The Scholarly Sewist: A Chat with Reka Barton

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Find out more Reka Barton, The Scholarly Sewist

Her website




The Makings of the Scholarly Sewist

Reka’s HERstory: Women of Color Redefining Research event is THIS FRIDAY! Register here

Here are the WOC Scholars that are featured on the PhemmeD Publication Signature Tee

Dr. Sera J. Hernandez

Dr. Felicia V. Black

Dr. Melissa Vang

Dr. Darielle Blevins

Vanessa Falcón Orta




Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork  0:16

Hello stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please. The official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than twenty years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please Podcast. We are the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. And I am your host, Lisa Woolfork. Coming to you live, well not live, live-ish from Charlottesville, Virginia. I am so happy to be here today because we are speaking with Mr. Reka Barton, who is the creative genius behind the Scholarly Sewist. That's where you can find her handle the Scholarly Sewist on Instagram. And for those of you who might be familiar with the program. You know that I started sewing in graduate school. It was my stress release. It was something that could help me finish when my dissertation felt interminable, interminable and interminable-bubble. When the dissertation process felt interminable. It was nice to start with a piece of fabric and end up with a little tiny wallet or something. That process of transformation and completion really helped me to get me motivated to get through with the dissertation process. So well, that and having a baby, but mostly it was the sewing. And it's been such a great stress release for me. And so one of the things I was interested in talking about today with my wonderful guest, it really feels like having the guest that we have today, Miss Reka Barton, is going to tell us so many great things about what she is doing. How she did what I did - sewing in graduate school but elevating it into an entire lifestyle brand project. So welcome, Reka, thank you so much for being here.

Reka  4:08

Thank you so much for having me. This is such a pleasure. I've been watching you listening to the podcast, and it's amazing.

Lisa Woolfork  4:16

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. So before we began, y'all, we were just catching up a little bit. And I was like, Oh, you say you're at San Diego State but you're on the east coast; how that happen?  And then what did you say, Reka?

Reka  4:30

So I was born and raised in Virginia, Alexandria, Virginia, to be specific, but I went to the University of Virginia.

Lisa Woolfork  4:39

Which is where I am a professor, and y'all Reka was there the same time I was there. We just never intersected. How did that happen? So did you study? So tell me what are you studying currently at San Diego State?

Reka  4:55

Yes, so currently, I'm in my third year of my doctoral program and education. And so, my focus is brown and Black girls and their educational experiences. More specifically, looking at dual language education for Black students, I worked at a dual language school for six years. And just to see how the lack of black enrollment was in those programs, and to think I am a Spanish speaker, not quite fluent, but I am proficient, I held my own parent-teacher conferences, I travel, and can get around. So I know how valuable knowing another language is, so I really want that to be something that more Black students get to take advantage of, especially in public school programs.

Lisa Woolfork  5:46

Yes. I think that is so important. It feels as though one language, not that one language has ever been sufficient for anybody else outside of the US; I think very often that there are people in other countries who speak two languages by matter of principle. It's only in the US, as you know, we seem to enjoy holding on to really bad habits like racism. And so there's, I remember when I was coming up, there were these movements about "English Only" and "English First," and I'm like,Oh. It's just so perverse for a nation that's meant to be, in their own words, a democracy that brings in so many other people. And so fantastic, how wonderful for you. How wonderful for us, as a community, to have you advocating on behalf of increasing language proficiencies for Black and Brown students. I am also interested in you. You've gone through the third year, you're currently in your third year of your program. And for those of y'all who aren't familiar with how doctoral programs work, typically, when you begin, you start with almost like a master's level, general reading general focus. And then, as you start to go through toward the doctorate, that's when you really intensely focus. As a third-year student, how do you see yourself right now in that process? Or, is that how it works at San Diego State?

Reka  7:11

A little different with our program, you had to come in with your masters. So I actually did my undergrad and masters at the University of Virginia. I did my masters in elementary education in the Curry School. I then went to teach for ten years as a classroom teacher and then came back for my Ph.D. And my program has a social justice and equity, and education focus. At this point, in my third year, I'm actually finishing up coursework this semester, hoping to defend my proposal, at least by this summer, and then giving myself a year for data collection and writing. So if all goes well, I will be graduating in May 2022.

Lisa Woolfork  7:57

That is fantastic. Oh my goodness, Reka, that is so exciting. And I just love the way that you have mapped out this journey for yourself so well. And I wish you such amazing success with it. Tell me, how do you bridge the gap between your sewing and your graduate school life? How has that been for you? Does it work as a stress reliever, or is it something else?

Reka  8:24

That's a great question. I think anyone who has gone through this doctoral program, it has the tendency to take over your life. And so I think just being very strategic about mapping out time for myself. And so when I came in, I believe for anyone who is entering the program, find people who are further in the program than you they're going to give you the real lowdown, the good, the bad and the ugly. And just from being able to witness some amazing women of color do this before me. I saw some of them who were all into the books did nothing else. And then I saw some of them who were like yes, on Thursday nights, I go to my dance practice. And I always do this on Sunday. I just made sure to map out time for myself and sewing. You don't have to do it at the same time every week. You don't have to have a crew that you have to be accountable to. So sewing has definitely been a stress release reliever during this time. I definitely still don't do it as much as I feel like I want to. But it's always there. I pull out my fabric and think about my project, I try to do something weekly that's sewing-related. So even if I don't pull out the machine -  I'm going to pick up a new pattern. I'm going to cut out a pattern; I'm going to pick the fabric you know, deciding what you're going to use that pretty piece of fabric for sometimes takes the longest. I just make sure I'm engaging in some sewing practice for stress release and self-care.

Lisa Woolfork  10:05

That is absolutely wonderful.  What you describe to us is a type of sewing practice that you are engaged in right along with your academic practice and research and data collection and writing and assessment and that's really wonderful. What I appreciate about your story is sounds like you have this really beautifully braided project and by braided it seems like you're taking like a variety of strands and pulling them all together like promoting language learning for kids of color for Black and brown kids for your own process in your own journey through hat throughout higher education and then thinking about carving out time for yourself and understanding how important that is . Can you talk a bit about why it's important in your opinion to maintain a creative or arts practice while you are pursuing a higher education degree

Reka  11:03

Yes. I think it comes all so interwoven and braided because it really is me.  And I think it's so important to keep yourself during this journey. I do truly believe that if you do a doc program you will change: you will grow, you will be tested, you will learn so much more than content and theory, but you have to keep yourself. And so, I think of who I am at my core -  what are my essential guidelines for life, what truly makes me happy, and makes me feel that I'm living out my purpose.  I came to the realization that for me, that's teaching, traveling, and sewing. And that came when I made the move from Virginia to California.  Everyone calls me brave; I think I'm a little crazy; I had nothing. I didn't have a plan or an apartment, or a job, but I had a best friend in San Diego. And I said, how many weeks do I get on the couch? She said three months. I said let's go, and it was in that time of not having my own and the time of not having a job, not knowing my next step, that I went to the beach. I prayed.  I went to every fabric store in town. And really came up with who I am at my core - is teaching traveling, and sewing, and so whatever I do, those three things have to be a part of it.

Lisa Woolfork  12:40

That is so wonderful. You know, I really love that you have figured out at such an early stage of your career and development and growth what you need to be what you need to set yourself up for success. What you need and success seems like a weird phrase because I think we tend to think about success (at least I sometimes do) in the sense of,  you know, triumph or extraction.  Look, I succeeded by doing blah blah blah or achieving this goal, but it's also about what it means to live in your whole self and create ideal conditions for you to thrive.  And so, the teaching and sewing and travel these three things going together they actually work really well.  I just thought we have so much in common, which is hilarious because we've actually been to the same university and never ever set eyes on each other, so I felt a lot better when you said you were in Curry, like okay she wasn't deliberately avoiding me. I have the same like if I go for a conference or travel, or whatever, I always look for that.  I call them the two f's fabric and food. That is me - like wherever I go, I have got to get something good to eat that might be local to the place, and I have got to get some fabric. That's the best souvenir. It's a really great memory, so if I buy a piece of fabric from someplace and then I make something, like oh yeah I got this fabric in this place, and so it is like a fun little, it's like souvenirs you can make yourself when you buy fabric at a place.  Do you have a favorite or most surprising discovery that you have made on your travels?

