Hometown: Seat Pleasant, Maryland
Project title: Trust and Believe: The Black Indoors, Popular Skepticism, and the Critical Inheritance of the "House Slave"
Project description: Merging pop culture criticism with intellectual history, my project Trust and Believe consists of an essay collection and digital exhibition that will explore the use of "house slave" as a pejorative in American speech and narrative, with a focus on how the enduring "slurred" status of this historical figure can be understood as a tradition of criticism within Black American politics, culture, and art.
The term "house slave" is most often employed to insult those with perceived proximities or allegiances to white power structures. With this practice in mind, this project seeks to articulate how this narrative configuration of the "house slave" is deeply problematic—where the historiography of chattel slavery is concerned—yet, extremely powerful as a framework for representing popular ideas about community policing, notions of racial betrayal, and the failures of representation politics. Centering the usage of the term in black political rhetoric and art, my project will explore historic invocations of the "house slave," such as those found in writer Zora Neale Hurston's 1943 essay "The Pet Negro System" and activist Malcolm X's 1963 speech "Message to the Grass Roots." Drawing special attention to the ways this "house slave" insult has been appropriated by non-black figures as well, Trust and Believe will also wrestle with non-black references to the "house slave," looking to figures such as American late-night comedian Bill Maher and Maori member of New Zealand parliament Hone Harawira.
All in all, both the essay collection and the digital exhibition for Trust and Believe set out to illustrate how black American art and popular culture in the late 2010s reveals a mode of skepticism that functions as a rejection of the representation politics that were so adamantly proposed during the Obama-era in particular. My research project will articulate how and why this trope-based critique reemerges in the public zeitgeist—film, media scandals, music videos, and other cultural events—and what impact this has had on leftist political thought and organizing.
Extracurricular activities: On-campus, I am the editor-in-chief of Black Praxis and President of Music in Color. I have served as a staff writer and Arts editor for The Dartmouth as well as a member of the Inter-Community Council, Sexperts, Afro-American Society, and the Hood Museum Club. Typically, you could find me hiding out in the practice rooms in the Hopkins Center, waiting in line at KAF, or working at the Circulation desk in Baker-Berry. Off-campus, I have been working as a freelance writer since high school. My essays, criticism, and poetry have been published in Huffington Post, Artsy, Africa is a Country, The Offing, Smithsonian Voices, Teen Vogue, Bitch Media, Lady Science, Hayden's Ferry Review, and more.
Future plans: After graduation, I hope to continue doing creative intellectual projects where I get to use my skills as a writer, researcher, and curator. As a Beinecke scholar, I feel like I can plan for graduate school with less financial anxiety. My mom was a middle school teacher, and I've always loved the idea of teaching, so I am interested in becoming a professor someday. Outside of academia, I am really interested in storytelling, and I plan to continue pursuing opportunities to write fiction and poetry as well as explore screenwriting and publishing.