? Did you all talk beforehand? What’s going on?
[0:04:32] BT: We did text a little bit beforehand, but that was to coordinate (laugh) But it was a little scary. I was like, wow.
[0:04:41] AJ: Stunt on us, Brendane. Talking about I’m texting Yolanda T. Moses.
[0:04:46] BT: — That was to coordinate an interview. Hopefully, we can be real-life cousins or something. I was really like, wow! I feel like she thinks a lot like me. It was very encouraging to hear her tell stories about all the work that she has done. She is very candid, one of the more candid Libras I’ve ever met in my life; just want to put that out there.
I was like, okay, so it’s possible to teach, have a family, and shift institutions which is something that a lot of academics pretend they can’t do. And also create great scholarship if you choose, and y’all will hear her talk about her dissertation a little bit, but I think she was really understating the importance of it as a work. She was really doing some feminist iconic work in her department.
She was writing about women, especially thinking about the time in the 70s she was writing about Black women in anthropology. She is not writing these manuscript-length pathological shit about their material practices, definitely shifting paradigms in the discipline. I’m just truly in awe. I know I say that every week but being able to connect with Dr. Moses was a true gift.
Especially learning that we might be cousins. I was, oh, that’s so cool, and for those of you who don’t know, my father’s last name was Moses, and he passed away in 2021. Any connection to him makes my heart very happy. To know that she and I might be related, and I’ve done some investigation, it is not impossible. The cities where my father’s family are from and her mother’s family are fairly close. Not impossible. What that would really mean for me is that I’m related to a Black feminist anthropologist who’s bout it.
[0:07:07] AJ: Oh yeah,
[0:07:08] BT: That’s important
[0:07:09] AJ: It was like speaking to the anthropology version of Angela Davis. Just living in her practice. Without further ado, here is our ICONversation with Dr. Yolanda T. Moses.
[0:07:28] AJ: Dr. Moses, thank you so much for joining us. We are happy to have you here today to talk to us and answer some of our ICONversations questions. Your work over the years has explored gender and class in the Caribbean and Africa, as well as diversity and change in universities around the world, using a variety of ethnographic and survey methods. It has made an incredible impact on the field and the discipline. You were even awarded some awards through triple A to that effect.
Personally, I had a few different careers since I’ve finished my bachelor’s degree. When I get worried about changing course and doing things that are off the path laid out for you, I always keep in mind that you can’t connect the dots looking forward. So looking back on your body of work, what was your central preoccupation or the overarching question you were trying to answer through your research?
[0:08:23] YM: That’s a very interesting question because I have been in this field; I got my Ph. D in 1976. I have been thinking about issues for a very long time, and for me, the big overarching question I had going into anthropology is to understand the origins of social inequality. I didn’t want to be an archaeologist, but my work on the race project, which I’ll talk about, came about by looking at the intersections of cultural anthropology and biological anthropology. I did a little bit get into archaeology, but the origins of social inequality are complex societies because I just wondered, having grown up in and come of age in the US during the civil rights movement, were there other places that did this differently than we did? If they did, what were the outcomes, and how could we learn from this?
I wanted to get outside of the US experience because it just seemed so ubiquitous. Everywhere you looked at the time I was coming of age, there was something going on around trying to undo inequality. So, for me, the question was, where did this come from? I think it also inspired my teaching because I have always taught history and theory classes, and I have always tried to get my students to understand that because these systems are socially constructed, as hard as it may seem, they can be unconstructed. That is, they are not fixed in nature. What we are seeing today is not necessarily what it has to be.
The questions we started asking were about—in whose interest it is to maintain these kinds of systems of inequality. Initially, I started talking about how does equality come about. Then I realized that equality doesn’t deal with inequity. I started focusing on what would equity look like, that pushed me into the area of political economy. That is one of the areas that I’m interested in historically, philosophically is the whole relationship of capital in society and culture. That was one of my central occupations, and as you said, the other thing I looked at since my life has been in the academy is what does the academy looks like through the lens of anthropology, looking at the origins and the systems – and the barriers that create or don’t create opportunities for everyone to participate in the system.
You can see from my CV that I’ve done a lot of work on diversity and inclusion. I’ve always been a person that works at the intersections of theory and practice. Practice, for me, is where I experience the change I want to see. For me, I got really tired as a faculty member of being told what I could and couldn’t do and decided that the next level of power for me was to get a department head. Then I became a dean, and I became a provost. Then I became a university president and found that systemic barriers were still there. But you could understand better the levers of change and how to use them.
