The Road to the Ph.D. and Stories of Black Women Who Have Endured
Edited By Cherrel Miller Dyce and Toni Milton Williams
Chapter 5. Invisible Woman: A DIVA Seizing Visibility (Toni Milton Williams)
5. Invisible Woman: A DIVA Seizing Visibility Toni MilTon WilliaMs Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility. — Ralph Ellison I was sitting on my front porch enjoying the warmth of the mid-morning sun massaging my arms and legs while I was on the phone with Cherrel, a fellow doctoral student who had recently completed her PhD. While we spoke I was reminded of the nightmare and degradation that I had experienced as a Black woman in the academy. Nonetheless, I utilized this experience to navigate my way through the completion of my doctoral program. Cherrel and I were dis- secting my comprehensive exam experience. The comprehensive exam is one of many capstones in the doctoral process. It is a written and oral examination required of all doctoral students who have completed coursework with the next step resulting in designing a pilot study. I had to retake the oral exam because I had failed. I was left defeated and feeling as though I did not belong in the (White) academy. I felt invisible. Up to this point in my academic career, I negotiated and enacted iden- tities with which I was not always comfortable. Glenn (2012) recounts, “we often receive conflicting messages from varying sources about who we are, who we are becoming and who we should be” (p....
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