Reka  14:38

I think the most surprising thing from traveling, and it brings back into the language piece because of my proficiency in Spanish; I'm able to go many places and just live.  I love the idea that I do surprise people with my proficiency, and so there's been so many times where someone local to the place will switch to English. And I'm like, no, it's okay. Like we can continue in Spanish. And it just makes the experience more authentic like, you don't have to switch for me, I want you to do you the way you would have done if it wasn't me, and really been able to have that space. My best friends are from El Salvador, they're native Spanish speakers, so I travel a lot with them. My other friend and travel group, they're all Black women, but we know, in the group of four of us, we know enough to get by. So there's someone who can at least order someone who can translate. I can get us through the majority of it. I'm able to be around women of color in these spaces, and really be authentic to the Spanish speaking country to the place we are. The surprise that comes but the way that I'm able to appear and live as my full bilingual self in these spaces has been the most surprising but the most rewarding.

Lisa Woolfork  16:09

That sounds so exciting, like you are like a built-in translator for your friend group. And I really love how when you are speaking with folks who are native speakers. You are meeting them where they are because it's their country is their native language. And you aren't like expecting that everywhere you go. And this is one of the I think a problem with Americans is expecting everybody everywhere we go to speak American, because that's just what we expect. And I think that is so short-sighted and, you know, just really problematic. And so it's really great to hear that in your work of paying attention to and respecting the places where you go. And that's such an important part of it. Tell me a bit about how you got started sewing. Did you grow up with this? Or is this something you acquired as an adult?

Reka  17:00

So my mother is the best sewist. She actually has a bachelor's in Fashion Merchandising, from Norfolk State, and

Lisa Woolfork  17:11

Oh my word. Wow.

Reka  17:13

She would tell me she has all these stories of all her being able to on Monday; her friend said they were going out that weekend. She buys the fabric on Monday,cuts the pattern on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, sews it, she's wearing Good Friday night.

Lisa Woolfork  17:29

Whoa, that is a woman after my own heart!

Reka  17:33

So she has these amazing stories and even in my life, seeing her have a creative idea and just going and execute it. So I think one of the coolest things was she made a photo quilt for both of my grandparents. So for my dad's parents, his picture was in the center, and then it spiraled out for his life through pictures and quilts. And she did the same for her mother. And so to see this growing up, I did learn how to sew very early, but I was not patient. So I would say I probably learned around seven or eight. But I did not want to use a pattern. I did not know how to cut straight. I just wanted to get done. But my mom would still at least keep me in the process. So she and I had matching outfits for Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.

Lisa Woolfork  18:29

Oh my goodness. If you follow Black Women Stitch on Instagram, you know that I am about that life, so.

Reka  18:38

And so that was my growing up. I would say I got back into it. Actually, after college during undergrad, I didn't even take my machine .I didn't time. I was partying, going to class, having fun being that 18 through 21 year old.

Lisa Woolfork  18:56

That's right, totally avoiding meeting me, continue.

Reka  19:01

We're gonna have to meet in real life, probably Owen grounds, too.

Lisa Woolfork  19:05

That's right.

Reka  19:08

So it was actually after college, and I attribute it to just having more downtime. I would come to my mom's house. I used to call her my apprentice and ask her the questions that I needed to make something. We would watch Project Runway, but I had a really hard year as an elementary school teacher. I was a great teacher, and great teachers usually get the students who have been labeled behavior concerns or behavior issues.

Lisa Woolfork  19:38

Yes, yes.