For me, it’s always been about the origins of social inequality, the barriers of change, and how to push back against those in very concrete ways.
[0:13:44] AJ: Thank you—Sorry, I was thinking about –the idea that things are constructed can be deconstructed is something that Brendane always says is why she was drawn to anthropology.
[0:13:52] BT: I was going to say that.
[0:13:54] AJ: I’m so fascinated, and another thing that one of our professors (said) I don’t know if he said to you, Brendane, but he said it to me because I don’t research where I’m from, which would be Jamaica. He said we always have to leave to come back home. The fact that you spent some of your early career outside of the US in order to come back home, make change in place is the thread that I am seeing as well.
[0:14:29] BT: When I talk about what anthropology did for me as a young Black woman in Lee Baker’s anthropology of race class as a sophomore in college and the realization that the life that I lived as a Black girl in South Carolina, somebody somewhere decided this is how Black people are supposed to live and that means that we as a Black people can do something about it. It just really opened the world for me. To hear you say it is very similar to how I say it when I talk to students – warms my heart.
One thing that we heard from the breadth of your career is that you, as a scholar, have experienced lots of change and growth. One of the things that we think about as graduate students is that the things we write today might not be what we want to say when we get to senior faculty or provost levels—I don’t know if I could ever be a professor or president (laugh). Your work has such a depth and breadth to it. We were wondering are things that you have written that you have looked back on and wanted to change or if you could revise any of your published pieces. Which one would you change, and how would you change it?
[0:16:01] YT: Well, like I said, the earlier work that talked about equality, I would change the higher ed stuff to equity because it is not enough to get into the institution if the institution is still creating barriers that are going to inhibit your success. Rather than adding students and staff, diverse students, women, whoever we are trying to use to diversify and stirring a pot that already is structured in a way that, first of all, you are not supposed to be there. Secondly, nothing changes other than your presence. You are setting people up for failure, and unless we tackle those structures of inequality, which are very hard to tackle, things aren’t really going to change.
Students are going to come and go; faculty are going to come and go. You see that revolving door policy on just about every campus across the United States. The blame is put on the students and the faculty, not the institution. My writing would be a lot more radical in that sense by saying it’s everybody’s responsibility to do this work. I would say here are the structures the barriers that prevent students of color faculty of color from being successful, and it starts with their own colleagues in their departments who don’t understand their work, and don’t think it’s important to understand their work. I say when I go to talk to universities and colleges as a diversity consultant, I say if you are not ready to transform yourself into a different kind of institution, don’t bother to do this work. They kind of look at me, you know, like oh, but we want to have diversity, but do you want to do the work that it is going to take to create environments where students and faculty are going to be successful, and that’s an educational excellence issue. It’s not an I want to feel good because I have minorities on campus kind of issue. Are you ready to deal with the issues they bring to you?
The reckoning that institutions are going through now after the murder of George Floyd on television. Even my university, which is the University of California, has a diversity blah, blah. The institution itself has not changed. They have added more programs, and I said adding programs to existing structures is not going to do it. You got to change the way the institution conceptualizes itself and runs. Most campuses aren’t ready to do that.
So yes, my diversity work, now going back… to my fieldwork, I did my early work on an island called Montserrat. My analyses were very two-dimensional. That is, I looked at remittances, the status of women at that time in the 70s . I will tell you all this, and I’ve said to some of my students not to change my dissertation topic because when I got to the island of Montserrat, I thought it was going to be like Jamaica, Dominque, and Grenda where these people wanted to become independent, and they were struggling with what that meant. Montserrat, the prime minister, said no, we don’t want to be independent. We want to stay a colony.
I went what? I said what? This is going to mess up the dissertation (laugh). I changed my topic to focus on the status of women in remittent societies where the men go out and send money back and what happens to their status? Do they take on the leadership roles where the vacancies have been left? I found out no, they didn’t, but that’s one piece of it.
The first piece is that my dissertation committee asked me –I got my Ph. D at UC Riverside too. My Ph. D committee asked, can you do a whole dissertation on women? That’s what they asked me. And I said yes. This was in 1975. I started sending them articles to read to my male professors. It was a whole new environment for them. I was lucky to get through with that topic –I go back and talk about intersectionality, I go back and talk about racial capitalism. I would go back and do the things I understand better today. That’s a roundabout way of saying.
[0:22:44] BT: To me, it’s like the assumption that you can’t write about women.
