Saturday, January 5, 2019

Starting at Penn State: Lovalerie King

Penn State colleagues Iyun Osagie and Lovalerie King

Lovalerie arrived at Pennsylvania State University in the fall of 2003, just as I was departing after securing a job at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. There was no major buzz about Lovalerie's arrival. Truth be told, I think people underestimated her. They didn't know how productive she'd be or all she'd accomplish.

I was fortunate to meet her as I was just starting out as a junior professor. She generously gave me advice and guidance on a wide range of issues that I was too naive or unaware to know I needed. Whatever the case, my abilities to gain broad views of African American literary studies as a profession and the places of black people in English departments were directly linked to my friendship with Lovalerie.  

She had paid close attention to shifts and developments in the field. She knew who was where. She knew the books, literary artists, and scholars one should prioritize while trying to navigate one's scholarly and professional life. And she had thoughts on what a black person out here should be thinking about while trying to make moves.

Early on, she pointed out to me that those mostly white departments at schools like Penn State rarely hired people like her - an older black woman who doesn't fit a certain, narrow definition of an important African American scholar, one with an impressive publishing record or one with indications of having a promising career. She persisted though,  and did exceptionally well.

She was a professor, yes. A scholar, yes. But above all of that, Lovalerie was, as we say, good people.

Her reputation as good people is what makes losing her so painful. A day after she passed away, scholar Dana Williams sent out a message saying, "We love you and will miss you, Val." I've read and spoken Dana's words aloud so many times at this point. So many of us loved Lovalerie and now miss her deeply.

Part 2: "'I'm a student of Trudier': Lovalerie King & that generation of exemplary black women lit. scholars

Lovalerie King in context
A Notebook on Lovalerie King

No comments: