Sunday, September 20, 2009


PROMISES Blog, September 6, 2009

Asha’s invitation came quickly and repeatedly: “I have something to
celebrate! Let’s meet up for a potluck tonight” was the message in my
Facebook account, voicemail, and text screen. A collection of about
twelve of us sat around her kitchen table and couches until after midnight
playing Uno and a Battle of the Sexes game – and talking trash. Whether
the party began with Brian’s wisecracks, Robert’s tight-fisted control of
dealing cards, or Lenisa’s over-enthusiasm playing Uno for the first time,
it ended with Tina throwing in her hand and literally knocking cups,
plates, and cards off the table. Laughter. Hard. With tears. And, hugs
like relatives you may see once or twice a year.

Our connection is PROMISE. At a retreat one year, I joked about the
family I had made from the membership and complained about crazy brothers
and irritating sisters. But these are the people that helped me celebrate
a monumental birthday, who grilled me to prepare for my comp exams and
sent inspirational texts during exam time, who prayed with me, who, when
my car Goldie died, helped me select Iona, the Saturn Ion that I named to
keep my “eyes on” the prize, who helped me move, who set up my dvd player
and printer, who frisked my last boyfriend during introductions, and who
remind me that I know something important and it must be put down on
paper. These are imperfect partners: I have given advice on women that
was not heeded, endured arguments for entertainment value, wasted time in
a mental feud with someone whose valued abilities are opposite mine – and
gained an ally when we realized our skills complement one another. These
are people who I can count on, and despite what some of my adopted little
brothers think, being thoughtful and dependable is an attractive – sexy,
even – trait that smart women appreciate.

Last night, somewhere before Alexis’ cha-cha demonstration and after Asha
brought out a cake to celebrate Angela’s birthday, I mentioned I was no
longer working as a graduate assistant with PROMISE. The group was
surprised. I’d already gotten a Facebook message asking why I wasn’t
answering the phone at the office. For five years, I guess I was a fixture
at the door, greeting people as they came in, helping to plan events, and
showing up for nearly every activity. I could recall where I’d met each of
them: Robert on the bus during our first trip to Coolfont, Alexis as part
of an Outward Bound team during the same Coolfont retreat, Asha at one of
the PROMISE end-of-year picnics, Tina during Summer Success Institute,
Barbara and Johonna on the first day of Dr. Mary Helen Washington’s
African American Literature seminar, Brian during a PROMISE mentor
meeting, Ranetta during the Grad Student of Color Welcome Reception,
Lenisa after a poetry reading the Black Graduate Student Association held,
and Angela at one of BGSA’s many potlucks at Ric Winston’s house. No one
is indispensable, but after years doing one of my favorite duties –
writing features for our newsletter, A PROMISE To Keep – I realized an
invaluable lesson. Promises are fluid and not static.

During lunch at the National Harbor last Sunday, a dear sister-friend,
Jennifer, gleefully shared that she completed a contract to teach in
Ethiopia beginning in January. It was her impetus to finish and defend her
dissertation. I met Jenn through PROMISE as well, and our bond was
cemented during the Coolfont retreat, once we realized that we shared
poetry, teaching, mentoring black girls, and African American Literature
in common.
My immediate reaction was both sad and supportive. My feelings were the
same when I left working for PROMISE. I loved the mission and the work
that I had done, but a chapter was closing and it was time for me to move
forward. Holding tightly to what is can cost us the things that can be.
It is like settling for silver when you could have had gold. When I left
my family and career to live in a strange land on student loans, I created
a new life. It is never easy giving up the familiar, and maybe I have
gotten comfortable with having my support system in tact. I will miss my
sister-friend and others who have and will graduate and move on.
Truthfully, in PROMISE we have had practice in our goodbyes and in our
standing together, family-style, throughout them.

Just a couple of months ago, several of us met to stand with Asha after
her son Sekai’s death. That time our hugs were in support and when our
eyes met, our expressions said “I am glad to see you because I value your
life”. Asha writes about Sekai to honor his life in her own blog at

PROMISE is an organization developed
to prepare us for academic and career success. But, embedded in its
beginnings and threaded throughout it, promise has been our verb – our
active feeling for one another and our response to each other. The
co-principle investigators could not have predicted how far our
relationship to one another would extend or how far the returns would go.
Whether we are STEM or NON-STEM, with everything or nothing in common, the
bonds of PROMISE remain.

Sent to PROMISE from "WordSmith" - PROMISE@University of Maryland College Park

September 6, 2009

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PROMISE Community Building - A Place for Graduate Students.

PROMISE: Maryland's Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) seeks to increase the numbers and diversity of Ph.D.s in the STEM fields by building community and supporting graduate students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Here, we salute the spirit of PROMISE!
Click one of the tabs at the top: "Home" to see the main blog site with all posts, "Retreats" to see more information about the Community Building Retreats for grad students, and "PROMISE Videos" to see some videos from the PROMISEagep YouTube Channel. Other topics and pages will be added as the blog site grows.