Lyman Report: Lashon Daley

04 Sep, 2021

Lyman Report: Lashon Daley

Lashon Daley receieved the 2021 Lyman Fellowship. The Peter Lyman Graduate Fellowship in New Media, established in the memory of esteemed UC Berkeley Professor Peter Lyman, provides a stipend to a UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate to support the writing of his or her Ph.D. dissertation on a topic related to new media. The fellowship is supported by donations from Professor Barrie Thorne, Sage Publications and many individual friends and faculty.

Here's what Daley said about the experience:

I am grateful to have won the 2021 Peter Lyman Research Fellowship, which granted me not only the opportunity to concentrate on writing my dissertation this summer, but also gave me the time and financial stability to complete my dissertation. In the summers prior to winning the award, I would elect to teach “Performance, Television, and Social Media” under one of my advisors, Gail De Kosnik. Summer teaching provided me with a summer work schedule and allowed me to continue to engage with some of the concepts that I was working through in my research. This course was a good pairing for me. While I was looking forward to teaching this course again, it was at the beginning of the spring semester that I realized that I was finally ready to complete my research and possibly complete my dissertation. Applying for the fellowship and opting out of summer teaching was the necessary catalyst that helped me to prioritize the writing of my dissertation.

By the time I was notified that I won the fellowship in March, I was three chapters away from completing my dissertation. The notification jump started my desire to complete a full draft knowing that I would have an entire summer to simply focus on my work. If I wanted to have a full draft of my dissertation by the end of summer, I would need to outline my final three chapters, finalize my literature review for each chapter, and view all of the mediated objects that I was going to discuss in these chapters. I would also need time to re-read each chapter and provide a schedule for my dissertation committee members that would allow them to provide me with feedback. In May, when my time as the 2021 fellow officially started, I was on schedule to write appromixately 30,000 to 40,000 words towards completing my dissertation. This resulted in about 400 to 450 words a day. This would guarantee that my final month would be spent reviewing and editing. However, without the additional labor of teaching, I was able to write Peter Lyman Fellowship Report twice as many words per day and surpass my own expectations. The fellowship and time spent writing allowed me to complete chapters two, four and five in record timing.

In chapter two, “Raged Upon: The Disappearance of Judy Winslow,” I focused on the disappearance of the character Judy Winslow from the 1990s sitcom Family Matters. Judy’s disappearance was the first of its kind for a Black girl lead character and so I spent a lot of my research time diving deep into the internet fandom about the show. In this chapter, I recorded and theorized the nuances of Judy Winslow’s representation of Black girlhood, in part, because of the popularity of Family Matters, but also because, without this record, Judy’s portrayal on the show would continue to be misunderstood, not only by fans, but also by those who undervalue the importance of having diverse representations of Black girlhood in popular media. It was through the subjecthood of Judy Winslow that I explored how Black girls are pushed out of their homes, often disappearing from their family’s lineage, and leaving a kind of apparition in the familial spaces where they were once raged upon.

When writing chapter four, “All the Rage: Black Ballerinas Rupturing the Color Line in American Children’s Literature,” I spotlighted Misty Copeland and her award-winning children’s book Firebird (2014) in order to formulate how the Black female dancing body in biographical picture books defines what it means to be Black and female coming of (r)age in the world of ballet. I focused on how Copeland’s all-the-rage popularity spurred a desire for an increase of representation of Black ballerinas not only in ballet, but also within the industry of children’s literature. While I did prioritize Copeland’s Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird (2014) as the main source of evidence for my argument, I also supplemented my analysis using Michaela DePrince’s Ballerina Dreams: A True Story (2017), Debbie Allen’s Dancing in the Wings (2000), Michelle Meadow’s Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins (2019), and Kristy Dempsey’s A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (2014). I used this collection of five texts to help explore what dance scholar Thomas DeFrantz calls “collective subjectivities.” In his work, DeFrantz centers six African American dancers as the six pillars of connectivity: radicalizing to make space, vibrating alongside, attending to the margins, building a center, moving outside of the periphery, and theorizing an entirety of exchange. So in this chapter, I argued that Allen, Collins, Copeland, and DePrince built up and sustained themselves and each other in classical ballet.

In the last chapter I wrote during my time as the Lyman fellow, I concluded my dissertation by examining stereotypical representations of Black girls and Black women in the news. In chapter five, “Enraged: Imaging the ‘Black girl attitude’ and the ‘angry Black woman’ Tropes,” I pinpointed some of the most circulated images that abet these demeaning stereotypes. From the viral video of Shakara, the student slammed to the ground by her school’s resource officer, to the controversial cartoon of Serena Williams drawn by Mark Knight, I advocated for Black girls and women’s rights to access their emotions without shame or punishment.

As a result of the Lyman fellowship, I was able to focus my attention on completing my research and thus completing my dissertation. In addition, in completing my dissertation this summer, I was able to accept the academic position of my dreams. Without the Lyman fellow, I would have had a much more difficult time managing the many obligations I needed to complete. The fellowship helped propel my future forward. Thank you BCNM and the Peter Lyman Fellowship!