Calling All Men

As the Moxie project is coming to an end, I have begun to reflect on my experience living in New York City for the past two months. I am very excited to share my journey with my friends. However, the conversations have not been easy so far, especially with guys.

For example: Recently I brought up, to my friend Henry, the fact that women often add verbal qualifiers or present themselves as more hesitant through indirect statements. To my surprise, Henry responded by telling me he never noticed this.


Initially, I was frustrated. I thought to myself: If someone, like Henry, who is well-educated and actually believes in feminism doesn’t get it, how would other men understand the frustration women have to go through every single day, just for being women? I continued to share with Henry some specific difficulties that I’ve experienced, like going into the weight room and taking up physical space, or allowing myself to take up intellectual space in the classroom. As I shared, I slowly began to realize that Henry not only never noticed this trend in women’s behavior, he had also never had this kind of conversation with a woman. What I was sharing was new to him.

Privilege is invisible to those who have it. Most men do not actively choose to be ignorant or sexist. It is socialization perpetuated by our patriarchal system. It is masculine socialization that has ingrained in men from a very young age the idea that they are entitled to public space around them. When male entitlement is compounded with white privilege, socio-economic privilege, and other forms of privilege, an amplification of this privilege and entitlement is formed. Therefore, we often see men taking up more space than women in different settings without even noticing it.

If you are a man and reading this, take a second and reflect: Do you manspread on the bus? Have you ever dominated a classroom discussion or taken up a lot of physical space at a party? Call on other men to listen when you notice that they are interrupting or talking over. Pick up a feminist book, educate yourself on these issues.

I understand that it is not women’s job to teach men to recognize their privilege. Nonetheless, sharing your personal struggles with your male friends could expose them to how we live in a patriarchal society.

Black + Woman

With approximately 8 followers, 3 tweets, and 1 like – I am proud to announce that yesterday I officially joined Twitter! Well, rejoined. Technically, this is my third Twitter account in 5 years… But my first account is overcrowded with my conservative former classmates (thanks Texas) and my second account follows every celebrity I’ve ever loved (I had a phase). So really, creating this account was a declaration of my existence as a woke, educated, black feminist ready to officially join the world of Black Twitter.

Preparing to be empowered and inspired, I spent the evening researching recommended Twitter accounts for news, music, black feminism, activism, healthcare, black comedians, sports updates, politics, and small puppies (childish, but look how cute he is).

So, this morning I logged on to my twitter to scroll my feed. Ready to be inundated by black women, liberal news sources, and cute puppy memes. I was not disappointed.

Scrolling my feed, one of the first thing that came up was an image of a black man and his daughter. I loved it already! The post was for a start up short film about a black dad and his daughter. I read the reply tweets, which praise this short film for the strides that it takes towards representation, self-pride, hair positivity, visibility of black fathers, etc.

And I am so here for it! In a society that promotes Eurocentric beauty standards and whitewashed mainstream media, many young people of color struggle in their own affirmation. When I was young, I believed that my hair was most beautiful when it was pin-straight. Many black people are working to shift that narrative so that black girls and black boys see real images of themselves in the media. This cartoon is definitely doing that.

But as I watched the video my feelings for the film became a bit more conflicted. The creator of the film explains that “the short film tells the story about a young, African American father who has never done his daughter’s hair before. And he tries to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.” Mind you, the girl looks to be about 5 years old. Now, hold on…

So you mean to tell me, this baby girl has been around for a least 4 years (if I’m being generous) and this is the first time her daddy is touching her hair…

4 years …


So, while we are praising this man for finally tending to his child, are we going to talk about the tireless hours that some other parental (presumably female) figure has spent toiling with the daughter’s beautifully managed afro?

The thing is, I am in no way criticizing this film because I think it reflects a very real narrative not only in black household, but in all households. A narrative in which women are responsible for the reproductive labor, the children and the home, and men are held almost entirely unaccountable (so long as they are “bringing home the bacon”). This expectation generally holds true regardless of if the mother has her own career, dreams, goals, aspirations.