Reka  19:39

And I'm usually great with these students. However, this year, it was when I received all of the students labeled behavior concerns without the support that some of those students needed, in addition to me, and it really tore me down that year. And so I would go home. And I always thought it was so ironic that sewing is so relaxing because sewing is hard. There's numbers, measurements; there's time and patience. And you have to like critically think about things when they're going to flip around and turn. But when you're doing all this, you can't think of anything else. I'm no longer worried about the stress of school because I'm at my sewing machine. So it became my stress reliever then. And it got to a point where school was so hard; I wasn't sure if this is where I was supposed to be. I loved my school. It was a dual-language program. I'm in my hometown of Alexandria. I love the admin. I love my students and my co-workers. So I started an after-school sewing club. And that changed that year for me. So even if I had the worst day, eight 8 am to 3 pm. At 3:10, my students were coming in for sewing club. And in one year, my club grew from four students to twenty-four students. And it was amazing. It really changed what I thought about sewing; we're no longer just making a garment. We're problem-solving, we're building independence and confidence. And again, it was a dual-language school. Some of my native Spanish speakers who may have been shy to raise their hand in class are the ones on the machine, leave them alone, have the straightest hem, and are ready to go on to the next project. And some of my students who were monolingual English, white girls who usually get everything right are now faced with the challenge for the first time. And it was great to walk them through that. It's not that you can just do things that are easy; you can do hard things too. It just takes patience. And so the learning that I was able to give, but the reward was so much bigger. So that was probably my greatest sewing experience.

Lisa Woolfork  22:08

That sounds so fantastic. And what I really love to hear about it, Reka is how you, yourself, use sewing as a problem solver. So for example, you know, you were saying that even if you had a terrible day at school because things were so difficult. And you were working with students who had the admins may have had high admin high expectations for you to deliver results, but was not able to provide the support each student needed to get to that point. And that is absolutely frustrating. I firmly believe that teachers are too often under-resourced.  And rather than, you know, an admin or a school division, saying, hey, let's throw some money toward these students, let's make sure that these students have support that they need, let's make sure that the teachers have support that they need to do their jobs well. Instead, we'll just label people bad kids or label people bad teachers. And, that I think is very, very frustrating. And you were able to mitigate that type of harm by finding ways to support yourself. You know, like you say, If I'm having a rough day, I can come home and get on this machine, and I know I'll feel better, but then you took that and you transformed it for students as well. And I love to hear the description of students who might have struggled in one area of school thrive in sewing club; what do you attribute the big growth of that of going from four students to twenty-four?

Reka  23:40

It was different. So the other clubs that were being offered don't get me wrong, Garden Club is fun. Lego Club is fun. But it was the first of its kind. And so for students to actually be able to make something and take it with them. And then I implemented a fashion show down the hallway for our last class, and their parents came and just to see the pride in it. So students begin to talk to each other. And it became a really popular club, and so I did it for third through fifth graders. And we ended up having eight machines in the classroom, and those were donations from parents. Some of my former student's parents' admin bought my first two, so there was definitely support there. And the students loved it.

Lisa Woolfork  24:31

Shoot, I'm loving it, too. I'm wishing I could go. It sounds really exciting. Oh, let me ask this since you said you were in a language immersion school or a dual-language school. Did you do the sewing instruction in English and Spanish, or was it an English-only part?

Reka  24:45

It was actually became bilingual. So if a student came up to me and asked me a question in Spanish, I answered their question in Spanish. And I also had a wonderful one of my students took my club, and her mom was so interested and she volunteered to help me with the club. So, in turn, I taught her how to sew. And so she was a native Spanish speaker. So between the two of us, there wasn't anything we couldn't cover in either language. And I had to learn from her the actual terms in Spanish. So prior to Spanish club, I didn't need to know how to say fabric or needle in Spanish. But those were some of the things that came about in my own learning throughout having the club.

Lisa Woolfork  25:32

That is so funny because I grew up speaking Spanish, and don't test me now. It's not that great anymore. But I do. I had a lot of fluency in my younger years, teenage years, undergraduate years, and then I went to graduate school, and it was a Ph.D. program in English. And I feel like all my Spanish knowledge just dried up because of lack of practice. But something I have tried to keep up with is Spanish sewing terms. And there's a woman that I'm connected with on Instagram, named Macchina 37. And she is a bilingual artist, and she has an illustrated children's book of sewing terms. And it's so cute. And you know, the de la eco sandow, you know, like, all these different things. It's really wonderful. So I'm just so excited to hear how you were able to bring Spanish language alive for your students, as well as for your students who are native Spanish speakers, to acknowledge and honor their own traditions while also allowing them to experiment with new vocabularies themselves, you know, you know for needle and thread and these kinds of things. That's really wonderful. I want to take a short break and when we come back, I want to hear all about Ph. I keep saying a Phd him but it's really Phem PH

Reka  26:57

Phemmed. Yes

Lisa Woolfork  26:57

Phemmed. Phemmed. I just love that as well as scholar scholar-her I'm saying them all wrong, but they look beautiful on paper, which is where we see them. So when we come back, we will continue talking with Reka Barton, from San Diego State University and the Scholarly Sewist. Stay tuned.

Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please Podcast are happy to announce that we have another way to connect with our community. In addition to the IG lives that we do every Thursday at 3 pm. We also now have a club on Clubhouse. That's right, friends, they done messed up and given me the chance to have a club! So follow Black Women Stitch on Clubhouse on iOS devices and soon on Android, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

We are back with Reka Barton, the Scholarly Sewist on Instagram, and we're going to spend the last part of our conversation talking about this wonderful brand project that you have created. She's got not just amazing t-shirts. I've seen at least two. She also has these beautiful features of Black Women and women of color who are pursuing scholarly projects, and they're wearing these wonderful shirts. Can you tell us about the Scholarly Sewist as your Instagram project as well as the messages that you're promoting on Instagram?

Reka  28:29

Yes, so the Scholarly Sewist is a modern lifestyle and social community that centers women of color and academia via fashion. So the Scholarly Sewist is really like my brainchild. We talked a little bit about the essence of me that teach, travel, and forever it seemed a little disjointed, like I'm doing this and I'm doing this, but I want to do it all. And I think it finally came together with the Scholarly Sewist and as much as I was bummed along with the rest of the world last, oh my gosh, a year ago now.

Lisa Woolfork  29:09

A year ago.

Reka  29:10

It really first hit. I don't sit still. I'm like, where's the next educational conference? I'll book a trip back home to see people. Now I'm on this project, but I'm gonna sew this. I got my sewing camp in the summer, so for life to come to a complete standstill. I didn't know what was next. But I truly believe that everything that is for you will be yours, and God makes a plan through it all, and I needed that break.

The Scholarly Sewist was born during the pandemic, and had I not had that downtime. I would have never been able to get this out to the world. And it really is everything I'm about. It really is centering women of color in this space. During my first three years in this Ph.D. program, you see how much women of color are taking on, and we're not always highlighted, we're not always respected, we're not always amplified, and I knew that there was more that can be done there. And, so the Scholarly Sewist, while it's not exclusive, it centers women of color. We can always have allies and co-conspirators like let's all do the work - it's shared work, but everything I do through the Scholarly Sewist centers the experiences of women of color in this space. We're not represented in an equal fashion in Ph.D. programs in the tenure track faculty. How do we keep our essence as women as femmes? However, you want to identify as people of color at this intersection and also put some fashion into it. I've always loved to get dressed up to make something new, to tailor something, add some flair, and knowing that we can still do that when we go to the meetings. I made it a point to wear a graphic tee when I present. I can wear jeans when I present because my work is solid.  And so, in thinking of what does it mean for fashion? I wanted my line and my merchandise to be comfortable but tell a message.  The very first item was the Phemmed publication tee and so femmed - P.H.E.M.M.E.D, it goes back to the literacy, and the wordplay, and linguistics in me.

I love words. I love wordplay. I love puns, and so when you see it, you see the Ph.D., you also see hemmed, and so this intersection of the sewing, the fashion, and the scholar. And that first t-shirt I made.  I created the textile. My partner is a graphic designer, and so is my little brother, and so between all of our minds together, I could get the - I had seen it in my head for so long, but I was able to actually create that textile, get the fabric and make my tee. And on this t-shirt, there are five women of color, their articles (just a piece of the article) is represented on this t-shirt.

Lisa Woolfork  32:42

I see it. This is amazing, so I'm looking at Sera J. Hernandez from San Diego State talking about are they all language learners, educational labeling and racial, linguistic identifying and California middle school language programs, or there's another one here from Melissa Young about examining predictions faculty student engagement inside and outside the classroom for Southeast-Asian American men in community colleges. It's really right there. This says something quite powerful about this type of you know we understand oh graphic tees but also graphic tees with the words of women of color academics. That is quite cool.  How did you decide on the five publications that you would include on the print?