[0:22:51] YM: And Black women!
[0:22:51] BT: You know, well, you can write about Black women. Anthropology’s way of writing about Black women historically has been geared towards understanding maternity and all those other things. I could see why they were struggling to see you trying to write something about women and leadership.
[0:23:15] YT: And I was also trying to do a class analysis because all the literature in the Caribbean at that time was about Black women having kids out of wedlock blah, blah, and I was going wait a minute, I come from a community in Compton, California where Black women who are working class raised families and they do all kinds of permutations of what family means to do that.
What I did was look at working-class women and middle-class women. Black women, these are all Black women on the island—and I found out that the working-class women were using all kinds of economic strategies to make ends meet and were very conscious of about the decisions they were making about who they were going to engage with and that being married often did not provide them with the resources they needed. Whereas being single, they had many different sources because marriage at that time meant there were certain behaviors that women had – performances women had to go through in order to be respectable.
What I did was show the juxtaposition that these women are not promiscuous, these women are making economic decisions that work for them, and they are very conscious of what they are doing. It has nothing to do with morality. It has to do with economics. So for me, I felt that was a contribution to that narrative that just was, why can’t you just be respectable, be married when you have kids? Well, I’m living with my mother; I have a boyfriend—might even have two.
[0:25:48] BT: Period (laughter BT and YM)
[0:25:49] YM: And I’m having my kids, which I love, and they’re being taken care of. They have uncles, grandfathers, and all kinds of people. It’s cool. That’s the way it is, so it was fun –I went back and looked at the thing, and it is so two-dimensional. I said eww, I should do something with that, but at that time, that is what I did.
[0:26:22] AJ: You were also in this position where you had to educate your committee about your topic. I think that’s something that Black folks who study Black folks have trouble with within the academy. So, of course, you were talking about the reckoning happening. I mean, the reckoning people believed it’s been reckoned already. (laughs) One of the reforms, we’ll say, is happening is hiring diverse faculty but not really changing any of the structural issues that impede them from succeeding and continuing to work there. We kind of end up with this turn and burn of “diverse faculty.”
[0:27:07] YM: Yes, and it’s debilitating for folks, and they asked me in my role. At UC Riverside, I was for a while the chief diversity officer for the university. I get the real reasons why they were leaving. They say publicly one thing, and I would relay that information to the cabinet and say, you got to talk –these, and I would also talk to the deans, and the deans would say, well you know the departments have their autonomy, and what have you. I would go talk to the department head, and some of them were just – they had the power– to say yes and no to all kinds of things. If they didn’t understand things, then that’s where it stopped because the senior administrators didn’t want to interfere with faculty autonomy. —I got tired of that.
[0:28:23] AJ: I hear that. I know that’s right. And yet, in the face of these structural barriers, you had several notable accomplishments, as you mentioned earlier. Your work has been recognized and celebrated. I read that you were active in the civil rights movement with SNCC, president of the American Anthropological Association. In 1993 you became the first woman to be appointed president of CUNY City College of New York. Your work is ongoing; I saw you out there supporting the striking students at UC right now. We absolutely applaud you. Some of the things we are most recognized and celebrated for are not always what we most value about ourselves. So, we would like for you to tell us, for the record, what is the highlight of your life and career?
[0:29:20] YM: Well, the highlight of my life is the fact I’ve been married to my husband for 50 years. My second husband. I got married young that didn’t work out because he told me he didn’t want me to go to grad school because I was smarter than him.
[0:29:40] BT: On, no
[0:29:40] AJ: Oh, no.
[0:29:41] BT: It’s a wrap.
[0:29:45] YM: I told him I was smarter than him already.
[0:29:48] AJ: That’s what I’m talking about.
[0:29:50] YM: That’s one. The second one is I have two daughters and five grandkids. I have on my grandmother’s sweatshirt with their names on it–. For me, the fact that I was able to have both a career and a family meant I married the right person. I finally got it right — this is a wonderful job, profession, occupation, but in the end, that’s what it is. If I needed to, I could get a job doing something else, especially at this point in my life, but I don’t want to (laugh). This is what I want to be doing, so that’s number one.
The second thing –has been leadership positions that allow me to model the kind of change that needs to happen. In the university becoming – all those positions I named for you, at each of those positions, I was able to instill new programs to bring in more diversity and to put systems in place so that whoever we bought in could be successful. I was where the buck stopped.