This is not a criticism of men and the effort that they do or don’t put into raising their children, but I want to call to attention the subtlety of misogyny in our daily lives that perpetuates and reinforces our existing patriarchal system. If we continue to accept the societal expectation that reproductive labor falls on the backs of women, we will never reach the liberation and equity that we seek.

I wanted to reply to the post on Twitter, but I didn’t because I did not want to offend the creator of this film or any black men with similar experiences. But I am glad that I decided to write this post. This week we discussed intersectionality in Moxie, and this for me epitomizes my intersectionality as a black woman. I will continue to champion and applaud efforts to liberate black people from the oppression of racism, but in doing so I cannot abandon my existence as a woman and my duty to fight against sexism. Approaching social justice from a black feminist framework affirms my identity and existence and condemns not just one but all forms of structural oppression.

And for the record, it is my every intention to see and share this short film when it is released.

Brief Words of Retrospection

The Moxies have officially approached the final week of the program. We survived, y’all. We survived the mind-bending, self-reflecting, radically-charged summer that we were all eagerly waiting to begin. I say “survived” not because this program was painstakingly difficult, but rather because we were on a non-stop rollercoaster ride that consisted of thorough confrontation with issues that are not always talked about in the oftentimes, impermeable Duke bubble. We discussed many, many things.

And if you’ve been keeping up with this year’s Moxie blogs, you’d know that we were consistently questioning the status quo and invited to acknowledge how:

  1. Our choices as consumers are leading to health issues amongst young adults on the other side of the world.
  2. Gender-based violence is fostered by a patriarchal system that socializes boys to be boys.
  3. Our negligence towards identity acceptance is killing queer people.
  4. Our justice system criminalizes poverty and race in the name of justice.

I can go on and on with this list, but in an effort to avoid laundry listing every single issue present on the face of planet earth, I’m keeping it brief. I was relatively familiar with these issues prior to beginning this program. However, I was not yet convinced that I could help in moving the world towards a more socially just future. Just when I was ready to watch the world burn (theoretically speaking), my acceptance to the Moxie program gave me that glimmer of hope that I needed to keep fighting the good fight. From reading feminist and social justice frameworks that are crucial to understanding our society, to working alongside resilient, and inspiring individuals at National Domestic Workers Alliance, my experiences this summer have provided me with yet more tools to critique the status quo and to see how I can do my part in practicing social justice in my life.

It’s a bit bittersweet to see our summer as Moxies coming to an end. But while our adventures end here, the knowledge we gathered this summer will be ever-present. And like every other cliché ending, I am inspired to say that this is not the end. It is simply the beginning to seeing the world with a fresh pair of eyes that -thanks to the Moxie Project- have been trained to re-examine what we think we know about the world and keep questioning the information we take as truth.

Movie night with Jenn

On Sunday night, Jenn and I watched the 1999 teen film called 10 Things I Hate About You starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. After researching the film, I learned that it was loosely based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew (I haven’t read the play so I won’t be discussing it). Throughout the movie, I was interested in the comparison between the two main women characters, Kat and Bianca. Kat is a strong, independent, and confident woman who doesn’t like to do what people expect of her. In contrast, her sister Bianca is self-absorbed and “girly”, and beautiful. The two are basically polar opposites.

Girls who don’t conform to norms, whether it be through clothing or style, are seen as crazy and weird. Kat is the one everyone hates, but throughout the movie she is just being herself. She is not trying to be controlled by patriarchal forces that try and hold her back. A good example of this force would be her father. Kat finds out she gets accepted to Sarah Lawrence and her father immediately tells her she is not going because it is too far and he would be unable to keep an eye on her. What I find interesting is that Kat has such strong actions against these patriarchal forces, but in the end the forces seem to win. In typical romantic movie fashion, the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. In the beginning, I liked how adamant she was about her beliefs, but then she got hypocritical towards the end. This movie had so much potential to highlight feminism to a young teen audience, but instead men won once again.