Reka  33:36

Actually, those five women who are represented are all some of my favorite colleagues, mentors, friends from San Diego State, so two of the women, Dr. Felicia Black and Dr. Sera Hernandez,are both faculty at San Diego State. The other three women:  Dr. Darial Blevins and Dr. Melissa Vang,  they were both students in the program with me, and  have since finished and become doctors and Miss Vanessa Falcone is still a student with me, and so it meant the world to me to have people I really knew.  I could have made a template, but I needed it to be real. I needed this message to really resonate that real women are doing really amazing things in academia, and we should pay attention and we should read about it.

Lisa Woolfork  34:35

And that's something I really appreciated about the series you did a few months ago where you were highlighting different women of color in academia. I'm not sure if it was Black women or women of color, but I do remember seeing Patrice Grimes . And I was like,  wait a minute, I know her.  And that's when I figured out that we had that connection, so tell me, what do you think you want folks to learn about women of color position in the academy?  I think that you've done a beautiful job elevating and amplifying the work of women of color in the academy, which can sometimes be such a brutal and toxic environment. What do you think the Scholarly Sewist wants to let women of color know?  What do you want them to know? What do you want us to know about our position in the academy through your lifestyle brand?

Reka  35:25

Yes. I think really that there's room for us all. And so when we listen to some of the propaganda and ideas of the "Ivory Tower" and the "Boys Club," it seems like we can't all make it,  but I have had a wonderful doctoral experience thus far. I know I'm not dissertating yet, you know, in a year, my answer may change, but the reason that I've enjoyed my program is I've centered myself and kept myself but also because of the wonderful community of women of color that I've been able to meet and really get to know. I want people to know that it really is community, and we really should be out here amplifying each other. I had no idea when I created that first tee that anyone outside of my squad would really get it. And now, we're not even a year, and I go on to the explore page, and I can see someone with my Researcher sweatshirt. And so, I don't think there are enough words to describe what it means to see someone else wear your creation, something that's so important and valuable to you. I think just knowing that we can do this together and we're so much stronger together and our places matter.

Lisa Woolfork  37:00

Absolutely, our voices matter, our research matters. And I really am so moved by what you've said because the journey of your project, the Scholarly Sewist, really parallels. And you mentioned earlier that you also listen to the podcast, thank you so much for being a listener. I appreciate that. I felt the same way about the Stitch Please Podcast.  I was convinced that I would be the only person that would listen, and maybe people are my family, but not my children, because they had explicitly told me that they would never listen. I was like, you know I'm trying to get this download number will you download it to your phone? No, mom - I will not download it. Why do you want cheap downloads, mom? Don't you want accurate reflection? No actually, I just want a number.  In Tayari Jones's novel Silver Sparrow, which is one of my favorite books by her. I know An American Marriage is really big right now, and it's going to be made into a movie by Oprah. But Silver Sparrow, I love that book. And she says, I think that the epigraph says something like the things that happen to you don't belong to you or they don't belong only to you. I took that to mean not like someone was being displaced from their own experience, but there's a lot of feelings and things that happened to us that also happen to other people. There's a good chance if you are feeling that Black women are underrepresented or that Black women's accomplishments aren't really being seen and promoted in the ways that they should. There's other people that notice that too, and that's probably one of the many reasons that your brand is so attractive. That your project speaks to so many people because of that feeling of being overshadowed, overworked, and under appreciated. That's something I think that Black women across the United States and perhaps other places with majority white populations, or maybe the majority Black populations, might feel. That's something that makes me smile when I see your work. Tell me about Phemmed. I love the Phemmed, and how about Researcher? That one just really gets me. I'm not sure if it's because of the color, the bold color contrast you use, the different fonts like having a sans-serif font for the research part, and then HER being in cursive. I'm not sure, but there's something about that one that's really great. Can you talk about what led you to that particular design?

