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Black Women Speaking From Within

Essays and Experiences in Higher Education


Edited By Kelly K. Hope

In Black Women Speaking From Within: Essays and Experiences in Higher Education, contributors use intersectional and interdisciplinary lenses to share the ways in which they understand, navigate, resist, and transform student services, learning, teaching, and existing in the academy. This book explores and discusses the following question: How do Black women experience and perceive place and agency in higher education? Black Women Speaking From Within draws upon the influence organizational culture, sense-making, and sisterhood has on praxis and pedagogy and places the Black woman’s stories and experiences at the center of the conversation.

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Chapter 8: Sisterly Personal Narratives From Two Black Sisters in the Academy (Robin Phelps-Ward / Erin K. Phelps)


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Chapter 8: Sisterly Personal Narratives From Two Black Sisters in the Academy


Figure 8.1: Picture of Robin Phelps-Ward Holding Erin Phelps in 1993, Photographer: Janice and David Phelps ← 93 | 94 →

The above picture is the epitome of our relationship as sisters and co-authors of this chapter. The two of us have a sisterly bond that is indescribable, unrestricted, and full of humor and love. That same humor, love, and sisterhood has supported us as we both navigate the challenges of the academy from two different social, institutional, and academic locations (Erin, as a doctoral student in sociology at a small, private, very high research institution in the Midwest, and Robin as an early tenure-track assistant professor in higher education and student affairs at a large, public, very high research institution in the Southeast—both predominantly white institutions).

Though we are fortunate to be able to identify with and consistently turn to our family for support, we understand that this is not the case for everyone. We recognize that access to kinship networks, sister circles (Croom, Beatty, Acker, & Butler, 2017), or a familial sister as a source of support, information, and mentorship is not a reality for all black womyn. In fact, given the sociopolitical climate that excludes, tokenizes, stereotypically characterizes, exploits, and ultimately harms black womyn at every turn (Commodore, Baker, & Arroyo, 2018; Patton &...

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