Before Moxie, I believe I would not have noticed the influence of the patriarchy. Pre-moxie Taylor would have watched the movie, shut off her computer and fell asleep without giving it a second thought. I know my basic analysis is not as deep as it could be, but it shows the improvement I have made in identifying and analyzing issues in feminism.

(I hope I didn’t spoil the movie so that, if you’re interested, you’ll check it out on Netflix!)

So this is goodbye…

Well folks, it’s been real. In just 3 days, my entire Moxie summer will be coming to an end.

Crazy, right? It’s been a wild summer, filled with feminist theory, stress, hard work, empowerment, some more stress, and a lot of self-reflection. I’ve learned so much from my site, Queens Family Justice Center, on what it means to be, or provide services that are, “trauma informed”. I also got to work with an AMAZING team at QFJC (if you all are reading this, I’m going to miss you!). In addition to this, I got to brush up on some feminist theory and was able to be in a group of wonderful women who took the time to challenge me and the theories I’m so used to reading as a part of my major. Outside of this, living in a diverse, fast-paced place like New York really allowed me to engage with my work and my academics on a personal level that I will always find valuable. Leaving this place, this program, this group is going to be tough.

Now that I’ll be going back to Durham, and in a short month start school all over again, I wonder how I could transfer all that I’ve learned back to North Carolina. I guess I’ll figure it out slowly, day by day as school gets closer and closer on my radar. What Moxie has taught me won’t go unremembered. If anything, it’ll make my Duke experience so much more meaningful and fulfilling. Hopefully, I’ve been able to provide the same positive experiences for my sites, and for the people I’ve worked with.

So long, farewell

I can’t believe that it is almost time to say goodbye to all of my Moxies, New York, and Sanctuary for Families. The summer has absolutely flown by, just as I was starting to get used to the constant noise that can be heard from my 12th floor apartment, the phrase “on line” instead of “in line,” and the non-stop references to Manhattan as “the” city (as if there were no other cities of importance).

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My time with the Moxies has reaffirmed that it is not easy to talk about race, gender, sexuality, or any aspects of systematic oppression. I think it will always be hard. But, the act of practicing these dialogues can go a long way in allowing yourself to try to sort through issues that you might otherwise suppress in your mind. Moxie will give you the vocabulary, space, and time to do so. Although at times I just wanted to talk about what I had for breakfast rather than the prison industrial complex, I appreciated the way in which this program pushed me to be more comfortable discussing – and pushing back against – unfamiliar or difficult subjects. For me, the most frustrating part of the program was not this initial discomfort, but rather the absence of solutions. At times, this absence made me feel that maybe no solutions existed, and I had to encourage myself to see past the initial pessimism.

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I think what I’ll miss the most is the common language that the Moxies all speak. When attempting to explain to my family and friends the difference between solidarity and charity, I realized that these conversations are so hard to have outside of Moxie because people are coming at these different issues from such different backgrounds, level of exposure, experiences, etc without the same base. It can often be daunting to even graze the surface of deeper conversation, but I’m excited to see how I’ll apply what I’ve learned this summer to the rest of my time at Duke.

In Loving Memory of (TBD)


On Monday, July 10th, my Moxie group attended a screening of the documentary film, Whose Streets?, a film that provides an inside look into the Ferguson, MO Riots. First and foremost, I’d like to state that this documentary is coming to theaters August 11th, 2017, and that it is well worth the watch (regardless of your opinion of Ferguson, MO, Michael Brown Jr, or the Black Lives Matter movement). The film provides an inside-look into the riots from the Ferguson citizens’ perspective, and highlights how the death of Michael Brown Jr. (may he rest in peace) catalyzed the Ferguson community to fight for their rights. Whose Streets? does an incredible job of removing the media-biased information from the riots, while showcasing the positive change that the riots incited, not only in the Ferguson community, but across the United States.