Reka  39:45

Yes, so I knew early on that everything is women of color focused on women. I was actually at home in Virginia, playing in my mom's sewing studio, and trying to teach myself the embroidery machine. And so I just kept writing researcher on a Black shirt. I kept writing it, I kept writing it, and then it was like that lightbulb moment when I saw her. And you sit and think about how many times you've seen this word in the work that we do; the word is everywhere. It was the first time that the HER really stood out to me, and it was like, let's go. This is it, and so really redefining the researcher. Like you can't research without Her.  And to be able to have that messaging so strong and the color choices needed to really amplify the strength of her in researcher, and it was funny just showing I have a few people I send the sneak peeks what do you think? And they're like whoa - I've never even noticed the HER.  I think it's ironic, it's beautiful, but it's telling of how women are hidden in this work. Researcher has been probably the most popular item since the inception of the Scholarly Sewist and I think a lot of people feel seen when they wear their sweatshirt.  We know it says researcher but that HER you're gonna see it and you're gonna see me.

Lisa Woolfork  41:34

I love that demand for visibility. One of the things that's so wonderful about the shirt is that in the future when someone sees that phrase again, when someone sees the word researcher after they've seen your shirt, they will never see that word in the same way again.  I believe the HER will continue to stand out whenever someone's talking about a research paper or research project or research grant; all of these things that women are typically underrepresented in we get to see that that is not an accident. It is a nice way to point to some of the structural inequities. That have to do with the structure and not with the ability of women of color, for sure. It has nothing to do with the ability. Tell me a bit about what's next for you? What is around the corner for the Scholarly Sewist?

Reka  42:40

I definitely need to get this proposal written but as far as the brand and moving forward, I'm always creating and looking at what are some other products that really send those same messages, but I'm also excited about my first event as a student at San Diego State. I actually was awarded a grant to bring programming to the university. This April will be the first event, and it's co-sponsored by the Scholarly Sewsist in San Diego State University, and it's called Her Story: Redefining Research. I have a panel of six phenomenal women of color who are coming to talk about their stories, their narratives, how they use their full selves in their work in their research. And I also put it together with a book club, so each of these women are published authors, so technically the book club is only for San Diego State students, so we're shipping books out to students. They read the book, but the actual day of the virtual event will be open. In that part, we can all hear the narratives and the stories of these amazing women of color.

Lisa Woolfork  44:05

That's fantastic. What date in April is your event?

Reka  44:09

April 23rd, and there will be more information on Instagram very soon.

Lisa Woolfork  44:15

Oh, this is exciting . I think we might be able to publish this episode the Wednesday before your event.

Reka  44:22

Oh, wow!

Lisa Woolfork  44:24

Okay, everybody, this Friday, April 23rd, you can attend this wonderful event that Reka is describing. Now, if you are not a student at San Diego State University, you will not be able to do the book club, but you will be able to attend the panel discussion. If you follow Reka and follow Scholarly Sewist, you will have information about this event coming up in the next couple of days. Go check that out! If you have a link Reka, I can put it in the show notes for this episode for people to find it. But I'm not able to do that, please follow Reka so you can get this information for yourself. I am really excited, and I believe I'm available that day for some kind of participation. So this is great. That really quick, and this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I have learned so much about this important project. I'm so glad I've had the opportunity to share your work with our wonderful Stitch Please Podcast community. Where can people find you on the socials?

Reka  45:39

Yes, please follow me on Instagram. I'm most active there at the Scholarly Sewist.  I'm also on Facebook at the Scholarly Sewist, and Twitter as Scholarly Sewist.

Lisa Woolfork  45:53

Fantastic. Thanks so much. This has been a great conversation. I'm so appreciative.

Reka  45:58

Thank you so much. The pleasure is mutual. I really look up to you in the way that you're doing both. You are doing your spirit work, and your paid work as Dr. Venus Evans Winters dropped on me a few years ago. And to just see you as an example that yes, I can be in academia, I can even be at a PWI and do this work, but I'm still doing what fulfills me, so thank you for your example in this work as well.

Lisa Woolfork  46:33

You really honor me, and I receive that with gratitude. And when there's the next Black Alumni Weekend for UVA, I hope you come through ,and hopefully, outside will be open, and you can come over to the studio. I don't live far from campus. Obviously, you know how Charlottesville is the size of a postage stamp. I'm close to campus. So you are welcome to swing by here, so we can have some coffee and some men some sewing time.

Reka  46:58

Yes, I love it. Thank you.

Lisa Woolfork  47:14

You've been listening to the Stitch Please Podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, P A T R E O N, and you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month, you can help support the project with things like editing, transcripts, and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do for those that have a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us. Please podcast that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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