I remember, as provost, stopping a search that the school of business had for a new dean. I wanted to hire a woman. She was the best candidate. A group of senior white males came to my office and told me if I didn’t go along with what they wanted, they were going to leave the committee. You know what I said? These guys don’t know who they are talking to. I might smile like I’m smiling at you guys. I said fine, I will reconstitute and put another committee together. They said to me can you do that? You don’t have the right to do that. I said I’m the provost. Those guys went to the president and told him what happened. Because he had been a senior officer in the military at some point–the chain of command, he said, that’s her, that’s her job. They double-thought it.
[0:33:07] BT: I had to double back on that one.
[0:33:09] YM: If I hadn’t been in that position, that wouldn’t have happened. Each of those positions I’m in—now, when I was president, I ran into some political shit, oh excuse me.
[0:33:22] BT: It’s all good.
[0:33:25] YM: In New York City, I don’t need to tell you guys right about that because you’re at Columbia, but Rudolph Gillani was terrible to City University; hated City University because it was producing young people and professionals who were challenging a lot of the stuff that was happening in the city. This is part of why I left – he was running for senator of New York, and he had to drop out of the race eventually, but he was running for senate and I had asked Hillary Clinton, who was first lady at the time to come and be the keynote speaker at our graduation.
He told me I couldn’t invite her. I said I’m the president of this university, and this is who the students want to invite. It’s sort of like he couldn’t do it upfront, you know, but he made it really difficult afterwards. The board had changed in the eight years I was there from Democrat to Republican. I ran into politics; it got in the way of me wanting to do the kind of education that I wanted to do. So I just said I can’t work in this kind of environment, cause they don’t really want the kind of change that I want to do. I decided it was time for me to leave, so that’s what I did.
Now the other thing that I did when I was president of AAA — I wanted that job; I mean, I didn’t really want the job, but I had been president of the Council of Anthropology in Education, and I was on the executive board. Because I had administrative experience, I had a group of people come to me and say would you please stand for election? I said only if I can do things that are going to change the organization. One of the things I did was to say how we become a part of the public conversations that are going on in this country. Around issues that we have expertise in, and so there was a lot of talk in the country–Bill Clinton was still president, around race and reconciliation and all that kind of stuff.
He had put together this group of people that were going around doing listening sessions around the country, but they weren’t doing anything. They weren’t educating people—it was just like grievance. I said why don’t we teach America what race is and what race isn’t so that there can be a conversation? When people do have conversations about race, there accurate or as accurate as they can be. We got a grant from the National Science Foundation; no, first, we got a grant from Ford Foundation–. Have you heard of that video called Race the Power of Illusion?
[0:37:16] BT: yes.
[0:37:19] YM: Okay, well, they are funding that one. They said oh, we don’t want you to do a documentary because we are doing a documentary; why don’t you do an exhibit? And I thought I didn’t know anything about exhibits. They gave us a million dollars. Then we got a grant from the National Science Foundation for 2.5 million dollars for science in the exhibit. That’s how we put the race exhibit together, it took us a couple of years to even conceptualize it, and the Smithsonian didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole. Then we went to – do you guys know Alika Wiley? Do you know her name?
[0:38:15] BT: No
[0:38:15] YM: She is a curator at the Chicago Field Museum. She held a workshop; Ford gave some money she held a workshop and bought together curators. People who had done exhibits that were controversial around the country together. The Science Museum of Minnesota that NSF told us to look at because they were a science museum that had done very complex science projects. We ended up going with the Science Museum of Minnesota–they had to hire a diverse staff – which they didn’t have, but they understood the concepts of science. We were gearing this for school kids. We had written off adults. We said these people aren’t going to get it. It’s going to be the kids. That exhibit ended up, and you all maybe know the story of it. It circulated for almost 14 years, and it went to over 60 cities. There were three different versions, and I would say a million and a half people at least were documented to have seen it. It is the third exhibit.
It is now in North Carolina, and they have asked me if I would help them renovate it so that it will circulate around North Carolina, so that will be another project. I started Minority Fellowship within the AAA. The board was saying why we need a minority fellowship. I had to educate them about why we needed minority fellowship. Those are the things that I have done.
[0:40:14] BT: That is – to know that the programs you put in place are still working within these institutions really speaks a lot to what you said about your commitment to trying to change these structures versus creating a program slap a band-aid on things. One of my really close friends was the 2022 minority fellowship winner. To know that your legacy is still benefiting Black students is just so wonderful.