Edward Crawford

What makes Whose Streets? so special, is its ability and willingness to listen to the community’s perspective. Rather than criticizing or condemning the community for their activistic actions (whether peaceful or violent), the directors make the effort to question what brought the community to exhibit those actions in the first place. This is a lesson we ALL need to learn, regardless of the situation. As a tutor in Durham, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that, if children are being difficult in the classroom, it’s not because they don’t want to learn, it’s because they can’t learn. Children might be facing difficulties at home (abuse, neglect, stress, anxiety, lack of food, general worries, etc.) or difficulties in the classroom (anxiety, lack of sleep, learning barriers, etc.) that cause them to act out, in an effort to avoid learning. As a DukeEngage participant, and a Moxie, the same rules apply. If you’re trying to engage in service work (perhaps building schools in rural areas) and the target community isn’t responding, you shouldn’t assume the target community isn’t interested. Rather, you should be wondering what’s preventing them from either being able to respond or wanting to respond. This is solidarity. This is positive change. This is what we need to apply to every interaction we face, every service we provide, and every civil unrest we see.

Darren Seals

The Ferguson riots were not about the burning or the stealing that the media liked to portray, just like an inability to learn is not a disinterest in learning. Instead, this is about a cycle of behavior that reproduces violence. Over and over, we see an overstepping of police enforcement in targeted communities, that results in the abuse and death. In response, targeted communities speak up and fight back, which insights (unfortunately) more police enforcement, and starts the cycle all over again. Whose Streets highlights the importance of how attitudes and perspectives can really change if we dare to take a step back and see the entire picture. If we want to make any difference, claim that we’re an activist, or believe ourselves to be good people, the first thing we need to do is take a step back, educate ourselves, and listen.

Deandre Joshua 

In loving memory of Michael Brown Jr., Tamir Rice, Amadou Diallo, Manuel Loggins Jr, Ronald Madison, Kendra James, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, those who I failed to mention, and those who I cannot mention yet.

Empowerment Through Clothing Style

I had never given much thought to why I preferred to dress “comfortable” or in baggy clothes. Ever since I was a child, I specifically chose clothes that were big on me and avoided clothes that had pink or purple in them. Growing up I loved to play sports, first it was football, and then it was basketball. When I played football with my cousins, I wouldn’t mind diving for the ball and landing on the ground because being covered in dirt did not phase me. I took pride in the scars and bruises I had, whether it be from falling off my bike or a scrape from sliding on my knees. One moment sticks out to me when I think of my preferred style and how it relates to our recent moxie week on girl’s empowerment.

During picture day in elementary school, it must’ve been 4th or 5th grade, I wanted to wear my Dallas Cowboys jersey. The Dallas Cowboys are my favorite sports team and I’ve been a dedicated fan since I was born.NFL football nfl dallas cowboys cowboys GIF

I distinctly remember at the time that I was nervous to wear my Cowboys jersey because it wasn’t normal. Girls always dressed nice, in a dress or a skirt and curled their hair, but I wanted to wear my jersey. I didn’t want to be restricted by a dress and I thought my picture would be cooler than my classmates. Reflecting on it now, I was nervous because this was not the norm. I believe that this relates to the theme of our 6th week of Moxie, when we spoke about girl’s empowerment. At a young age, even though I was not aware of it, I decided to not be restricted by my gender norms, and decided to wear what I wanted. I felt empowered at a young age and attribute that to my success in both school and sports. I’m not saying that girls dressing how they want is the only type of empowerment, but for me it worked. Exploring gender roles is a normal part of growing up, but I feel that it was acceptable for me to explore while it may not be the same for boys. I feel that empowerment for girls can often be hindered by what they’re expected to do or wear, but along with freedom to develop as they wish helps shape a strong and confident woman.

