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Acquanda S.: SUPER Radical Black Feminist, decidedly unapologetic breastfeeding junkie, sociocultural anthropology PhD student


I had been thinking about something I’d heard a while back and it almost made me laugh. One in particular was when I finished undergrad, I remember being told that I ‘Came back a radical!’ I heard this from more than one person — that I went away to school and when I came back and had a very hard-core and extremely political outlook on things. Hmm.. I’m not so sure I agree with that, even though at the surface I can see what these folks who told me this mean but I’m not so sure if I view myself that way. I know that I was exposed to new material, and I picked up some new tools also, and this allowed me to be able to view things a bit differently, and also challenge social injustice in new ways. I also discovered Black Feminism back then — formally, anyway, and I think that allowed me to channel what I had been feeling deep down for a very long time, and finally I could understand things with this new framework that made so much sense as a Black women in America. But I think I’ve always been pretty radical, regardless if I never really wanted to admit it. But I wonder if, after going through this program, they’ll think I’m Super Radical, LOL.

Just some thoughts.

Some other thoughts about this whole breastfeeding journey are that I still think it’s a bit surreal that one day I was sitting alone at a friend’s house when I heard the word ‘breastfeeding’ whispered to my soul. Literally. Of course back then I had no way of knowing it would turn into such a passion and a love of my life, and I’d be a junkie — well, someone extremely passionate about it. OK, I’m a junkie! The first step is admitting it, right? But I don’t think it’s a problem. Then I started writing this blog, and many other types of advocacy to, more recently, having dinner with a former professor and her husband because I wanted to work on a project about breastfeeding, and he has skills and other information I could benefit from, which is what I wanted to talk to him about. Much of the time spent at their home that evening (after homemade Indian food and a couple of glasses of Monte Antico, that is) morphed into a conversation between she and I about this PhD program, where she gave me that extra ‘encouragement’ to apply — up until then I had been ‘thinking about getting around to it’ and I would have — eventually. That turned into me almost having palpitations from excitement, after finding out there was a radical Black woman anthropologist who focuses on racial, social and reproductive justice — right down the street — at this university, and who is now my advisor! I honestly thought I was the only radical Black woman anthropologist who focuses on racial and social justice, in this state — and surrounding areas, even  to getting into this program (trust me, it ain’t easy), to afterwards not being able to find funding because of all of the major federal budget cuts, to getting the start of my program funded — almost effortlessly at the last minute, to now leaving for my first day of class.

I am officially a PhD student. And one step closer to becoming a professor!

I had to stop and think that it is a bit strange and unbelievable, to me of just how things fell into place towards this. When I really stop and think about it it sort of overwhelms me. I also firmly believe that many other doors I attempted to open over the past while, not necessarily geared towards this work (getting a job in a different area, for example) were shut totally in my face. Those shut doors caused major hardship and distress for me many times (which I’m still a bit bitter and hurt over), but perhaps it is only part of the bigger picture to keep my focus clear. I’ve said many times before — in fact it’s almost become my mantra that I can’t believe breastfeeding advocacy is the work that I do. And, up until more recently, there is probably no one who could have convinced me that I’d be going to school to study it. But the universe pulled me in. I know it. I heard it. I can testify to it.

Though I’m not sure I believe that any type of formal education is a path one must take to do breastfeeding work — in fact, I don’t believe that at all. But since I’ve been in this field, I have said and demonstrated many times that I believe an anthropological approach is extremely beneficial in addressing many issues that face our society –this is, of course after I began to see that the tools can transform — I came very close to quitting this field. There are very few People of Color in this discipline, and even less Black people across the United States who are anthropologists — and a Black woman in this field is rare. I still have yet to find one other Black or African American woman in this country with an anthropology background who focuses on Black breastfeeding (trust me I’ve been looking), so I wonder if that’s why I’m here — to help our work from this angle. And represent. African American breastfeeding, birth, doula, anthropology 

Whatever reasons the universe has deemed this the path for me, I’m happy I’m here. I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be, and there really is not one thing in this world that can me convince it isn’t.

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