Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out
Chapter One: A Praisesong for Johnnie
← 8 | 9 →CHAPTER I
RUTH NICOLE BROWN
I want you to know and remember Johnnie Summerset.
Johnnie Summerset, deejay, father, husband, veteran, educator, and my first cousin died at 33 years of age after fighting cancer for the third time. In this chapter, I present A Praisesong for Johnnie, a performance I wrote about his life and our relationship. I first performed this praisesong at the Independent Media Center in Urbana, Illinois, as a part of a public performance associated with my research on Black girlhood (Brown, 2014). Following the praisesong, I discuss what I learned from the experience of performing it. Notably, performing my cousin’s praisesong allowed me to teach two lessons. First, when I show up, so too does my cousin. Second, sometimes what I have to teach and learn is more than academic. Cynthia Dillard (2012) instructs, “praisesongs can be used to celebrate or affirm triumph over adversity, bravery, and courage both in life and death” (p. 7). A Praisesong for Johnnie was my intervention into the gapping pause grief conjures and allowed me to go on. I felt more concerned for the world he left behind and more certain that I myself could continue on this journey living with greater integrity by wholly accepting and sharing more of myself as I know myself to be, Johnnie’s little cousin. A Praisesong for Johnnie is but one more example from which to address the role of extra-academic labor Black women professors such as myself so often perform. To...
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