Our audience is, in large part, undergraduate and graduate students who will be taking their anthropology training to the workforce, to the academy, and beyond. I find that people who study anthropology typically want to have an impact on the world, much like the kind that you have had but really have no clue on how to go about it. You have served as a consultant for national and international-level education projects. You worked at universities and departments, shaping them into being better places for students of color. You still find time to mentor at ABA. I remember when I went to AAA in 2017, and folks were just like yeah, Dr. Yolanda Moses is a wonderful mentor. Now– in such awe, how do you find the time to do it? We want to know what is one piece of advice that you would give to those who want to thrive and make a change in their chosen field.
[0:42:05] YM: Can I give you more than one piece?
[0:42:08] AJ: Sure.
[0:42:08] YM: I’ll make it short I would say, first of all, just in terms of a trajectory, you have to think you are going to be in this work for the long haul. That this is not going to be overnight. It’s going to be – for systemic change to happen, it’s going to be long-term. Don’t get frustrated. Which means you also have to be strategic. That is, you can’t tackle everything. What are the things that you feel you have an affinity for that you can work on? Mine is one of the things that I do well is to coach faculty and students on how to get from one level to the next by understanding the systems you have to navigate you need to move from one level to the next level and to have arguments in the place when you are challenged. That’s being strategic.
The other thing I learned over time is to look for the levers of change. That is where are the trigger points where are the opportunities. For example, when new people come in, like new deans, provosts, or new presidents. They are looking for opportunities to do things to make themselves look good. If you have a project or a program that you want to get done that’s also going to make them look good, then that is an opportunity for that change to happen. Because I have been in all those positions, I understand that. You still can understand the levers of change. Then you got to be ready for the opportunity when it comes.
So I always had two or three projects that I wanted to get done. Sometimes it wasn’t the right opportunity for the one I wanted to do for the first one, but the second one or the third one – you know, like bringing in visiting professors or term professors versus a tenured track position got the door opened. It’s having two or three projects all at the ready and taking advantage of opportunities like George Floyd’s murder. We had been trying to get a Black study program going at our university for a long time, and we had ethnic studies with all the different groups in one department. That was not working real well. It provided an opportunity for the administration to say what can we do—We had the program ready. The problem is that the academic senate passed it 300 and something to zero, but the dean hasn’t given the money for the program. That is the next thing that has to happen. How did we get the dean, who is an African American male, on board? That’s another whole story.
[0:46:12] AJ: That’s another whole story—Well, definitely let us and our listeners know if there is anything we can do to help push that forward, if we can provide support, shame, anything needed.
[0:46:32] YM: I will do that. That would be my advice those are from my life experiences and today that– sometimes the engagement of people in groups and coalitions is often short-lived, and you have to be in it for the long run. Good collaborations and good coalitions is what is going to help build the power base that we need. A faculty-student coalition is a very powerful coalition. A cross has a lot of different dimensions if it is done right. If students are paying tuition, administrators listen to them or can listen to them, let me say that.
[0:47:40] AJ: This is great. I appreciate you talking about how you have taken on these roles to model change and continue working on different projects that would actually institute change that would be long-term, and I think Brendane pointed that out really well with the minority fellowship at the AAA so throughout the series we are thinking about legacy and how we are talked about others as well. For example, when we think of Zora Neale Hurston, we often think of her as avant-garde, iconoclastic, and genius. Those are three words that are repeated so often, and one thing that we wondered is rather or not she would identify with those words or recognize herself in those words. So we want to make sure that history gets it right for you. What three words would you use to describe your career as an anthropologist, professor, mentor, public educator, and intellectual Black feminist?
[0:48:46] YM: Let’s see. I say visionary because I see what’s not there but could be, and I am always strive for that. I’m very passionate and believe in it. I believe in the work I do with all of my being, and it comes across, whether positive or negative, to the powers that be. I understand none of this work happens alone. I would say I’m a strategic collaborator – who understands power and power systems and how they work. I think of myself as be the change. I modeled it because every major thing I’ve done, someone says well, we’ve never done that before or you can’t do that. I put myself in situations where I show yes, you can.
[0:50:11] BT: That is so inspiring, amazing. This is kind of an aside question. I’ve been trying to figure out – and Alyssa knows exactly what I’m going to ask you; I’ve been trying to figure out what your zodiac sign is this entire time.
[0:50:29] YM: What am I?
