|"Make It Do What It Do"|
|The Early Makings of My Black Digital Vernacular Pedagogies|
When offering first-year students in my writing classes a way of thinking about the multimedia opportunities offered to them through the campus’s ePortfolio platform, I tell them to think of what Ray Charles once said: “Ima make it do what it do.”
Ray’s phrase is, of course, itself a re-mixing of African American oral traditions that are decades old. African Americans once often greeted one another with the phrase “what it do” which could be a question or statement (and, in keeping with many Black music traditions, especially Hip Hop, the 90s witnessed a reclamation of the phrase with Afro-Californians and Afro-Texans at the helm with their own: “What it do, shawty?”)
In both my work and life, I hope to think deeply about phrasings like “make it do what it do,” often called the wandering verses of black oral traditions in musicology studies, as important ruminations on and insertions into unjust systems. The point is that there are intricate cultural, linguistic, and political meanings and survivances that have shaped how communities of color look at and engage their worlds. Regularly stating “Make it do what it do” in my classroom thus, propels, a kind of digital pedagogy where I attempt to center alternative traditions as guides for technological creativity for the many students of color who I teach, students often simplistically imagined as being on the wrong side of the digital divide.