Digital humanities dissident, Moya Bailey, has sculpted a yellow brick road in cyberspace for women of color. This summer she will travel to Detroit, along with her collective, Shawty Got Skillz, to conduct a three-hour workshop at the 14th annual Allied Media Conference. As the ‘founder and co-conspirator’ of Quirky Black Girls, blogger for the Crunk Feminist Collective, and graduate student, it’s amazing she even had time to squeeze us in for an interview (virtual, of course). I asked Moya to share more about her skill share, their objectives, and her cosmic digital endeavors.
First off, how did Shawty Got Skillz get started?
Nadia Jasmine, who worked for the Allied Media Conference in 2009, had a vision for radical women of color teaching each other skills and having their own space at the conference. The first skill share included mapping of radical women of color online community and discussions of blogging.
How has the collective evolved since its inception?
In 2010, Shawty Got Skillz was renamed and reborn to focus more specifically on building analog and tech skills among women of color. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Zachari Curtis and I organized this skillshare that included nearly 20 skillsharers and over 100 participants. The legacy continues this year as Zachari and I have returned to co-curating the space along with Jessica Johnson and Adaku Utah. Together we are organizing 12 Shawties to get to the AMC and we’ve expanded our language to be representative of who we are and what we value.
What are the goals for Shawty Got Skillz at the Allied Media Conference this year?
The skill share we’re leading is for radical trans women, trans*, non-binary and genderqueer folks and cis women of color that reminds us that we have the skills we need to thrive. In addition to always making room for analog and digital skills at the conference, this year we brainstormed where we wanted SGSZ to go. We want to expand SGSZ into regional capacity building, particularly for areas like the South. We made specific asks of the skills we wanted Shawties to bring, like skills that help build pirate/alternative infrastructure such as making a Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone. We are well on our way!
Since the collective is comprised of people from various places, is most of the conference preparation done virtually, individually?
Yes! We do most of our work collaboratively through Google docs and conference calls. We’ve even done some Skyping to digital meet collaborators who haven’t met before. This year, thanks to Zachari, we’ve done a much better job of documenting our process so next year, a whole new group of folks interested in making the skill share happen can be in the lead. We believe that we can forestall issues of top down leadership by making our work really transparent and inviting folks in to take on leadership roles. Adaku saw the work we were doing and wanted to come aboard and with a clearer picture of what roles people can play, it made for an easy and amazing integration!
As a digital humanities maven, how do you manage your various digital identities? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by technology? And if so, how do you retreat?
I love this question! Yes I do feel overwhelmed! The skill I’ll be sharing at the skillshare addresses this exactly because it’s something I struggle with. My skill proposal reads, “Do you feel like social media is taking over your life? Too many statuses to check? Too many things to update? I’ll show you how to cut the confusion and unnecessary noise with tools that help streamline and automate your social web.” I sometimes (not enough) take breaks from the computer where I limit my interaction with technology. It’s tough though. This question is a reminder that I need to be more diligent about computer free time!
How do you think digital media is shaping the visibility of LGBTQ women of color?
The power of digital media is amazing! I think about the kinds of stories that can be told and shared so much more readily now. Shows like The Peculiar Kind and even Between Women can reach people and offer so much support and insight for folks who are isolated. I also think about YouTube videos of trans* people of color documenting their transitions and experiences and exposing folks to a vast network of resources that folks would have had difficulty access before. I’m also interested in how this digital media can create powerful and timely criticism. I’m just remembering what happened when I and others wrote an open letter to Awkward Black Girl writers about the use of a transmisogynist slur, ableist and heterosexist jokes, we got a response and had a lot of blogs who don’t normal check for LGBTQ issues talking. Digital media makes call and response much quicker!
With your digital work, how do you intentionally make room for all your various identities? Or does that come organically?
It actually comes organically! Early on in the days of Quirky Black Girls, a social network I started with Alexis, straight Black women expressed admiration of the smooth integration of queerness into quirkiness. I think it wasn’t integrated but always at the center, which is why it feels so seamless. The network is for all self identified quirky black girls, but as a queer quirky black girl it’s been natural to have that center.
What would you like to see more of on the internet, what would you like to see less of?
I’d like to see more digital media, work, and art, that is imaginative about the future and the world we want. I think we can very easily talk about what we don’t want, but I’d love for us to get to what we already do!
*Photo of Moya was taken by Tabia “Teka Photography” Parker