[0:50:29] BT: Yes
[0:50:30] YM: What do you think it is
[0:50:33] BT: When you talk about being a visionary and believing that things could actually be there. But then you also talk about putting in the work. It makes me feel like earth sign realm like a Taurus, Capricorn, or Virgo
[0:50:49] AJ: I was thinking Taurus.
[0:50:52] YM: I am on the cusp of Virgo Libra
[0:50:56] BT: That’s – putting in the work is a very Virgo energy. Taurus they don’t like to do the work. Are you on the Virgo side or the Libra side?
[0:51:10] YM: I’m the 27th of September
[0:51:14] BT: Almost. I was feeling it. (Laughter, all three) Thank you so much, Dr. Moses, for spending this time with us, answering our questions, and sharing so much of your wisdom, and it’s been lovely to bask in it. To know we could possibly be cousins has also made me happy.
[0:51:40] YM: Let’s do that. My father’s name was Henry Moses.
[0:51:48] BT: Henry Moses, but I really think that we might be cousins.
[0:51:47] YM: Wouldn’t that be cool? You check it out and let me know.
[0:51:55] BT: Yes, ma’am, I will look. Is it okay if I text you? I think I found it.
[0:52:02] YM: Of course you can. Do that, okay?
[0:52:08] AJ: Thank you so much.
[0:52:10] YM: You’re welcome, and thank you for your work. This is great. At the time when I was coming through, there was no internet, Facebook. My dissertation was typed on a typewriter (on carbon paper). Just think what I could have done if I had all this technology back then. I have it now.
[0:52:53] YM: Alright, have a good day
[0:52:55] AJ and BT: Thank you, you too.
[0:52:59] YM: Bye! Stay in touch.
[0:52:59] AJ and BT: We will.
[0:53:04] BT: We hope you enjoyed this conversation and the series because we most certainly did. After we wrapped with Dr. Moses, I told Brendane how happy I am that we are able to do this when really connecting and being taught by these icons of anthropology is just a testament to how much this podcast has bought to us, and even though our time with them was relatively brief, I feel like I took away a lot from these conversations. Especially about the possibilities of what a life dedicated to service can look like within academia. What I said is these women ran so we could soar, and what are going to make possible for the generation of scholars that follow us?
[0:53:47] BT: I think that’s a key question, especially now as there are increasing numbers of Black scholars in the academy. What are we going to do to ensure that we are not just walking through the door and shutting it the door behind us? These icons that we talked with for this series have really shown what it is like not just to open the door but create a whole new fucking structure, building entrance. It just made me think – I could only imagine how empowered we as a collective would be if we spent more time talking to our elders. They hold so much wisdom and power, and they can truly help us navigate all the shit we have to go through in life.
Especially this academic shit. If we really listened to our elders, as in talking to them, we would be unstoppable. I have left every single one of these conversations feeling strong in my Blackness, feeling strong in my Black womanist, in my Black feminist bag, my Black anthropologist bag, and I really feel like my duty to change the world came from somewhere. I just wasn’t plopped onto this planet and the only one trying to run against the current, in that I didn’t have to accomplish that work of changing the world alone. How inspiring is that? Inspiring and humbling.
Thank y’all for listening. Even if just one of you just feels my churchy voice, even if just one of you feels blessed by this series, let us know what touched you. Were you feeling empowered after listening to these women talk about their lives? I know for sure, yeah, I can do what the fuck I want to do because they’ve done it. That is all we have for y’all today. Thank you for listening.
This episode was produced by Alyssa James and Brendane Tynes and distributed in partnership with the American Anthropological Association. This season of the podcast is generously funded by a grant from the Arts & Science Graduate Council, the Heyman Center Public Humanities Graduate Fellowship, and donations from listeners just like you.
[0:56:28] AJ: Thank you all for your support. If you like this episode, if you like this series, please share it via social media, Whatsapp, or Morse code. I don’t know how you would do that but do it. We would love to hear what you have to say, as Brendane was saying. If you were touched or felt blessed, if you enjoyed it, let us know your thoughts. Follow us on Instagram at Zorasdaughters and on Twitter at Zoras_Daughters. For transcripts, syllabi, and information on how to cite us or become a Patron to access exclusive content, visit our website zorasdaughters.com. And just so you all know, we will be taking a break because we blessed you with weekly episodes. So we need a break, and we will see you in March.
[0:57:30] BT: As we rest and restore, we want to remind you all last and definitely not least that we must take care of ourselves and each other. Bye
[0:57:41] AJ: Bye