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From Domestic Work to Domestic Slavery

As I was browsing through my newsfeed on Facebook yesterday afternoon, I came
across a video shared by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, my site placement for the summer. The video highlighted the powerful story of a domestic worker from the Philippines named Judith. In the video, Judith shares the abuse, hunger, and injustice she faced as a human trafficking victim working as a domestic worker for a diplomat in the United States. The experiences Judith shares to the public, as both a domestic worker and a survivor of human trafficking, are not uncommon. In fact, the video points out that, “Domestic workers face some of the highest human trafficking rates in the U.S.” Today, as part of the Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Judith now helps human trafficking victims escape their situations. But for each domestic worker who manages to escape, there are many more who are still exploited and silenced.

Because domestic work is undervalued and unregulated, domestic workers are more likely to be victims of human trafficking and eventually end up in a situation that resembles slavery rather than work. These conditions are as equally pervasive around the world as they are here in the United States. But this is the case in the U.S. because domestic workers have been historically excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, an act that is supposed to protect the rights of the employers and the employed. The NLRA was established in 1935, and when we consider the history of the NLRA, we learn that the 1935 Congress strategically left out agricultural and domestic workers- two labor sectors with predominantly African American workers.

Our United States government has historically disenfranchised individuals because of the color of their skin, and this is still being perpetuated to this day. We are left with the appendages of faulty legislation that was created on the foundations of racist beliefs; and while we can’t go back and erase history, we can look forward and work towards the inclusion of historically marginalized individuals by fixing this exact faulty legislation. It is by organizing and allowing voices such as Judith’s to be heard that we can start to raise consciousness and give light to issues that we may not automatically think are pervasive in the United States.

Reimagining Right and Wrong

As Norma discussed in her most recent post, we recently had the privilege of attending a screening of the powerful documentary Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four last week. Following the film was a conversation with members of F2L, a NYC-based group of individuals doing support work for queer and trans people of color facing time in the state prison system. Their insight both complemented and challenged the film, inviting sustained dialogue on the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and policing. One of the volunteers highlighted the documentary’s emphasis on innocence: as a viewer, it is easy to support the cause of four women who are “innocent” and to lament their “wrongful imprisonment.” But what if we instead proclaim that all imprisonment is inherently wrong? What if we reject the so-called criminal justice system in its entirety and dare to radically reimagine a world without prisons?

I have been circling back to these thought provoking comments throughout the last two weeks, as themes of criminalization and policing continue to emerge in our readings and engagement activities. Two particular works (which we viewed as enrichment events) have left me grappling with notions of innocence, guilt, and the hyper-criminalization of people of color: the play Pipeline and the film Moonlight.

Pipeline is a new play written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz. The work is centered on Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, and her teenage son Omari. As the play unfolds, we learn that Omari has gotten into a physical altercation with a teacher at his elite private school upstate, where his mother had sent him in pursuit of better opportunities. Another student recorded the interaction, and the school is threatening to expel Omari in addition to pressing criminal charges.

Moonlight is an award-winning (Best Picture!!!) 2016 coming-of-age film written and directed by Barry Jenkins that was adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” The story is told through three stages in the life of the main character, represented by his three names: Little, Chiron, and Black. It chronicles his struggles with his identity, sexuality, and childhood abuse. While Moonlight deals less explicitly with the school-to-prison pipeline, themes of crime and criminalization underlay the film. After neighborhood bully Terrel coerces Chiron’s friend and love interest, into brutally beating him, Chiron returns to the classroom and strikes Terrel over the head with a chair. He is arrested and sent to juvenile detention.

In both works, the audience gains insight into the mindset of the individual committing the the “crime.” We see not only their singular act of violence, but also their entire lives. Omari and Chiron are both guilty in the technical sense–both physically assaulted another individual in the classroom. But in knowing their stories, their struggles, their reasons for being pushed to violence, the viewer cannot help but be overwhelmed with empathy (to the point that many audience members started cheering when Chiron struck Terrel). When we cast aside the learned stereotypes of black boys as men, as violent, as animalistic, as criminal, and instead recognize them as individuals fighting for their humanity in a society that constantly and creatively seeks to deny it, even the “guilty” are worthy of love. When we acknowledge the complex and layered reasons that these boys were pushed to act violently, imprisonment no longer feels like an acceptable answer.