Meet some of the Githii 2020 graduating seniors.
Dear Graduating Senior,
Do you remember reading Flossie and the Fox as one of your summer reading requirements? Your brilliant, then Honors Program Director, Opal Moore, had asked for recommendations when I was serving with Dr. Alexandria Lockett as one of the Program’s faculty fellows. Professor Moore was well-acquainted with the story and loved the idea; in fact, I was the one new to the work. My dear friend, Dr. Carmen Kynard introduced me to the book after I told her about my interest in cautionary tales about the dangers associated with becoming distracted. It was a great recommendation. Since then, Flossie has had a robust relationship with Spelman. In addition to using during the summer of your freshman year, I assigned it to several of my first-year composition classes and I distributed copies to last year’s graduating seniors before offering some remarks. Like Dr. Kynard, I view Flossie and the Fox as well-suited to the needs of young black women endeavoring to flourish. Given how far you’ve come, and given where you currently stand, this is a perfect time to revisit that book.
inevitable. Since Flossie’s grandmother wasn’t trying to shield Flossie from danger, a contemporary reader might be led to conclude that her grandmother was essentially feeding that child to the wolves. Not only was Flossie sent out into the world with a cunning foe on the loose, she was sent with goods most likely to entice him. How is this love?
Flossie worries about her fate, as we would as contemporary readers, but it is through the way she processes her anxiety that we come to understand her grandmother’s love. “What if I come upon a fox?” Flossie wonders before remembering her grandmother’s words, “Oh well,” she thinks, “a fox be just a fox.” In other words, a threat is just a threat–it can take on any number of guises; it is nearly impossible to capture for a child just what that looks like. Too, a threat does not amount to its conclusion. Flossie’s grandmother sends her on a mission where she has a chance of flourishing. To flourish, Flossie’s grandmother tells her that she will need to be efficient and show great care. Flossie decides that she can confront the unknown and not be ruled by her fears.
While on the way to deliver “Miz Viola” the eggs, Flossie does indeed encounter the fox, and the way that she deals with this encounter offers a model for facing the world:
1.) Embrace the wisdom of your ancestors. Flossie does not dismiss her grandmother’s description of the fox as a failing; instead, she decides that her grandmother passed on useful information and so made meaning of her grandmother’s love and translated that love for practical use.
2.) Commit to a productive strategy. When Fox introduces himself to Flossie, she decides to tell him that she “just purely [doesn’t] believe it.” As Flossie continues to move along, Fox shifts his focus from the eggs Flossie carries to trying to convince her of his identity as a fox.
3.) Be aware of your authority to determine your identity. You are not responsible for other people’s expectations of who you are. At one point, Fox tells Flossie that “a little girl like you should be simply terrified of me.” Flossie disrupts Fox’s plan for terrorizing her because she rejected his vision of who she was and placed her authority in her own ability to name herself.
Ultimately, I love that Flossie’s grandmother made her face the truth: The world is dangerous. Despite this, there is still an expectation that you carry out the demands put upon you with excellence. As graduates of Spelman College and as members of the Ethel Waddell Githii Honors Program, I see you as well-prepared to meet the foxes.